Happy December folks. By now, you know what this is…my series of articles that deal with how to rank the chances of the various categories of Oscar contenders. This one is as large a scale grouping of the hopefuls for Best Supporting Actor as possible/prudent this year, excluding of course some no shot contenders and certain members of bigger ensembles. I’m categorizing them by their assumed likelihood of a nomination come nomination day, but that shouldn’t surprise you one bit by now. A couple of things to keep an eye for this category specifically (though not in a way that separates it from the other acting categories too much) is that it has an at least notable amount to do with which films get nominated for Best Picture. Plus, this is also the place where comedy can actually make a dent in the race, not to mention overlooked or veteran actors, though there are never any guarantees, for what that’s worth. We shall see what happens (and for comparison’s sake, last year I had three of the five ultimate nominees in my Pole Position, including eventual winner Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club), but enough talk for the moment. Let’s take a look at the contenders for Best Supporting Actor and size up the field!
The “Wishful Thinking” Category
First thing’s first as per the usual around here for this series, let me throw out a few names that have zero percent chances of getting nominated this year. I’m fully confident that Ansel Elgort for Men, Women & Children, Toby Kebbel for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Chris O’Dowd for Calvary, Robert Pattinson for The Rover, Tony Revolori for The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Dominic West for Pride are out of it. Moving on though, let’s go ahead and focus on the people in 2014 who might actually have a shot at a citation, starting with, of course…the long shots.
The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category
This first large group consists of ten supporting actors that I think all but certainly won’t be big contenders in the end, but aren’t out of the race completely yet and deserve at the very least a small mention here. They either are victims of films that won’t be able to make much headway in the race, performances that won’t really appeal to the Academy enough for momentum to build up, or just don’t have any real traction to speak of. Some of them are potentially bigger contenders than others are, as usual, and yes, they could wind up surprising you a little bit (though don’t bank on it), but for me I’m inclined to bet against each of them right now in a big way. The men in question are as follows:
Michael Caine – Interstellar
Charles Dance – The Imitation Game
Johnny Depp – Into the Woods
Joel Edgerton – Exodus: Gods and Kings
Michael Fassbender – Frank
James Gandolfini – The Drop
Neil Patrick Harris – Gone Girl
Adam Sandler – Men, Women & Children
Andy Serkis – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Nat Wolff – The Fault in Our Stars
Well, if you’re hoping to find someone here to grab and throw a hail mary with, my guess is the one to focus in on is Andy Serkis, though that’s just not going to happen. One day perhaps for motion capture work, but not yet. I suppose a long shot case for Charles Dance could be made, or perhaps the late James Gandolfini if we’re playing the sympathy card, but again…I highly suspect that this won’t happen. In a more just world, Adam Sandler would at least be in the conversation, but we all know that the world is far from just. The bigger contenders are yet to come, so we can more or less pay no mind to this section, unless you really enjoy wishful thinking.
The “Second Tier” Contenders
With this next set of gentlemen in question, we find ones that are solidly in play for some attention in the Best Supporting Actor field, but have more than a few question marks impeding them from any further progress right now. I think that almost all of them will wind up fading away by the time the big morning rolls around, but it’s possible one of them could ride the precursor wave to a surprise nomination. There’s ten of these particular actors that would like to be considered big time contenders for the prize. I don’t see them as especially big ones myself, but like I said, they’re not far off, to differing degrees of course. The ones I see in this specific light are, as usual, a deeply varied bunch. They happen to be:
Alec Baldwin – Still Alice
Albert Brooks – A Most Violent Year
Charlie Cox – The Theory of Everything
Matt Damon – Interstellar
Domhnall Gleeson – Unbroken
Matthew Goode – The Imitation Game
Dean Norris – Men, Women & Children
Tim Roth – Selma
Martin Short – Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz – Big Eyes
Within this group, there are interesting candidacies, but hardly anyone to really mark down as a big threat. I suppose there’s a case to be made for Martin Short or Christoph Waltz. At one point Tim Roth could have been a player, but he’s one of his movie’s weaker aspects (as well as having more likely internal competition). Aside from maybe Alec Baldwin, it’s either Short (who’s also got a more likely co-star in his film) or Waltz, with the latter having the edge on the former due to his favored nation status in this category. We certainly shall see how it ultimately turns out (focus on Short and Waltz if you want to try and guess the most likely jumpers to the top tier), but there’s some bigger names about to come now. In other years, some of these are more likely players, but not this year…
The “Pole Position” Contenders
With this category, the Pole Position is really all that matters. This here represents the dozen most likely contenders for a Best Supporting Actor nomination according to my take on the race. My personal Oscar predictions at this specific juncture feature five of the men in this grouping, but that’s of course subject to constant change. They each have a lot going in their favor and seem to be in position for some strong precursor attention in the next few months. They’re also the stars of some of the most mentioned films so far this year, and I don’t expect that to change much anytime soon, especially in a few cases. The 12 particular thespians that I speak so highly of? They are:
Josh Brolin – Inherent Vice
Robert Duvall – The Judge
John Goodman – The Gambler
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Logan Lerman – Fury
Miyavi – Unbroken
Edward Norton – Birdman
Tyler Perry – Gone Girl
Chris Pine – Into the Woods
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Tom Wilkinson – Selma
I feel very confident in saying that these are the only serious contenders in Supporting Actor. Within this group, J.K. Simmons is not just a lock for a nomination, but pretty much also for the win (right now he’s the safest prediction of the major categories). He’ll be joined almost certainly by Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo (with one of them potentially becoming the alternative for those somehow not impressed by Simmons), leaving the other eight to battle it out for the last spot. In terms of that slot, I’m looking most at Robert Duvall and Tom Wilkinson, though Miyavi is in play too (I wouldn’t bet on him though, having seen the flick). Josh Brolin or Chris Pine could also surprise folks too, though those are really the last ones with legitimate shots at the final place at the table. That leaves perennial snub John Goodman, Logan Lerman, and Tyler Perry (yes, him) as longer shots, but still in better seats than any of the other contenders in different sections. A lot still has to be decided, but I think these are the 12 men that will whittle down to the fives nominees on nomination morning. I could be wrong (and have been before), but that’s how I see it, particularly in terms of the nine I’ve mainly cited. All of these guys have supporting turns that are going to get precursor love in some form (or at least consideration), so it’s just a matter of which ones the Academy likes best. Stay tuned to find out which emerge victorious and receive Oscar nominations.
Check out the official Oscar Predictions for Best Supporting Actor!
–Thoughts? How do you see Best Supporting Actor shaping up? Discuss in the comments!