Best Supporting Actor – 1981

Official Nominations: John Gielgud. James Coco. Ian Holm. Jack Nicholson. Howard E Rollins.

An interesting list of names this year, although the win still feels like a classic veteran win – did we really need another one of these after Best Actor and Actress? I suppose it was his only Oscar so I can’t be too angry, and given he’s an undisputed legend of Stage and Screen it only seems fair that he’d have one to his name. Plus, he’s very funny in Arthur as Arthur’s servant/handler/weary father figure. Out of all the veteran wins this year, this one feels the most justified based on the performance.

Elsewhere, Jack Nicholson racks up another nomination for Reds – a film I always forget he’s in, even though he’s good. He’s always good, which is part of the problem, and some of the films he made in the years around 1981 are simply more interesting than Reds. Ian Holm earned his only Academy nom for his performance in Chariots Of Fire – again, I don’t love the film but it’s one you feel you need to watch as a film fan and Holm is perfectly fine.

The final two nominations are the least known – James Coco feels like another example of The Academy having to nominate someone for a Neil Simon piece – not a film most people will remember and the performance doesn’t stand out. Howard E Rollins was similarly more known for his TV work and in truth this has always felt like a strange nomination. Not because it’s a bad performance – it isn’t – but because there are so many bit players who are equally strong that you could make a case for any of them to have the nomination, and equally you could make the case that Rollins is the lead of Ragtime. For me it’s probably between Rollins and Gielgud, and am both happy with and conflicted by either choice.

My Winner: John Gielgud

Best Actor: Best Supporting Actor 1981: John Gielgud in Arthur

My Nominations: John Gielgud. Howard Rollins. James Cagney. Ronald Lacey.

Two make it to my list, and I add my own version of hate I can’t stand – the Veteran nomination. It’s my blog, I can contradict myself. I only started this Oscar journey for 1960 onwards, and Jimmy Cagney is one of the greatest performers of all time – he’d all but checked out by 1960. One of the biggest tragedies of that fact is that Cagney missed out on two of Hollywood’s finest decades – the 60s and 70s – just think of what he could have done had he worked with some of the writers, performers, directors who emerged in this period. So he gets a nomination, and he’s as good as anyone else in Ragtime. 

Sometimes you have to nominate someone purely, or mostly, based on the impact they had on you as an individual viewer. As you grow up you hear than many others felt the same impact. Ronald Lacey, as the scheming Nazi Toht (not Thot) in Raiders Of The Lost Ark is one such instance. Lacey exudes scum with charisma, and is the memorable villain of the piece over and above Belloq. Even with all of the boulders and booby traps and snakes which will live on in memory, Lacey’s sneering, sweating maw is one you’ll never tire of seeing being melted.

My Winner: Ronald Lacey

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Tell it like it is!

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