In Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“It’s good to talk.” So goes the old adage of Mr. Rogers and the new film that follows his teachings and unique impact on American society, Marielle Heller’s restorative A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The film uses the simplicity and unassuming depth of those words to examine how learn and hold on to pain, certain that there is nothing more dramatic than two people connecting. The two people on the film’s mind are a journalist named Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and his subject, the incomparable Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks as no other performer could have. It’s largely, achingly, two men talking. Or sometimes, for one of them, struggling to talk.

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Best Supporting Actor of 2016

Best Supporting Actor is often the least exciting acting category for yours truly, but that was not the case this year! Last year’s winner was dance machine Oscar Isaac from Ex Machina, and maybe the only one from my lineup last year that I feel as passionately as I do for the five on this year’s ballot. Those who almost made it: Billy Crudup’s understated sadness in 20th Century Women, Issey Ogata’s Silence slyness, Michael Barbieri’s funny and touching take in Little Men, and Craig Robinson’s charismatic dad in Morris From America. Moonlight‘s Ashton Sanders also nearly made my ballot as well for his middle chapter despair, but four slots to one film is a bit excessive.

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Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
His nurturing is instinctive and impulsive, and you see it enacted to more than towards Chiron. Ali allows the more complicated implications to take him by surprise. His final scene is a masterclass in calculation, as Chiron’s questioning puts his compassion and guilt center stage until the shame overcomes him.

Tom Bennett – Love and Friendship
The smarts it takes to play someone so dumb. Bennett breaks up the sameness of Love and Friendship‘s humor while finding his own variety to his Sir James punchy moments. Still the actor defines him not by his doltishness, but by his delight in all things and by his backpedaling reflexes.

Alden Ehrenreich – Hail, Caesar!
Not just all kooky spaghetti lassos and false teeth, Ehrenreich is hilarious as a young star both smarter than dumber than you expect him to be depending on the moment. Would that it were so simple, he also walked away with a catchphrase. A simmering rage and loyalty make him more than a caricature.

André Holland – Moonlight
Like Ali in the film’s first third, Holland reminds you that the world outside of Chiron is as complex as our hero. Kevin has his own history too, and Holland’s ease and wandering eye bring our understanding of him full circle. He has the prowess to dismantle both Trevante Rhodes’s “Black” and the audience, but he’s just as shaken himself.

Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight
How does Rhodes carry a lifetime of baggage so seamlessly to the pain we’ve already seen from two other younger actors? Chiron is trapped by his history, but Rhodes is most vulnerable at the question of the future. A study in black masculinity elegantly wrought with heart-bursting specificity.

And the Winner is…

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filmmixtape’s Best Supporting Actor of 2015

Rolling right along with my votes for Best Supporting Actor…

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Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation

  • Much has been made of the terrifying impact of his guerrilla warfare commandant, but the most masterful moments of the performance are as he loses dominance over his child soldiers – the impotence with which he clings to his his blind warpath lingers after the chills.

Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina

  • Isaac turns the a reclusive, proselytizing scientist on the page into a study of intellectual, broski misogyny. He’s the embodiment of the film: mysterious, elusive, sexual, and just this side of bonkers. Bonus points for cutting up that fucking dance floor. (More here!)

Michael Keaton – Spotlight

  • His Robby Robinson stears the Spotlight team, but Keaton is the ensemble’s beacon. Much of the film’s ability to go deeper than procedural relies on Keaton’s arc of guilt over his own role in the systemic disregard to the victims depicted. He doesn’t just ace it, he’s the film’s rageful center. (More here!)

Jason Mitchell – Straight Outta Compton

  • As his Eazy-E’s emerges as a major talent, we sense the breakthrough of a future superstar in Mitchell. His intense and passionate portrayal rises above the film’s greatest-hits approach and becomes its emotional core. Emotionally varied and heartbreaking.

Sylvester Stallone – Creed

  • Stallone seizes every opportunity here to illuminate new, unexpected sides to a cinema icon, clearly energized by director Ryan Coogler’s honest approach to the legacy. To Stallone’s (and Coogler’s) further credit, this Rocky Balboa would be just as clearly defined and complete without a franchise preceding it.

The Almost-Made-Its and The Winner after the jump…

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For Your Consideration: Best Supporting Actor – Oscar Isaac “Ex Machina”

Criminally unrecognized by awards voters and general audiences (perhaps until next month with Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Oscar Isaac has been quietly giving the most diverse range of characters of an actor his age. One of the best lead male performance of the decade was his work in the Coens’ Inside Llewyn Davis, a showcase for his gifts of subtlety and sorrow, but also for unexpected wowza musical talent.

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In Ex Machina, he gets to play with a full toolbox of mystery. The performance mirrors the film’s delicate balance of big ideas, moral indifference, and sexual undercurrent. Isaac often underplays moments that lesser actors could have turned into moustache-twirling, allowing the film’s darker ideas to speak for themselves. He plays the film’s narrative cards close to the chest but is still an open book, enticing and alluring to the audience and Domhnall Gleeson’s protagonist. Unyielding to the sinister and kooky elements, it’s also the sexiest performance of the year to boot.

Check in with filmmixtape’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar Predictions!