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For Your Consideration: 5 Overlooked Supporting Actors Who Deserve Some Awards Season Attention

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 14, 2013 2:26 PM
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Ben Foster - "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
Quietly, for fifteen years or so, Ben Foster has been doing absolutely sterling work on a consistent basis, standing out even in questionable affairs like "Hostage" and "360." He might well be in the awards running for real next year, playing Lance Armstrong for Stephen Frears, but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation this time around. Though he's also put out strong work in "Lone Survivor" and "Kill Your Darlings," his performance in "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" is certainly the best in that film, and might be the best of his career to date. The focus of David Lowery's film is on the one-time runaway lovers played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, but the real heart of the picture is Foster's Patrick Wheeler. Patrick is a police officer who was wounded by a shot from Mara's Ruth during their stand-off, though he believes it was fired by Affleck's Bob. The years pass, and Patrick has befriended Ruth, and, being desperately in love with her, clearly wants more. Decency is a difficult thing for an actor to play without seeming dull, but Foster manages it here: Wheeler is a genuinely good man, one that represents a new life for Ruth, and there's a quiet stoicism to the way that he conducts himself that's deeply moving. The film subtly shifts its attentions to him as it closes, to the extent that you end up wishing that the focus had been on Foster throughout: it's the best kind of supporting turn, the one that feels like it could be a lead in a different movie. As such, we hope it won't go totally forgotten come voting time.

James Franco - "Spring Breakers"
Let's not beat around the bush here: for all our pleading, there is exactly no chance of James Franco's Alien in Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" being recognized by the Academy. Bravely, A24 have been campaigning for him, but even if older Academy voters get around to watching the film, the opening sequence of slo-mo "Girls Gone Wild"-style debauchery is likely to mean that they don't get as far as Franco's entrance. And even if they do, a performance that we described in our review of the film as "Matthew McConaughey doing an impression of Lil' Jon" is hardly the kind of thing that usually appeals to the Academy. And that's a shame, because Franco's never been better than he is here as his dread-locked, metal-mouthed Miami Beach Fagin. Alien's a principally comic creation, and a broad one at that (it sometimes feels like he's channeling buddy Danny McBride), but the actor gives him all kinds of texture along the way—a trademark sexual ambiguity, a slightly hapless puppy feel as he falls under the spell of his Spring Breakers, and ultimately, he becomes a somewhat pathetic, tragic figure. It's a hilarious performance, but also a deeply sad one, and a reminder that when Franco is focused on a project, he can go blow-for-blow with anyone.

Ray McKinnon - "Mud"
Even for those that didn't entirely connect with the film as a whole (this writer included), "Mud" was a veritable cornucopia of excellent male performances, from Tye Sheridan's lead and Jacob Lofland as his buddy, to Matthew McConaughey's title character (which, were it not for "Dallas Buyers Club," would surely be a bigger force in the awards season), to Joe Don Baker's villain, and Michael Shannon's atypically warm cameo. But we'd argue the finest performance in the film came from a somewhat undersung but ever-reliable actor who does an awful lot with relatively little screentime: Ray McKinnon, as the father of Sheridan's Ellis. You may not necessarily know the name, but you probably know the face: McKinnon had substantial roles in "Deadwood" and "Sons Of Anarchy," had a part in "The Blind Side," previously cropped up in director Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter," and even won an Oscar, alongside his late wife Lisa Blount and Walton Goggins, for the short film "The Accountant" in 2001. But in a good year that also saw him create the excellent Sundance Channel series "Rectify," he gets his best big-screen showcase to date. Senior, as he's known, is a fairly decent man, but clearly somewhat feckless, and crushed by the dissolution of his marriage, but still harsh and stern. McKinnon's careful not to make Senior weak, but the moments when he shows real vulnerability are among the most moving in the film. "Mud" is, ultimately, a film about fathers and sons, and though his role is small, we are surprised at how little McKinnon's performance has been talked about as awards season has approached, because it's a crucial one to the piece as a whole.

Also Worth Considering: James Badge Dale has been omnipresent this year, consistently stealing the show, but is probably best in the otherwise-terrible "Parkland," proving the film's one saving grace. Bill Nighy is at his Bill Nighy-iest, to great effect, in "About Time," while Jason Schwartzmann does very solid work in "Saving Mr. Banks" that's going to be overlooked in favor of co-star Tom Hanks. Emory Cohen turned a lot of heads in "The Place Beyond The Pines," while from the smaller part of the world, Myles Paige was incredibly compelling as Papageorge in Andrew Bujalski's great "Computer Chess." From the more comedic side of things, Danny McBride was a force of nature in "This Is The End," Ben Kingsley walked away with "Iron Man 3," and Moises Arias came up with one of the year's most memorable comic creations as Biaggio in "The Kings Of Summer." And finally, the chances of a Michael Bay movie picking up anything less than technical nominations are incredibly slim, not least for a film as disappointing as "Pain and Gain," but that doesn't change the fact that Dwayne Johnson gives a tremendous performance in the film, proving for once and for all that he's capable of more than just action parts.

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  • No | January 9, 2014 5:55 AMReply

    I'm hoping that Andrew Dice Clay finally gets the recognition he deserves as an actor, for his brilliant role in Blue Jasmine. Clay is perhaps one of the most underrate actors in the history of film. "The Dice Man" itself, is a decades long role. The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane nealry destroyed Clay's movie career & it wasn't even that bad. (It didn't deserve a Razzie) I'd really like to see Clay make a comeback. We need some intelligent & creative directors, that have the ability to recognize & utilize Clay's potential.

  • sdfsdf | January 9, 2014 5:51 AMReply


  • Samantha | December 4, 2013 8:50 PMReply

    Sam Rockwell all the way!!!!!

  • rick | November 28, 2013 1:03 AMReply

    McKinnon. Absolutely.
    Gyllenhaal? Absolutely NOT. Maybe Jake, being the really "good" detective that he was in Prisoners, can figure out why not.

  • Cerone | January 20, 2014 4:25 PM

    You're insane if you think Gyllenhall is not worthy of best supporting actor for his restrained knockout performance in Prisoners.

  • Domenica | November 26, 2013 11:25 AMReply

    Emory Cohen?! He was painfully bad in The Place Beyond the Pines; his being mentioned has to be some kind of joke.

  • Lisa | November 24, 2013 11:33 PMReply

    I was wondering where Sam Rockwell was on this list!!!!!!! Glad other people think so too.

  • ROB | November 21, 2013 3:20 AMReply

    Yes to Sam Rockwell who'd be my ballot topper at this point for The Way Way Back (I'd also consider Alison Janney's hilarious scene-stealing for Supporting Actress as there are some nice subtle shades she throws into the mix at the right moments).

    The suggestions of Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight for this category are a joke though, right? He's there at the beginning of the film, the end of the film, and all the bits in between too. Kinda like - oh yeah - in Training Day.

  • cory everett | November 18, 2013 2:24 PMReply

    "Emory Cohen turned a lot of heads in 'The Place Beyond The Pines'" < That's a nice way of putting it...

  • newyorker | November 18, 2013 1:52 PMReply

    10 actors i think deserves noms for best supporting role are
    1-James Franco-Spring Breakers
    2-Tony Danza-Don Jon
    3-Mads Mikkelsen-Charlie Countryman
    4-Jake Gyllenhaal-Prisoners
    5-Sam Rockwell-The Way, Way Back
    6-Alexander Skarsgard-Disconnect
    7-Harrison Ford-42
    8-Tobey Maguire-The Great Gatsby
    9-Ethan Hawke-Before Midnight
    10-Tim Robbins-Thanks For Sharing

  • BRUCE DERN BEST PERFORMANCE WAS 'TATTOO' | November 24, 2013 12:11 PM


    oh come on joel Edgerton stole TGG

    that frost/nixon style war of words between himself and dicaprio towards the end


  • Kay Winter | November 17, 2013 9:44 PMReply

    How about Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight. It was a tough pace to keep but He was perfect in every way.

  • jinny | December 13, 2013 3:27 PM

    Did you not read the article properly? This is the SUPPORTING actors that are being discussed, not leads.

  • Ben | November 17, 2013 1:08 PMReply

    I would add Barkhad Abdi from "Captain Phillips" to the list in addition to Sam Rockwell, already mentioned here. As well as Ty Sheridan from "Mud" -- for my money, the kid held his own with McConaughey, doing incredible work. Technically, he's got the most screen time of any character and shouldn't be considered in the "supporting" category. But given how these things work -- well, they'd probably slot him there.

  • TRAVIS CONWAY | November 24, 2013 12:30 PM

    Vithaya Pansringarm -only god forgives
    Jared Leto -dallas buyers club
    Will Forte -Nebraska
    Sharlto Copley -oldboy
    Jonah Hill -wolf of wall street
    Barkhad Abdi -captain Phillips
    Joel Edgerton -the great Gatsby
    Sam Shepard -out of the furnace
    William H macy -a single shot

  • Kevin Klawitter | November 16, 2013 1:02 PMReply

    Sam Rockwell in "The Way Way Back"

  • just saying | November 16, 2013 3:38 PM

    Yes, to Sam Rockwell. This guy is very underrated, but , please no to stoner and overrated James Franco.

  • Franco | November 16, 2013 11:24 AMReply

    "Let's not beat around the bush here: for all our pleading, there is exactly no chance of James Franco's Alien in Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" being recognized by the Academy.", I love the way this guy can read minds. Unless, the Academy is totally fixed and there is no need for even a voting system, then like everyone else involved, Franco has every chance to gain nomination and possibly win.

    "Matthew McConaughey doing an impression of Lil' Jon" is hardly the kind of thing that usually appeals to the Academy.", basically that's your opinion, you can't read the Academy minds as I previously stated. Furthermore, please don't insult Franco in comparing his performance to McConaughey's.

    The main point of being an actor, is to take on a role that showcases an amazing range in character development with a transformation in appearance that isn't the normal, from what we are usually used to in that particular person performances.

    I have huge respect for McConaughey and his amazing talent as an actor, especially since his done 180 degrees turn in becoming a much better actor but Franco is miles ahead of him and in no way shape or form trying to copy him. Just because McConaughey has had an amazing year, in respect so has Franco (some seem to want to forget to build up others), it is just not for Spring Breakers, don't undermine Franco's talents to try to build up McConaughey's or by saying Franco is channeling someone else.

    It's a role that Franco created with various elements that he should be proud off. His role is iconic no matter how it finally came about and shouldn't be an after thought in any award season or write-up, as Spring Breakers has already proved that it will be a cult classic. It will out last the a number of the nominees and I bet final winner the press is trying so desperately to force feed us on, clearly on behalf of the Academy.

    However, I repeat Alien will be remembered for many years to come that has been cemented by the number of fans who dressed up as Alien for this year's Halloween, not the ones the press is again force feeding us.

  • FRANCO | November 26, 2013 12:34 PM

    @ ALEX - sorry late reply.

    "Do you think that it is saying that McConaughey can do a better impression of Lil' Jon than Franco?", YES - I think the article is implying that but WRONG, even though Franco wasn't going for Lil' Jon but based some of the qualities of Alien on a rapper called Dangeruss.

    Generally, on this website they tend to either hate on Franco or give backhanded compliments.

    Franco's role was something he was born to play as Alien, and so unique in his performance.

    Although, Franco is a true master at playing excellent but different drug dealers from Saul - Pineapple Express (which should have gained him an Oscar nod -thus Spring Breakers will make up for it), Danny - Green Hornet and Gator from Homefront, it's necessary for any award season again not to ignore Franco's brilliant iconic role as Alien.

    He truly deserves an Oscar nomination for his efforts and possible win. The fantastic year that Franco has had should be recognized with again best awards either as a Lead, Supporting or Director.

  • Alex | November 18, 2013 4:21 PM

    The way they say "Matthew McConaughey doing an impression of Lil' Jon" is not the website saying that Jame Franco copied Matthew McConaughey. It is just a humorous anecdote. How is it building up McConaughey by saying that Francos performance is reminiscent of McConaughey doing a Lil' Jon impression? Do you think that it is saying that McConaughey can do a better impression of Lil' Jon than Franco?

  • j | November 15, 2013 9:14 AMReply

    Great article.

  • Note | November 15, 2013 6:14 AMReply

    Short Term 12 wasn't the debut of Destin. It's his 2nd narrative and 3rd feature.

  • BERNIE ROSE | November 24, 2013 12:45 PM

    'short term 12' is the exact same as 'Smashed'

    Oscar worthy lead performance but too low budget to get the nom

  • BERNIE ROSE | November 24, 2013 12:32 PM

    'short term 12' is the exact same as 'Smashed'

    Oscar worthy lead performance but too low budget to get the nom

  • james | November 14, 2013 11:17 PMReply

    Young Ju Seo (the son) for Moebius.

  • Erik | November 14, 2013 5:35 PMReply

    Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale were both very effective in Blue Jasmine.

  • alonzo harris | November 14, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    Zac Efron in AT ANY PRICE

  • Jax | November 14, 2013 5:13 PMReply

    Gyllenhaal was co-lead. Not that it has ever stopped the academy.

  • johnny | November 14, 2013 4:19 PMReply

    What about Colin Farrell for "Saving Mr. Banks" ? Hearing he could be a dark horse in the Supporting Actor category....

  • VINCENT HANNA | November 24, 2013 12:48 PM

    2 noms in one year

    captain phillips
    saving mr banks

    the hours
    far from heaven

    the piano
    the firm

  • benutty | November 14, 2013 3:53 PMReply

    THIS ICONIC AND 100% ACCURATE POST >>>>>>>>>>>

    Jake honestly gives one of the most iconic performances of the year. He completely steals that movie out from under everyone else and deserves a nomination for that eye twitch alone. I'm not the biggest fan of Prisoners as a film, but his performance is just simply the best.

    And I'm entirely on board with Ben Foster and Keith Stanfield as well.

  • JAKE SULLY | November 24, 2013 1:18 PM

    ben foster was amazing in 3 10 to Yuma
    and don't even get me started on THE MESSENGER

  • Rick | November 14, 2013 3:25 PMReply

    Spring Breakers kind of went over my head. I don't get what people like about it. I agree with everyone else especially Keith Stanfield, he was really great

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