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.

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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.

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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

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