Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Actor nominations can often be predicted by the character types the actors play: people we wish we were, and people we're glad we're not. The speech therapist played by Rush, an Oscar winner for Shine and a three-time nominee, falls into the first category: poised, witty and quietly dominant, with a touch of poignancy. Textbooks examples of Type No. 2: the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God performances turned in by Renner, as a lifelong criminal, and Hawkes, as Jennifer Lawrence's reprobate uncle. (Ruffalo, as the feckless sperm donor of a lesbian couple, doesn't fit either description, so we're ignoring him.)

But all these saints and sinners shrivel beside the crack-headed Dicky Eklund in The Fighter — a gaudy role that Bale saves from showboating by investing Eklund with a cunning fervor. Bale's obscene rant a couple of years ago against a crew member on the set of Terminator Salvation was great for YouTube and bad for his rep — or possibly in keeping with it, since he's known as the most maniacally in-character actor since Daniel Day-Lewis. Bale, 37, might have deserved Oscar nominations for performances dating back to his early teens (the lead role in Steven Spielberg's 1987 Empire of the Sun) or his young maturity (as the emaciated obsessives in The Machinist and Rescue Dawn or, why not, Bruce Wayne in the recent Batman films). Eklund, having given Bale his first nomination, will also reward him with a statuette.

Snubbed: Niels Arestrup, the paternal convict in the French film A Prophet, and all the fine supporting actors in The Social Network — Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer.