Sorting through the Supporting Actor Glut

Source: Columbia Pictures

The Supporting Actor category this year, at least for a couple spaces, has really seemed in this large state of flux. Rarely in recent memory has there been in a category in which so many different contenders have won a precursor award, but my challenge today is to sort through all of those precursors to really sniff out who has a chance, because let’s face it – no one really thinks John C. Reilly is going to be nominated for Cedar Rapids.

So let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. There are three men who are all but guaranteed a nomination come the announcement. In terms of awardage, Albert Brooks for Drive is surprisingly in first place with a whopping 28 mentions from various critics groups including the BFCA, the Globes, and the NYFCC. While he missed out at SAG, don’t expect that to happen at the Oscars. He’s in for a nomination – possibly the win. Christopher Plummer for Beginners is certainly still in there too, with 21 mentions across the groups. He, however, has the best record with the big boys. Plummer really only missed the NYFCC and got all 5 of the BFCA, the Globes, LAFCC, the NBR, and SAG. Shue in. The third nominee who is a strong definite is the hyper-British hyper-actor Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn. His far stealthier awards track still holds 9 award mentions including the BFCA, the Globes, and SAG. He’s got a pretty good record going for him, he turns in a fun performance, and I can’t see why he will miss this nomination.

Now it’s time for the tricky part…

With those three nominees already secured, there are still 24 other names that have been mentioned. Let’s get rid of those one-and-done, never-gonna-happen nominations, shall we? Simon Russell Beale (The Deep Blue Sea), Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker), Colin Farrel (Horrible Bosses), John Goodman (The Artist), Tom Hardy (Tinker), Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur), Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin), John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids), Alex Shaffer (Win Win), Michael Smiley (Kill List), and Hugo Weaving (Oranges and Sunshine).

And just like that the field is cut in half. The list of possible nominees to take those last two spots looks as if it’s anyone’s game. Observe:

  • Ryan Gosling – Crazy, Stupid, Love
  • Armie Hammer – J. Edgar
  • John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Jonah Hill – Moneyball
  • Viggo Mortensen – A Dangerous Method
  • Nick Nolte – Warrior
  • Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
  • Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life
  • Alan Rickman – Harry Potter 7:2
  • Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Corey Stoll – Midnight in Paris
  • Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • Christoph Waltz – Carnage

At any point in the season, each of these men had a moment when someone, somewhere thought they were going to sail to an Oscar nod. This obviously can not be the case for all 13, but is the case for just 2. There are however a couple patterns to glean from this hullaballoo. I’ve divided these actors into three categories.

Category 1 – I thought they would have more support.

Each of the actor’s here really only managed one or two random nominations from things like the Ohio Film Critics and never really lit the circuit on fire. Yet these names continued to get bandied about as possible contenders. All of these names are weaker than any of us expected and should be considered thusly.

  • Brad Pitt
  • Alan Rickman
  • Corey Stoll
  • Max von Sydow
  • Christoph Waltz

However, this is the category of support where the Maggie Gyllenhaal effect comes into play. She never had any real major precursors and then KAPOW! nomination for Crazy Horse. She just rode in on Jeff Bridges coat tails. The only two possible coat tail riders are Pitt and Stoll.

Category 2 – Your one major precursor doesn’t mean you’re in.

These guys have done fairly well around the circuit, but let’s face it. Each of them only has one major coup as a talking point. Sure they might be in the discussion a little more as a result of that, but I truly believe that NONE of these men will appear on nomination morning. In each of their respective nomination groups, they are clearly in 5th place, and none of their films are that hot right now, so I will be stunned if momentum carries them in.

  • Ryan Gosling – Major Precursor: Golden Globes
  • Armie Hammer – Major Precursor: SAG
  • John Hawkes – No Major Precursor, but 5 smaller nominations. Still no chance.
  • Viggo Mortensen – Major Precursor: Golden Globes
  • Andy Serkis – Major Precursor: BFCA

These just aren’t going to happen. Maybe Andy Serkis… maybe.

And now there are three men, with two major precursor nods and a smattering of other smaller mentions.

Category 3 – The Three

  • Jonah Hill – Majors: Globes, SAG – 5 mentions
  • Nick Nolte – Majors: BFCA, SAG – 6 mentions
  • Patton Oswalt – Majors: BFCA, LAFCC – 4 mentions

And just like that in category 3, it’s plain to see that Jonah Hill and Nick Nolte have the definite edge on Patton Oswalt. They have more mentions across the board, and the respective precursors they have shown up in are unquestionably more influential.

And now for a ranking of all possible Supporting Actor Contenders:

1. Christopher Plummer

2. Albert Brooks

3. Kenneth Branagh

4. Jonah Hill

5. Nick Nolte

6. Patton Oswalt

7. Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris is on a roll!)

8. Brad Pitt

9. Andy Serkis

Any other name would shock my delicate sensibilities. I hope this overly in depth look at the field helped you to distinguish who actually has a pony in this race, and who is just happy to be mentioned. It certainly helped me.


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