There are two ways a supporting contender gets into the Oscar race. The first and most common is that they are dragged along with Best Picture. If a film is winning Best Picture, or even nominated, there will be an actor nominated along with it 90% of the time, whether it’s in lead or supporting or both.
Supporting can sometimes also mean a lead role that’s been put in the supporting category. Some Oscar peeps call this “category fraud.” Even still, it’s hard to deny that a person with a meatier role will win when their performance dwarfs everyone else in the category, like Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl or Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind. There appear to be a lot of actual lead performances that might go into supporting this year, but Matt Damon is running in lead for Ford v Ferrari instead of supporting, and Shia LaBoeuf is running in supporting instead of lead for Honey Boy, where Noah Jupe is contending instead. But that still leaves us with a supporting actor category that is JUST as packed as lead actor.
Tying the role to a Best Picture contender is often the way to go when looking for a winner, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Like Christopher Plummer for Beginners who caught a wave in the beginning and held onto it – he is the only winner in the era of the expanded ballot who didn’t have a Best Picture nomination to go along with his award. Before the expanded ballot it happened more often.
To start with, Tom Hanks could become the frontrunner to win if he starts winning and doesn’t stop, even if A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t nominated for Best Picture. Why, because he’s Tom Hanks and because Mr. Rogers is Mr. Rogers. That is more than enough to overcome the Best Picture problem. On the other hand, if he is winning there is a good chance the film WILL be nominated for Best Picture. They go hand in hand.
That means we can order our picks according to those two categories – people who will be in likely Best Picture contenders and those who might get in based on star power or overall heat.
We still have to sidebar 1917 and Richard Jewell for now, as neither has been seen.
How well liked a movie is will determine how many, if any, supporting actors get in. For example – though obviously this can cross over – Anthony Hopkins could get in if The Two Popes gets in or if it doesn’t, but:
The Irishman – how well liked? Do both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci get in? If so, VERY well liked, might WIN.
Jojo Rabbit – how well liked? If Taika Waititi gets in for supporting, very well liked. If both Waititi and Sam Rockwell get in? Forget about it, it’s winning Best Picture.
Ford v Ferrari – how well liked? If Tracy Letts and/or Matt Damon gets in – very well liked.
Marriage Story – how well liked? If Alan Alda gets in, very well liked.
Waves – if either Sterling K. Brown or Kelvin Harrison get in, they will be there because voters like the movie.
Dark Waters – if Tim Robbins gets in, very well liked.
As opposed to stars who might get in regardless of how well liked the movie is -or as stand-alone contenders:
Tom Hanks, Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Timothee Chalamet, Little Women
Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse
Jamie Foxx, Just Mercy
Alec Baldwin, Motherless Brooklyn
Zack Gottsagen, The Peanut Butter Falcon
John Lithgow, Bombshell
Jonathan Majors, Last Black Man in San Francisco
Either/or – gets in with the movie and gets in without:
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Obviously it helps to be in a Best Picture contender. Right now, at Gold Derby, I have three Netflix contenders predicted for Best Supporting Actor. Obviously, that seems very unlikely to happen. My predictions will no doubt change. At the moment, though, this is what I have:
1. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – this could turn out to be the season of Brad Pitt, depending on how well liked the film continues to be. The one thing about Brad Pitt is that he has so much charisma and charm it might as well be a superpower. Get him on stage accepting a statue and it might put out the lights in the room. If a win is based on how good it feels to watch someone win, Pitt might gain traction from that. He’s also really great in the part of the dog-loving stuntman in the film. In general, the Academy doesn’t often give awards out to good looking actors unless they do something to rough themselves up but this might be an exception to that rule. He will also have the advantage of being a lead performance in a supporting category, which gives him an advantage.
2.Joe Pesci, The Irishman – like Pitt, Pesci has a place in our collective consciousness that’s permanent – mainly from Raging Bull and Goodfellas. He has memorable scenes in both films (“Your mother sucks big elephant fucking elephant fucking dicks” and “What the fuck is so funny about me!?”) but in The Irishman he is not uncorked but rather much quieter, calmer and finally he seems old. Pesci getting old seemed to take forever but it suits him like a perfect suit and there is something about his work in Irishman that stands out – though of course Al Pacino is just as good. It is an ensemble to beat all others and Pesci not only stands a chance of being nominated, he could win the thing. If you have Irishman predicted for Best Picture, you should predict Pesci to win here.
3. Tom Hanks, Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Hanks could win the whole thing too, though it would help if the film itself got in and had many nominations across the board. Without that, it lands on entirely on Hanks, who already, famously, has two Oscars. That doesn’t mean he still can’t win but it will rest, I think, on what people feel about the film overall. Lord knows helping him is the good cheer for Mr. Rogers, whose voice is greatly needed right now.
4. Wesley Snipes, Dolemite Is My Name – no one at Gold Derby has Snipes predicted but indeed, anyone who sees the film knows what a standout Snipes is. Though it will be dependent on the Netflix factor, without a doubt, AND how much people like the film overall. One thing that my pundit pals are forgetting is that Oscar years without at least one film with an all black cast are a thing of the past. Sure, it happens now and again but it’s rare. The reason being that SAG supports a much more inclusive membership and they often have at least one all black cast in their ensemble. So Snipes and Dolemite, I think, benefit from being the rare ensemble that is an all black cast. He also more than deserves praise for his hilarious portrayal in Dolemite.
5. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes – This is a wild card at the moment, for a couple of reasons. The first is the Netflix factor – yes, it’s a factor. But the other thing is that Sir Anthony isn’t going to be campaigning – as if he’d need to. He is of a certain stature where it is not necessary. I’m sure he’d come out if absolutely necessary but at the moment this whole thing is playing way on the downlow. So much so that it might be the one that misses — but based on his being a lead performance, him being Sir Anthony, and the movie being well liked all around I’ll go with this.
But I would not be surprised if:
Timothee Chalamet gets in for Little Women – it will depend on how much the movie is liked overall but if it gets PGA and SAG Chalamet has a real shot.
Alan Alda or Ray Liotta get in for Marriage Story. Both of them are great but their parts are a wee bit small. Still, Alda has the clout and could very easily ride this wave in.
John Lithgow for Bombshell – it’s another ensemble where the film itself will make the difference but he’s fantastic as Roger Ailes.
Zack Gottsagen gets in as the first actor with Down Syndrome to earn a nod for The Peanut Butter Falcon.
Sterling K. Brown gets in on the strength of Waves overall, if it hits with actors and Academy members.
Alec Baldwin and the entire Motherless Brooklyn crew get nominations because actors rule.
Moving on to Best Supporting Actress.
The same rules apply for Supporting Actress as Supporting Actor – the stronger the Best Picture, the better the chances.
Marriage Story – how well liked? If Laura Dern starts winning or gets nominated? The movie is well liked.
Jojo Rabbit – Scarlett Johansson could be swept along with how well the movie is liked overall.
Little Women – if it’s well liked, Florence Pugh has a strong shot at a nod.
Bombshell – if it is nominate for Best Pic, which it might considering that it will have a lead performance, then yes, Margot Robbie has a real shot at a nod, as does Nicole Kidman.
Dolemite is My Name – if the film is well liked, then the fabulous Da’Vine Joy Randolph will turn up in the supporting category.
Waves – if Waves is well liked, it’s hard to imagine Taylor Russell or Renee Elise Goldsberry not getting in.
Roles that might get in without necessarily needing a Best Picture nomination, but would of course benefit greatly from one:
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Anne Hathaway, Dark Waters
Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Motherless Brooklyn
Elisabeth Moss, Us
Annette Bening, The Report
Just like Supporting Actor, it is impossible to really guess and be right at this stage. Looking back on last year there was still so much we didn’t know. We won’t really know anything until the end of November, when the National Board of Review, New York and LA Film Critics, AFI and Golden Globes ring in. Until they do we are all just spit-balling. But be that as it may — here are my five picks RIGHT NOW:
1. Laura Dern, Marriage Story – it feels like she has the heat because the film is well liked, and even loved by many already. She has been consistently turning in great performance after great performance and yet, has never won an Oscar. She has a juicy part in Noah Baumbach’s film in a strong ensemble cast and most importantly, Dern will show up as an in-it-to-win-it contender. She is, I must say, one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met — it comes through more in person than it does on screen but I imagine that kind of thing can only help her win.
2. Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers – the astounding thing about Hustlers is that it’s passed the hundred million mark, making it the only film directed by a female to do so this year other than Captain Marvel, which is co-directed. Hustlers is directed and adapted by Lorene Scafaria, and seems potentially poised to land in the PGA’s top ten, could get into SAG ensemble and might get into Best Picture too. But even if it doesn’t, Lopez has secured her place. She’ll also bring the glam, which is always a plus.
3. Margot Robbie, Bombshell – Robbie is the “it” girl of the moment, without a doubt and that could land her in the winner’s spot, but it most surely seems a sure bet for a nomination, unless she gets in for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood instead. She has a meatier role in Bombshell, and is one of the standouts. But it won’t hurt if she’s also in a Best Picture nominee, and especially if she’s in two Best Picture nominees, which she might be.
4. Da’Vine Randolph Joy for Dolemite Is My Name – Speaking of stand-outs, it’s hard to watch Dolemite Is My Name and not appreciate Joy for this performance. For one thing, it’s one of the few films ever made that highlights the friendship between a man and a woman that is just a friendship. It is just so sweetly told, in particular the scene where Lady Reed advises Rudy Ray Moore on how to do the love scene – “just make it funny.”
5. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit – Finally, I have Johansson getting in as a double nominee for Marriage Story in lead and for Jojo Rabbit in supporting. It will depend on how much voters like the movie overall, whether she gets in or not, but I’m betting they like it a lot, and thus, she will get in based on the film’s strength.
Right on the fence, though:
Shuzhen Zhou, The Farewell – a brilliant role in a film that is well liked. Can it break through?
Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson – or any of the actresses in Little Women – if the film is well received, it should earn nominations across the board.