I would never push a case against Mark Rylance‘s Bridge of Spies performance as 1950s Russian spy Rudolph Abel. Nor would I dispute the general conviction that he’s an all-but-certain Best Supporting Actor nominee. Like everyone else, I knew right away he’d be nominated when I first saw Steven Spielberg‘s reasonably decent espionage film last month. What bothers me is the slamdunk blogaroonie belief that Rylance has it all but won. I like him too as far as it goes.  I just don’t get how he became the absolute #1 love child.

Actually, I do know how this happened. Rylance is a respected, Tony-winning theatre actor, which supplies the usual distinctive air. Being older and especially British also counts for a lot among SAG members and their vague inferiority complexes. And somewhere early on Rylance just became this bowling ball that started knocking pins over left and right. Some of this, trust me, was group-think, follow-the-leader, monkey-imitation reflex stuff. Too many critics and blogaroonies seemed to just feel the rhythm and started saying the same thing over and over — “Rylance for sure, Rylance for sure,” etc.

As of we now stand six big-city critics groups have given him a Best Supporting Actor trophy (including New York, Los Angeles and Toronto).

I have no real argument against this, but on the other hand I’ve been thinking “okay but was he really that good? If he wins, he wins…fine, but does it have to be a Rylance rout?”

And then during an aborted Oscar Poker recording earlier today (I was in Brooklyn and feeling too hoarse and woozy and cranky to go on) Awards Watch‘s Erik Anderson said a noteworthy thing. He said he’d only recently seen Bridge of Spies and that he didn’t get what all the Rylance fuss was about. He thought that Rylance didn’t “do” all that much and some of his performance was actually underwhelming.

I suddenly realized that I’ve been harboring dormant feelings along the same lines. Not enough to post a takedown piece (he’s a very skilled and subtle actor delivering just so) but does anyone else at least half-agree?  That he’s being overly saluted, I mean.

Let’s apply a classic Howard Hawks formula and say that like any good movie, an Oscar-calibre performance needs three great or semi-great moments and no bad ones. What exactly are Rylance’s three great moments? There’s one at the end when he sides with Hanks and against the KGB on the bridge. There’s his “would it help?” line that he says three or four times. And there’s that scene when the FBI busts into his Brooklyn apartment and arrests him…okay.  What else?

All I’m saying is “calm down…Mark Rylance is not the Colossus of Rhodes.”