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Oscars: Idris Elba, Rooney Mara, And The Frontrunners In The Best Supporting Actor & Best Supporting Actress Race

Oscars: Idris Elba, Rooney Mara, And The Frontrunners In The Best Supporting Actor & Best Supporting Actress Race

It feels like I say this every year, but the supporting categories for the Academy Awards are, at least until the very end of the season and after SAG and co. announce their nods, much harder to call than the leading categories. It’s not always clear which actors (or even the extent of their roles) will get a push until the movies in question are widely seen, and it’s even less clear which performances will connect with voters.

Nevertheless, the potential nominees and winners in this year’s race are starting to crystalize for the 2016 Oscars, and having looked at the lead categories already, I’ll now turn to the supporting categories. Both these races are still wide, wide open, but it’s certainly starting to become clear which performances may resonate and which won’t. Take a look at the full analysis and early predictions below.

Best Supporting Actress

The Locks:
The category for Supporting Actress seems to have the thinnest roster of contenders this year. And even moreso when you realize that the only two performers who actually look like locks so far are both co-leads in their movies. Alicia Vikander is campaigning in support for “The Danish Girl,” and despite having as much, if not more, screentime than Eddie Redmayne, Focus is moving her here, where the competition is less fierce: if that is the case, she’ll all but certainly land a nod. Another lock and probably frontrunner for the win is Rooney Mara. She took Best Actress at Cannes, and for some time it seemed like she’d compete in lead for “Carol,” either in place of or alongside Cate Blanchett, but The Weinstein Company have finally decided to go with supporting. Sure, it’s category fraud, but it puts her in a much better position, and the idea of her missing on a nod is all but unthinkable.

Looking Strong:

Surprisingly few here, even by the standards of this category. Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs” is probably the most likely —she has some of the best reviews of that stacked ensemble (probably squeezing out co-star Katherine Waterston in the process). “Spotlight” looks like an awards juggernaut, which probably puts Rachel McAdams in a better slot than she might be otherwise. It’s not the kind of role that ordinarily picks up nods, though she’s very good, but with the movie seeming like such a hit with everyone and the category so thin, she could well get carried along with the love for the movie.

Julie Walters is a two time nominee for “Educating Rita” and “Billy Elliot,” and could pick up a third for “Brooklyn” if the film plays as well with the Academy as I suspect it will. And another veteran, Jane Fonda (a two time Oscar winner and seven-time nominee, but not since 1986) has a scorching scene in “Youth,” easily the film’s best. It’d be among the briefest performances ever nominated, but she’s had momentum behind her since Cannes. Just as viable is Joan Allen for “Room.” The three-time nominee didn’t come out of the festivals with that much buzz for the movie, but with the film gathering momentum, her turn as Brie Larson’s mother seems to be building. Finally, with the field so weak, don’t count out Kristen Stewart for “Clouds Of Sils Maria” —she won a Cesar for the turn, has a lot of critical support, and could figure in if IFC gives her a push.

Not Yet Seen:

Some of the heavyweights here are still lurking in the shadows, which is one of the things that makes this category so unpredictable. I hear Jessica Chastain‘s villainous turn in “Crimson Peak” is among her best work —that film’s unlikely to connect with Oscar voters, but if it does, the actress could weigh heavily in the next few months. 

More potent is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has both a Patricia Arquette-style comeback narrative and one of the more head-turning roles in “The Hateful Eight.” Tarantino’s movies often prove powerful in the supporting categories, and Leigh’s already got buzz mounting. Also in terms of very-year-end eligibility, David O. Russell’s had a hell of an acting record with his last three movies, which picked up 11 acting nods between them. We won’t know for a while who, if anyone, emerges from “Joy,” but I hear that Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd and Isabella Rosselini all have meaty roles. We could get at least one, or as with “The Fighter,” maybe even two nominations. That said, Kris Tapley of Variety, one of the most reliable names in the awards-watching game, has heard some rumors that “Joy” might not be in the mix, and that Jennifer Lawrence‘s reluctance to campaign this year (perhaps understandable after a mammoth “X-Men: Apocalypse” shoot and the forthcoming “Hunger Games” press tour) will see the film pushed into 2016. Nothing confirmed yet, but watch this space. 

Also Around:

With a relatively open field, there’s a few other actors without much heat now that could yet get a boost if their films kick up a gear, including Helena Bonham Carter in “Suffragette,” Helen Mirren in “Trumbo,” Marion Cotillard in “Macbeth” and Ellen Page in “Freeheld.” From earlier in the year, Alicia Vikander could figure in (if she goes lead for “The Danish Girl”) for “Ex Machina,” while “Love & Mercy” has a lot of fans, and thus Elizabeth Banks has a bit of buzz going behind her too.

My Early Predictions:
Joan Allen – “Room”
Diane Ladd – “Joy”

Jennifer Jason Leigh – “The Hateful Eight”

Rooney Mara – “Carol”

Alicia Vikander – “The Danish Girl”

Best Supporting Actor

The Locks:

The cast of “Spotlight,” arguably the Best Picture front-runner at this point, have decided to go the rather sweet, “Modern Family”-ish route of all campaigning together in Supporting, rather than singling one out in lead. However, this cuts down on how many nominations they’ll get, and will likely see consensus develop around one of them. It’s deemed most likely to be Michael Keaton or Mark Ruffalo (though Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci or even Billy Crudup are all among those deserving), and with Keaton having lost last year, it’ll probably be him. That said, there is a risk that they cancel each other out if the narrative doesn’t firm up. 

Looking pretty solid at this point, after the NYFF reviews from last night, is Mark Rylance for Bridge Of Spies.” The British actor is a legend on stage (winning two Tonys to date), and picked up an Emmy nod for “Wolf Hall,” but he’s mostly unknown in the movie world, or at least was until Steven Spielberg picked up on him. He’s starring in “The BFG” for the director next year, but first, he plays Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in “Bridge Of Spies,” and even those more middling on the movie praise Rylance to the skies. Unless the film completely fails to gain traction with Academy voters —and it seems like it should be up their street— expect Rylance to pick up his first Oscar nod. 

Strong Contenders:

Probably king of the next tier, though not yet guaranteed, is Idris Elba in “Beasts Of No Nation.” The actor is terrific in the movie, which has received great reviews from festival appearances. But the picture is a tough watch, and perhaps more potently, is going day-and-date with Netflix. Will Oscar voters respond positively to a movie distributed in that way? I think they’ll mostly ignore that challenge to the established order, but it could end up being a factor. Elsewhere, if he doesn’t end up in Best Actor, Jacob Tremblay from “Room” could be a player here, and the same goes for Tom Courtenay for “45 Years.”

It’s unclear who in the ensemble of “Steve Jobs” will get pushed hardest, but I imagine it’ll be Seth Rogen, while the fans of “Black Mass” are talking up Joel Edgerton, though I’m not as sure the film has the staying power to still be a force by the time voting comes around. Benicio del Toro is winning plaudits for “Sicario” and could make the cut even if the movie falters elsewhere, while Emory Cohen in “Brooklyn” is definitely one to keep an eye on if the film connects. Finally, from earlier in the year, Paul Dano is the most likely performer from “Love & Mercy” to crack the race, while A24 did some minor category fraud to push Jason Segel in the two-hander “End Of The Tour” into Supporting. I’m not totally convinced that voters will click with the film, but if they do, Segel could definitely end up in the final five.

Not Yet Seen:

As with the actresses, there’s a lot here that could change as the stragglers arrive later in the season. As ever, David O. Russell has potentials —Robert De Niro or Bradley Cooper have previous nods for his films, though the buzz I’m hearing is around Edgar Ramirez. There’s talk of him going lead, but I think he’ll end up here.

Similarly, “The Hateful Eight” has multiple possibilities, with Kurt Russell and Bruce Dern first and foremost, unless Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t campaign as lead. Tom Hardy seems very viable for “The Revenant” as well, while “The Big Short” has several big-name stars who might figure in, though I hear Christian Bale is the most likely. Academy voters love Christoph Waltz, so there’s a chance (albeit a slim one) he gets in for Bond movie “Spectre,” though Javier Bardem’s performance in “Skyfall” couldn’t. But the one to watch of all of them might be Sylvester Stallone, reprising his best-known role as Rocky Balboa in “Creed.” With the character now stricken with cancer and a lot of strong buzz around Ryan Coogler’s film, the idea of a second acting nod for the star nearly fourty years on isn’t a pipe dream.

Also Around:

There’s a relatively thin field beyond those I’ve already mentioned. But if “Trumbo,” “Youth” or “Carol” take off with voters, we could see Louis C.K., Harvey Keitel or Kyle Chandler make it in. We could also yet see an (albeit unlikely) surge for Robert Redford in “Truth” or Michael Shannon for “99 Homes,” and if people really, really love “Room,William H. Macy could go with it .

My Early Predictions

Idris Elba – “Beasts Of No Nation”

Michael Keaton – “Spotlight”

Edgar Ramirez – “Joy”

Mark Rylance – “Bridge Of Spies”

Sylvester Stallone – “Creed”

Agree? Disagree? Let us know below. And we’ll have more awards coverage for you very soon.

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