The way I see it, this year’s Best Supporting Actor race is between two actors—Christoph Waltz, who won both the SAG and Golden Globe for his role in “Inglourious Basterds,” and Stanley Tucci, who was the one good part of the fairly universally panned “The Lovely Bones.” Why these two? Because the characters on screen gave the viewers the heebie-jeebies. See, the Academy has shown itself to be fairly predictable over time. For Best Actress, the Academy loves America’s Sweethearts. For Best Actor, they tend to vote for the guy who’s been nominated the most times. For Best Supporting Actress, they like an out-of-nowhere star. But for Best Supporting Actor, nothing wracks up the votes like playing an exceptionally creepy character. Let’s take a look how the Creepy Effect has played out in the past, and what it could mean in this year’s race.
- Few things on film have ever been as unsettling as Heath Ledger‘s genius turn as The Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Seriously, just thinking of that scene with his head hanging out the car window gives me the willies. Add on the fact that Ledger tragically died before the movie was released, and is it any wonder he got Best Supporting Actor posthumously?
- The year before, Javier Bardem played a ruthless assassin in “No Country for Old Men” with an off-kilter bowl cut, a habit of making people flip a coin for their life, and the ultimate weapon—a cattle gun. Let’s just say you would never want to meet his character in a dark alley. Or a brightly lit room for that matter. Naturally, he won Best Supporting Actor.
- “The Usual Suspects” remains one of my favorite movies of all time. And what made the film? Kevin Spacey as a bumbling con-man who (SPOILER ALERT!) turns out to be the big, bad Keyser Söze who wreaked havoc throughout the flick. Shocker. He got Best Supporting Actor in 1996 for the role.
- One of the first shots of Martin Landau in “Ed Wood” shows him in a coffin. The wackadoodle character got Landau the golden man the year before Spacey’s win.
- Christopher Walken won Best Supporting Actor in 1979 for his role as the war-damaged Nick Chevotarevich in “The Deer Hunter.” Walken’s beady eyes made the Russian roulette climax of the flick all the more disturbing. And, of course, the Academy dug it.
So which character is creepier—Waltz’s cold-blooded Nazi or Tucci’s serial killer of teenagers? Both are pretty awful and odds are currently favoring Waltz, but I’m gonna go with Stanley Tucci for dismembering a 14-year-old and hiding her body in a safe. I think this could be one of few categories where the Academy Awards breaks from the pattern set by the SAG and Golden Globe Awards. Guess we’ll have to watch on Sunday to find out for sure.