The Academy nominated all previous winners this year: Alan Arkin, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones and Christoph Waltz. Out of these I would actually pick Arkin as my favorite. He had some surprisingly subtle layers in a fairly small role. I also really liked Hoffman and Waltz. DeNiro and Jones gave their best performances in way too long, but they weren't among my personal picks. There were so many great supporting actors this year, but I narrowed down the five that meant the most to me. Here are my picks for the Best Supporting Actors Not Nominated for an Academy Award:
Albert Brooks, This is 40
I can't think of a better fit for Judd Apatow's style than the great Albert Brooks. Apatow specializes in unlikable and harsh characters and Brooks embraces those qualities. He can play up despicable as funny and relatable without needing redeeming moments. Brooks steals every moment on screen and also helps to elevate Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's performances. Nobody makes unlikable more likable than Albert Brooks in one of his best performances ever. He has what very few other comedic performers have: sincerity and honesty, even if the sincerity and honesty is not comfortable or nice.
James Badge Dale, Flight
This is the definition of a one scene wonder. Maybe I should have mentioned a performer with more screen time, but I love these little bit parts. Dale couldn't have been on screen for more than five minutes, yet he leaves a strong impact. He plays a man dying from cancer who interrupts Denzel and Kelly Reilly's meeting in the stairwell. They are both frustrated with their current situation and are at different stages of their addictions, but Dale enters and ups the ante with a more depressing story about situations he can't control. There is so much frustration to him but also a sense of carelessness. When you can steal a scene away from Denzel Washington by being more commanding you deserve attention.
Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
I am so happy to see Beasts of the Southern Wild receive four big unexpected nominations, but it still missed out on a few. The main one was Dwight Henry for supporting actor. Henry is a novice actor who portrays the most difficult character of the year. The character is difficult to like and warm up to, but there is a respect you feel for him even if you don't understand or agree with him. Henry can come across as neglectful and at times abusive towards his young daughter, but there is a pride to him and no matter what parental standards he fails he still loves little Hushpuppy. His character demands respect and the movie is very much on his terms. He represents what a certain way of life can mean to a person. Some of the most difficult scenes I've ever scene are when he struggles to communicate with his daughter and tries to prepare her to survive without him. This is one of the great movie fathers and unquestionably one of the best performances of 2012.
Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables
Casting a boyish 30-year-old as Marius was the best decision the filmmakers could make regarding the character. Redmayne brings a great deal of loss and maturity along with the character's innocent idealism. This character was not one I was looking forward to, but his sorrowful rendition of Empty Chairs was the most moving part of the film. He can transition from powerful and grand to small and personal with ease. He also made the love story with Cosette work due to his charisma and likability. I see a bright future for Eddie Redmayne.
Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers
When I saw that Ruffalo was cast as Bruce Banner I thought it was a genius move. But I did not anticipate the way he would interpret the character. I have been a die hard Marvel fan for almost a decade and I had never imagined Banner the way he was in the movie. A movie actually improved on a character from the comics and that could not have happened without Ruffalo. While he easily gives the film's best performance he still acts as an ensemble members. He can take attention when he needs to, but he also allows the other actors to take center stage and gives them someone to play off of (especially Downey and Johansson).
While Ruffalo is not exactly playing the Hulk, there are elements of the Hulk's personality in his portrayal of Banner. He really plays Banner as always struggling with his other persona and there are some really subtle layers. The most intense moments of the film are when he gets angry and you believe that he could transform into the Hulk in a second. I also credit Ruffalo for utilizing humor in all the right places and not just being tragic. This was one of the best comic book performances of all time.
Other Great Supporting Performances:
Sacha Baron Cohen (Les Miserables), Colm Wilkinson (Les Miserables), Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi), Jake Johnson (Safety Not Guaranteed), Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed), Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike), Jeff Daniels (Looper), Frank Grillo (End of Watch), Nate Parker (Arbitrage), Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect), Javier Bardem (Skyfall), Michael Fassbender (Prometheus), John Lithgow (This is 40), Thomas Middleditch (Fun Size), Oscar Isaac (Bourne Legacy), Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths), Martin Sheen (Amazing Spider-Man), Tom Cruise (Rock of Ages)