If movies teach us anything, it's to dream big. Think you can't handle 64 ounces of Mountain Dew? A Jacuzzi-sized bucket of popcorn? Multiple Tyler Perry previews? You can and will have it all. So in the run-up to the Oscars, I'm taking that as my inspiration. I'm not going to predict or select or analyze this year's winners. Leave that for the "critics" and "pundits," and well, you know, "regular people." This year, I'm picking the All-Time Oscars.
I know it's fraught with disaster. That many will scoff at my selections. Laugh at my provincialism, or condemn my snobbery. It doesn't bother me. The fact that I have seen less than one percent of the film output of India and Nigeria (the two largest film producers in the world) does not deter me. The fact is, there have been a lot of mistakes made in the awarding of film honors over the years, and I'm going to take this chance to right some of those wrongs.
Today, I'll offer a set of nominees for Best Supporting Actor. In coming weeks, I'll do the same for Supporting Actress, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, Cinematography, Director, and Film. Anyone who cares to vote for any of my selections, or wants to nominate his own choice, can do so in the comments. I will read those comments, and then will announce winners around Oscar time, based either on those votes, or on some other set of criteria I haven't determined yet. It's not like I have the budget for Price Waterhouse (or whatever they are called these days) to certify anything.
So here are my 10 nominees for Best Supporting Actor (of all time!):
John Cazale (The Godfather, Pt II): Cazale made five movies before his early death. Brilliant in all five. All five were Best Picture Nominees. And making Fredo, the weakling of the Corleone family, such a towering figure, is his ultimate triumph.
Don Cheadle (Devil in a Blue Dress): Mouse is a killer. But I really think I'd like to hang out with him. Among the most underrated actors working today gets far too few roles like this.
Laird Cregar (I Wake Up Screaming): Not everything fits in this early nourish crime story. But Cregar's tortured Inspector Ed Cornell delves the psychological depths of noir at its best. Died even younger than Cazale.
Marcel Dalio (The Rules of the Game): Dalio appeared in well over 100 movies in both his native France and Hollywood, often in very small roles. But he was also in what many critics consider to be the greatest movie ever made by the greatest director of all time. As the Marquis de la Cheyniest, he is at the core of the ensemble story and is at the tragicomic heart of Jean Renior's masterpiece.
Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List): What's the biggest flaw in Spielberg's epic? Not the flash of red. It's that Fiennes' Amon Goeth is so overwhelming a portrait of unchecked evil that he threatens to take the movie away from Oskar Schindler.
Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach): This list is alphabetical, which means Walter Brennan isn't on it. Which leaves Thomas Mitchell as the greatest supporting actor in Hollywood history. There are at least half a dozen other roles he could be nominated for, but Doc Brown has always been a favorite of mine.
Armin Mueller-Stahl (Eastern Promises): This may be my most obscure choice and I admit it is tied largely to four words. When vicious Russian mob boss Semyon slowly turns to a naïve midwife and asks "There is a diary?" it is an extraordinarily chilling moment, setting up all of David Cronenberg's film.
George Sanders (All About Eve): George Sanders always gave the impression that he was far too good to be in movies. I suppose with other actors, that could come off as unpleasant. Sanders made it somehow charming.
Everett Sloane (Citizen Kane): There was not an age or an attitude that Everett Sloane could not play. He didn't need make-up or costume. It was all his voice and body. In a film of extraordinary performances, his Mr. Bernstein is a technical marvel.
Charles Vanel (Wages of Fear): Henri-Georges Clouzot's thriller required enormous intensity from all of its main actors, and Vanel's older con man Jo delivers intensity along with a range of other emotions rarely found in suspense stories.
Add your favorites if you care to and check back next week for Best Supporting Actresses.