Michael Fassbender | 12 Years a Slave
The Best Supporting Actor category boils down to two actors, Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club versus Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years A Slave. I have yet to see Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips but, in my opinion, Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) give good performances and nothing more. They fail to stand out as compared to their films leading actors. Fassbender’s and Leto’s characters not only enrich the film at large but also have compelling story lines and character arcs of their own. They are at an advantage because their films are, on the whole, better than Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle but their acting, when considered separate from their movies is superior to Hill’s and Cooper’s. Any decent actor could have played a an idiotic Wall Street jackass or a smarmy yet neurotic FBI agent, but it takes someone special to portray the cruelty of slaveowner as convincingly as Fassbender did.
There is no debating the brilliance of Jared Leto’s portrayal of Rayon. However, his performance is propped up by the fact that he is a transvestite. His mannerisms and acting are amazing because of his transformation, which in some sense detracts from his acting independent of his transformation. It is impossible to completely separate the two elements, just as it is impossible to separate a single actor’s performance from the film at large, but supposing it is possible, it seems like Fassbender’s standalone acting outperforms Leto’s.
Fassbender’s line delivery and mannerisms leave a hauntingly real impression. You feel his breath on the back of your neck when he is hovering over Patsey (Nyong’o) and you smell the whiskey when he whispers in Solomon’s ear (Ejiofor). His cruelty reaches through the screen and marks you. His perfection of the subtleties authenticate his explosive tirades. He is vicious then soft, borders on compassion then borders on insanity, his character has less of an arc and more of a roller coaster tumult. The poetry of J0hn Ridley’s screenplay doesn’t hurt either.