20 Years of Best Supporting Actor nominees

This will conclude my posts featuring my favorite Academy Award nominated performances from the last 20 years. Just like my post dedicated to Best Actor nominees I couldn’t narrow it down to ten, so there are fifteen again. I guess I tend to like actors more than actresses. If you’re interested in buying any of the films discussed below, click here.

1. Jack Nicholson – A Few Good Men (1992)

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. Jack tops my list of Oscar-nominated performances by actors once more. There’s a reason he’s the most nominated actor of all time, folks. Essentially, I think, the most successful actors are character actors. I think Jack is one of the greatest character actors of all time and this is why he is amazing in any role, whether it be lead or supporting. He is, in a word, explosive in this movie, giving one of the best speeches in movie history.

2. Robert Downey, Jr. – Tropic Thunder (2008)

I laughed so hard when I saw this movie. It was so ridiculous and so perfectly done – going just so far with its crude humor to make the audience laugh their ass off but not too far to be just plain gross. And Robert Downey, Jr. is most definitely the best thing about this movie. He, like the movie, went just far enough with his zany performance and won over audiences and critics alike, as well as cementing his spot back on the A-List.

3. Cuba Gooding, Jr. – Jerry Maguire (1996)

It’s too bad he’s done pretty much nothing but shit since this movie (aside from 1997’s As Good As It Gets) because Cuba Gooding, Jr. is fabulous in his role as an over-the-top Football Player and Jerry Maguire (an equally wonderful Tom Cruise)’s sole client and friend. His character is full of zest and energy and Gooding, Jr. played him to perfection.

4. Jack Palance – City Slickers (1991)

Ladies and gentlemen, Jack Palance is the definition of BAMF (one-handed push-ups at the Oscars anyone?) He is the perfect balance of funny, crazy and serious in this comedy starring Billy Crystal. Nearly 40 years after his Academy Award nominated turn in Shane, Palance won for his masterful performance as the wilily, old Curly, and rightfully so.

5. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (2008)

As bittersweet as this posthumous win was, it was well deserved. Before his tragic death in January of 2008, Heath Ledger had proven himself as one of the greatest actors of his generation and his stellar turn in The Dark Knight served as a tragic glimpse into the amazing performances that could come…if only things could have been different.

6. Joaquin Phoenix – Gladiator (2000)

I really hope Joaquin Phoenix snaps out of whatever psychotic break he’s in the middle of, or that’s it’s all been an elaborate hoax, because I miss him. He is a fabulous actor and it is in Gladiator that we see him at his finest.

7. Chazz Palminteri – Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

I would just like to say that I spent nearly twenty minutes looking a for a good photo of him from this movie on the internet (including on YouTube for a video to make my own screencap) and this is the best thing I found. That is just not right. Chazz Palminteri gives a scene-stealing performance in this Woody Allen comedy, which was nominated for 7 Academy Awards – but not Best Picture. Although Diane Weist won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this film, I think it is Palminteri’s performance that makes this film. His last speech at the end of the film is just so fantastic, I really wish there were a video of it on YouTube, because I would most definitely add a link to it.

8. Jaye Davidson – The Crying Game (1992)

Like I said in my Best Actor post, on the surface this movie is about The IRA and terrorism, but really it is about unconditional love. The romance between Davidson’s Dil and Stephen Rea’s Fergus is one of the most tender and most real that I’ve ever seen on the silver screen. It’s too bad Davidson took this role (and that of Ra in Stargate) almost as a lark and then quit acting altogether, because he is positively luminous.

9. James Cromwell – Babe (1995)

I will always love this movie. Always. And I will always love James Cromwell because of this movie. I was 9 years old when it came out and was a huge fan of the book. It’s one of my earliest, distinct memories of being awed in the theater by a fabulous movie. When it was nominated for Best Picture, I was floored. I asked my mom if it would win and she tried her best to let me down gently because, even though we’d been watching the Oscars together since Beauty and the Beast was up for Best Picture, this was the first year I was old enough to really root a movie. She knew it had no chance up against Apollo 13 or Braveheart. I know that the charm of this film is largely due to Christine Cavanaugh’s vocal performance as Babe, but James Cromwell’s straight-laced performance, is also gentle and the respect he has for the little pig that could is palpable.

10. Benicio Del Toro – Traffic (2000)

Giving a subtle performance that is also powerful enough to make an impact on both audiences, critics and Academy members can be difficult. Luckily for Benicio Del Toro, he pulled it off brilliantly – and largely speaking in Spanish to boot. Del Toro had knocked around Hollywood for years before his breakout turn in Traffic (most notably opposite Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) but after winning the Oscar ten years ago, his career has continued to blossom.

11. Clive Owen – Closer (2004)

Largely unknown in the United States, Clive Owen gave a breathtaking, no holds barred performance opposite America’s Sweetheart Julia Roberts, 2-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law and household name due to Star Wars Natalie Portman. He also stole the film and solidified himself as an A-list Hollywood star. Although he won the Golden Globe, he lost to multiple-nominee, but never a winner Morgan Freeman. This was a year where a long time player won over a relatively new face, rather than the best performance. (I’m not even going to go into how I think Owen was completely robbed of even a nomination a few years later for the grossly underrated Children of Men).

12. Mark Wahlberg – The Departed (2006)

We all knew that someone was going to get nom’d for Best Supporting Actor for this movie. Most people thought it’d be Jack Nicholson or Matt Damon. Instead it was Mark Wahlberg. I’d like to think this was a way of making up for him not being nominated in 2004 for his zany turn in I Heart Huckabees, but maybe that’s just me.

13. Christopher Walken – Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Christopher Walken’s performance as Leonardo DiCaprio’s father in Steven Spielberg’s wonderfully hip caper Catch Me If You Can is understated and maybe one of the least Walken-esque performances of his career. I also can’t help but wonder if, when they announced Chris Cooper as the winner that year for Adaptation, for just a nano-second Walken thought it was his name being called.

14. Jude Law – The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Jude Law is such a dick in this movie. A charming, hate-yourself-for-loving-him dick. Although Law had graced the screen in several American films in 1997, his role in Anthony Minghella’s scintillating thriller launched him into the A-list stratosphere, and even though he’s had some personal problems since then, he’s never looked back since.

15. George Clooney – Syriana (2005)

Gorgeous George gained weight, grew a beard and let his hair go completely grey for this film and I think it helped audiences, critics and the Academy to see past his gorgeous veneer to the superbly talented actor he’s grown in to. Considering he went on to win Best Supporting actor for this role and garnered a second acting nomination for 2007’s Michael Clayton (not to mention his nominations behind the camera, also in 2005, for Good Night and Good Luck) it appears to have worked.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on January 20, 2010, in the Academy Awards, Top List and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Brilliant list, and to see Jack up at the top again. He really did put in a fantastic performance in A Few Good Men and the “You cant handle the truth” was such a scene stealing moment.

    I loved Clive Owen in Closer he was just brilliant. Also Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight really was something else.

  2. What? No love for Gene Hackman in Unforgiven or Martin Landau in Ed Wood or Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects? Or what about Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List or Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction?

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