2005: Best Supporting Actor

I had 12 names in the category so before I list my Top 10 I want to give Special Mention to Clive Owen, so cool in SIN CITY and Michael Caine, playing two very different father figures in BATMAN BEGINS and THE WEATHERMAN.

10. Elijah Wood – SIN CITY
With no dialogue and very little screen time, Elijah Wood went 180 degrees from Frodo, beat the crap out of Mickey Rourke’s Marv, and gave chills with each gleeful appearance as the cannibalistic psycho Kevin. In a house full of tough guys, Wood was the scariest and most dangerous person in the room.

William Hurt is generating the buzz for his last minute scenery chewing, but I think Harris gives a better and more complete performance. Believing he’s found the guy who ripped out his eye years ago, Harris' mobster comes for his revenge, but Harris plays things relaxed, almost conversational. He doesn’t need to aggressively push any buttons, and is happy to just lay back and let all the good moments come to him. Smooth professionalism.

8. Terrence Howard – CRASH
In a sea of actors and storylines, Howard makes his one of the most compelling. We feel his pain as he’s emasculated by racist cops, his boss, and even his wife. His big scene where he finally makes a stand (at the worst possible time) is so intense with pain it feels like Howard could tear to pieces right before our eyes. It takes a strong actor to go as far as Howard does without seeming melodramatic. He shares his characters frustration with the audience.

7. George Clooney – SYRIANA
I don’t like SYRIANA. It’s a terribly structured script lacking in a lot of emotion, and the direction is shiny but unfocused. Still, inside this mess I think George Clooney does some of the best acting of his career. Clooney’s CIA Agent Bob is possibly the films biggest enigma, but Clooney plays all his events on a deeply personal level. It infuses him from the inside out. Through hardship and betrayal, Bob becomes the most passionate character in a landscape where passion only leads to more suffering.

6. Matt Dillon – CRASH
Dillon was handed a character full of contradiction. He’s a racist, who loves his father, who’s a bad cop capable of moments of great compassion. I believe Dillon’s character blames the world for his own hatred. He wants to be a better man, like his father, but finds himself thwarted at every turn and his bad attitude leads to some very evil deeds. Dillon walks a fine line, and keeps you rooting for his redemption. When not abusing his position, he’s very aware of his power and literally goes through the fires of hell in an attempt to save his soul.

5. Kevin Costner – THE UPSIDE OF ANGER
In many ways, Costner’s alcoholic, ex-baseball player is BULL DURHAM’S Crash Davis 20 years later. Costner (often disliked) is always at his best when playing humble. This is the best part Costner’s been given in years, and he reminds you just how effective he can be when laying on the humble charm. For those who find Costner arrogant, watch the scene where he gets cold feet about having sex with the woman at his front door, runs out back in boxers, and calls to cancel.

4. Mickey Rourke – SIN CITY
One of the year’s great delights/surprises was watching Mickey Rourke return to the top of his game and tear up the screen as Marv, Sin City’s biggest, baddest, ugliest tough guy. Rourke starts the whole film off with a great big bang, bouncing from one violent encounter to the next as he works his way up the food chain to avenge the death of the one woman who ever gave him a night of love. Rourke makes you feel how finding the killer gives his empty life some meaning, even if there are moments of deep confusion. And he has a hell of a lot of fun along the way.

3. Jesse Eisenberg – THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
Eisenberg plays the elder son in a family broken apart by divorce. He immediately sides with dad, whom he’s idolized and strived to impress and live up to. All of his actions come directly from his father’s teachings. But over the course of the film, that foundation begins to crack and the son slowly comes to see the father as human, which unleashes anger, pain and confusion. Never shying away from the ugliness instilled deep inside his core by dad, Eisenberg takes us on that journey from worship to heartbreak.

2. Richard Jenkins – NORTH COUNTRY
In most movies dealing with emotional hardship, children can always rely on their parents for support. Well Hank Aimes hates his daughter, Josie. Richard Jenkins, who looks like everyone’s dad, surprises at every turn with how much Hank blames his daughter for her entire life.

There’s a startling moment in the beginning where Josie comes home in trouble and Hank punches the fridge in frustration at her while she sits crying. He’s a hard man, and while it’s not his story to tell, Jenkins makes you understand his reasons. Like Dillon, you root for him to come around and you can feel the pain of children everywhere who desperately need their father’s approval. His climactic moment (ruined in the ad campaign) is one of the year’s most emotional.

1. Peter Sarsgaard – JARHEAD
Sarsgaard has also been a solid, dependable actor but I don’t think he’s ever been more compelling than in JARHEAD. (And I believe I stand alone on this opinion since nobody’s talking about him or the film.) Right from his entrance, Sarsgaard marks his territory as a hard person to warm up to. His motivations are deeply personal, and while it’s a very inward performance, it’s also intensely riveting.

His scenes with Jake Gyllenhaal are like a dance of male bonding. Two people forced to become friends by a job they both sometimes don’t understand. Sarsgaard hates his work mate as a person, but comes to respect him as a soldier.

And I have to mention his big scene, where all of the frustration just explodes out in a torrent of rage. Much like Terrence Howard, you watch a man beating his fists raw against a system that keeps suppressing him.


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