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

heath-joker

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)

christoph-landa

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)

tilda-michaelclayton

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)

patsey-12yearsaslave

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?

DVD Spotlight: 10 Things I Hate About You

10ThingsPosterI saw this movie not too long ago, roughly around the time of Heath Ledger’s passing. I’ve always been curious about this movie but his phenomenal performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight compelled me to see it even more. It’s been more than a decade since 10 Things I Hate About You hit theaters, and its 10th Anniversary DVD has just been released.

Film Summary (per IMDb):

Updated version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, set at the fictional Padua High School in Tacoma where a new transfer student, Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), is interested in the popular sophomore Bianca Stratford. But Bianca’s overprotective and domineering father forbids Bianca to date unless her older sister Katerina (Stiles), an unpopular and hostile senior, does. In a bid to get Katerina a boyfriend, Cameron sets up a plan to have the school stud, Joey Donnar, bribe Patrick Verona (Ledger), an outcast senior with a rumor-filled past, to take the volatile Katerina out on dates so he can go to the school’s homecoming dance with Bianca. However, neither Pat or Kat expect their ‘going steady’ to lead where nobody expects it to.

This marching band scene is one of my favorite parts of the movie where Patrick sings “Can’t take my eyes off of you” to Kat. I forgot how good Heath’s singing voice was, he should’ve been on my list of actors who’re surprisingly good singers.
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Watching clips of this makes me feel nostalgic about Heath. He truly was one of the best actors of his generation with so much potential. His performance here was top notch, truth be told, I don’t think this movie would’ve worked as well as it did without him. Rob Pattinson’s sullen & angst-ridden Edward in Twilight might’ve taken some cue from mysteriously intriguing Patrick Verona, alas R-Patz could barely match Ledger’s charisma, sparkly torso notwithstanding.

Surely the late young Aussie thespian was the star of the film, but Julia Stiles delivered a superb performance as well. She and Ledger played off each other well and their eventual attraction was believable and wonderful to watch. I haven’t seen her in much of anything of late besides the Bourne series, which is too bad because she’s a darn good actress. According to IMDb, one of her projects in development is The Bell Jar, which is novelist/poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel. I remember Gerry Butler mentioned Stiles a few years back during the Red Eye movie premiere when discussing the elusive Burns biopic. Apparently Butler was keen on her being involved in the movie, as one of the bard’s women Jean Armour perhaps?

Anyway, it’s tough to find a teen comedy that’s not corny or obtuse, but director Gil Junger (who does mostly TV sitcoms work) managed to make one that has a universal and remarkably timeless appeal. The script is full of wicked dialog that’s both funny and touching. If you haven’t seen it, don’t be put off by the teen comedy genre, this isn’t Clueless or American Pie (shudder), as Ledger’s charismatic bad-boy portrayal, as well as strong performances from Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, truly made this one worth seeing. Interesting that a decade later, both Ledger and Levitt would be part of the mega blockbuster that is Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

I might even rent this one again if only to see the featurette aptly named 10 Things I Love About 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU: 10 Years Later and the sneak peek of Heath Ledger’s screen test.


Have you seen this film? What did you think?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Heath Ledger’s last film

ledger_parnasusIn the trailer that was released last week, we get a glimpse of the last work of an actor who died way too young and with so much potential for greatness. It’s a fantastical morality tale that tells the story of a leader of a traveling troupe, Dr Parnassus, who has an extraordinary gift of guiding people’s imagination through a magical mirror. But Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret after having made a deal with the devil Mr Nick a second time, this time to trade his immortality for youth. That ‘deal’ comes at a hefty price: any souls that reach the age of 16, including Parnassus’ own daughter, would become the property of Mr Nick. As Valentina rapidly approaches her 16th birthday, the doctor becomes desperate to protect her daughter from her impending fate. Enter a mysterious outsider Tony, who ends up embarking through parallel worlds of surreal obstacles to rescue Valentina, the girl he loves. He and Dr Parnassus must fight to undo the doctor’s past sins, once and for all.

British thespian Christopher Plummer (who’s always & forever Capt. Von Trapp to me) plays Dr Parnassus, and Heath played the role of Tony. According to MTV news, Heath has completed about 45 percent of the shoot for the film in London in early December 2007. By mid-January, after Ledger had filmed an eerie scene in which his character hangs by his neck off Blackfriars Bridge, production broke for a week, as planned, with the intention to resume the shoot in Vancouver. Heath died merely days later of accidental overdose. Originally director Terry Gilliam rejected the idea of recasting Heath’s role. “He finished almost everything on this side of the mirror,” Gilliam said. “What he didn’t do was what was on the other side of the mirror.” But upon the insistence of the producers of the film, he ended up having to find other actors to portray Tony once he travels through the mirror, and Gilliam called some of Ledger’s friends to see if they’d join the cast. That’s how Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law found their way into this movie. On a side note, the three replacement actors donated their paychecks to Matilda, Ledger’s three-year-old daughter, which is very cool of them to do so.

The movie was screened at Cannes to mixed reviews, and it will premiere for North American audiences at the Toronto Film Festival in less than a month. It’ll no doubt be gaining attention the fact that it’s Heath’s final film. But the trailer itself looks fascinating, it’s weirdly surreal-looking brimming with psychedelic imagination and circus-like vibe, which is expected from the director of Monty Phyton and the Holy Grail. Besides Ledger who’s perfect as Tony, it’s always fun to see Johnny Depp in yet another one of his seemingly endless fantastical roles (as he’s just last seen as Madhatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). “Nothing is permanent, not even death,” Depp as Tony says towards the end. Alas, in the transient world we live in, it is indeed permanent, but once The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is released on October 16, it’ll be great to see Ledger come alive again on screen.

Charming bad boys on film

After watching Public Enemies this weekend, it’s clear the film portray the dangerous criminal as a charming hero. Obviously his real life story offers a stark contrast to how the film made him out to be.

Hollywood does this all the time it seems, making a hero out of otherwise shabby characters. I thought of some ‘bad boys’ that not only ‘captured’ the audience’s hearts, they are essentially the ‘heart’ of the movie itself.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. Phantom in Phantom of the Opera
This is the flix that I came to know and love Gerard ‘Gerry’ Butler. One look at this seductive brooding ‘opera ghost’ and you’ll know why Christine’s lured by him. The half-deformed rogue is supposed to be an ugly creature not much to look at, but it’s hard to take your eyes off Butler’s Phantom. Raoul who??

2. Castor Troy in Face/Off
This despicable character is fascinating to watch, played by both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. When playing Troy, each actor got the best lines and both seemed to have more fun playing that character than the good guy Sean Archer.

3. Hans Gruber in Die Hard
The masterful performance by Alan Rickman always made the list of ‘best villain.’ He’s ruthless but yet so refined, elegant and polite that you can’t help rooting for him. He offers such a stark contrast to the crass and ‘everyman’ John McClane (Bruce Willis) and made the game of cat and mouse so much more fun to watch.

4. Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma
The Bible-quoting outlaw played by Russell Crowe is a complex yet sympathetic character. Even Dan Evans (Christian Bale), the good guy who escorts Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, can’t help liking the guy. The battle of wills between the two of them is the essence of the film right up until the end.

5. The Joker in The Dark Knight
The role that eclipsed the Dark Knight himself. Heath Ledger was ‘lost’ in this quintessentially evil character that might’ve cost him his own life. The Joker stole literally every scene he’s in, yet despite our abhorrence to the things he did, we were mesmerized by him.

Honorable mentions:

Simon Gruber in Die Hard 3 (Jeremy Irons)
Dr. Octopuss in Spiderman 2 (Alfred Molina)
Elijah Price in Unbreakable (Samuel L. Jackson)

What do you think? Any particular bad boy stood out to you?

Ledger had wanted out as Joker?

Vanity Fair Tribute to Heath Ledger
Vanity Fair Tribute to Heath Ledger

Well according to the Vanity Fair tribute to the late actor, that’s exactly what he wanted. That comes as a surprise to me as his performance was so masterful that you’d think an actor of his caliber would’ve welcomed the opportunity to play such an outrageous character. But his friend/agent Steven Alexander told Vanity Fair’s contributing editor that Ledger had a pay-or-play deal for his role as the Joker that he could pretty much bail and still get paid. So he purposely delivered such an over-the-top performance hoping he’d get fired so he could go on a lengthy vacation instead! Ironically, director Chris Nolan liked his performance and so did critics and film goers.

From what I’ve read, Ledger was a private person who shun publicity and the fame that came with the job as an actor. The article confirmed that unlike most actors, he definitely had an apathy for stardom. This was a quote from Alexander:

“[Ledger] was always hesitant to be in a summer blockbuster, with the dolls and action figures and everything else that comes with one of those movies. He was afraid it would define him and limit his choices.

Hmmm, strange that he thought so as I’d think the success would mean he could pick ANY role he wanted. Ledger had been quite well-known before he took on the Joker role so I doubt he’d be typecast into playing comic-book villains. Besides, he’s so unrecognizable anyway with all those goop on his face, most people probably won’t recognize him if they passed him on the street. Nobody will ever know how much of an impact the role had on him, whether it intensified his chronic insomnia to such a lethal degree. Reportedly, his breakup with Michelle Williams and fighting for custody of his daughter also hit him hard.

Just like Michael Jackson, Ledger seemed to have had everything but yet were devoid of hope and inner peace. No matter how HUGE our problems seem to be, I think they’re rather trivial compared to the larger scheme of things. As a Christian, I’m blessed to know where my hope and strength comes from (Philipians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength). I know I’m never alone in facing my troubles. As the world paid tribute to the King of Pop, I pray that we all would reflect on what really matters in life, and that we’d turn to the real King of heaven and earth, the only one who can help carry us through anything and everything.