Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road
While there are definitely some acting races this year still up for grabs, this one isn't one of them. Could Heath Ledger still lose? Anything is possible, though highly unlikely. There's an overwhelming favorite here. Still, I want to take a look at the other nominees as some of them gave career performances.
Josh Brolin in Milk has his first nomination. That is hard to believe since Brolin has been in the industry for over twenty years. He's one of the best working actors today. Some people really like this performance and I've talked to other people who don't see what's so great about it. I personally love the psychology between Dan White (Brolin) and Harvey Milk. He plays this straight edge man who believes in the old school values of America. Then, he just snaps when he loses grasp of it all. His performance would probably be more talked about if it was another year.
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder scored his second nomination ('92 for Best Actor in Chaplin). It's the only true comedic role of the bunch, so that helps it a little. Though, the Oscars are hesitant to award comedies. Also, Downey Jr. is playing blackface, which is a touchy subject. His Kirk Lazarus character is funny and really steals every scene. Tropic Thunder was a very enjoyable comedy. Like Mickey Rourke, he has had a huge comeback year (also starred in Iron Man). Next year he could have a more realistic shot at winning an Oscar with The Soloist.
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt has nabbed his third nomination in four years (won Best Actor in '05 for Capote). There has been some debate over whether this role is really supporting. His performance may be a little over the top at times, but still is able to keep up with Streep. He also has his Oscar (ironically beating Ledger). While I don't think the Academy has a problem giving him another, it just has to be for a strong enough role. This role simply isn't strong enough.
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight is easily the senitmental favorite. This is his second nomination ('05 for Best Actor in Brokeback Mountain). I'll admit I was hestitant at first to give Heath the Oscar. It's crazy to think he will be dead for exactly 13 months on Oscar night. Then, he simply started to win everything this season. I think the only "major" award he lost as Best Actor at the NY Film Critics. His take on The Joker instantly became iconic. From his look to his mannerisms, he created a classic villain that will be forever remembered. It's hard not to like his performance. It's that good. Dare I say he's in a different league than the other nominees.
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road should be applauded for simply getting nominated. This is his first nomination. For a guy that is relatively unknown, he snuck into this race. His performance in the love/hate Revolutionary Road was pure scene stealer material. It added this extra dynamic to the Wheeler's relationship and his brutal honesty was poignant. That dinner scene when Frank almost kills him is just amazing. Sadly for him, the nomination will be his award in a film that many people don't fully appreciate.
Could Ledger lose? Possibly, but who will beat him? Also, who really wants to take this from him? The only way I see him losing is if people really have a problem voting for a dead man. And, from what I've read, that doesn't seem to be affecting anyone. It will easily be one of the most bittersweet moments in Oscar history if Heath Ledger's name is called out next Sunday. He will then join an "elite" club of him and Peter Finch ('76 for Best Actor in Network) as the only posthumous acting Oscar champs.