Having completed the process of sharing my own humble views on the top ten movies of the most recent cinematic year, there’s one more bit of business that Coffee for Two tradition dictates before Hollywood hands out shiny prizes on Sunday night. As I’ve done for a good long while, I’m structuring my assessment of the most exemplary bigscreen acting of the year in the rough format of the nominating ballot I would have, given the opportunity, sent in at the appropriate time. Because the Academy calls for ranked choices at that stage, that is what I’ve done, striving to be strictly honest in the selections and the ordering.
That’s surely explanation enough, right? Let’s get to the thespians:
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
1. Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
2. Cate Blanchett, Tár
3. Keke Palmer, Nope
4. Mia Goth, Pearl
5. Park Hae-il, Decision to Leave
This is by far the strongest overall category, which has been the case more often than not in recent years. I understand that I am committing a form of film critic sacrilege in declaring a preference for Michelle Yeoh’s multiverse pivots over Cate Blanchett’s imperious maestro, however that slight that preference might be. (We’re talking an eyelash of difference between them.) Impressive as Blanchett is, sometimes the performance has just the faintest whiff of ham to it, though usually in moments when Lydia Tár is engaged in some level of performative behavior. Still it’s just enough to tip me to a competitor. Keke Palmer was pushed as supporting, but I think the scene-stealer is more accurately a lead. Park Hae-il is marvelous in Decision to Leave, and Mia Goth decisively earns her place with two especially bravura scenes.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
1. Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
2. Paul Mescal, Aftersun
3. Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans
4. Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
5. Austin Butler, Elvis
It’s a shame the Academy is likely to relegate Colin Farrell to runner-up status because of a wearying preference for more showily transformative work, even as I do indeed include one of the more likely victors in my fifth slot there. Subtlety should count, too. In addition to Austin Butler, I agree with the Academy about Paul Mescal and Brendan Gleeson, though I see him as co-lead rather than supporting. Gabriel LaBelle is required to do so much in The Fabelmans, and he does every bit of with aplomb. I’m amazed he didn’t earn more plaudits a film that has been so thoroughly embraced by various award voters.
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
2. Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once
3. Lashana Lynch, The Woman King
4. Janelle Monáe, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
5. Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
What can I say? I’m very fond of the Súilleabháin siblings. I understand the certainty Michelle Williams felt in positioning herself as a lead in The Fablemans Oscar campaigning, but I think everyone who’s not Sammy Fabelman is supporting. On the other side, I think an argument can be made that Janelle Monáe is a leading actor in the latest Benoit Blanc mystery. I think she’s far enough in the background during the first half of the film to make supporting feel right in this instance. I’m thrilled Stephanie Hsu made the Academy’s cut and baffled that Lashana Lynch didn’t. More accurately, I would have been more baffled had the Academy not shown their shameful indifference to the The Woman King across the board.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
1. Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once
2. Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
3. Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway
4. Justin Long, Barbarian
5. Paul Dano, The Fabelmans
I usually add some Oscar night predictions in this annual post, but three of the four acting categories are so uncertain (thrillingly so) that I’m not even bothering to take my stabs in all this dark. The one sure bet is that Ke Huy Quan goes into Monday morning as an Oscar winner, and it couldn’t be more deserving. Immediately after seeing Everything Everywhere All at Once, I was preemptively disappointed that Quan wouldn’t get the accolades he deserves for a performance that requires some incredibly tricky persona transitions. I’m so pleased that I was completely wrong. The other performances I have in common with the Academy are also first-rate. Paul Dano is another case of measured work being bypassed for showy work. Justin Long never had a change of being included of the official tally, but he absolutely nails a comic oiliness that enlivens an already quite lively film.