Re-ranking the contenders in Best Supporting Actress

patricia arquette 300x170
Ladies and gentlemen, as I’ve been mentioning to you over the past couple of weeks, it’s getting to be go time, as it were. 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 just speculation. We have some facts to go on now, so while much of this is still mostly an educated guess, I’m once again 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 Actress field, which, like the other categories, won’t necessarily match up with Best Picture in any overtly noticeable 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 here…

One special note about Best Supporting Actress this year is that, unlike the other categories, it seems to be the weakest of the lot. There’s a de facto frontrunner, but aside from her, no one seems to be talking about any of the contenders as potential winners. In fact, just filling up a list of the hopefuls can be a bit challenging. At best, there are four ladies who can feel like they have decent shots at a nomination. More so than anywhere else, that fifth spot is just wide open, so in that sense it’s really anyone’s game.

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

1. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) – Our frontrunner by default, Arquette is of course terrific in Boyhood, but in other years she certainly wouldn’t be the odds on favorite this early on. That being said, if Boyhood is seriously contending for a Best Picture win, her chances only improve. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone else managed to wrestle the crown from her, but I also wouldn’t be shocked at all if Arquette just winds up waltzing to not just this nomination, but the win as well.

2. Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) – Without any real heavyweight contenders, Knightley seems like the only other notable challenger in Best Supporting Actress so far. Her part in The Imitation Game is juicy, but it’s not what you’d normally consider a “winning” performance. Still, she’s probably the closest one to upending Arquette right now. If her film becomes the Best Picture frontrunner, she could see her chances improve, doubly so if Benedict Cumberbatch winds up winning Best Actor. Stay tuned…

3. Emma Stone (Birdman) – Assuming the Academy really likes Birdman, there’s no reason not to assume that Stone won’t be a more likely than not nominee. It’s one of her best performances to date, so it’s high time that Oscar recognized her anyway. In another year, she’d struggle for a nod, but this year the nom seems to be shaping up for her. I doubt she’ll threaten for the win, but the odds are in her favor to at least become a nominee at this point.

4. Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) – As with most years, when Streep comes on the screen, you mark her down for a nomination, independent almost of the quality of the film or performance. As long as Into the Woods is watchable, you have to assume she’ll be in play here. There’s a chance this music falls flat on its face, but if it doesn’t, Streep seems like the one who will really benefit the most. This is a performance that we probably shouldn’t sleep on folks.

5. Kristen Stewart (Still Alice) – You can go in just about any direction you want here, but if Julianne Moore is really going to happen for Best Actress with Still Alice, the movie needs to contend elsewhere too. That’s where Stewart comes into play, as reports have her turning in top notch work as well. She’d of course be a ratings boon, but she’s also one of the industry’s bright young talents, so her time will come eventually. It just has a chance to be this year.

6. Laura Dern (Wild or The Fault in Our Stars) – Her performance in The Fault in Our Stars won’t be the one cited, but Dern could be helped by her highly regarded supporting turn there if Shailene Woodley is on the cusp of a Best Actress nomination. That in turn will boost Dern here for Wild, along with the help Reese Witherspoon will be giving her from that flick. The nature of her role in Wild could either help or hurt, depending on the voter, but no matter what…she’s in play.

7. Jessica Chastain (Interstellar) – Some early reports have Chastain being one to watch here for Interstellar. She’s got a ton of Lead performances to put out there, but this could be her best bet at getting in this year. Particularly if Interstellar seeks to be something more than just the “blockbuster” nominee this year, it’ll need to at least have a shot in an acting category. Chastain represents their best chance, so keep an eye out for how she does on the precursor circuit.

8. Carrie Coon (Gone Girl) – If Gone Girl is going to be a big player, a Supporting Actress citation for under the radar MVP Coon isn’t impossible. She’s excellent in the film, popular on TV with The Leftovers, and considered an up and comer. This is a longer shot than those top seven, but it’s also a contender we shouldn’t count out completely. Coon will need the film to really be in play all over the place, but the more money it makes, the more she stays in the conversation.

9. Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) – Depending on if voters get Inherent Vice at all, this is either a more or less likely contender. Waterston is great in the film, but it’s potentially going to be a hard sell. I can vouch for the quality of the work, but something tells me that this movie will have an even harder time getting cited than The Master did. If that’s the case, Waterston will most likely wind up on the outside looking in, but stay tuned.

10. Sienna Miller (American Sniper) – I have this odd hunch that American Sniper is going to be a huge force to be reckoned with, so that influences my placement of Miller here. If the film is in play for Best Picture and shoots (no pun intended) Bradley Cooper towards the top of the Best Actor race, Miller could certainly come along for the ride here as a supportive wife. Technically she also has Foxcatcher in play, which might help here, but American Sniper is the one she’d get votes for, if she gets votes at all.

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

11. Carmen Ejogo (Selma)
12. Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods)
13. Naomi Watts (Birdman or St. Vincent)
14. Rene Russo (Nightcrawler)
15. Vanessa Redgrave (Foxcatcher)
16. Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent)
17. Marisa Tomei (Love is Strange)
18. Jess Weixler (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby)
19. Imelda Staunton (Pride)
20. Kaitlyn Dever (Men, Women & Children)

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

21. Lorelei Linklater (Boyhood)
22. Viola Davis (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby or Get On Up)
23. Brie Larson (The Gambler)
24. Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer)
25. Sigourney Weaver (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
26. Jessica Lange (The Gambler)
27. Judy Greer (Men, Women & Children)
28. Shohreh Aghdashloo (Rosewater)
29. Krysten Ritter (Big Eyes)
30. Jane Fonda (This is Where I Leave You)

Stay tuned next week for my new and updated look at one of the Screenplay races!

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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