Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress

ThursdayMoviePicksThe Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress.

It’s another Oscars edition! Well, prior to this year where the Academy got confused as to who’s actually the lead of the film (*cough* Judah and The Black Messiah *cough*) and nominated the leading man in the supporting category, for the most part it’s pretty clear which actor belongs in the supporting roles. Since I haven’t seen a bunch of classic films in which the actors won in the supporting category, I’m going to pick winners from movies released in 1980s – today.

In any case, here are my four picks:

Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)- post-humous


It’s rare that an actor’s performance in superhero movie would get the attention of the Academy, but Ledger’s Joker is simply iconic. He deservedly won a total of 32 Best Actor in a Supporting Role awards for his work on this movie, including the “quintuple”: Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG, and Critics’ Choice award (per IMDb). I really think he surpasses Jack Nicholson’s wicked-clown persona in the role, but created a psychopathic persona so scary yet mesmerizing.

As I said in this scene-spotlight post of the interrogation scene, the Joker had such power to get into anyone’s skin and he really pushed Batman to the point where he almost lost it. I’ve rewatched this movie a bunch of times and I’m always in awe of Ledger’s acting where the actor became the character… thanks to the extended research he did for the role, including secluding himself in a motel for six weeks, etc. It’s hard to watch that film and not think about how that role might’ve cost Ledger his own life. There were reports that the role took a toll on him mentally and physically, which might have contributed to his accidental drug overdose.

Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds (2009)


I didn’t plan on including another villain who won Best Supporting Actor, but hey, bad guy roles are often juicier than the heroes, and good actors can elevate good roles and make them great. That’s certainly the case with Waltz’s performance which is indelible right from its intense opening sequence. He easily stole every scene he’s in, a perfect combination of being hilarious and terrifying. In less capable hands, Landa could’ve easily just be a sadistic caricature but Waltz made him so indelible. The Austrian actor also used his knack for languages to good use, speaking English, French, German, and Italian in the movie.

I remember reading IMDb trivia that Quentin Tarantino was considering abandoning the film during the casting period when they were searching for someone to play Colonel Hans Landa. He apparently thought he’d written a role that was unplayable, that is until they saw Waltz audition for the role. I think it’s safe to say this is my favorite QT’s film.

Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton (2007)


This is a legal drama where George Clooney‘s played a ‘fixer’ to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company (U-North) that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit. It’s been ages since I saw this, but I remember it being quite gripping and that Tilda Swinton was amazing as Karen Crowder, U-North’s general counsel. Her intense performance stood out even in a star-studded ensemble that include Sydney Pollack and Tom Wilkinson. The Scottish actress is so versatile that she not only able to play virtually any role, but she can also disappear in them as well. I think her nervous breakdown performance in the bathroom alone deserves all the kudos. Karen is obviously an ambitious, ruthless character, but Swinton gave her depth and vulnerability that’s captivating to watch.

The film was screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s directorial debut (known for The Devil’s Advocate and the Bourne trilogy). I just rewatched the trailer again, I should rewatch this one soon!

Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave (2013)


This is such a tremendous film with excellent performances all around, but it’s a film I could watch only once as it’s so harrowing.. At the center of the film is Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery, performed beautifully by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The film is filled with big name actors, including Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, etc. but amongst the supporting cast, Lupita Nyong’o definitely stood out as  the brutally abused plantation worker. Clearly it was a physically and emotionally demanding role for any actor, let alone for a newcomer in her film debut!

I’ve always wondered how tough it must’ve been for her as well as her co-star Fassbender in filming those vicious scenes. Well, I read on IMDb that before filming their more brutal scenes together, Nyong’o and Fassbender performed a ritual of “making nice.” According to Nyong’o, “We wouldn’t say anything to each other, just a look in the eye and a grasping of hands. Our characters are in such opposition, but we as actors needed each other in order to be able to go the distance.” 

Nyong’o is no one-hit-wonder though, she’s continued to impress me in subsequent roles and proven her versatility as an actress.

What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

17 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks 2021: Oscar Winners Edition – Best Supporting Actor + Best Supporting Actress

  1. All 4 of those performances are awesome as I love Christoph Waltz. My dad really liked his performance in Django Unchained which was one of the last movies he had seen before his passing and really loved that film. Yet, he was more into Leo as he just thought he killed it in that movie. I get sentimental whenever I mention Django because of my dad.

    1. Hey Steven, I hear ya about being sentimental over your loved one when watching certain films. I’m that way w/ 3 classic movies: Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady and Sound Of Music, as my late mom was the one who first introduced those films to me, even when my English was still really bad that she had to translate most of them.

      Christoph was a terrible Bond villain though, even though he was great in many other roles.

        1. I just saw the Audrey Hepburn documentary and am just so in awe of her beauty. She’s absolutely amazing in that role, I don’t care what people say that it should’ve gone to Julie Andrews because she had done the play, I think Audrey was perfect for the role.

  2. Ted Saydalavong

    The only film I’ve yet to see from your list here is 12 Years A Slave, I missed it when it came out and just totally forgot about it. I did put into my to watch list on HBO Max. I definitely agree with the other choices, Ledger’s Joker was miles better than Nicholson’s campy take on the character. Michael Clayton blew me away when I first saw it, especially Swinton’s performance as the greedy corporate leader.

    Years ago when QT first tried to make Inglorious Basterds, his intention was to cast big named stars at the time. Landa was meant to be played by Arnold S., Stallone was going to be Aldo Raine and the rest of the cast was going include A-listers like Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and so on. But he realized there’s no way he can get a studio to pay all of those actors to be in one movie together and rewrote the script. He originally wrote Landa with DiCaprio in mind but Leo convinced him to hire an actual German actor for role. Leo would eventually star as the villain in QT’s next film, Django Unchained.

    1. 12 Years A Slave is a harrowing film but so worth a watch. I don’t think Nicholson’s campy take was terrible necessarily, it was a product of its time, but definitely not an iconic nor mesmerizing one.

      Oh man, can’t even imagine Arnold as Landa, though Stallone could work as Aldo Raine. I remember about DiCaprio and good on him to suggest an actual German actor for the role (though they settled with an Austrian but that’s splitting hairs, ahah). I think Waltz’s Landa is one of the best casting choices in recent memory.

  3. While I think the tragic circumstances of Ledger’s death played into his win, much as they did for Peter Finch who died even closer to the actual awards-he had already been nominated when he suffered a fatal heart attack when he was doing publicity for the film-he did win for a strong performance.

    I’m variable on Tarantino films but Inglorious Basterds is one I liked more than usual. Waltz certainly was memorable.

    I didn’t like Michael Clayton very much but Tilda Swinton was by far best in show.

    12 Years a Slave isn’t really a film I can say I enjoyed but I admired both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o’s work. I was glad to see her win and had hoped he would as well.

    These performance themes are ones I especially enjoy and I couldn’t decide between the two categories so I picked three from each.

    The Razor’s Edge (1946)-Anne Baxter-Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) disillusioned by WWI drifts through Europe looking for life’s meaning. In Paris he becomes reacquainted with childhood friend Sophie MacDonald (Baxter) who he remembers as a happy wife and mother. Having lost her family when a drunk smashed into their car Larry finds her a broken, drug addicted prostitute and tries to help her but her sorrows run too deep.

    The Last Picture Show (1971)-Cloris Leachman-In the slowly dying North Texas town of Anarene high school senior Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) drifts into an affair with the coach’s wife Ruth Popper (the recently departed Cloris Leachman). Though it commences more out of ennui than true feeling their involvement soon causes profound changes to both.

    The Year of Living Dangerously-Linda Hunt-Well connected photographer Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) takes inexperienced correspondent Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) under his wing upon Guy’s arrival in Jakarta. As political tension roils and then escalates to the boiling point both their lives as well as that of diplomat Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) hang by a thread.

    The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)-Harold Russell-At the end of WWII three servicemen return to their hometown to find their way of life radically changed. One of the men Homer Parrish has lost his hands in an explosion, while he has adjusted to living with the hooks that replaced them, he finds the world is a vastly different place for him. Russell, who had suffered the same sort of injury, wasn’t a professional actor but his performance is naturalistic and immensely impactful.

    All About Eve (1950)-George Sanders-In the Broadway world of stage star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) urbane, venomously acerbic and powerful theatre critic Addison DeWitt (Sanders) is tolerated but not liked. Still when Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) insinuates herself into Margo’s good graces it’s Addison who sees through her sweetness to the vicious climber underneath. My favorite Supporting Actor winner, a perfect meeting of actor and role.

    They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)-Gig Young-In the soul crushing world of Depression era marathon dances resides opportunistic promoter and emcee Rocky Gravo (Young) a man devoid of scruple or compassion. He sees the contestants-including hard bitten Gloria (Actress nominee Jane Fonda), glamour girl wannabe Alice (Supporting Actress nominee Susannah York), broken down Sailor (Red Buttons) and audience surrogate Robert (Michael Sarrazin)-as so much fodder to be made money off until they lose their usefulness and are thrown away. The deeply troubled Young (he ultimately killed himself and his fifth wife in a murder/suicide) was a preeminent comic actor for years before this revelatory performance.

    1. Hi there Joel!

      Oh yeah, absolutely Ledger deserved the win. Even if he had been alive he still should have won that year. Nobody else came close.

      I don’t think one would ‘enjoy’ 12 Years A Slave, but it’s a film with plenty of artistic merit to appreciate.

      As for your picks, wow I had just listened to The Last Picture Show’s author Larry McMurtry’s interview on MPR’s Fresh Air the other day and I believe they played a clip of Ben Johnson in one of the roles.

      I’m originally from Jakarta so The Year of Living Dangerously is definitely an interesting film to me as it’s set there, though it was filmed in the Philippines. It’s still rare to see a woman playing a man’s role, but since the character’s supposed to be Chinese, I don’t think that kind of casting would pass today.

  4. Popular picks, Ruth! I’ve seen all of these chosen elsewhere except for Nyong’o. I haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave yet.
    Waltz is fantastic in everything he does; you make a good point about how a lesser actor wouldn’t have been able to pull off such a multi-faceted performance in Inglorious Basterds as Waltz.

    1. I have a feeling Ledger would be a popular pick, but rightly so. In terms of posthumous win, I can’t think of anyone else more deserving.

      12 Years A Slave is a harrowing watch, I think it’s one to mentally prepare for but it’s such a good film that’s well worth your time. Waltz is so amazing that he easily stole every scene from that star-studded film!

  5. Pingback: The Alliance Lately: Issue No. 26 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

    1. Somehow I thought of Heath right away when it comes to Best Supporting Actor, but surely there are plenty of other great ones. I’m still sad that he’s gone though, and every time I watch TDK I always wonder if the Joker role cost him his life.

    1. Hey, glad you like Michael Clayton too! Yeah that scene of Tilda practicing her speech is memorable too, she absolutely deserved that Oscar.

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