OSCARS: Can the ‘Bugsy’ Drought End for the Supporting Actors in 2017?

The dual nominees from the same movie.  An honor that has been bestowed upon many films and performers over the Academy’s near 90-year history.  When it comes to which acting category it occurs in, not all actors are created equal.  In the Lead versus Supporting debate, one gender has had the edge over the other in each classification.

In the Lead races, the Academy has double dipped for the Best Actor race a record 12 times in comparison to the surprisingly low Best Actress which has only achieved it 5 in its history.  Best Actor’s last episode was in 1984 when Tom Hulce and eventual winner F. Murray Abraham were recognized for their achievements in Milos Forman’s “Amadeus.”  The last time the Best Actress materialized two nominees from the same film was in 1991 when Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon found appreciation for Ridley Scott’s “Thelma and Louise.”

In the Supporting races, it not only occurs much more often, but the difference between the two is doubled.  Supporting Actress has had 34 separate occurrences of nominees appearing from the same film, exactly double the Supporting Actors which has only happened 17 times.

You can argue that these numbers all feed into the “category fraud” problems that often plague the Academy Awards.  This is when a performance perceived to be a lead role is campaigned in supporting because it’s believed to be easier for the actor or actress to be recognized.  In recent years, category fraud has had a spotlight when actors like Rooney Mara in “Carol” and Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” were both campaigned in Supporting Actress despite a heavy consensus that they were lead.

For years, the focus on the men has been looked at closely, as a few films have produced more than one awards-worthy performance but only resulting in one or none being acknowledged.  One of the most recent examples was Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which had trouble gaining traction for one of its outstanding supporting performers early in the 2015 season.  In the end, only Mark Ruffalo mustered a nomination over co-stars Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci.

Other instances along the way have included “The Departed” (Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg), “Little Miss Sunshine” (Alan Arkin and Steve Carell), and “Milk” (Josh Brolin and James Franco).

This year, interestingly enough, we have a record number of films, with two (perceived to be) awards-worthy performers from the same film looking for Oscar attention.

Down below, you can see the 10 most likely candidates to pop up on the circuit:

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME” (Sony Pictures Classics)

In what seems to be at the top of pundits and prognosticators are the envisioned works of Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg in Luca Guadagnino’s tender coming-of-age story.  Hammer, who has close run-ins with the Academy (i.e. “The Social Network” and “J. Edgar”) seems to sit firmly in a predicted lineup but a one-scene home-run has many hoping the overdue Stuhlbarg can find some traction.  It also helps that Stuhlbarg is also littered in a few other Oscar hopefuls including “The Shape of Water” and “Molly’s Game.”  With a notable snub under his belt for “A Serious Man” seven years ago, he could get wrapped up in his own Philip Seymour Hoffman-type of year where something wets the appetite of voters.

THE SHAPE OF WATER” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Perhaps in the running to be the technical marvel of the year, Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical piece about a woman who falls in love with a Merman is exquisitely acted by leads Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in muted roles.  Sitting in the forefront, however, are the two scene-stealing turns from Academy Award nominees Richard Jenkins and Michael Shannon.  In the case of the former, Jenkins hasn’t been back to the ceremony since his inaugural nod for Tom McCarthy’s “The Visitor” while Shannon’s encounters with Oscar have all come in the form of the “WTF?” on nomination morning.  While Jenkins role garners more laughs and an emotional heft, Shannon edges on one of the year’s most villainous and hypnotic turns.  Can they both find love in a very open race?

MUDBOUND” (Netflix)

Just two years ago #OscarsSoWhite plagued the Academy when Idris Elba was omitted from the Supporting Actor lineup for his work in “Beasts of No Nation.”  In 2017, we look to be on the heels of another appearance as people of color don’t seem to be well represented in the Oscar run.  One of the only hopes for diversity is Dee Rees’ “Mudbound.”  The Netflix acquisition from Sundance harnesses two vivacious performances from Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund.  Mitchell, who coincidentally was in the running in 2015 for “Straight Outta Compton,” delivers another riveting performance of a young black veteran who develops a friendship with a white man, both dealing with PTSD.  Hedlund, who’s been terrific in films like “On the Road,” may have his first run in with awards voters.  While “Mudbound” also garners other strong turns from Jason Clarke and Rob Morgan, Hedlund and Mitchell will be the most likely to pop on the circuit, hoping to be Netflix’s first major awards contender.


After years of disappointing the Oscar-watching community, it looks as though Sam Rockwell may finally have his vehicle to garner the Academy’s attention, even considered to be the frontrunner by many pundits.  Comparing this to 1994 when Dianne Weist won her second Academy Award for “Bullets over Broadway,” and she found a way to pull in the hilarious work of Jennifer Tilly alongside her, co-star Woody Harrelson may be able to find his own lane.  Harrelson has delivered in four films in 2017 (“Wilson,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “The Glass Castle,” and “Three Billboards”), and with two Oscar nods to his credit, the 56-year-old shows his chops sitting next to Rockwell’s gripping work.  Rockwell’s road to Oscar has been littered with snub after snub (“Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Matchstick Men,” “Moon,” “The Way, Way Back,” etc.) and he seemingly has found his niche in Martin McDonagh’s black comedy.  If the film’s Best Picture win ends up becoming a reality, as it’s believed by many of us that follow the Oscar race, a double showing of the men may be in store for us.

DARKEST HOUR” (Focus Features)

Telluride launched Joe Wright’s look into the days of Winston Churchill into the thick of the awards race with an already seemingly anointed Best Actor prize for its star Gary Oldman.  Where the narrative muddies is what supporting performer could reap the benefits of a “carry in” nomination.  As seen with its American cousin “Lincoln,” where lots of praise came in for Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn, and Jared Harris, “Darkest Hour” has standout turns from Stephen Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ronald Pickup.  Dillane, who’s shown his range from “The Hours” to HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has the “meatiest” part while Ben Mendelsohn encompasses the most traditional type of “ride in” nomination that we’ve seen.  Can Oldman, who is set to dominate the plurality of #1 votes in his own category, manage two (even three including Kristin Scott Thomas) supporting players to follow?

LAST FLAG FLYING” (Amazon Studios)

The New York Film Festival launched in September with the premiere of Amazon Studios’ “Last Flag Flying,” bringing with it high praise from many critics and audiences.  With it now in limited release, the film’s box office has not exactly lit up its Oscar chances.  As spoken before, we expect the more conservative and middle parts of America to respond highly to Richard Linklater’s post-war piece.  While Steve Carell seems to dominate the conversation with “best of his career” notices, his co-stars Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne have both received their fair share of ink.  Cranston, who received a nomination two years ago for his work in “Trumbo,” has the most eye-catching of the two roles, as his loud, comedic mannerisms call the most attention.  When speaking to the more conventional critics and awards voters, they seem to be most taken by the work of the great Laurence Fishburne, who hasn’t been back to an Oscar ceremony since 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”  It’ll be interesting to see how the precursors respond to both men, who seem like they’re ready to be those surprise SAG nominees we tend to get every year.

DUNKIRK” (Warner Bros.)

Looking at the filmography of Christopher Nolan, it’s apparent that general audiences have responded to his films as they’ve grossed record box office numbers.  When it comes to awards voters, only the posthumous Oscar win for Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”) is the only acting nominee that he’s produced over his nine other films like.  In his tenth outing, “Dunkirk” seemed to grab the attention of various players.  Sitting at the top of the “most likely to translate” is Academy Award winner Mark Rylance, whose work as Mr. Dawson seems to rally the most sentiment.  With that said, Warner Bros. has decided to cast a wide enough net to get traction for his co-stars, most notably Tom Hardy (Oscar-nominated for “The Revenant”), Fionn Whitehead (in his feature film debut), and Kenneth Branagh (probably our quietest 5-time nominee we have).  While all the men will battle the hurdle of minimal screen time, Hardy’s work which focuses heavily on rapid eye movement and voice work as an air fighting pilot, there are believers in this possibility.   If the film’s perceived Best Picture status hopes to stay intact, along with a Nolan directing win, the movie will need to nab acting and/or screenplay mentions along the way as a film hasn’t won Director without one of those two in the Academy’s 89-year history.

DETROIT” (Annapurna Pictures)

In the spirit of true diversity, Kathryn Bigelow’s important interpretation of the Detroit Riots was one of the summer’s most critically acclaimed films.  The Oscar-winning director has managed acting nominations for her last two films “The Hurt Locker” (Jeremy Renner) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (Jessica Chastain).  In “Detroit,” with Algee Smith looking to squeeze into a weak Best Actor race, the focus has now shifted to co-stars John Boyega and Will Poulter, hoping to find wiggle room in Supporting Actor.  In the case of Poulter, he wrestles with the identity of one of history’s most vile humans and making him utterly real and terrifying.  Poulter’s awards run could end up emulating something of Daniel Bruhl (“Rush”) when he seemed out of the conversation and popped up with Globe, SAG, and BAFTA noms.  Boyega, who’s own humanization of a man grappling with the idea of security versus aid, is one of “Detroit’s” secret weapons.  And with the impending explosion of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” coming down the pike, it could offer up an added boost.  Can Annapurna find the lane to find one or both of these men?


One of the tranquil films on the circuit this year is Noah Baumbach’s look at family dysfunctionality in Netflix’s dramedy.  While Adam Sandler is going to capitalize on his Gotham nomination in Best Actor, two-time Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman will look for his run in Supporting Actor alongside Ben Stiller, who delivers one of his finest acting turns of his career.  Stiller’s road is helped by another well-regarded work in “Brad’s Status” earlier this year and possibly could be helped by a surprise Golden Globe nomination along the way.  Hoffman’s road is now cloudy with sexual assault allegations that have surfaced, likely putting a stench around him and the film for the rest of the season.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI” (Walt Disney Pictures)

The idea of a “Star Wars” movie landing two acting nominations seems far-fetched considering the series has only landed one in its entire 40-year history.  But why not shine a spotlight on something that will surely have the most butts in the seats of any film this year?  If we’re looking to focus on two characters, Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) tortured soul following the murdering of his own father (and possible impending mother?) is sure to have some depth while Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) inner turmoil following the fall of the Jedi and the training of a new one (who has “raw strength” that scares him) is probable.  The aforementioned John Boyega or Oscar Isaac is sure to be fan favorites while Andy Serkis’ tries his hand at more motion capture as Snoke.

Share your thoughts on SUPPORTING ACTOR and discuss it in the comments below!



What do you think?


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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