The Phoney War phase of the awards season is starting to come to an end: we've already had nominations from smaller precursors like the Gotham Awards and the British Independent Film Awards, and in a little over two weeks, things will get underway properly with the New York Film Critics Awards and the National Board of Review Awards, kicking off a month full of nominees and winners ahead of the opening of Oscar voting on December 27th.
So, with the days getting shorter and the wave of awards getting closer, we wanted to prep for the start of voting by reminding ourselves, and you, of some of the performances and films that might have slipped away from the main Oscar narrative but are no less deserving of being rewarded. So over the next few weeks, we're going to be highlighting some of the actors, actresses, directors and films that we think deserve more consideration than they might be getting so far. Kicking off this week are five people we'd love to see break into the Supporting Actor race: check out our picks below, and talk about your favorites in the comments section.
Jake Gyllenhaal - "Prisoners"
While it was warmly received at Telluride and Toronto, awards buzz dissipated quickly for "Prisoners," which, while liked by critics and audiences, was likely ultimately too pulpy to make much of an impression on a competitive race. It's a shame, because while the film's occasionally silly in its plotting, it's one of the more absorbing and well-made pure thrillers in recent years, and we're particularly sad that it's unlikely Jake Gyllenhaal won't figure in, for giving one of the best performances of his career, and even amidst a strong cast, he's the obvious stand-out. On paper, the ludicrously named Detective Loki is a cliché: a loner cop who's solved every case he's ever had, and isn't going to let his latest one defeat him. But Gyllenhaal makes it something stranger than the archetype: with a blinking tic, tattoos and borderline Asperger-y social skills, he hints at a darker past a long way from his current path of law and order, one that the performance and film is smart enough to keep on the fringes. Almost every choice the actor makes is a little unexpected, and his off-beat rhythms clash beautifully with Hugh Jackman's terrifying, grief-stricken revenge-bear. Clearly, Gyllenhaal and "Prisoners" director Denis Villeneuve have found fruitful collaborators in each other, as Playlisters who saw their other film together, "Enemy" (due for release next year), suggest it's something to get equally excited about. But for now, we're just pleased that the actor was able to elevate material that might have been by-the-numbers into one of the more exciting performances of the year. It would be out of character for us to actively encourage franchising of movies, but we have to admit, we wouldn't be against the idea of further adventures of Blinky The Supercop down the road ...
Keith Stanfield - "Short Term 12"
Though its script is occasionally problematic, SXSW sensation "Short Term 12" was undoubtedly one of the most impressive indies of the year, and features a killer ensemble of mostly unfamiliar faces. You'll likely see the film pop up more than once in this series, but one of the actors that blew us away was from an almost-total newcomer, 22-year-old Keith Stanfield. The young actor is the only cast member to recur from the short film that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton expanded into the feature, and you can see why he would want to keep him around: Stanfield's never showy, but is enormously compelling whenever he's on screen. The actor plays Marcus, the oldest of the inhabitants of the titular foster care facility, one who's about to graduate to the real world, and through the prickliness and stand-offishness he shows, you can see that he's terrified by the idea. Marcus isn't the easiest guy to warm to, and Stanfield bravely doesn't chase anyone's sympathy, and partly because of that, you love him to pieces, and are wrenched, and eventually uplifted, by the way his story unfolds. He's also the center of one of the film's stand-out sequences, the improvised rap in which his character lets his soul out a little bit. That, as unlikely as it seems, may actually see Stanfield get Academy attention, as it is currently a dark horse in the Best Original Song category, but we'd be thrilled to see Stanfield honored elsewhere, as he's clearly going places.