In my last Predictions Friday column I did not include other names in play for Best Supporting Actor, but stuck to just the five I think have the best shot right now. That doesn’t mean they’ll stay the same five. After all, not all of the movies have been seen. Vice hasn’t been seen. The Mule hasn’t been seen. We are at the “nobody knows anything” phase of the Oscar race. No matter how confident pundits are about this race, I can promise you they’re mostly bullshitting. Sure, they might get lucky and guess right, but it’s a guess. All we really know for sure are these things:
- Green Book won the Audience Award in Toronto
- Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director in Venice
- First Reformed leads the Gothams
- Black Panther made history by earning $700 million with a black cast, black filmmakers.
- There are hundreds of new members of the Academy who might be unpredictable.
- There is angst about the lack of popular films honored at the Oscars.
- There are an unprecedented number of films directed by black directors, with all black casts heading into the race.
- There is some cause in the country for optimism after the midterm elections
- America has never been more divided. That mean less politics at the Oscars = higher ratings.
- There are as yet no clear frontrunners in November.
We know these things for sure. Almost everything else is wishful thinking at this stage. It’s advocacy by people who are emotionally connected or involved with top contenders. It’s publicists hired to make sure their clients name appears in columns like this. If you leave the name off, you will hear from them. They’ll write you and ask you why they’re not included. Sometimes they’ll ask you to include them. Their job is to make sure the names are there so that even if they don’t get a nomination, at least it shows that they did their job.
As a result, there can be a muddying of predictions at times. As someone who predicts the Oscars you have to try your best to do the best you can. What I see is a lot of wishful thinking right now — so much so that it’s really really hard to tell what is actually going on. We won’t be able to know, in fact, until the nominations and precursor awards come down. You have hardcore Black Panther advocates like Kyle Buchanan at the New York Times. You have First Man advocates like me. You have people who love Olivia Colman and want her to win. You have Gaga fans pushing A Star is Born. The truth is no one knows right now how this year is going to go because there are so many unanswered questions.
Often the answer given is “the new members will vote for such and such.” Well yeah, maybe but maybe not. Superhero movie? Foreign language film in black and white? Remake? Not woke enough movie about white people? So many questions, so few answers.
I thought it might be worth taking a second look at Best Supporting Actor, since a few people wondered why I didn’t include so and so from such and such. The big question is Michael B. Jordan from Black Panther. Then there is Daniel Kaluuya from Widows. There is potentially Sam Rockwell from Vice. And Bradley Cooper from The Mule. I did not include any of these names because honestly the category is so wide open there is just no focal point beyond the frontrunner Mahershala Ali who should easily walk away with his second Oscar in as many years for his astonishing work in Green Book.
We have our frontrunner, but who might give Ali some competition? I think it’s going to depend on which films are headed for the Best Picture race. Is Widows? If so, is Viola Davis the only nominee? Black Panther remains a tough one for me — my experience writing about the Oscars tells me that superhero roles are not supported in terms of acting awards. Health Ledger is the one exception and since he died that year and The Dark Knight caused such a massive shift in how the awards are decided it’s tough to use that as the standard. Is Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther as good as Health Ledger in The Dark Knight? He might be. There are so many good performances in Black Panther — your first early clue will be the SAG nominations. Can it get an ensemble nod? Can any of the actors break through and get noticed for their work? If so, that would tell me that whatever biases voters have about superhero genre movies will not apply to Black Panther.
There is so much desire to see Black Panther get recognition in top categories that many are predicting it across the board.
Best Supporting Actor might be these five — might:
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Sam Elliot, A Star is Born
Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Adam Driver, BlacKKKlansman
So, if you’re going to add anyone — whether it’s Michael B. Jordan or Sam Rockwell or Bradley Cooper or Daniel Kaluuya — which of the original five gets the boot? Tough, right? When it comes down to five names it’s tough. Maybe Adam Driver? He’s fantastic but maybe they won’t like the movie as much. Do people think the new members will be more friendly towards Black Panther and Widows than BlackKklansman? I don’t know. Richard E. Grant. Chalamet, and Sam Elliot, though) — can’t see them being dumped.
So you tell me, Oscar watchers. Which of these five isn’t going to make it. Take our poll.