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The Best Supporting Actor Oscar Race: Who Will Be Nominated?

With Oscar nominations right around the corner, CinemaBlend is taking a look at which films and performances are likely to be in contention for nominations. Let’s look at a the Supporting Actor race. 

Locked In

Kodi Smit-McPhee has surprisingly emerged as a potential winner in the category for his role in The Power of the Dog, with over 20 critics awards and a Golden Globe win now to his name. McPhee’s skilled, understated performance doesn’t fit the typical mold of an Oscar winner, but strong praise for the film as a whole will carry him far. 

The other near-lock in this category is Troy Kotsur for his heartwarming performance in CODA. Earlier in the year, many speculated that the actor would be too much of an unknown to snag a nomination. Now, him and McPhee are the only actors with Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and SAG nominations. He’s likely to be the second deaf actor ever nominated for an Academy Award, 35 years after his co-star Marlee Matlin got her lead actress nomination, and win, for Children of a Lesser God.

Likely Bets

What to do about the Belfast boys? Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds were both widely expected to share the category in a similar fashion to Kaluuya and Stanfield in last year’s Judas and the Black Messiah, DeNiro and Pacino in The Irishman, and Rockwell and Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. However, SAG threw an unexpected curveball by nominating neither performer. The debacle recalls that of 2015’s Spotlight, where both Keaton and Ruffalo missed SAG, despite both securing Critics Choice nominations. Only Ruffalo went onto an Oscar nomination. This town may not be big enough for the two, and if one performer is to triumph over the other, it’ll likely be Hinds, who has more traction from critics awards. Dornan may still be overcoming his Fifty Shades reputation whereas Hinds is a long under-appreciated veteran character actor.

Then there’s Jared Leto for House of Gucci who, despite receiving mixed reactions from critics, has remained in the conversation due to the sheer volume of his performance. It’s capital A acting at its… most. SAG and Critics Choice voters had no problem with that.

Bradley Cooper’s extremely limited screen-time in Licorice Pizza seemed for a while like it would prevent the Academy favorite from securing another nomination. The Screen Actors Guild disagreed, giving him a crucial nomination that has thrown him back into the conversation. It also helps that he is riding the wave of a Best Picture contender.

Dark Horses

Ben Affleck now has a SAG and Golden Globe nomination for his performance in The Tender Bar, though his role is really the only buzz coming out of that film. I feel his path recalls that of Bill Murray in On the Rocks, or Jared Leto in The Little Things last year. He has some key nominations, but I am doubtful that he’ll make it to the finish line. His absence from the BAFTA longlist confirms that suspicion for me. 

J.K. Simmons could benefit from Kidman’s strength in the Best Actress race for his role as William Frawley in Being the Ricardos, but he only has a Critics Choice nomination to his name so far. Mike Faist earned a BAFTA nomination but has missed pretty much everything else, despite being a major standout in West Side Story. The film is such a heavyweight, however, that we can’t count him out entirely. I could also see a world where Jesse Plemons rides The Power of the Dog’s momentum to a supporting actor nomination alongside McPhee.

Unfortunately, Robin de Jesús’s role in Tick, tick… Boom! doesn’t have much traction despite the film’s strength in Best Picture. Jeffrey Wright in The French Dispatch, Colman Domingo in Zola, and Jason Isaacs in Mass have picked up their share of critics nominations but there’s not much to indicate that they’ll show up at the Oscars. 

Currently, I’m predicting McPhee, Kotsur, Hinds, Leto, and Cooper for the nomination. Check back here at CinemaBlend for more category breakdowns.