This is the area that usually has the least amount of consistency. And while this year is slightly more so, the nominated choices are, alas, riddled with supporting actors.
- But more importantly, did NO ONE see “Catch 22”?! Christopher Abbott gives a fearless performance in a tremendously engaging show that is utterly faithful to the original text.
- And given how much the NomComm loves stars, I’m not sure how we missed out on Helen Mirren‘s “Catherine the Great”.
- How could anyone watch Netflix’ “Unbelievable” and think Toni Collette was the one we should have honored. Kaitlyn Devers gives one of the most human and heartbreaking performances of the year as a young rape victim shamed by those who are tasked with protecting her.
- And as far as the procedural half of “Unbelievable” goes, Merritt Weaver gives the better performance of the two detectives. I just don’t understand it.
- And, finally, if we had a supporting category, there would’ve been space to recognize the phenomenal work of the four young boys in “When They See Us” (Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, and Marquis Rodriguez) or the parents (Niecy Nash, Suzzanne Douglas and John Leguizamo), or Freddie Miyares, who plays the older Ray Santana with such brilliance and humanity.
Hang on, let me catch my breath after that mini-rant…okay.
Patricia Arquette (“The Act”)
This was a brilliantly performed show, but also a brutally annoying show. And, good as she was (and she was very, very good in it), I feel Arquette just played a monster-who-might-mean-well throughout. I didn’t see much of a journey….not that I was all that invested by the end.
Toni Collette (“Unbelievable”)
I think I made my point about what I think of this nomination above. I don’t even think she’s very good in it until the last two episodes. Prior to that she just seems to be playing at being a badass, instead of, y’know, being a badass. As for the show itself, the procedural half gets bogged down in details much of the time. But the human cost side is exceptional and Collette is nowhere to be seen on that end of the equation until the very last moments of the final episode.
Joey King (“The Act”)
What might be the most annoying character in television history was also one of the most authentic this season. King finds the heart of Gypsy Rose Blanchard immediately and never strays from it as her guiding principle. It’s a career making turn, and I wouldn’t be upset if she won (though I will be if her costar does). King comes in a close second in this category for me.
Emily Watson (“Chernobyl”)
The definition of a supporting role, Watson’s Ulana Khomyuk is paramount to the telling of this real-life horror story. But wonderful as she is (always), this is not her story, it’s Jared Harris’. And, as a result, its unfair to ask her to compete with King or Williams.
Michelle Williams (“Fosse/Verdon”)(…she gets my vote)
While the show itself did not need anywhere near eight episodes to do its thing, Ms. Williams was easily the creme of this crop. Vulnerable, powerful, fallible and representing Verdon’s dance chops in a convincing manner, Williams was the perfect choice for the role (even if when it was announced, I was like, “…huh?!”). This performance is proof that she is one of the best actors we have today.
Mahershala Ali (“True Detective”)
Not quite sure about this nomination. Yes, he plays three different ages concurrently very well, but because of the soft writing (and a really meh season), it comes across as more of a gimmick…which is no fault of Mr. Ali. But it does make me wonder how he got in ahead of “Catch-22’s” Christopher Abbott or Freddie Miyares from “When They See Us”.
Russell Crowe (“The Loudest Voice”)
This is a masterclass of acting both chronological aging and power-at-all-costs tyranny. But, alas, it’s such a long slog to get through, I can’t imagine he has a shot to win. And, personally, I’m not sure I would have put him in my Top Five given the other options I’ve mentioned.
Jared Harris (“Chernobyl”)
Harris is so wonderful. His weariness, his fear, and his concern give this nightmare almost all of the heft it needs. Alas, when it comes to awards, he simply has no luck. Overlooked for his work in the first season of “The Terror” (which I would say was one of the best seasons of TV in that decade), he is now up against a performance that will most likely be a landslide (Mr. Jerome). In my estimation they are, artistically, pretty much even and arguments could be made for both. Regardless, this is a performance (and series) that will be remembered long after this award season!
Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us”)(…he gets my vote)
The only actor in this brilliant show to play both the younger and older member of the Exonerated Five, Mr. Jerome is incredible. Which means that if you haven’t watched this show until the end, you’ve missed one of the great works of acting. The manner with which he shows us the ups and downs of his illegal incarceration and how prison life ages one through fear, physical pain and mental exhaustion, should last as one of the greatest representations of inmate life. To be clear, I have never been a DuVarnay fan, but she nailed this, and a large part of it was her incredible casting choices (done in partnership with Aisha Coley, Billy Hopkins, Ashley Ingram, and Ian Subsara) and, maybe most importantly, the inspired choice of Jerome as Korey Wise.
Sam Rockwell (“Fosse/Verdon”)
Apparently Sam Rockwell has decided to try and play every kind of despicable, yet redemptive, character he can in as short a time period as possible; a racist cop in “Three Billboards”, #43 in “Vice” (okay, maybe no redemption there), the head of the KKK in “Best of Enemies”, and a discharged General who teaches boys how to be a successful Nazi in “Jojo Rabbit”. And what does he choose for his prestige TV choice? Well, a despicable character desperately searching for redemption, of course…the late great Bob Fosse. In a performance which is impossible to avoid comparison to Roy Scheider’s 1980 Oscar-nommed go of it, Rockwell comes up short – admirable, but ultimately, for me, too mopey. None of the fire or energy that was responsible for Fosse’s great work shows through…only his self-flagellation and guilt over his many relational flaws. Now, that might be a directorial issue, but nonetheless, not good enough for this category with these actors. (btw, check out the 1980 Best Picture noms: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Kramer vs Kramer, and Norma Rae…guess who won…nope. nope. nope. Kramer vs. Kramer! I know! Right?)
Coming soon, my predictions…