Best Supporting Actor:
CHRISTIAN BALE in The Fighter:
I can't fault Bale for stealing the show away from its own central character, Micky Ward, because he just steals it so well! He delivers a memorable portrait of drug addiction, blind selfishness, and staunch denial that stem from years of living with unfulfilled dreams. He plays brilliantly off of his costars, as they play brilliantly off of him.
MICHAEL FASSBENDER in Fish Tank:
This is a slippery, tightrope-walking performance that constantly shifts and wiggles around in our mind. It's easy for us to love Fassbender's character at first, and it's still hard for us not to love him as the film's sticky sexuality starts to play itself out. It's simultaneously bold and understated work from one of the finest actors working.
ED HARRIS in The Way Back:
In an age where awards are naturally attracted to performances that live by flash and overt displays of emotion, it's so satisfying to behold a settled, sincere performance that's more emotive because it's so understated. Harris' lived-in portrayal of Mr. Smith is as calm but layered as any performance I've seen this year.
JEREMY RENNER in The Town:
The live wire of The Town's sprawling ensemble, Renner makes you tighten your grip on your armrest every time he's on screen. The unpredictability of his performance pays off in numerous and surprising ways, from the tensely soft-spoken conversation he has with Affleck and Hall, to his comedic final actions in the climactic shootout.
MARK RUFFALO in The Kids Are All Right:
Ruffalo's performance is relaxed and naturalistic, slipping into the character with a disarming ease that misdirects us from his own insecurities, namely his reluctance to truly grow up and start the family he wants but lacks the commitment to create. His crushing final scenes perfectly convey his character's vulnerability and regret.
Just missed: John Hawkes, Winter's Bone