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Bruce Dern: Looking at potential Best Supporting Actor contenders

the hateful eight bruce dern

HOLLYWOOD CONTENDERS:Here we go again folks. It’s time for another category to get a somewhat in depth look at what/who its top contenders might be. I’ve gone over what this is a number of times, but in case you’re new to it all, here it is in short: it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen six or so months from now, but it’s a whole other thing entirely to actually know something about what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m once again running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet that you can use as you see fit.

Today I’m continuing with another of the bigger acting categories…yes, it’s Best Supporting Actor. Hot on the heels of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight dropping a first Trailer that offers up tons of Supporting Actor possibilities, this seems like a perfect bit of timing. You can see the Trailer in question now, by the by, but there are plenty of other contenders on hand as well. You’ll see what I mean momentarily…

First up, the Teaser Trailer for The Hateful Eight:

Here now 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. Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight) – After seeing that Trailer, you have to think that the whole ensemble could be in play, but I think the secret weapon for Tarantino might be Dern. He’s quiet and in the background, but within the film could really steal some scenes. Few others in this category fit the form of a winner more aptly than Dern, as he’s a veteran still looking for that elusive statue. He came close a few years ago with Nebraska, and if he’s half as good here as he was there, he can certainly contend for a win now. If you veer towards other contenders right now, that’s perfectly fair, but I have this gut feeling that it’s a bad idea to underestimate this master of the craft.

2. Tom Hardy (The Revenant) – Another candidate who wasn’t the overt star of his Trailer but still seems like someone to keep a close eye on is Hardy. Leonardo DiCaprio and the cinematography clearly steals the thunder, but if we have a player here in The Revenant, it could be an all around one. Hardy can easily come along for the ride. Even if that’s the case, getting him there with such an Oscar friendly movie like this one will put him in a position to actually really contend for a win. It’d be his first nomination at last, so there’d be that at least, if nothing else. He’s a loose number two, but a clear cut top five player right now.

3. Bradley Cooper (Joy) – By contrast, Cooper seems like he could threaten to steal the show in this one, judging by the Teaser Trailer. He’s two for two in getting nominated when working with Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell, so if he’s on that level again, he might actually be a bigger threat to win than many are expecting. We’ll see how Joy winds up playing, but if it’s as popular as Russell works have been with the Academy lately, ignore this contender at your own risk…

4. Sam Elliot (Grandma) – I can vouch for Elliot all but walking away with this movie, even with Lily Tomlin being outstanding. He only has one scene in Grandma, but it’s a sustained one with Tomlin that’s unquestionably the highlight of a great little film. I would have watched their extended sequence for a feature length, so if I’m not alone in that feeling, watch out for Elliot as a veteran spoiler later on this year. He’s got the goods here, take it from me.

5. John Cusack (Love & Mercy) *Could go Lead – It’s a crime that Cusack has yet to be nominated for an Academy Award, so perhaps this pseudo biopic will finally do the trick for him? A lot will depend on category placement, but it feels like he’ll be getting a Supporting campaign, which will put him in the thick of the race. It’s as good as Cusack has been in quite a while, so it’ll be a more than deserved citation, provided it winds up coming through. Stay tuned on this one…

6. Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight) *Could go Lead – Honestly, the best bet from Tarantino’s flick might be Russell, provided he doesn’t wind up going Lead. I just didn’t want to predict two actors from the same film this early in a top five, which explains why Russell is below Cusack and Elliot right now. Russell clearly is having a blast working with QT again, so The Hateful Eight easily could end up being his vehicle. We’ll just have to wait and see how voters during the season respond to it.

7. Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs) – Much like Jonah Hill was able to use Aaron Sorkin dialogue to score his first Oscar nod, Rogen could do the same for his first nom here. He’s been great in more serious fare like 50/50 and Take this Waltz before, so I think this could certainly be a possibility. It won’t be easy for Rogen, but Sorkin’s words could definitely be a boon to him. Especially if one of the above contenders doesn’t pan out, he might wind up right there in the end.

8. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) – A lesser known name than many of the other top contenders right now, Rylance has the added advantage of a hugely baity role in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War spy thriller. He’ll have to really stand out from the pack, but Bridge of Spies won’t lack for a huge campaign this season, that’s for sure, and that will help Rylance get his name out there. We’ll see if that’s enough, but he’s clearly someone to keep an eye on.

9. Billy Bob Thornton (Our Brand is Crisis) – A hunch of mine is that this flick is going to be a player, so as such Thornton could easily score a nomination here. David Gordon Green directs actors as well as anyone, so while Thornton will have some in house competition (see below), going up against Sandra Bullock in some juicy scenes will all but assure him of some form of consideration by the Academy.

10. Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight) – Another potential option out of QT’s eighth outing is Jackson, who’s gotten into the Academy’s good graces by working with this filmmaker before, as we all know. He came close last time around with Django Unchained too, so depending on how his fellow actors size up as competition, he could be in play here. It might be an uphill battle, but between Jackson and other bigger contenders like Jeff Daniels (for Steve Jobs), Benicio del Toro (for Sicario), Harvey Keitel (for Youth), and Anthony Mackie (for Our Brand is Crisis), I’m backing him. We’ll see how that goes, but for now, it makes sense.

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

11. Jeff Daniels (Steve Jobs)
12. Benicio del Toro (Sicario)
13. Harvey Keitel (Youth)
14. Anthony Mackie (Our Brand is Crisis)
15. Tim Roth (The Hateful Eight)
16. Kyle Chandler (Carol)
17. Kevin Kline (Ricki and the Flash)
18. Michael Keaton (Spotlight)
19. Domhnall Gleeson (The Revenant)
20. Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash)

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

21. Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
22. Edgar Ramirez (Joy)
23. Ewan McGregor (Miles Ahead)
24. Emory Cohen (Brooklyn)
25. Forest Whitaker (Southpaw)
26. Michael Sheen (Far from the Maddening Crowd)
27. Dominic West (Genius)
28. Robert De Niro (Joy)
29. Michael Madsen (The Hateful Eight)
30. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)

That’s what the Best Supporting Actor race could very well be made up of when all is said and done folks. Stay tuned next week (same awards time, same awards channel) for my brand new 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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