Willem Dafoe – THE FLORIDA PROJECT
One of the most rewarding things about this ensemble dramedy — a step up in not only budget but storytelling moxie by acclaimed indie director Sean Baker — is the settling, tough-love influence of Willem Dafoe’s Bobby, the super of a run-down Orlando hourly motel close to Walt Disney World that is populated by lower-class denizens who are in fact light-years away from the tourists on whose vacation dollars the city depends. Protective yet hen-pecked, Bobby is the anti-Trump, and Dafoe drives his performance home with equal does of humor and compassion.
Jason Mitchell – MUDBOUND
The catalyst who stirs the tainted brew that is MUDBOUND is Jason Mitchell’s Ronsel, a WWII tank sergeant who finds that liberating Belgians and French from the Nazis to be a piece of cake compared to negotiating the trenchant racism of his Jim Crow-era homestead back in Mississippi. Mitchell, unrecognizable from his star turn as Eric “Eazy-E” Wright in STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, embodies a role that offers the chance of freedom and clarity, all the while pressured from the weight of his family’s sharecropper heritage.
Sam Rockwell – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MONTANA
To play the racist small-town deputy at odds with Frances McDormand’s intrepid Mildred, the producers could have taken the easy way out and cast a Baldwin Bother in the role of Dixon. Thank gawd, then, that they instead tapped Sam Rockwell (EVERYBODY’S FINE, 2009) to inhabit a role that gradually turns as Dixon’s fortunes begin to change as the murder investigation of Mildred’s daughter seems to sputter to a halt. More nuanced than I might have expected, I found myself empathizing with Dixon by story’s end…with reservations.
Mark Rylance – DUNKIRK
No leads, simply a cast of capable, complementary supporting players — that is the complexion of Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. If I have to single out a performance out of many, it would have to be Mark Rylance’s turn as the skipper of a private yacht enjoined to form a massive flotilla of pleasure crafts tasked with evacuating the massive British Expeditionary forces — all 300,000 of them — from the beaches of northern France. At turns stoic, tragic, and resolute, Rylance’s performance achors the film’s critical middle component, “Sea.”
Michael Stuhlbarg – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Veteran Michael Stuhlbarg has distinguished himself in many fine films this year, most notably in Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER, as a Soviet undercover agent whose government covets The Asset at the center of that well-regarded feature. I’m going instead with his performance as Mr. Perlman, the architecture professor whose teenage son Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is experiencing growing pains. A surprisingly warm-hearted performance awaits you, the movie-goer; that last scene between father and son — whew! #tissues
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