2016 Oscar Circuit: Best Supporting Actor

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Welcome to our annual Oscar Circuit series, our deep down look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of AwardsCircuit.com will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races.  If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2016. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions for that particular race by clicking on the link here or at the bottom of each article.  Make sure to include your predicted winners in the comment section too!

The nominees are:

  • Christian Bale – The Big Short
  • Tom Hardy – The Revenant
  • Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed

If there was any place where the #OscarSoWhite controversy stung the hardest it was this one, with Idris Elba’s performance in “Beasts of No Nation” the most prominent snub when the Oscar nominations were announced. That fact didn’t change when Elba was voted Best Supporting Actor by SAG, beating out the Oscar-nominated performances from Christian Bale and Mark Rylance. However, even without Elba, this is a strong group of five nominees and this category has the potential to offer a surprise, and is at least controversy free in the case of category fraud.

So, let’s take a look at the nominees:

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Christian Bale, The Big Short

Bale, a previous winner in this category, was the lone standout of “The Big Short’s” big-name ensemble. As Michael Burry, Bale plays the man who saw the cliff the housing market was driving to before everyone else and rode with it hoping for the big payoff. But unlike Ryan Gosling’s character, who revels in the profit, and Steve Carell’s, who pontificates more on it, Bale’s role is more show than tell. While he ends up making a fortune, his steadfast position costs him his company. Bale plays Burry’s eccentricities and confidence well, but it his sullen finale, when he is proven right after a long struggle, that make this the standout performance in the film.

Oscar scene: Posting the final profit margins of his company to a now empty office.

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Tom Hardy, The Revenant

This nomination has been a long-time coming for Tom Hardy, who has been exceptional on numerous occasions throughout the early part of his career. While DiCaprio is the one more likely to earn his first statue for “The Revenant,” Hardy matches – in my opinion even surpasses DiCaprio – with his performance as the film’s antagonist. Sure, his role does feature more dialogue, which is an easier thing to quantify, but Hardy layers it with so much complexity that I’d watch a two-and-a-half hour movie just on this characters travels and musings.

Oscar scene: By the fire with Will Poulter’s Bridger, telling the story of how his father found God in a squirrel.

spotlight-trailer-29jul15-01

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Like Bale, Ruffalo was one of the standouts in the “Spotlight” ensemble, but there was question over whether it was his performance, or that of co-star Michael Keaton, that would crack this top five. In the end, Ruffalo had the bigger Oscar moment in the film, but that in no way is meant to be a slight against the performance. Ruffalo’s Mike Rezendes is a boiling pot in the film, as he discovers the depth of the scandal along with the audience. This allows him to be the emotional conduit for which the film is viewed, highlighted by when he finally reaches the edge and delivers his gut-wrenching monologue.

Oscar scene: No surprise, but his monologue on why it is time to print the story and reveal the church’s abuse of children.

bridge spies

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Despite being 56 and well known on the stage, Rylance is the one of the breakout stars among this year’s nominees. Rylance’s turn as the captured Soviet spy is truly something different. There is nothing maniacal about the character, he is a pawn in a larger scheme, but it does not define who he is. Instead, Rylance makes him into this charming, quiet man, who not only wins over the confidence and respect of Tom Hanks’ Donovan, but the admiration of the audience. He also offers some nice bits of levity with his frequent questioning of “would it help?” But beneath it all, Rylance portrays a man who knows there is nothing he can do but to accept his fate, which is what draws him to Hanks’ character, a man who fights against what others tell him to do.

Oscar scene: Recounting the story of “the standing man” from his childhood to Donovan.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in CREED. ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/MGM Pictures. CR: Barry Wetcher.

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

As a Philadelphia native, I have a special place in my heart for Rocky Balboa. And considering that the rest of Philadelphia sports are in different states of shambles, hometown pride is definitely a factor in me pulling for Stallone at the Oscars. But there is more to it than that. After becoming a bit of an action parody, Stallone reminds us that he can do more than spit out a few witty one-liners. 40 years after bringing the screen’s greatest underdog to life, Stallone shows us a weary but wiser version of the character, who finds one more thing worth fighting for in the form of his old friend’s determined son. It was a surprise comeback not only for what everyone thought was a dormant franchise, but for Stallone as well.

Oscar scene: Upon learning of his cancer diagnosis, Rocky says explains why this is one battle he doesn’t want to fight.

Like the rest of the acting categories, this one seems pretty well determined. Stallone is a sentimental favorite, but the work also holds up well against his peers. However, he’s not out of the woods yet, Rylance has earned his fair share of kudos throughout the season, most recently at BAFTA, though Stallone was not nominated there. And if the momentum for “The Revenant” is real, Hardy could be a dark horse candidate. But, in the end Stallone will more than likely be the man standing on the stage of the Dolby Theater.

Will Win: Sylvester Stallone

Could Win: Mark Rylance

Should Win: Sylvester Stallone

Should Have Been Nominated: Idris Elba

Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below, or take the discussion even further by joining the forums!

  • Nice piece. It’s a fascinating race. I’m not fully sold on Stallone, though it is hard to bet against him. I just recently wrote this http://www.writeoutofla.com/2016/02/oscars-revision-best-supporting-actor.html about the Supporting Actor race over the years. I have a niggling about Mark Ruffalo, can’t shake it off, the Spotlight consensus, his recent acknowledgement by the Academy, his lack of nod for Infinitely Polar Bear, etc etc. I’m probably wrong.

  • Sam Coff

    *wipes brow*

    Great write-up of MY most stressful category on Oscar night!

  • Maciek

    If Stallone wins, he will be somewhere between Renee Zellweger, Monique and John Wayne on my list of the worst Oscar Winners Ever.

    • Peter Templeman

      Really? I Thought Monique was very much deserved and while John Wayne wasn’t the best of the year I certainly don’t think he was the worst.

  • Aaron

    I don’t think Stallone should have been nominated, let alone winning it. I’m not sure how a performance like Idris Elba’s gets overlooked for Stallone’s rehashing of Rocky Balboa, which lets be honest, is just a slightly fictionalized version of himself. I don’t have a problem with the other 4 nominees but Stallone got in based on nostalgia and name recognition, not quality of performance.

    I think it’ll be Rylance or Bale.

    • aj

      I would be happy and so relieved if Bale or Rylance win. Stallone has been campaigning the heck out this though. I don’t think he is “overdue” for anything at all.
      Idris Elba deserved to be nominated. Beasts of No Nation should have received more nominations overall.

  • Jed Bookout

    Lot of hate in the comments for Sly. Did anyone actually watch Creed? One of the first thoughts I had walking out of it was that these were a few of the best performances Jordan and Stallone have ever given and it’s a shame that Oscar wasn’t gonna come calling. Lo and behold, I was half right, and while the argument can be made that Jordan should have been for sure nominated in Lead, I don’t think anyone should sleight Stallone. He really gave everything he had into this (possibly final) take as Rocky. He hasn’t been this engaged in a long time, and to me, he really is the best performance here.

    • Rey-Ban

      Agreed.

    • aj

      I did watch Creed. Michael B. Jordan is the one who gave a truly great performance in the film and he was the one who should have been nominated for his acting.

      I didn’t think Stallone’s performance was anything special. He gave a stronger performance in the original Rocky as well as the others. As far as best performance of his career, Stallone is not even in the same league as the other nominees. It is easy to rank Stallone’s supposedly best performances because his career hasn’t been exceptional when compared to the incredible careers of Christian Bale, Mark Rylance, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Hardy.

    • Maciek

      I may be a suprise for you but I actually did watch Creer and I do agree on one thing: “He really gave everything he had” but it was still less then off-off-Broadway understudy gives in his smallest fart. Sorry, this guy trully is a joke. I honestly dont get this nomination. He’s playing the veteran/overdue card.. Sinse when he’s any one of those? How can anyone really think that hes better then Rylance, or Bale, or Elba, or Shannon, or…

  • Tee

    While I think Stallone has deserved the nomination, Mark Ruffalo has given us his career best. He’s poured his heart and soul into the character, and it shows in every frame. Tom Hardy’s been deserving of a nomination for awhile, and this is one of his bests.

    Personally, I would take out Christian Bale for either Jason Mitchell or Idris Elba. I wish Incould’ve said Ford or Isaac for Star Wars or Ex Machina respectively, but only five can make it.

  • Jamie Teller

    I really didn’t care for Ruffalo’s performance and wish Michael Keaton was up instead.

  • Luke McGowan

    Stallone has to win. I don’t care about any other category. If he wins, I’ll forgive the Academy for giving Inarritu more Oscars

  • Ryan

    I’m fairly certain that this race ended at SAG when Elba won and neither Bale or Rylance managed to get the boost to the front. Personally, I really like all of the performances in this lineup and wouldn’t mind seeing any of them win. Even though I prefer Ruffalo to everyone else, I just don’t know how I could vote against Stallone who has just been awesome all season and really deserves to enjoy the praise as Rocky one last time.

  • Rey-Ban

    I’d be happy for each nominee.. but I hope Stallone wins 🙂

  • aj

    I think Christian Bale should win for his outstanding performance in The Big Short. He really captured Burry’s brilliance and social inepitude well in those few scenes. It was a compelling depiction of Michael Burry who has Asperger’s Syndrome as well as a glass eye.

    • Gameoverbaby

      Proof please about these “true controversies”?. Like the unsubstantiated claims of abuse against his half-sister, Toni? Where he got blackmailed by her because she was a drug addict? The claims by Gigi Haddid’s father that Stallone abused a dog all because Stallone dared to complain about his shoddy building work on Stallone’s home? “Apparently” taking full writing credit on projects that he shouIdn’t have? I’m sure there is other stuff you have heard of. Look, I’m not claiming Stallone is a perfect guy. He’s been egotistical in his past, controlling, an admitted cheater with his first wife, etc. But, gosh, I like how he has evolved into a better person as he has got older. All of this is of no matter anyway. I want him to win but I want him to win because he gave an outstanding performance, not because of sentimentality.

      • aj

        I do not want to comment on this too much because it will lead into an unsettling direction. Stallone has a track record of engaging in dirty tactics to bury his controversies. I am actually fearful of commenting on too much. Nor am I going to be held responsible for liability by posting any sort of substantiation or evidence on a site like this. Use common sense. There are way too many disturbing controversies and scandals that can’t be downplayed here. If any of the other nominees had this kind of track record, the press would have buried them during award season but some people know how to work the system. Other celebs have dealt with far more backlash over far less. The media narrative was blatantly favoring Stallone over the others in their coverage by painting him as a kind of hero or idol to the point where Mark Rylance ( a respected actor and deserving winner) received hatred from a lot of the public and even a couple of award sites were being nasty about his loss because they bought into this hagiographic spin about him.

        I find it ridiculous and unfair how other celebs are being smeared unfairly over minor supposed PC offenses or even misportrayals by the media while Stallone gets a free pass and gets glorified as an industry darling during awards season.

        YOU are claiming they are unsubstantiated and trying to place the blame on anybody he has victimized or has tried to expose him.

        • Gameoverbaby

          Oh dear.

      • aj

        All you did was touch the tip of the iceberg as to the numerous public accusations and scandals he has dealt with by also blaming the victim or person who attempted to expose him. People like Stallone really scare me as to what they can get away with. He hasn’t earned this kind of sycophantism but people will blindly love him over media narratives during Oscar season. I am not going to get myself into this sociopath’s crossfire by crossing that line by posting proof, get real but there has been way too many indications. I personally didn’t think he deserved to win either strictly based on performance but he became the favorite due to the sleazy press favoring him as well as really great campaigning by him. I didn’t find his performance to be more impressive or special than the others.

        Multiple women have accused Stallone of abuse and rape. I guess you forgot about Margie Carr. That is another public example. His own half-sister Toni accusing him of rape and abuse over the years should not be blindly dismissed because Stallone’s team was crafty enough to damage her credibility. Also, smearing his sister over drug addiction is fresh considering Stallone’s multiple drug arrests in Japan and Australia over illegal substances.
        There is the n-word controversy as well as the philandering among so many other problematic incidents that have been personally discussed with me. There is a line between being imperfect and a being a manipulative person who gets away with everything.

        He may have gotten away from everything with little backlash but he didn’t get an Oscar that he didn’t deserve during a divisive award season where there was spotlight shone on the race relations and abuse.

        • Gameoverbaby

          Ahh….sigh.

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