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Re-ranking the contenders in Best Supporting Actor

As I’ve been mentioning to you all over the past couple of weeks, with the festival season well underway/now nearing completion and just about all of the major contenders for the Academy Awards having screened or about to screen, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the big eight categories to see what’s what in an updated/more expanded fashion. I did this with the major categories a few months back, but that was when almost everything was still speculation. We have some facts to go on now, so while much of this is still mostly an educated guess, I’m not completely relying on overt hunches this time around. It’s more of an even mix, depending on the film/director/performer in question, of course. Today I’m turning my attention once again to the Best Supporting Actor field, which, like the other categories, won’t necessarily match up with Best Picture in any major way, but likely won’t be too far off from the pack in the end either. Read on to see what I’m talking about for this one…

One special note about Best Supporting Actor this year is that, unlike all of the other categories, it seems like there’s a fairly likely winner already. There are plenty of worthy contenders (with the top three being locks), so this isn’t a barren field, but it appears like the race is all but over already. You’ll see what I mean…

Here are the ten particular thespians that I have in play for Best Supporting Actor, with the top five cracking the unofficial lineup at this point:

1. J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) – Barring something unforeseen, Simmons is just a matter of months away from not just receiving his first Oscar nomination, but also his first win as well. Simmons is explosive and downright phenomenal in Whiplash, giving easily one of the best performances that I’ve seen this year. His nomination is a sure thing, mark my words, with the Academy Award win almost certainly next to follow. I’d be shocked if he didn’t win Best Supporting Actor in a walk.

2. Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) – For much of the season Ruffalo has basically been the de facto frontrunner in this category. Part of that was due to his film being baity, while part was due to Ruffalo being seen as someone who’d make a good winner. Now, having seen Foxcatcher, I can say without question that he deserves to be nominated, but he probably won’t win. In fact, I’m not even sure he’s a strong number two right now. His time as a winner will definitely come, it’s just not here yet.

3. Edward Norton (Birdman) – In a different year, I could totally see Norton walking away with the Academy Award for his often hilarious performance. As it stands now, he’s making a push towards being the number two contender in this category. I don’t see Norton having a legitimate shot at dethroning Simmons, but this is another actor who will see an Oscar statue come his way sooner rather than later. It’s only a matter of time for him.

4. Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) – The above three gentlemen are in, with two other slots open. One will most likely be Hawke, who’s outstanding in Richard Linklater’s monumental achievement. Hawke has been nominated multiple times by the Academy previously, so voters are fond of him, which never hurts. If some of the unseen contenders really impress, he could fall off, but at this moment, it’s hard not to predict him for a Supporting Actor nod.

5. Logan Lerman (Fury) – The fifth spot is wide open for the taking, that’s for sure. At the moment, I lean towards Lerman in the potential hit that is Fury. He’s on the younger side for a nom, but if this World War II tale becomes something that voters are big on, he could easily get taken along for the ride. He’s ever so slightly in this spot for now, but it can change in a heartbeat, so stay tuned…

6. Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice) – If voters actually understand Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, Brolin’s comedic performance could easily slip in. Right now, I’m hedging my bets and having him just outside the top five, but that’s just based on me not being sure how the Academy will handle Inherent Vice. If they “get it” more than The Master, he’s probably in. If they don’t, then he’s in real danger of being snubbed. We shall see.

7. Robert Duvall (The Judge) – Had the movie been better, Duvall would have been a lock for a nomination here. Even still, I wouldn’t be shocked if he still wound up in the fifth spot at the end of it all. There’s no chance that he wins for The Judge, but this nod is far from out of the question. It’s a nom that won’t please many people, but it’s one that’s definitely on the table, like it or not.

8. Tim Roth (Selma) – This film is such an unknown quantity now, I can’t quite get on board with Roth being right on the cusp of a nod. If the flick turns out to be a major player, a nom will certainly be in play, but the jury is just still out right now. His part is certainly dark and showy enough to get him in, but Roth needs Selma to be closer to a major contender than a fringe one, obviously.

9. Takamasa Ishihara (Unbroken) – If this epic from Angelina Jolie is a big contender, Ishihara’s villainous performance will 100% be on the table for a citation. Hopefuls who don’t give performances in English are sadly at a disadvantage most of the time, but this is one that could break through. We’ll see in the next few months, but right now you need to mark him down as a pretty big X factor…

10. Adam Sandler (Men, Women & Children) – You can go in any number of directions for this tenth place, so I’m just going to mention Sandler here, as he gives one of the more impressive performances of the year. Had the film done better with critics (excluding myself), I suspect that Sandler would be talked about quite a bit as being worthy of his first citation. As it stands now, he’ll need a lot of help, but this slot is open ended, so he’s as good a person to place here as any.

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my own commentary here) for Best Supporting Actor:

11. Johnny Depp (Into the Woods)
12. Dean Norris (Men, Women & Children)
13. Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken)
14. Albert Brooks (Big Eyes)
15. Tom Wilkinson (Selma)
16. John Lithgow (Love is Strange)
17. Chris Pine (Into the Woods)
18. James Gandolfini (The Drop)
19. Alfred Molina (Love is Strange)
20. Ansel Elgort (Men, Women & Children)

Finally, here are ten more possibilities to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Joaquin Phoenix (The Immigrant)
22. Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man)
23. Danny Huston (Big Eyes)
24. Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game)
25. Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
26. Chris O’Dowd (St. Vincent)
27. Charlie Cox (The Theory of Everything)
28. Neil Patrick Harris (Gone Girl)
29. Dominic West (Pride)
30. Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys)

Stay tuned next week for my updated look at the Best Supporting Actress race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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