Oscar Eye: Predicting Best Supporting Actor And Actress

By Katey Rich 2008-11-12 16:48:23discussion comments
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Oscar Eye: Predicting Best Supporting Actor And Actress image
The supporting acting categories are some of the slipperiest the Oscars have to offer. Studios (and obsessive Oscar bloggers) spend months deciding which actors should go lead and which should go supporting, and movies without a hope of winning anything else grab hold of one performance that stands out and ride it all the way to awards night.

At this point in the year the supporting acting categories, like every other category, are exceedingly murky. Many, if not most, of the possible contenders have yet to be seen, from the vast cast surrounding Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to a few gems who seem to be lurking in Revolutionary Road. But with 10 slots to fill between the men and the women, the supporting categories already have a few possibilities floating around out there-- and at least one guaranteed nominee. We'll take a look at a few of those, including some movies that haven't been released yet but I, lucky me, have seen. Don't get stressed when your favorites aren't included, like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt or Kate Winslet in The Reader; we're in a no-speculation zone for now.

THE BOYS
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight. Um, duh. I saw this movie again on Monday, in glorious IMAX, and was perhaps even more gripped by the performance the third time around. Ledger is the only person you can guarantee will make it into this category, and probably the favorite at this point to walk away with the prize. He has the twin forces of sentiment and giant box office returns on his side. His chances?: Stellar.

Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder. I never would have guessed that actors from two summer blockbusters could make it into this category, but Paramount is pushing hard for the man who starred in their two biggest cash cows, this one and Iron Man. I'm not sure it'll work, though, unless the other supporting performances turn out very, very weak. Then again, you can't underestimate star power, and a desire to reward Downey's excellent year. His chances?: Fair.

Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky. His movie is a showcase for its lead actress, Sally Hawkins, but the movie's best, most intense scenes come as a result of his uptight driving instructor character. But the movie has been out for some time now, and no one but Hawkins seems to be getting the attention. I'd like to see him make it in here, but for now... His chances? Not great.

Dennis Hopper, Elegy. He's making a go of it-- we'll have an interview with him later this week to prove it-- but it might be a struggle to bring attention to this summer release, especially with Ben Kingsley sucking up much of the available oxygen in the lead role. He's good in this, though, and deserves at least a shot-- if maybe not a spot in the final five. His chances?: Iffy.

Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire. It's pretty sneaky for Fox Searchlight is putting him in the supporting category, since he's the main character of the movie and gets the most screentime of any actor. But it's probably a smart choice-- this is a less crowded field than Best Actor, and his movie seems poised to break out big. Patel is charming and disarmingly youthful in person, which will serve him well as he makes the publicity rounds this winter. His chances?: Pretty solid.

Josh Brolin, Milk. His career has exploded in the last year, and this is the most intense of the many supporting roles in Milk. Plus, this category loves a bad guy-- Tim Robbins, Kevin Spacey and Javier Bardem can attest to that. Sean Penn will get a ton of attention for his lead performance, and Brolin is the most likely to ride his coattails. His chances?: Very good.

James Franco, Milk. He's playing the role that has won supporting Oscars for countless women (Jennifer Connelly and Marcia Gay Harden most recently among them)-- the supportive partner to the main character. And he makes hay with his limited role, playing Harvey Milk's boyfriend left behind by the politics that overtook Milk's life. I'd rather see him get a statue for Pineapple Express, and he'll have to pass Brolin to get in there, but... His chances?: OK.

Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon. This is more like wishful thinking, since I hear he and Frank Langella with both go lead with their performances, but Sheen's role is so secondary to the towering figure of Richard Nixon in this film, he might be better off here. It's extremely unlikely that both he and Langella will both get Best Actor nominations (and Langella is the stronger performer), but Sheen would have a good shot in this category. Won't someone listen to me?? His chances?: Better off here!

THE GIRLS

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It's impossible not to love her in this movie, as she almost single-handedly takes it from an old man's fantasy of one girl's summer of love to a funny, sexy adventure that any of us would want to take. The movie is no powerhouse, but this is such a blank category at the moment that she's pretty much the only safe bet. Her chances?: Stellar.

Elsa Zylberstein, I've Loved You So Long. The movie is very much the Kristin Scott Thomas show, but Zylberstein provides much-needed balance and empathy as the younger sister of a woman just released from prison. It'll be hard to make it in here, what with the French-language performance and the low profile, but she might ride Thomas's coattails to a nomination. Her chances?: Pretty good.

Rosemarie Dewitt, Rachel Getting Married. Like Zylberstein, she's second to a strong star performance here-- playing a sister, no less!-- but the attention for Anne Hathaway's lead role might shine some light on Dewitt as well. I haven't seen this one yet, so no opinion from me-- just speculation. Her chances?: Fair

Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married. Somehow she seems like an even longer shot than Dewitt-- she's a bigger name, a veteran, and no one is really talking her up. But once the awards machine for this movie gets started, we may see some buzz start up again. Her chances?: Slightly poorer than fair.

Vera Farmiga, Nothing But the Truth. I just saw this one last night (it comes out in December), and while I wasn't wild about it, I did enjoy Farmiga's performance, even more than Kate Beckinsale's touted lead turn. Farmiga is tough yet vulnerable as a CIA agent whose identity is outed by a reporter-- the character is based on real-life spy Valerie Plame. But I don't see the movie making it through the Oscar muddle, and Farmiga's performance, while strong, will most likely get lost with it. Her chances?: Not good.

If you've made it all the way to the end (good for you!) you'll notice the female category is pitifully empty compared to the men. Figures. I really can't even think of who is going to swoop in and become the frontrunner here, except for Cruz-- most of the big movies still to come aren't heavy on the strong female supporting performances. For the men it gets a bit clearer, and pretty much everyone ought to be second-in-line after Ledger anyway. But it seems all the heat and interest will be the in main acting categories this time around.

Looking at the chart, pretty much nothing has changed. Having seen Frost/Nixon, I liked the movie better than I expected to but feel the same about its Oscar chances. And after Slumdog Millionaire opens this weekend, it'll be another two week drought before the big guns start showing up in full force. But we all have Twilight to look forward to in the meantime! See y'all next week.

oscar winner
FILM
DATE
SYNOPSIS
WIN POTENTIAL
Quantum of Solace
11/14
It's not as good as Casino Royale, and with Iron Man and Dark Knight in the running for technical nods, it seems a likely shut-out.
Slumdog Millionaire
11/14
Stellar reviews and a campaign just getting into gear will take this heartwarming winner a long, long way. A cynic at first, I'm rooting for it now.
Australia
11/26
Will it get finished? And if it's finished in a hurry, will it be any good? I'm looking forward to this movie, but it's a giant, giant question mark.
Milk
11/26
A beautiful, excellent biopic with political themes well-suited to this moment. One of the frontrunners, if not #1 at this point.
Frost/Nixon
12/5
It's a solid film with exceptional performances, and while it might not make it into Best Picture territory, it deserves a spot in plenty more categories.
Hunger
12/5
Michael Fassbender's lead performance probably can't make it into Oscar, but independent awards could turn him into a long, long shot.
Che
12/12
Benicio del Toro is another longshot Best Actor hopeful; the rest of the movie probably doesn't stand a chance, even with Steven Soderbergh behind it.
The Class
12/12
The Palme d'Or winner has a good shot at a Best Foreign Language nod. After that, its future is murkier.
Doubt
12/12
Another adaptation of a classy play, and this one has Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as added bonuses. One of the strongest contenders out there.
The Reader
12/12
It will be hampered, however unfairly, by all the bad behind-the-scenes drama. Plus, Kate Winslet is competing against her own role in Revolutionary Road. Still, it looks promising enough to overcome its hurdles.
Wendy and Lucy
12/12
Michelle Williams will have to fight her way through the crowded Best Actress field, but her role in this small indie is stellar. I'll be rooting for her, at least.
Seven Pounds
12/19
Will Smith in a sentimental drama, directed by the same way who did The Pursuit of Happyness. He has a real shot at Best Actor.
The Wrestler
12/19
Mickey Rourke is practically a lock for Best Actor, and the movie as a whole may be able to ride his coattails. Director Darren Aronofsky seems particularly due.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
12/19
David Fincher's latest looks visually stunning, and Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are a great team. If it's as good as it looks, it'll reap some serious awards.
Revolutionary Road
12/25
Kate and Leo and Sam Mendes and an acclaimed novel and suburban ennui...what's not to reward? Watch out for Michael Shannon, in a supporting role that's supposed to be killer.
Last Chance Harvey
12/25
It's a minor movie with a good-but-not-great performance from Hoffman. I don't see it pushing its way through the end-of-the-year scrum.
Valkyrie
12/25
It's had such bad buzz for so long that it may just surprise us by being any good at all. It's still a challenge, but not impossible.
Waltz With Bashir
12/25
Disqualified from the documentary category, this Israeli feature will try for the foreign language and animated feature categories instead. Tepid NYFF reception may hurt it; it's no Persepolis.
Defiance
12/31
Pushed back to the latest release date possible, this Holocaust drama could benefit by having January to itself for a wide release. And who doesn't want to see James Bond fight Nazis?
Gran Torino
Sometime in December
This movie might not even be finished, but remember the last time Clint released a movie at the last minute in December, it was Million Dollar Baby. Don't count him out.

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