Eric Bialas just tweeted to me the following:
@AwardsDaily – Putting together early predictions, and the supporting categories are tough as F.
— Eric (@ericbialas) September 28, 2015
Indeed, this year is still wide open, thus any sort of predictions are proving tricky. In a few months we will know what names are strongest in those categories. Right now, we have only a rough idea of where it might be going with many more options coming up in the films ahead.
The one thing that seems clear about this year is that the supporting categories might offer spillover for Best Actor. That seems likelier than it usually does simply because there are SO MANY good parts that will have to be put in supporting since there is no room left in the lead actor category.
Three supporting performances took hold in the first half of the year. They could be considered leads in any other year but this one. And they are:
1. Paul Dano in Love & Mercy. Maybe it’s the sentimentality in the Beach Boys songs, or maybe it’s how brilliantly Dano captures Brian Wilson. Or maybe it’s just that the movie overall is so likable that many of us are hoping it is remembered by year’s end. Or maybe it’s that Paul Dano is already a great actor with a vast and impressive body of work behind him and has yet to be nominated for a single Oscar. Not for 12 Years a Slave, not for There Will Be Blood, not for Little Miss Sunshine. His work in Love & Mercy is beyond anything we’ve seen him do, even still. It is a heartfelt, memorable, dazzling performance by someone who infused every part of himself with Brian Wilson. His co-star, John Cusack is also someone who should be acknowledged and remembered but it seems like too much to ask for both to be included. One is going to be hard enough.
2. Jason Segel in The End of the Tour. Yeah, I know people who knew David Foster Wallace were annoyed with the movie and with Segel’s portrayal, but for those of us who didn’t know him personally but who merely watched interviews with him on YouTube? Segel’s performance is spot on. It’s just such good acting all the way around, but you really have to let go of this idea that it was a docudrama on DFW. Rather, it was one artist’s interpretation of an encounter that was put to memory. So a lot of it is seen through the eyes of the writer, played by Jesse Eisenberg. The notion of it being the real guy has to be abandoned for the sake of DFW’s memory and for the sake of the film. Either way, Segel’s work here should not be ignored.
3. Harvey Keitel in Youth. While Michael Caine seems to be the one who will get the (well deserved) lead Oscar nomination, his co-star, Harvey Keitel, could pull in a supporting nod. Keitel has only ever been nominated once. Not for The Piano, not for Reservoir Dogs, not for Taxi Driver but for his supporting turn in Bugsy. I guess that’s because people always think Keitel is “playing himself.” His work here, in this ensemble, would ordinarily be lead but it has to be supporting because Caine is lead and there isn’t room for two Best Actor nominees from any one film, not this year.
Moving on through the festival circuit, things get even more condensed. At Telluride, Steve Jobs brought not just Jeff Daniels in a notable turn, but also Seth Rogan, believe it or not. Room has Jacob Tremblay who could be run in supporting because he’ll never get into lead, or else it would be tough. Joel Edgerton is one of the best performances in Black Mass and is almost a lead, really, but would have to be viewed as supporting because Depp is lead. Moving on Toronto, there is Robert Redford in Truth — Redford, who didn’t campaign and thus missed out on a Best Actor nod for All is Lost. There is Benicio Del Toro who very nearly steals the show in Sicario, and there is the “holy shit” performance of Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation. These are all powerhouse performances that could very well bump any of those mentioned above.
The entire supporting actor category could be devoted to just the film Spotlight. How many great performances? Liev Schreiber is fantastic in Spotlight (AND in Pawn Sacrifice). Stanley Tucci once again knocks it out of the park. Michael Keaton, for chrissakes absolutely on his game. And finally, the one who will probably get the nod, Mark Ruffalo yet again poised to be a nominee. Ruffalo has been nominated twice, once for The Kids Are All Right and once for Foxcatcher. He is the beating heart of Spotlight, though honestly, all of the performances are good.
Speaking of supporting turns, The Martian has Jeff Daniels again, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Both could be considered for the supporting category.
Several films coming up promise great supporting turns, most notably by Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, and Tom Hardy who is already garnering major buzz for his work on The Revenant. The Big Short is going to be packed with at least two supporting turns with Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell. Max Von Sydow, Harrison Ford and who knows who else from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Robert DeNiro from Joy. Then we get to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, which might have a few great supporting turns pop up, like Samuel L. Jackson. Then there is Sylvester Stallone maybe turning in a great performance as the aging Rocky in Creed. Hey, stranger things have happened.
So how do we go about ordering these names? We can’t know what the films with the most best picture heat will be yet. We think we know but we don’t know. I would probably start my five this way (without really knowing anything, of course):
1. Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
2. Tom Hardy, The Revenant
3. Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
4. Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
5. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
6. Harvey Keitel, Youth
7. Michael Keaton, Spotlight
8. Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
9. Samuel L. Jackson, The Hateful Eight
10. Robert DeNiro, Joy
11. Jeff Daniels, Steve Jobs
12. Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
13. Robert Redford, Truth
But again, who really knows how this whole thing will play out. So much of who gets in depends on what films are liked by the voting bodies overall.