Sizing Up: Best Supporting Actress

The latest installment of this series looks over the women fighting it out for Supporting Actress…

les miserables anne hathaway

The Sizing Up Series continues with a look at the slate of Best Supporting Actress contenders. As always, this is as large a grouping of the hopefuls as possible (excluding some no shot contenders and members of bigger ensembles…or else this could have 50 or more people in the article), categorizing them by their assumed likelihood of a nomination come the big morning. Oftentimes, more than a few of the Best Picture nominees wind up with some form of representation here, and this year I think there will be more than a little correlation, but of course absolutely anything is possible with the Academy. We shall see what happens in the end, but enough talk for the time being. I know what you’re all here for, so let’s go right ahead and take a look at the contenders for Best Supporting Actress and size up the field!

The “Wishful Thinking” Category

Right off the bat let me throw out a few higher profile names that have no chance of getting nominated this year (even if we thought some of them might have had a tiny shot at one point). I’d say that Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games, Annette Bening for Ruby Sparks, Kerry Bishe for Argo, Marion Cotillard for The Dark Knight Rises, Cody Horn in Magic Mike, Julia Stiles in Silver Linings Playbook, Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman, and Emma Watson for The Perks of Being a Wallflower are out. They all turned in fine work, but it’s just not the year and/or category for them. Those are a few ladies that you can safely disregard, but they’re certainly not the only ones. Moving on though, let’s go ahead and focus instead on the people who might actually have a decent shot at this, starting with, of course…the long shots for a nod.

Judi Dench as MThe “Dark horse/Long shot” Category
This first grouping in particular consists of 10 supporting actresses that I think almost certainly won’t be nominees in the end, but aren’t out of the race completely yet and deserve a small mention at this point. They either have films that won’t really be able to make big headway in the race, performances that won’t appeal to the Academy strongly enough, or just don’t have any real traction to date to move them forward. Some of them are potentially bigger contenders than others and could wind up surprising you a little bit, but for me I’m inclined to bet against each and every one of them right now. The ladies in question here are:

Cate BlanchettThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Olivia ColmanHyde Park on Hudson
Judi DenchSkyfall
Bella HeathcoateNot Fade Away
Isabelle HupertAmour
Elizabeth OlsenLiberal Arts
Amanda SeyfriedLes Miserables
Lorraine ToussaintMiddle of Nowhere
Alicia VikanderAnna Karenina
Olivia WilliamsHyde Park on Hudson

Right off the bat, let’s put Judi Dench’s candidacy to rest. Sure, she’s very good as M, but a Bond film just isn’t likely going to get an acting nomination. She’s easily the least likely of this group, though if you’re looking for a few who could be the best bets of the bunch, I say look to either Isabelle Hupert or Amanda Seyfried. In a perfect world we’d be hearing more about Elizabeth Olsen’s chances, but that’s the realities of the Oscar race for you. Regardless, these aren’t really the heavy hitters for the category.

scarlett johansson janet leigh psycho hitchcock fox searchlightThe “Second Tier” Contenders

This next set of women are solidly in play for some attention in the Best Supporting Actress field, but have more than a few question marks impeding them from further progress at the moment. I think they all will wind up fading away by the time nomination morning rolls around, but it’s possible one or two of them could ride the precursor wave to a surprise nomination when all is said and done. There are 10 of these particular actresses that would like to be considered big time contenders. A good portion of them have been predicted for nods at some point this season, but I don’t see them as especially big ones right now, but like I said, they’re not too far off. The ones I see in this specific light are a varied bunch of women and happen to be as follows:

Doona BaeCloud Atlas
Emily BluntLooper
Pauline CollinsQuartet
Jane FondaPeace, Love, and Misunderstanding
Scarlett JohanssonHitchcock
Nicole KidmanThe Paperboy
Shirley MacLaineBernie
Frances McDormandPromised Land
Susan SarandonArbitrage
Kristen StewartOn the Road

I think that from this bunch, Frances McDormand is the best bet since she’s the question mark, though obviously there’s a wellspring of support behind Doona Bae. Emily Blunt and Nicole Kidman likewise have their supporters, and I think Kristen Stewart could be more in play than some thing, but it looks like none of them will wind up making it, which is especially said for Shirley McLaine. A few months ago I actually think more of them had a shot, as I mentioned, but that’s just the name of the Oscar season game. Perhaps I’ve shortchanged some of these actresses, but perhaps not as well.

movies the master still 13The “Pole Position” Contenders

Here, at last, we have the dozen most likely contenders for a Best Supporting Actress nomination in my eyes. My personal Academy Award predictions at this point feature 5 of the women in this grouping, though that’s hardly surprising I’m sure. They each have a lot going in their favor and seem to be in position for some strong precursor attention in the coming weeks. They’re also the stars of some of the more highly and hotly mentioned films of the year, and I don’t expect that to change too much as the precursors begin. The 12 particular thespians that I speak so highly of? They are:

Amy AdamsThe Master
Samantha Barks – Les Miserables
Ann Dowd – Compliance
Jennifer EhleZero Dark Thirty
Sally FieldLincoln
Anne HathawayLes Miserables
Helen HuntThe Sessions
Laura LinneyHyde Park on Hudson
Kelly ReillyFlight
Maggie SmithThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Kerry WashingtonDjango Unchained
Jacki WeaverSilver Linings Playbook

Just about everyone have the likes of Amy Adams, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, and Helen Hunt making up the top 4 of their predictions, with each one a threat to win. Most see Hathaway as the frontrunner, though a strong case can be made for Adams and Hunt, with Field a bit behind but by no means out of the race. Going by that logic, it all comes down to a single open slot, with 8 ladies fighting for it. The safest bet seems to be the reliably nominated Laura Linney, but she’s got perhaps the least regarded flick of the lot. Samantha Barks or Jennifer Ehle could become huge contenders if they’re films become Academy favorites, while Kerry Washington has a better shot than most give her credit for. Ann Dowd is a long shot with strong support, and the trio of Kelly Reilly, Maggie Smith, and Jacki Weaver appear to be bringing up the rear. We’ll know more when the precursors begin, but there are lots to contemplate at the moment.

Obviously this list will compress itself just a bit as the weather continues to get colder, but for now there’s a lot to look at and consider in this assembly of supporting actresses. As previously stated, I think the ultimate nominees for Best Supporting Actress will come from my pole position contenders, but that’s always the case, and we shall see what happens in terms of that, since anything is possibleI’m very excited to see how the race shapes up and turns out, and I know you all are too. It’s going to be a lot of fun to get the precursor season started!

Comment and discuss!

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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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My money is going to be on Samantha Barks. She’s gonna knock it outta the park and become a huge star. Mark. My. Words.


I am saddened to not see Doona Bae is sight. I have seen many, many films this year and she was without a doubt the best actress in a supporting role this year. Why can’t anyone see that?


Fun fact: Since 2000, there have only been four years (03, 04, 05, and 07) where Best Supporting Actress has not contained two performances from the same film. Since Samantha Barks is a reasonable possibility, I think it’s prudent to put her in a lineup with Hathaway, Adams, Hunt, and Field. Kerry Washington or Maggie Smith may sneak in there, probably in place of Barks, but I’m running with precedent on this one.

Also: couldn’t you have just put Doona Bae in the first category, just to give us hope?


Doona Bae is by far the best supporting actress this year

Matthew Barker

If ever there was a role to draw a nom it’s Les Mis’ Fantine and, looking at what we’ve seen of Anne Hathaway playing the role and what she put herself through to play it, I think it looks good for her.

Jeremy DC

As of now The Master is my second favorite movie of the year and of course Amy Adams was solid in it. But I don’t understand why she is being considered as maybe the frontrunner and if it was up to me I wouldn’t even nominate her. Maybe if it was a weak year for this category then there would be a good shot but it’s really strong and I’d rather see Doona Bae and Judi Dench nominated.


Salma Hayek deserves some recognition for her excellent work in the grossly underrated Savages.

Mathew Rodriguez

I would’ve thought you’d at least put Helena Bonham Carter for Les Mis somewhere in one of the categories.


I have to second the love given to Elizabeth Banks for Hunger Games and Emma Watson for Perks of Being a Wallflower. Those are probably my two favorite supporting performances of the year so far (although I think Watson could be considered a lead).


In the past 4 oscar seasons two actresses have always been nominated for the same film in the supporting category (Doubt – Up in the Air – The Fighter – The Help). If the trailer is anything to go by, Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks stand a good chance of repeating the pattern.



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