Sometimes a performance is so damn good you start thinking Oscar as you're watching it. That's what went through my mind seeing Christoph Waltz as Nazi colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. "Listen up, Oscar," I wrote when I reviewed Waltz and the film for Rolling Stone last August. It's no surprise that Waltz is nominated as Best Supporting Actor and is the odds-on favorite to pick up the gold-plated prize on the Oscar telecast this Sunday. When I interviewed Waltz for my Popcorn show on ABC News NOW, he showed a becoming modesty about playing such a well-written role as the monstrous, cunning and disturbingly charmingly Landa (in four languages yet). Listen to how he and Tarantino managed to create this iconic character.
Still, upsets are always possible at the Oscars. Hell, we prize them. And Waltz has four other terrific actors competing with him for the honor. They are:
• Matt Damon in Invictus
• Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
• Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
• Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
I admire all four of those performances, though I would have handed Damon's slot to Peter Capaldi for being such a foul-mouthed pleasure in the uproarious political satire In the Loop. I'm also amazed that Plummer, 80, is only now receiving Oscar attention for the first time. It was egregiously wrong to ignore his exceptional turn as newsman broadcaster Mike Wallace in 1999's The Insider. As for Tucci, he was equally stellar playing the good husband to Meryl Streep's Julia Child in Julie and Julia as he was as the child killer in The Lovely Bones.
It's a tough ctegory. But if Waltz had to lose to anyone, I'd pick Woody Harrelson in The Messenger. As Capt. Tony Stone of the Casualty Notification Office, Harrelson dug deep inside the the coflicted feelings of an officer who never saw combat but took emotional shrapnel from the families of soldiers killed in war. Harrelson can impress from the sidelines (No Country for Old Men) or front and center (The People vs. Larry Flynt), but his full-out range of feeling here ranks as a career pinnacle. When I spoke to Harrelson for the Popcorn show, he was prouder of this performance over all his others.
So now it's your turn. Pretend Waltz is out of the picture. Who gets your personal Oscar as Best Supporting Actor? And, no, your favorite doesn't have to be nominated. Here write-ins are allowed.
**More on the Academy Awards:**
• Off the Cuff with Peter Travers: Woody Harrelson
• Damn You Oscar!
• Oscar Nominations Yield Few Shocks, Except for The Blind Side — WTF!