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2020 Oscar Circuit: Supporting Actor

supporting actor

Oscar Predictions: Welcome to our annual “Oscar Circuit” series – our deep dive look into each and every category that will be presented at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Each writer of will tackle a different category, offering up their own perspectives on those specific races. 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 own predicted winners in the comment section too!

And the nominees are:

  • Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sony Pictures)
  • Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes” (Netflix)
  • Al Pacino, “The Irishman” (Netflix)
  • Joe Pesci, “The Irishman” (Netflix)
  • Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” (Sony Pictures)


Tom Hanks as Mister Fred Rogers

tom hanks mister rogers

Nominated for: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sony Pictures)
Oscar Scene: Rogers asks journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) for a moment of silence at a diner

When we think of “America’s Movie Star,” Tom Hanks is always the first to come to mind. There’s a wholesome goodness that radiates whenever Hanks smiles or treats moviegoers to a sermon of human decency. After almost two decades away from Academy recognition, Hanks is back in a performance that matches his personality down to the DNA.

As every child’s favorite educational program host — Fred Rogers from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” — Hanks handles the soft-spoken television persona with quirky affection. While the pseudo biopic sometimes struggles to balance the myth with realistic adult tutelage, Hanks retains Rogers’ purity of heartfelt conviction. When grown-up audiences watch “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” it’s Hanks who warms their nostalgic heart for an educator unafraid to conjure the reluctant child within. The acting is almost so effortless as to be mistaken for invisible, but Hanks’ refusal to flaunt theatrics is what makes him a competitor.

Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict XVI

anthony hopkins pope

Nominated for: “The Two Popes” (Netflix)
Oscar Scene: Not taking “no” for an answer from Bergoglio in the grand papal chamber

Another return after a long absence, Anthony Hopkins wears a visage of stubborn pride and unshakable faith as the abdicating Pope Benedict XVI. His performance reeks of initial displeasure and zealous righteousness, but then Hopkins demonstrates how humanity is never permanently buried by piety.

As the lesser of two goods, Hopkins’ Benedict relinquishes the papacy with dutiful reluctance. Hopkins never hides from the shame of Benedict’s decision, yet his bravery to admit his error in judgment of Jonathan Pryce’s future Pope Francis shows how flexible human resolve can be. The great stage and film actor always surprises us just when we have him pegged into a typecast corner. His admission into the “Supporting Category” is proof that even an experienced thespian can reveal new techniques. Hannibal Lector would be spooked by such latent abilities to shock.

Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa

al pacino jimmy hoffa

Nominated for: “The Irishman” (Netflix)
Oscar Scene: Lecturing his nemesis Anthony Provenzano (Stephen Graham) on his tardiness to their meeting…and wearing shorts to said meeting

The most energetic and electric performance of 2019 came from a 79-year-old legend. Even when he’s not shouting expletives as union organizer Jimmy Hoffa, Al Pacino’s eyes remain ablaze with fury. However, that isn’t to say Pacino’s interpretation of the Teamsters’ leader is one-note. Audiences are privy to the stresses and downtime moments of reflection from this historic figure. That he keeps on swinging even when faced with obstacles only underscores how fitting Pacino is in this role, arguably the most tenacious onscreen actor that has ever existed.

Pacino’s chemistry with Robert De Niro reveals just how much the two icons complement each other. Moreover, “The Irishman” is Pacino’s first time working under the esteemed direction of Martin Scorsese, and no one would ever guess this to be the case. Pacino rips through the movie like he was destined to be the auteur’s most overt onscreen criminal. The pairing is as epic as advertised — for this viewer alone, Pacino’s devotion to his craft is unparalleled, this year or frankly any other.

Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino

joe pesci irishman

Nominated for: “The Irishman,” (Netflix)
Oscar scene: Ordering Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) to whack Jimmy Hoffa

Academy Award-winner Joe Pesci is a master of quiet intimidation. Martin Scorsese’s persuasion to pull the “Goodfellas” villain from retirement was a profitable one for all involved. Voters and critics alike responded well to seeing a new side of the actor’s gangster persona.

In this Philly mob table, Pesci’s vulnerability as an artist lies in his restraint. His Russell Bufalino betrays no hint of emotion, but somehow Pesci channels compassion and sincerity when dealing with De Niro’s Frank Sheeran. Even when he’s up to his neck enacting lethal retribution, the veteran maestro imbues avuncular warmth. The character layering may not be ostentatious, and not always transparent, but Pesci only needs to say a few words of dialogue to convey all the fear and love we’ll ever experience from an elder. Had he not won a golden statue previously, the entire room would make way for his eminence to reach the podium this year.

Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth

Brad Pitt Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Nominated for: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” (Sony Pictures)
Oscar Scene: A strung-out Cliff Booth stops a murderous home invasion, changing history in the process

Like a wine fine, Brad Pitt’s aging and acting process get better with time. The 56-year-old movie star stands poised to receive his first Academy Award in a starring role for playing Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” His previous Oscar was for producing Steve McQueen’s 2014 “Best Picture” recipient, “12 Years a Slave.” Pitt’s reputation as an actor has often been dismissed because of his handsome appearance, but as Booth, he is able to bask in his hunky appeal while still flexing thespian muscle.

Audiences witness the calm severity of a movie stuntman whose worth has been overlooked and taken for granted, even from people he calls friends. It’s a credit to Pitt’s natural charisma that he’s able to subside controversy surrounding his character’s troubled spousal past as the narrative progresses. We understand Booth is dangerous, and possibly even a monster, but Pitt’s zen demeanor and effortless “cool factor” makes Booth’s moral ambiguity a matter of fascination, not distaste. At long last, Brad Pitt finds himself in a lifetime role commemorating everything we love about his singular stardom. As for his contender odds, his frontrunner status was cemented the second moviegoers exhaled from that brutal final act.

WILL WIN: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

POTENTIAL SHOCKER: Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”

SHOULD WIN: Al Pacino, “The Irishman”

SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOMINATED: Jonathan Majors, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Will anyone defeat the only contender in the lineup without an Oscar to their name? Let us know in the comments, as well as who you are rooting for!

What do you think?

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Written by Joseph Braverman

My name is Joseph Braverman. I am 31 years old and a graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. I love watching and analyzing films and television shows. I live in Los Angeles, CA, enmeshing myself in the movie industry scene in any way possible. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @JBAwardsCircuit.


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