Presented for our own consideration and discussion.
Despite there being best supporting performance categories at the Oscars, many of the true best supporting performers tend to go unrecognized each year. They are the unsung character actors and actresses, most of whom aren’t even known by name. Their roles tend to be oddballs who stand out for their eccentricities and wild, over-the-top performances, opposite the typically more conservative acting from the leads.
Last month, in tribute to Gene Wilder, filmmaker Jon Lefkovitz posted a supercut to YouTube celebrating the “best supporting weirdos” throughout cinema. They include Wilder in The Producers, his co-stars Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, and Cloris Leachman in Young Frankenstein, and parts played by Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Lorre, and other favorites. Sadly no Jon Polito, though, as he now needs a tribute, too.
There also are no 2016 characters in the video, which means it’s up to the rest of us to consider who’d deserve that Oscar, if it were to exist. There’s actually a lot to choose from. Even though we’re in a time when even minor roles are filled with the beautiful people, many of them try to look and act funkier in these roles. Here’s a shortlist of possible contenders for the nonexistent award, and I invite you to add to it and/or pick a winner.
Alden Ehrenreich in Hail, Caesar!
Any Coen Brothers movie is going to have plenty of supporting weirdos (Lefkovitz surprisingly only includes three). Their latest, Hail, Caesar! is no exception, though its ensemble isn’t quite as memorable as their past efforts. There’s George Clooney being ordinarily goofy, Frances McDormand’s visually comical film editor, and Tilda Swinton as identical twins who are also competing gossip columnists – er, cultural commentators.
But it’s Alden Ehrenreich who deserves the prize among them. Between his quotable linguistics display and his casual lasso tricks, he’s the funniest and most intriguing piece of the Golden Age Hollywood homage. It’s also one of those supporting parts that manage to break out an actor into the big time. Hopefully it won’t be the last time we see Ehrenreich, now best known as the future young Han Solo, in such a strange supporting role.
Adam Driver in Midnight Special
If we’re talking serious supporting performances, Kirsten Dunst should get some attention for what she does in such a brief amount of time on screen in Midnight Special. However, when it comes to comic relief, Adam Driver perfectly breaks the tone with his nice-guy government scientist character. In an otherwise serious sci-fi movie, he gets to have fun, and that fun translates to a good deal of enjoyment on the part of the audience.
John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane
John Goodman is one of those Coen Brothers regulars who tends to play supporting weirdos for them, but he doesn’t always go so broad in the rest of his roles. In the anthological sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane, however, he goes full crackpot, and it’s fabulous. At the time of the movie’s release, Goodman was highlighted as giving an Oscar-worthy performance as the strict bunker owner. That recognition has waned, but his distinction has not.
Temple Baker in Everybody Wants Some!!
There is one really weird character in Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, and that’s the tantrum-prone Jay, aka “Raw Dog,” portrayed by Juston Street. But the ensemble picture is filled with odd ducks, and every fan seems to have a favorite. Mine is husky-voiced Temple Baker as the perpetually drunk and oblivious Plummer. And he’s especially notable because Everybody Wants Some!! is the Austin native’s first movie.
Sheridan Smith in The Huntsman: Winter’s War
There aren’t many women weirdos on this list, because sadly Hollywood doesn’t give the ladies enough weird roles. The Huntsman: Winter’s War seemed to aim for something untraditional with its surplus of strange female characters, one of which is played quite hammily by big star Charlize Theron. Stealing the show from her and the rest of the cast, though, is the hilarious Sheridan Smith as the lewd dwarf Bromwyn. The mostly forgettable Snow White and the Huntsman sequel is worth seeing just for her.
Ike Barinholtz in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Ike Barinholtz was a highlight of the first Neighbors despite his lack of notoriety compared to stars Seth Rogen and Zac Efron and the fact that Rose Byrne was the true runaway scene stealer of the 2014 comedy. For the sequel, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Barinholtz seemed to break out even more. Maybe it’s just the bit where he’s dressed as a clown that even Pennywise might be afraid of. He also has the sort of interesting face we don’t get enough with character actors these days.
Olivia Colman in The Lobster
The Lobster is such a bizarre movie with such bizarre characters and performances, and Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly are both worthy of being on this list, but it’s a better idea to highlight the women, including Ashley Jensen and Angeliki Papoulia but best of all Olivia Colman. She winds up being so memorable and stands out so distinctly because she’s so serious in such a surreal movie, which makes her a weirdo in the context. Her performance comes off as effortless, but it’s actually tremendous work.
Keith David and Beau Knapp in The Nice Guys
When you have leads as oddly interesting as the duo in The Nice Guys, you don’t typically want a lot of weird supporting characters upstaging them. Shane Black manages to populate his world with eccentrics of various levels that fit perfectly together. And as a kind of counterpart to Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are the wonderfully angry straight man Keith David and the more loose-cannon henchman played by Beau Knapp.
The latter mainly stands out for his appearance, especially when he gets blue paint all over his face, but he’s also just a super creepy guy. Still, it’s not surprising that Knapp hasn’t gotten as much attention as he might in another movie. As for David, like Colman he’s kind of just weird for not being more over-the-top in such an over-the-top movie. Unlike Knapp, he also just has a history that makes him always seem prominently peculiar.
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Matthew Modine in Stranger Things
Who says all these have to be from movies? We can also recognize awards rejects from television, especially this week in anticipation of the Emmys. There have been so many great weirdos on the small screen this year, including John Turturro’s excema-afflicted lawyer on The Night Before, John Travolta’s portrayal of Robert Shapiro on The People v. O.J. Simpson, and I continue to adore Diana Rigg’s Queen of Thorns on Game of Thrones.
Matthew Modine sticks out in my mind, however, possibly because he used to be more leading man material in decades past and has aged into someone better suited for quirkier, creepier, and in Stranger Things more menacing roles. I didn’t expect to feel ickier about him in something after his stint on Weeds, but he achieved that for me as lead scientist and awful father figure Martin Brenner. Modine is a prime bad guy character actor now.
Related Topics: Awards, Comedy