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Friday, February 09, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor

There appears to be no suspense in the Best Supporting Actor race, but the dynamic has completely changed since the various critics awards had their say. That time belonged to Willem Dafoe, who played the kindly motel manager in The Florida Project. He won almost every critic award there was. But when the Globes and the guilds started voting, he was stopped dead in the water, and it is now Sam Rockwell, as the dopey and racist policeman in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, who has gained the inside track.

This is has become fascinating to me: why Rockwell? Certainly his character is the more simplistic, and has call for more scenery-chewing, and is in a film with more love (The Florida Project, sadly, got only the Dafoe nomination). Frankly, I found the work of Woody Harrelson, as the beleaguered sheriff, more interesting and complex, but despite it being Harrelson's third nomination to Rockwell's first, Rockwell has garnered the Golden Globe and SAG award.

The other factor that has been brought up but seemingly ignored is that Rockwell's character is problematic. There have been many articles about the character's racism--that it is seen in the film as some sort of quirk, like being overly ticklish or having a stutter--and the character does not really overcome it, instead transferring it to a thirst for vigilante justice. I don't think this matters--characters don't hew to political correctness, and I found Rockwell's Jason Dixon to be authentic, if overly buffoonish.

It would be a surprise if Rockwell doesn't win, but Dafoe would be the alternate. I really admired his work in The Florida Project, as a man who has a job to do but can't help but think of the residents of his motel, especially the young girl at the heart of the story, as family.

Another interesting nomination is that of Christopher Plummer as the parsimonious J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. Until a few weeks before its release, the part was played by Kevin Spacey, but a spate of accusations against him for sexual improprieties erupted pushed director Ridley Scott to replace him with Plummer. All of Getty's shots were reshot with Plummer, nine days of work. But gosh it sure meant a difference. We'll probably never seen Spacey's scenes, but Plummer nails the son of a bitch. But he won't win--he won just a few years ago--though he has now set a record for the oldest nominee in an acting category (he's 88).

Finally, Richard Jenkins gave a beautiful performance in The Shape of Water as Sally Hawkins' friend and neighbor, a closeted gay man who is deeply lonely. I love Jenkins' work; he's one of the those actors that improves anything he's in. When he was nominated some years ago for The Visitor I was glad to see a career character actor get such recognition. I do hope he wins an Oscar some day.

So, to sum up, Rockwell will win, but I'll be pulling for Dafoe. In vain.

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