Six Spot: Best Supporting Actor (2010)

Oscar Question

Welcome back to Six Spot!  Click the link if you want to read back issues of Six Spot, but if you’re new, the concept is easy: Who just missed an Oscar nomination?  Who was #6?  Who has the dubious position of being the Six Spot?  In case you missed Six Spot’s return article about the 2015 Best Actress race and the heated comments about Jacob Tremblay and Idris Elba (you read that right), check out last week’s article here.  You can also check out the Six Spot on the 2014 Best Actor race here.

This week, we turn our heads to the 2010 Best Supporting Actor race, which had a strong trio of players who landed everywhere and a group of actors who came in and out throughout the many Oscar precursors.  While the winner was always preordained, the lineup wasn’t.

The Nominees Were:

  • 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

Contenders for the Six Spot:

  • Niels Arestrup – A Prophet (LAFCA)
  • Michael Douglas – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Golden Globe)
  • Andrew Garfield – The Social Network (Golden Globe + BAFTA + BFCA)
  • Pete Postlethwaite – The Town (BAFTA + recent death)
  • Sam Rockwell – Conviction (BFCA)
  • Samuel L. Jackson – Mother and Child (Indie Spirits)
  • Bill Murray – Get Low (Indie Spirits)
  • John Ortiz – Jack Goes Boating (Indie Spirits)
  • Matt Damon – True Grit (film got 10 nominations)
  • Vincent Cassel – Black Swan (beloved film)

So going in and very early on in the 2010 season, three contenders rose to the top: Christian Bale, Geoffrey Rush, and Mark Ruffalo.  For Bale and Ruffalo, it was a combination of “we love your movie,” good performances, and being vastly overdue for their first career nomination.  With Rush, it was having the second biggest role in the eventual Best Picture winner and being super good to boot.  While The Town floated on the edge of the Best Picture lineup all season, Jeremy Renner always seemed a somewhat safe bet to get in: call it an afterglow nomination (no really, the AMPAS was really into afterglow nominations in 2010, as 3/5 of the 2009 Best Actor lineup was invited back!).  When it comes to the amazing John Hawkes, I think it was force of a strong percentage of voters loving Winter’s Bone plus the classic “it’s okay to like him and he has a chance” momentum from his surprising SAG nomination.

But who was 6th?

A popular choice for the Six Spot is assuredly Andrew Garfield for The Social Network, and we’ll get to him later.  But let’s go through a few of the less-likely contenders.  While Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Murray, and John Ortiz all received well-deserved Indie Spirit nominations for their supporting work in 2010, I doubt any were particularly close to an Oscar nomination–call it a combination of love being diverted elsewhere or little eyes viewing their films, I just don’t think it was in the cards for them that year.

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For the longest time, there was a contingent of young white actors whose impressive independent film resumes had us begging the Academy to give them an Oscar nomination.  At a certain point in 2010, we thought we’d be crossing the top three names off the list, but somehow the season never fully embraced Sam Rockwell, despite his BFCA nomination.  Certainly voters were at least watching his movie, as his co-star Hillary Swank genuinely very nearly got an Oscar nod herself for Conviction, as evidenced by her SAG nomination.  Then there was recently deceased British acting legend Pete Postlethwaite, who received a posthumous BAFTA nomination for his work in The Town.  Some thought the recently of his passing combined with his legendary status would help push him across the edge, and it might have it not for internal competition from his own film.  Let’s look at Michael Douglas, who reprised his Oscar-winning role of Gordon Gekko in the long-overdue and unwanted Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, for which he was awarded a Golden Globe nomination.  But unlike Sylvester Stallone this year, there wasn’t exactly excitement around his reprisal of Gekko, or any sense of a “return to form.”

I don’t usually entertain performers lacking precursor love for Six Spot, but I feel obligated to at least talk about two great supporting performances in two Best Picture/Best Director nominees that somehow missed out on nearly every acting nomination on the season.  Matt Damon plays a great straight man in True Grit and coming off the unquestionable afterglow aura occurring in 2010, one thought he might be the 4th performer invited for a back-to-back nomination.  Heck, there’s always one nominee who didn’t get a precursor, right?  Same goes for Vincent Cassel in Black Swan, who could have combined a beloved film with a respected foreign acting resume, but (like all the narrative of non-Natalie Portman actors in Black Swan) it never took off the ground.  At the end of the day, it’s hard to categorize these guys, but I think they were much, much closer to a nomination than many, if not all, of the supporting actor contenders who found precursor love.

Okay, so Andrew Garfield.  Do you remember how the whole Garfield thing happened?  We were coming off a nice string of Best Picture winners having or very nearly having acting nominations, including the previous year’s nominee that caught many off guard.  So we looked at the cast list for The Social Network and thought: “It certainly can’t be Justin Timberlake!  There are no women in the movie…and they wouldn’t dare nominate the guy from Adventureland and Zombieland for Best Actor….so, um, what about the guy who plays the founder who’s screwed over, he’s the only actor left?”  And that’s how the buzz bubble decided to predict Andrew Garfield. Garfield is good in the movie, no doubting that, but let’s call a spade a spade here–there was never any heat on him.  The critics came out of the gate and threw every Best Actor award possible at Jesse Eisenberg and gave the film every award they could find, never one bothering with Garfield.  Then he got a Globe nod which made some people relax, which was followed by a BFCA nod in a six-deep field.  Then…he suddenly missed SAG.  Why would he miss SAG, of all places?  Good question.  Then he snagged BAFTA, a group that didn’t bother with Winter’s Bone in the slightest.  Garfield was the second lead in a film that was once heavily favored to win Best Picture, and indeed WAS favored until nominations came out, an yet he was snubbed.  So I ask you, looking beyond a mere checklist…does it really seem like Garfield was close?  I have such doubts.

So…keeping in mind that they went uber-gaga over True Grit in the nominating phase….

The Six Spot for 2010 Best Supporting Actor was:

Matt Damon, True Grit