Supporting performers are often unheralded, but they're the acting "glue" that holds many movies together.
My two favorite supporting performances of 2007 came from veteran character actor Hal Holbrook and the so-far, little-known Amy Ryan, in "Into the Wild" and "Gone Baby Gone," respectively. Ryan even appears to be an early Academy Award front-runner.
Here are 10 other supporting performers who are not getting the attention they deserve this year at least if you ask me:
• Patricia Clarkson, "Lars and the Real Girl."
She always steals scenes in movies, but Clarkson's understanding, small-town doctor was one of the warmest, most appealing characters she's played.
• Timothy Dalton, "Hot Fuzz."
He's known mostly for playing heroes, like James Bond, but Dalton's crafty villain character in the buddy-cop spoof was a delight.
• Robert Downey Jr., "Zodiac."
Downey is one of those rare actors that makes everything he's in watchable. And he made David Fincher's serial-killer thriller considerably better than that.
• Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Talk to Me" and "American Gangster."
Arguably, Ejiofor had as much screen time as Don Cheadle in the former movie. And he had next to no screen time in the latter. Yet he more than held his own against acting heavyweights Cheadle and Denzel Washington.
• Ben Foster, "3:10 to Yuma."
When you can actually steal a film away from Christian Bale, Russell Crowe and Peter Fonda, you're doing something right. And Foster was perhaps the year's most hissable villain in this Western remake.
• Jennifer Garner and Allison Janney, "Juno."
Garner showed a softer, more vulnerable side in a convincing dramatic turn as a would-be adoptive parent, while Janney's tart tongue got some of the biggest laughs in the warm and witty teen-pregnancy hit.
• Dianne Wiest, "Dan in Real Life."
It's always a treat to see the underrated actress (a two-time Oscar winner). And she was terrific as the mother of a dysfunctional family that featured Steve Carell and Dane Cook.
• Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton."
As good as George Clooney was as the title character, the film itself might not have worked without Wilkinson, who played his increasingly unhinged friend. His character is perhaps the movie's most human and tragic.
• Steve Zahn, "Rescue Dawn."
The versatile Zahn gets categorized as a comic actor because he often appears in comedies. But his believable turn as a tormented POW in the Vietnam War drama was heartbreaking.And here's a quick tease for next week: In case you're wondering which lead performances from the year caught my eye, next Sunday's column will concentrate on those.