One of the things most intriguing to me about last season is Ali’s near-sweep of 30 awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight. Ali’s performance is of someone you would vehemently doubt the industry would give much attention to; Juan is a black, drug dealing mentor to the young boy Little (Alex Hibbert), but in a somewhat atypical move, plays Juan with a sympathetic side to him. The thing that is even more confounding about Ali’s winning is the level of minimalism he acts with. Not one scene has Ali wailing or screaming, and at times he’s so withdrawn he becomes somewhat unnoticeable in this rather subtle film; his eschewing of the histrionics that ten or so years ago would have been very apparent in this category is both remarkable as it is of his marked selflessness in this ensemble; we know he’s not acting for awards here, so how did he get so many? A similar mold can be applied to Willem Dafoe, who received dozens of award nominations and critics guild wins for The Florida Project. Dafoe, even in his more sympathetic roles in the past, has played them as cold or even nasty, so to see him as an unabashedly nice guy is refreshing. Aside from his scene of wrangling birds (which is hilarious by the way), Dafoe doesn’t have an Oscar scene, and he’s a mentor of sorts to the kids at the motel. He plays Bobby Hicks mostly with the use of his face, with every twitch, every crack of his eyes, and that eventual smile he gives, he makes his Hicks a positively unsure yet all around nice guy, and internalises his despair at his failures with his son and the stress over the misfit tenants brilliantly. I still think Sam Rockwell, with all the lovable Rockwellian trademarks in his performance of a despicable guy, should win, but I’d be content if Dafoe upsets, even though Vinaite is better. There have been plenty of subtle supporting actor performances in recent years snubbed (especially Mark Strong in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which makes Mark Rylance look like Denzel Washington with the level of subtlety he goes for), but in recent years, these types of internalised supporting performances have taken great precedent, especially in the Supporting Actor category. So my question is, what do you think of Dafoe and Ali? Do you think they deserve to win? And what do you think will the future of the category be if performances like Dafoe’s and Ali’s are rewarded in this category?
Another one, sort of, is Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher, if you would consider him a mentor of sorts to Tatum’s character.
I know these performances are unpopular on this site but I love these types of nominations, especially Dafoe.
Key difference between Ali and Dafoe is the former’s film was lavished with recognition throughout the awards season while the latter has basically been the sole representation for his picture all along.
For the finest in film reviews and awards analysis (and my annual Oscar predictions contest), please visit me at The Awards Connection!