J K Simmons Best Supporting Actor…Really?

J K Simmons publicity shot

It is trending right now on Facebook, “J K Simmons wins Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Whiplash.” Really? I watched that film, loved it, and when that time came around for all the critics to vote, I chose Simmons for the Best Actor award. A long discussion ensued where I explained my rationale for picking that category and initially the head of the Nevada Film Critic’s Society let me keep old J K there for the gong of BA instead of BSA.

My reasoning for popping his portrayal of Fletcher, the cruel, manipulative and driven music instructor for the top gong was simple. Without this manic and over-the-top sadist there would have been no film. In my mind, supporting actors are ones whose character’s may be quite important to the plot, but, if their roles end up on the cutting room floor, the film will still progress quite nicely, thank you very much.

With no Simmons, aka Fletcher, there was no film. Miles Teller as Andrew, may have been the studio’s choice to win Best Actor, but again, without Fletcher, the wanna-be drummer had no one to respond to.  It is obvious that the studio wanted both its actors to get a gong so Simmons was pushed into the lesser category. However, the instructor was the driving force here, not the socially inept boy who practices till his hands bleed.

I do believe that J K Simmons really deserves  the Best Actor gong for his performance in Whiplash. Best Supporting Actor does not really fit what he did with that role. Sitting in the cinema and watching the film, every single time the man showed up on screen my blood pressure rose and my heartbeat doubled.

His Fletcher was so overwhelming and brutal that he reached out into the audience and intimidated me. Even in the safety of my own seat, surrounded by other reviewers whom I count as friends, Simmons make me so uncomfortable that I was tempted to watch scenes with slightly averted eyes, through fingers.

In the film, both individuals are equally driven. Both want perfection and the two will do what ever it takes to achieve their goal. By the end of the film, I was exhausted and so tense that a cramp shot through my right leg. And as the final credits rolled, we all looked at one another in awe.

This film, with no real violence, no romance (to speak of) and no sex, had held us spellbound for the entire length of the movie. Despite the fact that neither of the two main protagonists were likable and hard to connect with, I cared what happened to both of them.

In the last scene of the film, and there is a twist oh yes, my mouth dropped open in amazement. I will not say why, but suffice to say, it was magic. Subtle and simple and marvelous. J K Simmons should have gotten the Best Actor for Whiplash and not Best Supporting Actor because in my mind he really sold the film and his character. I do know that I was not the only critic who believed that the man should have been placed in the higher category, but despite my disappointment at his “demotion” I will still say congratulations matey! You earned it.

22 February 2015

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

8 thoughts on “J K Simmons Best Supporting Actor…Really?”

  1. While I agree intellectually that Simmons/Fletcher was the pivotal character, and whether Teller/Andrew succeeded or not, the film role. as portrayed by J.K. would have been award worthy.

    However – in the structure of the film – the plot went along these lines – student enrolls in prestigious music school, and meets overbearing music professor who challenges every student to succeed and perform at a much higher level than they thought going in. We see the students private life, meet his father, and a woman he dates.

    In that specific context, Fletcher, the professor is a supporting role.

    Now let’s change it a bit – Music Professor Fletcher is touring high schools to recruit.students that he considers top-level candidates for an impactful career in music. Among the students that Fletcher recruits, Andrew is one of strong promise. We watch as Fletcher decides between multiple candidates before awarding Andrew the scholarship. Andrew struggles and chafes under Fletcher’s methods before finally getting what it takes to succeed.

    Here, the lead is clearly Fletcher.

    I compare what you are saying to The Paper Chase (1973) – a film from long ago about a law student and a domineering Law Professor. John Houseman won the Oscar for a Supporting Role for an Actor for his portrayal of Professor Kingsfield.

    As I said – I am with you intellectually on the side of Simmons/Fletcher but I don’t think the academy was wrong.


    1. I see what you are saying and I remember the Houseman role and Oscar win, however, that illustrious actor had nowhere near the amount of screen time that Simmons had. Also, the two actors in Whiplash were, in my opinion, co-leads. but that is neither here nor there as we all know that the studios were pushing for Teller to get BA and the only way the Simmons was going to get a well earned and deserved award was to put him in BSA. Great breakdown by the way! Thanks for stopping by and sharing matey!!! 🙂


  2. I hear you on this one Mike. It could defitnitely be argued that Simmons deserved the Best Actor nomination. Like you said without his monsterous Fletcher character, the film would not be the same and the story probably could not have progressed in such an incredible and engaging manner. Plus I don’t know of any supporting nomintaed actor or actress who has done a performance that overshadows the main character. I’ve like Simmons since 2002 with the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film and since then my love for him has only increased. That being said, he got an award and I’m glad that he won over his competition.


  3. We didn’t see the movie, but Simmons has done a lot of good work over the years and would have deserved it just for that. Haven’t you noticed that the most “old actors” are wind up in the “supporting” categories? Even when they really have the pivotal role in the movie? Over the years, the supporting actors/actress categories has become where character actors get recognition. Every once in a while, the best actor/actress goes to the best actor or actress, but usually it goes to the flashiest role or most popular role or the one best supported by their backers. It ought to be different, but … well … that’s Hollywood.


    1. Agreed! Simmons is a powerhouse who can “do it all.” He completely ruled that film and as such should have been considered for Best Actor. However… The fact that Eddie Redmayne was certainly going to win for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, means that at least JK got the gong for a performance that was brilliant. But, hell, we all know that in Hollywood its the politics and the kissing of nether-regions that dictates who will be nominated and/or win. That and contracts…



      1. Garry thinks roles that involve heavy makeup and prosthetics have an unfair advantage in the Oscars and always have. That’s probably true and they certainly have a record of a lot more wins than they probably deserve. I think it’s just “the flashiest role” wins. Not necessarily the flashiest movie, though.

        Anyway, his take on it is that Hollywood has ALWAYS favored serious dramas that show “we care” about “important issues.” That’ how we got The Hurt Locker as best picture. It may indeed have been good … but no one went to see it. Even after it won the award. So maybe we don’t really care. It’s just Hollywood trying to disprove the rumor that they are all a bunch of self-obsessed airheads.

        Liked by 1 person

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