Celebrating the quiet performances that make loud, Oscar-winning ones possible. (VIDEO)

All about the Academy Awards.
Feb. 24 2011 7:08 AM

I'd Like To Thank My Co-Star

Celebrating the quiet performances that make loud, Oscar-winning ones possible.

Click here to watch a slideshow on Oscar winner's co-stars.

In his acceptance speech at this past January's Golden Globe Awards, where he was named best supporting actor for his electric impersonation of crackhead ex-boxer Dicky Eklund in The Fighter, Christian Bale gave a nod to co-star Mark Wahlberg. But rather than offer a typical co-star backslap, he elaborated on the yin-yang interrelation of actors on screen. "You can only give a loud performance like the one I gave when you have a quiet anchor," he said, referring to Wahlberg's stoic turn as Eklund's kid brother and former Welterweight champion Micky Ward. "I've played that one many times, and it never gets any notice. Kudos for that, because otherwise we wouldn't have gotten away with it."

Taking Bale's cue, we decided to take a deeper look at the comparatively understated, tasteful performances that have made ostentatious Oscar-bait palatable. It's no secret that awards for best acting often go to those who do the most acting—thus the Oscar love for stars who play crazy, sick, disabled, foreign, or trashy. This doesn't mean that high-volume or outsize performances can't be great. Bale swings for the fences in The Fighter, but he hits it out of the park. What's rarely acknowledged is how such a grandiose performance would be unbearable without a straight man to balance things out, to maintain a baseline of identifiable reality. Even the subtlest, most recessive supporting turn can ballast a big performance, offering the audience a sympathetic counterpoint to characters who are outrageous or mad.

Bale becomes the focal point whenever he's on screen, but Wahlberg is the steady, beating heart of The Fighter. He carries the film on his conflicted shoulders, internalizing demons while Bale openly spars with them. The accompanying slide show highlights 10 unheralded, minor-key accompaniments to famously major Academy Award-winning turns.

Advertisement

Eric Hynes is a New York-based journalist and film critic.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.