My Take on the Best Supporting Actor Category


One would think given the caliber of actors, and performances, in this category that there would be stiff competition. Quite the opposite this year, with the supporting actor category being the most predictable and blatantly obvious out of the entire Oscar ceremony this year. This category is J.K. Simmons’ to lose, and none of his competition holds any true threat towards him. That doesn’t go to say the other nominated performances aren’t gems in themselves, but rather they pale in comparison to the more tremendous performance Simmons offers. Simmons provides such a range of emotions throughout Whiplash, yet is able to maintain ambiguity with his character. The viewer is never privy into Simmons’ mind, yet the viewer is also aware that such a desire could never be met. The viewer essentially is mentally slapped for wanting to know more, which is a feat that comes solely from Simmons’ performance. Yet Simmons should especially be commended for conveying sheer cruelty to the characters he interacts with, yet having the subtlety of having a purpose behind his dictator-like method of conducting jazz music. Simmons gives the performance of a lifetime and no other nominated performance this year can make that same claim. Mark Ruffalo is astounding in Foxcatcher, but he isn’t a scene-stealer in the film. Instead his acting functions as a symbol of calm and rational thought in contrast to the other characters who struggle with the pressures of winning a sport. His performance is first-rate, but it is too subtle to grab a win. Ethan Hawke essentially plays the “cool dad” in Boyhood, and while he is consistent in the film, there isn’t much to the performance other than that dimension. Additionally, when juxtaposing his performance against Patricia Arquette’s, it’s evident who had the more difficult role in Boyhood. Edward Norton probably offers the best chance of pulling an upset against Simmons for his satirical performance in Birdman. Norton’s performance exposes the mania of method-acting, while also tackling the theme of mortality and the desire to relive one’s younger years. Norton is able to achieve laughs, but also convey elements of profound sadness. Any other year, Norton would be a guaranteed winner in this category, but Simmons’ performance overshadows his chances. That leaves Robert Duvall and his magnificent performance in The Judge, which proves that he still can act at the age of 84. Duvall also was able to bring life into a film that was relatively average and would have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for Duvall’s scene-stealing scenes. He is able to exhibit scenes of fury followed by momentary glimpses of vulnerability, which is a style of acting only someone of Duvall’s generation could achieve. Duvall’s nomination also reminds viewers that the new evolution of acting; loud, expressive, transformative; isn’t what defines acting. Acting sometimes comes from within, and sometimes, as is the case with Duvall’s nomination, that style of acting can make something out of nothing. Yet despite all of the nominees offering stellar performances, J.K. Simmons still has been able to win the Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, the SAG, and the BAFTA, thus making him the clear and obvious frontrunner for the supporting actor Oscar this year. Do not expect any surprises in this category on Oscar night.

The Nominees:
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Will Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Could Win: Edward Norton, Birdman
Should Win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash


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