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Oscar Circuit – Supporting Players Riding the Wave

Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart (2009)It’s happened nearly every year since I’ve followed the Academy Awards race this closely.  A performance is touted as THE performance of the year with no way they could lose when the envelope is opened.  Often times, the kick off happens at the Cannes Film Festivals, other times during Toronto.  Regardless, the Lead performer often manages to bring a supporting performance that may have not been recognized otherwise.  Screen time may be a reason, the quality of the performance can be another.

I took a look back at the Lead Actor race in particular over the past ten years.  Six out of the ten Best Actor winners brought in one of their co-stars along for the ride.  Looking at the 2009-2010 race where Jeff Bridges became the favorite to win Best Actor for his role in Crazy Heart (2009).  His love interest in the film and co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal, at that point never nominated for an Oscar despite great turns in films like SherryBaby (2006).  Gyllenhaal began the season being campaigned as a Lead Actress, probably the more appropriate place for her character.  Mid-season Fox Searchlight changed their focus and pushed her in Supporting Actress after missing Golden Globe and SAG nominations.  As Oscar focused on the chance to reward four-time nominee Jeff Bridges, Gyllenhaal reaped the benefits of a name check next to her co-star.

The chart below breaks down the last ten years:

2013 Daniel Day-Lewis Tommy Lee Jones & Sally Field “Lincoln” – Nominated for Best Picture
2012 Jean Dujardin Berenice Bejo “The Artist” – WON Best Picture
2011 Colin Firth Geoffrey Rush & Helena Bonham Carter “The King’s Speech” – WON Best Picture
2010 Jeff Bridges Maggie Gyllenhaal “Crazy Heart” – Not Nominated for Best Picture
2009 Sean Penn Josh Brolin “Milk” – Nominated for Best Picture
2008 Daniel Day-Lewis None “There Will Be Blood” – Nominated for Best Picture
2007 Forest Whitaker None “The Last King of Scotland” – Not Nominated for Best Picture
2006 Philip Seymour Hoffman Catherine Keener “Capote” – Nominated for Best Picture
2005 Jamie Foxx None “Ray” – Nominated for Best Picture
2004 Sean Penn Tim Robbins & Marcia Gay Harden “Mystic River” – Nominated for Best Picture
2003 Adrien Brody None “The Pianist” – Nominated for Best Picture

If we look at the three examples of those that did not have a supporting performance nominated, they have interesting omissions.  The most surprising is Daniel Day-Lewis winning his second Oscar for There Will Be Blood (2007) and Paul Dano missing out alongside him.  Javier Bardem won the Oscar for No Country for Old Men (2007) and beat out Casey Affleck, Hal Holbrook, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Tom Wilkinson.  Paul Thomas Anderson’s film was nominated for eight Oscars and won two.  Perhaps Dano may have been #6 or #7 in the lineup.

Forest Whitaker was making history all on his own for winning for The Last King of Scotland.  He was the first actor since Michael Douglas in Wall Street (1987) to win the Oscar without his film being nominated in any other category as well as the fourth Black actor to win Lead Actor.  It’s interesting how Oscar gravitated towards Whitaker even when the film was slipping by with probable nods.  He received most of the critics awards that year but the film’s only citation was from BAFTA.  James McAvoy, who you can argue as the true lead of the film, found no wiggle room in Supporting.  There are times that voters can’t get behind a category placement when it’s blatantly untrue.  Best example of this explains why Scarlett Johansson was left without a nomination for Lost in Translation (2003).  That could have been what left McAvoy out in the dust.  It also could have been the fact he wasn’t well-known just yet.

The Jamie Foxx win for Ray (2004) had to be a problem with too many strong ladies in the cast.  My favorite of the bunch was Regina King, a performance I cited as one of the top five supporting players of the year.  However, there were vocal fans out there for newcomer Sharon Warren who was magnetic as Ray’s mother Aretha and Kerry Washington as the suffering wife for Mr. Charles.

As we discussed in this week’s episode of Power Hour, it can definitely be argued that the film’s themselves brought in the performers in for the ride.  Jacki Weaver in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook last year is a great example.  Lead Actor winners also have a great correlation between Best Picture.  Seven out of the ten Lead Actor winners have had their film nominated for Best Picture.

Lead Actress can fall in similar fashion, though definitely not as often.  In the last ten years, only one winning Lead Actress performance has had a Supporting Actor or Actress from the same film nominated (Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby, 2004).

Who will ride in this year with a performance?  As I started already updating the official Oscar Predictions, beginning with Best Picture and Best Director, these are some of the actors that can be brought in a probable winning lead performance.  The acting categories will be updated throughout the week.  This weekend the techs will get the update treatment as well.

Go through the slideshow. 

What do you think?

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Film Lover

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.

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