Now that these damn Grammys are out of the way, we can focus on the only meaningless award that matters: the Oscar. The Best Supporting Actor category has a varied and interesting past, and if you check out Netflix right now, you can drink in these legendary performances that picked up a trophy.
George Sanders in “All About Eve”
This is my personal pick for the best win in the Supporting Actor category. George Sanders plays the deadly droll Addison DeWitt, a theater critic whose snipes make or break thespian careers. He's enchanted (but not fooled) by the manipulative sociopath Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who sets out to supplant veteran actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) as the reigning doyenne of the New York stage. Though Sanders is hilarious throughout “All About Eve,” he rather poetically articulates the pleasure of theater (and, in doing so, sums up “Birdman”) during his finest moment: “We all come into this world with our little egos equipped with individual horns. If we don't blow them, who else will?”
Jason Robards in “Julia”
OK, I lied: This is not an amazing performance, but it is a fascinating one in Oscar history. Sometimes the Academy Awards put no effort into supporting nominations and hand out accolades to respectable actors playing famous people. Remember when Catherine Keener got nominated for playing Harper Lee in “Capote”? Or when Jon Voight picked up a nod for playing Howard Cosell in “Ali”? These were totally unearned prizes. But Jason Robards is the rare actor who actually won for playing a disposable (but real) character in a sweeping drama. As Dashiell Hammett, he pushes his lover Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda) to improve her writing. Jane is amazing in this weirdly unfocused drama, but Robards is nearly forgettable in his slight appearance. Nonetheless, he's an Oscar victor. Give “Julia” a view and figure it out for yourself.
Timothy Hutton in “Ordinary People”
Apparently the furor of “Raging Bull” losing Best Picture to “Ordinary People” has convinced some people that Robert Redford's directorial debut is under-qualified. They could not be more wrong, even if “Raging Bull” gave us Robert De Niro's most searing work. “Ordinary People” is a fully believable, harrowing portrait of a family understanding the strange, loveless existence in the wake of a son's death. Timothy Hutton's denials, depression, and rage are so real, and his revelatory sessions with his therapist (Judd Hirsch) are unforgettable.
Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting”
Ben. Matt. Minnie. And Robin. “Good Will Hunting” might've been the quaintest Best Picture nominee of 1997, which is kind of saying something when you look at the daintily abrasive humor of fellow nominee “As Good As It Gets.” Robin Williams proved he was more than a familar rascal with his performance here as he guided the misunderstood genius Will Hunting. Can someone edit together a convincing therapy session between Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” and Timothy Hutton is “Ordinary People”? That'd be cute.
Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”
The Oscars love, love, love awarding shocking maniacs with the Best Supporting Actor trophy. Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”? Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight Rises”? Walter Huston in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”? Check, check, and check. Both of Christoph Waltz's wins in this category qualify for the same characterization, though his work in “Inglourious Basterds” is certainly more insane. In “Django” he's the sly bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz who goes on what I'm going to call one of the more violent adventures in the history of cinema. I actually would've liked it if Leonardo DiCaprio picked up this Oscar, but Waltz is a treat in this familiarly unnerving role.