Here are my 10 picks for Best Supporting Actor of 2016:
10) Jack O’Connell (Money Monster)
I know you probably didn’t see Money Monster on many year-end lists, but you’d be mistaken to not think Jack O’Connell was amazing in it. He’s an actor I’ve had my eye on since Starred Up. He’s great when he acts with this bottled up rage, which is what he has in Money Monster. He has the daunting task of performing opposite George Clooney and Julia Roberts, and I think he showed them both up.
9) Ben Foster (Hell Or High Water)
Ben Foster is almost always excellent. Sure, there was Warcraft, but he’s an actor who really does try to give his best in each performance. I can say this with a certainty, having seen him in so many films this year. His best work was Hell Or High Water, which reminds us that when Foster is in a really good movie, he soars even higher. He’s one of a few actors working who has never been nominated, but I’m confident will be at some point in the future, because of how consistent they are.
8) Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight)
In my review, I pointed out how odd it was that Mahershala Ali was stealing all the spotlight. He’s not on this list. In my mind, Ali had an easier role, and a small one at that. Rhodes comes in at the end, playing the adult version of a tragic character, and has a lot more complexities to work with. He’s obviously gotten tougher over the years, but he still deals with the demons of his past, which is more obvious when the demons actually call him up. As he slowly breaks down, you remember the kid from earlier in the film, and you see him in Trevante, even though he’s a big, muscular fellow now. For me, Rhodes had the best performance for the men of Moonlight, and the most complicated.
7) Stephen Henderson (Fences)
This is truly a supporting work. He exists to support Denzel’s character, and I thought Henderson did so perfectly. He’s a consummate character actor, someone who is so good, but can be so easily forgotten. You may not even know you’ve seen him in a role. But I saw Stephen Henderson here, and I hope most casting directors did too.
6) Judah Lewis (Demolition)
I already mentioned him in my best young actor awards, but Lewis has wisdom beyond his years. This is a difficult role to ask a child to play, without the full understanding of what it actually means. Yet Lewis tackled the role of a troubled youth dealing with his sexuality. He has a tough exterior, but inside he’s breaking, and we see that played out on screen with somewhat tragic results. If more people had seen Demolition, or if the film was released in Oscar season, I believe we’d be talking about him in this years Oscar race.
5) John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
The performance the Academy is too scared to recognize. Talk about an out-of-left-field performance. Goodman typically plays such likeable characters, but he went all in here. Take away the sci-fi element, and he’s still scary good as a man keeping a girl in his storm shelter. It’s a redefining moment for Goodman in terms of the kind of actor he can be, reinventing his own image. He’s not just a comedian, or a cuddly teddy bear. He’s a serious actor, with extreme range, that can terrify you when needed.
4) Robert DeNiro (Hands Of Stone)
It’s kind of a full circle performance for him. Instead of being the boxer, he’s the coach, much like Stallone did with Creed. Only here, DeNiro is playing a real person, with a real backstory, and a daughter with a drug abuse history. DeNiro shows again why he’s one of the greats, and why he continues to inspire a generation of up and coming actors.
3) Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
For a while, I had him in the lead category because he carries the film. I think he’s in more screentime than Streep, but I moved him because he’s being run for Supporting Actor at the Oscars. That being said, it’s an incredible performance from Grant, who seems to be getting better and better with age. He’s the perfect partner for Streep, never overshadowing her when she’s on screen. You can feel his deep devotion and love for her, and his character never feels fake.
2) Dev Patel (Lion)
I actually think he’s better in Lion than he was in Slumdog Millionaire. Dev Patel is proving himself a dynamic actor capable of so much more than being a shitty villain in an Airbender film. Here, he plays a grown version of the character we already know, showing us that he’s still wrestling with the demons of his past. He wants to try and find his mom, but she’s a needle in a haystack. Or is she?
1) Jeff Bridges (Hell Or High Water)
It’s a role that I can’t imagine any other actor playing. It just oozes Jeff Bridges. He has the sarcastic charm to pull it off, and also the intelligence and wit to make it believable. As a sheriff tracking a pair of bank robbing brothers, Jeff Bridges exhibits many different sides to his character, starting off with the standard “I’m too old for this shit”, but turning that into “my last great ride”, and finally “vengeance is mine”. He’s had a lot of great performances in recent years, like Crazy Heart, and this is just one more for the record books.