Sizing Up: Best Supporting Actor

letoFolks, 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, excluding of course some no shot contenders and certain members of bigger ensembles, or else this probably could have had 40 or 50 people in the article. I’m categorizing them by their assumed likelihood of a nomination come nomination day, but that shouldn’t surprise you 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 a decent amount to do with which films get nominated for Best Picture ultimately. 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 no guarantees of that sort this year, for what that’s worth. Decently often, more than a few of the Best Picture nominees wind up with some form of representation here. For 2013, I think absolutely anything is possible, though there’s definitely some cream that’s rising to the top. We shall see what happens, 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, let me throw out a few names that have zero chances of getting nominated this year. I’m fully confident that both Bradley Cooper and Ben Mendelsohn are out of the running for The Place Beyond the Pines (though we’ll be hearing more about Cooper later on in this article), while Bobby Canavale will miss out for Blue Jasmine, and the same can be said for the likes of Kevin Costner for Man of Steel, James Badge Dale for Parkland, and delayed contenders like Mark Rufflo for Foxcatcher and, well…anyone from The Monuments Men. Moving on though, let’s go ahead and focus on the people who might actually have a shot at a citation, starting with, of course…the long shots.

The “Dark horse/Long shot” Category

This first group consists of ten supporting actors that I think almost certainly won’t be big contenders at all 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, 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:

brad-pitt-12-years-a-slaveJavier Bardem- The Counselor
Steve Coogan- Philomena
Chris Cooper- August: Osage County
Dane DeHaan- Kill Your Darlings
Ben Foster- Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Ryan Gosling- The Place Beyond the Pines
Woody Harrelson- Out of the Furnace
Sean Penn- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Brad Pitt- 12 Years a Slave
Bradley Whitford- Saving Mr. Banks

If you’re hoping to find someone here to grab and throw a hail mary with, my guess is Woody Harrelson would be the one, just because his film is still an unseen X factor (though maybe someone like Casey Affleck winds up with the buzz there?) right now. Earlier on in the year there was a case to be made for Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, and Ryan Gosling, but their buzz is basically completely gone. Brad Pitt is an outside possibility if the Academy goes overboard on 12 Years a Slave love (and don’t even pretend that it’ll happen for him with The Counselor), but that seems like a bridge too far. The bigger contenders are yet to come, essentially…

The “Second Tier” Contenders

This next set of gentlemen in question 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 currently. 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…maybe even two. 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:

jonahhillBarkhard Abdi- Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper- American Hustle
Andrew Dice Clay- Blue Jasmine
Benedict Cumberbatch- August: Osage County
Harrison Ford- 42
James Franco- Spring Breakers
Jonah Hill- The Wolf of Wall Street
David Oyelowo- Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Sam Rockwell- The Way Way Back
Geoffrey Rush- The Book Thief

Among this group, the consensus seems to be that Harrison Ford is the most likely to head towards the top tier. In fact, some folks even have him getting nominated. I can’t see that happening just yet, but some precursor love could make him a more serious player. The other men who could have a ticket upward include Jonah Hill and Geoffrey Rush, partially due to their films being still  mostly unseen as of this moment, though Hill looks baity in the latest trailer and I’ve seen Rush’s performance but am under embargo. Barkhard Abdi could also wind up in heavier conversation if Captain Phillips is headed towards a massive nomination haul (I know some of my colleagues already consider him a top level contender). As for the rest of the field here…well, the aforementioned Cooper is at the mercy of how American Hustle is received, but he’s the main other one who could see his way to a nomination from here, though I’d love to see James Franco remain in the conversation. Perhaps I’ve shortchanged some of these other actors and overestimated some of the aforementioned ones, but perhaps not as well. We certainly shall see how it ultimately turns out (focus in on Abdi, Cooper, Ford, and Hill though if you want to try and guess the most likely jumpers), but there’s some bigger names about to come…

The “Pole Position” Contenders

Here we are ladies and germs…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:

movies-prisoners-still-22Josh Brolin- Labor Day
Daniel Bruhl- Rush
George Clooney- Gravity
Michael Fassbender- 12 Years a Slave
Will Forte- Nebraska
James Gandolfini- Enough Said
John Goodman- Inside Llewyn Davis
Jake Gyllenahaal- Prisoners
Tom Hanks- Saving Mr. Banks
Jared Leto- Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey- Mud
Jeremy Renner- American Hustle

I feel very confident in saying that Michael Fassbender, Tom Hanks, and Jared Leto are highly likely to be nominated here, though I honestly wouldn’t call any of them locks just yet. Fassbender is mildly hurt by the general consensus being that he can’t win, while Leto could definitely win, though it remains to be seen how being away from the game affects his reception by voters. As for Hanks, as long as the film doesn’t wind up being an afterthought to the Academy (and it doesn’t seem like it will), he could be a threat to win. As for the final two slots, these other nine gentlemen are bunched pretty closely together. If you had to pick the ones bringing up the rear, I’d say it’s Josh Brolin and Will Forte who are the least likely to score the nod, with Daniel Bruhl and George Clooney next down for a nom (though Clooney could benefit from widespread love for Gravity). That leads a pair of spots for a half dozen contenders, and everyone has something holding them back. John Goodman is incredibly overdue, but he’s not that big a part of Inside Llewyn Davis, which could hurt him. Jake Gyllenhaal is amazing in a film that could easily be overlooked everywhere by the Academy in Prisoners. Matthew McConaughey is likely focusing on the Best Actor race (and could also split votes between Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street), and Jeremy Renner is still an X factor due to American Hustle remaining unseen. One of those fellas will likely slip in, but what about the last spot? Well, my hunch is that we see a posthumous citation for James Gandolfini. Maybe I’m wrong here, but with such an open category, it does make more than a bit of sense. Anyone here could get nominated, so we’ll see. 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. All of these guys have supporting turns that are going to get precursor love in some form, 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!

Obviously this list will be compressed a bit as the seasons continue to change towards the winter (I can’t believe it’s November already), but for now there’s a lot to look at and consider in this assembly of actors in supporting roles. As previously stated, I think the ultimate nominees for Best Supporting Actor will come from my pole position contenders, but we shall see what happens in the end, as anything is possible right now. I’m very excited to see how the race shapes up, and I know you all are too. It’s going to be a lot of fun to get the precursor season started, so stay tuned!

Thoughts? How do you see Best Supporting Actor shaping up? Discuss in the comments!

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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