The supporting categories never begin to develop into much later in the season. What we know right now is Mark Ruffalo is on the table in a big way for his turn in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. Assuming that neither Steve Carell or Channing Tatum switch categories, he should sit comfortably for a nomination until the end of the year, possibly even becoming our winner. After that, we are operating on fumes. Johnny Depp has the role that was nominated for a Tony in Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods while Edward Norton hopes to return to the Oscar table for the first time in over fifteen years with Birdman. Oscar Isaac will have three roles in Hossein Amini’s The Two Faces of January, J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, and William Monahan’s Mojave. Big year. Something’s got to give, right?. Matthias Schoenaerts will be everywhere including Saul Dibb’s Suite Francaise, Michael R. Roskam’s The Drop, and Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Outside of those five men, James Franco looks to revisit the hard-hitting drama with True Story opposite Jonah Hill while many are betting, probably very smartly, on J.K. Simmons‘ role in the Sundance Film Festival winner Whiplash. I’m on board with that now too.
AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE
1. Mark Ruffalo
FOR HIM: Previous nominee for "The Kids are All Right." Has another praised performance in "Begin Again." Was said to be a true standout in Cannes.
AGAINST HIM: There's still a chance that Steve Carell joins him in a Supporting bid which may steal a lot of votes.
2. Edward Norton
FOR HIM: Two nominations under his belt and he hasn't been in the hunt in over fifteen years. If co-star Michael Keaton is as great as we think he may be, he could pull someone like Norton in for the ride.
AGAINST HIM: How big is his part?
3. J.K. Simmons
FOR HIM: A veteran who is said to deliver one of his best turns yet. In a category that loves to reward vets, he may be a near shoo-in..
AGAINST HIM: There's still no telling if the Sundance buzz will translate to all of the U.S.. This could be a smaller film which leaves him out.
4. Bill Murray
FOR HIM: This category is prime location for the veterans. It's been over a decade since his first nomination for "Lost in Translation." Weinstein backing..
AGAINST HIM: We held out for possibilities for "Hyde Park on Hudson" and "Broken Flowers" and both didn't happen..
5. Matthias Schoenaerts
FOR HIM: After impressing many with his strong turns in "Bullhead" and "Rust & Bone," Schoenaerts may be on the brink of serious success here in the states. Co-starring opposite Williams could be his ticket.
AGAINST HIM: Could go the lead route. It all depends on how critics receive the film.
THE NEXT FIVE CONTENDERS
6. Robert Duvall
FOR HIM: A veteran who has proven that he still has it after all these years as we have seen in "The Road." Has what seems like a very complex, and complicated role.
AGAINST HIM: How much do the much publicized rewrites actually mean?.
7. Paul Dano
Love & Mercy
FOR HIM: Paul Dano has proven to be an extraordinary talent when matched with the right material. This is a wildcard choice for something that could prove something for his abilities.
AGAINST HIM: He hasn't come close to an acting lineup in his new career and there doesn't seem to be a swelling need to reward him...yet
8. James Franco
FOR HIM: This previous Oscar nominee continues to challenge himself, even if his projects are a miss. This serious drama opposite Jonah Hill will have a lot of eyes watching.
AGAINST HIM: His weird choices in films and performances tend to turn people off. How serious will he take this role?
9. Christoph Waltz
FOR HIM: Two-time Academy Award winner in a villainous type role. This could be another great turn for him.
AGAINST HIM: Could go lead.
10. Johnny Depp
Into the Woods
FOR HIM: The Academy fell in love with him after "Pirates" and we're really looking to reward him when they cited him for lesser works in "Finding Neverland" and "Sweeney Todd." If this fun, supporting role, which was nominated for a Tony, stands out, then Depp could finally score his Oscar.
AGAINST HIM: We've heard Depp sing before and it wasn't too extravagant. This musical seems to be about the ladies.
OTHER TOP-TIER CONTENDERS
Clayton Davis started to write professionally in his sophomore year of college when Johnny Alba, the editor and owner of the old Oscar prediction site, The Oscar Igloo, had an opening for staff writers. Clayton wrote for The Igloo for nearly four years before being appointed editor and revamping and renaming The Oscar Igloo into the now popular mega-site, The Awards Circuit. Since then, Clayton has become a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to awards season show, The Critics Choice Awards. Most recently, Clayton is a now an active member of the International Press Academy, which hosts the popular Satellite Awards as well as the newly integrated Broadcast Television Journalists Association, which hosts the Critics Choice Television Awards. In June 2014 he became the year's first accepted member to New York Film Critics Online. He has been quoted in various outlets (CNN.com, Bloomberg.com, TheWrap.com, AceShowbiz.com, SlashFilm.com, ScottFeinberg.com) and continues to raise the bar for film-talking enthusiasts around the globe.