Kristenswig Award for Best Supporting Actor
Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained
An infinitely clever incarnation, Stephen is a character that highlights the racial complexities within Tarantino’s script. Through Jackson’s exaggerated vocals and hunched over posture, Stephen becomes a parody of the primitive image of African Americans that White slaveowners perpetuated at the time. Bonus points for the left of center chemistry with DiCaprio that suggests that these two are more equal as a result of fitting into two such broad and bordering on absurd stereotypes.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
The second half of the sour comic duo is not so much a great performance in that DiCaprio manages for once to scenery chew without me rolling my eyes (though he does), but it is more that he constructs Calvin Candie as a ticking time-bomb. His curdling good-humor and (initially) calm reactions remind us all of a time when we knew our parents knew we did something wrong, and were just cringing at every moment knowing that the bomb would go off at any second.
Michael Fassbender, Prometheus
It seems like an obvious choice thanks to Fassbender’s typical technical mastery of David’s ticks and uninterested vocal stylings, but what is most impressive here is that he manages to communicate motivation, greed, and curiosity without any kind of emotional crutch. He instead relies on carefully considered body language that is just left of human, but not quite artificial.
Pierce Gagnon, Looper
For someone so young, Gagnon never wastes a second of his limited screen time, and imbues his character with an emotional intuition well beyond his years. He enters about halfway through the film and immediately gives us chilly line readings that usually include calling his mother by her first name, as well as highly reactive interactions with his adult costars. Bonus points for his expert ability to set the tone in his kitchen scene with JGL.
Garrett Hedlund, On the Road
Hedlund’s interpretation of Dean is defiantly enigmatic. His creation is something not entirely human, or at least not human in a way that we recognize it. Hedlund’s Dean is more a concept than a character, the concept of total mental and bodily freedom. He removes any restraints and paints a vivid portrait that is an idea, as well as a warning.
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
A true thespian’s performance, and one delivered without an ounce of pretension. Jones’ incarnation of Thaddeus Stevens is true, honest, funny, and soul stirring, and shows off his ability to command the screen even when surrounded by hordes of renowned character actors.
Runners Up: Ewan McGregor’s phonecall scene in The Impossible, Domnhall Gleeson’s acutely emotional portrait of Levin in Anna Karenina, and the ability of both Christopher Walken and Paul Giamatti to deliver memorable work and overcome the impossibly arch and wiry scripts of Seven Psychopaths and Cosmpolis, where their costars are eaten alive.