This year a strong group of ensemble films are jamming into the Supporting Actor category. Spike Lee’s well-reviewed early Netflix release “Da 5 Bloods” costars Clarke Peters as an ex-soldier who joins his old pals on a return trip to Vietnam, Jonathan Majors as the son of a traumatized veteran (Best Actor contender Delroy Lindo), and the late great Chadwick Boseman as their long-buried Vietnam comrade. Boseman won Best Supporting actor at the New York Film Critics Circle, and could become the first late actor to compete against himself in two acting categories; he’s the favorite to win Best Actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Other Netflix Oscar contenders include Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst in “Mank,” David Fincher’s biopic about the making of “Citizen Kane,” and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” starring a slew of supporting actor candidates who are all competing together, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Oscar veterans Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance and Frank Langella.
Arguably playing a lead role is beloved veteran Bill Murray as a larger-than-life father doing marital detective work for his daughter (Rashida Jones) in his reunion with “Lost in Translation” director Sofia Coppola, her New York valentine “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV+), which played well at the New York Film Festival.
Playing a real-life character in Regina King’s feature film directing debut “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) is Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, who after his victory over heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964, meets with friends Malcolm X (breakout Kingsley Ben-Adir, who is competing in lead), Sam Cooke (“Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (“Clemency” star Aldis Hodge) to figure out ways to change things in the segregated South. The film drew raves out of Venice and Toronto.
Rising in the rankings is Los Angeles Supporting Actor runner-up Paul Raci, who plays a deaf counselor to a heavy metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) who loses his hearing in “Sound of Metal.” Actors will relate to Raci’s story: he’s a veteran hearing actor raised by deaf parents; American Sign Language was his first language.
Holding his own with Michelle Pfeiffer as her son is Lucas Hedges (nominated for “Manchester By the Sea”), who moves with his mother to Paris in “French Exit” (Sony Pictures Classics), the well-reviewed New York Film Festival closer. He also nabbed strong reviews in a similar role as Meryl Streep’s nephew in Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Max title “Let Them All Talk.”
Sometimes a surprise performance flies in from left field: Pedro Pascal not only has earned global stardom for his masked hero in Disney+ series “The Mandalorian,” but steals “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros.) from romantic action stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. He transforms what could have been a stock villain hellbent on grabbing global power into a gloriously entertaining megalomaniac with a beating heart. A star is born.
Coming up in the new year, Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) could score his second nod for his role as Black Panther Fred Hampton in “Judas and the Black Messiah” (2021, Warner Bros.).
All contenders are listed in alphabetical order. No film will be deemed a frontrunner until I’ve seen it.
Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Chadwick Boseman (“Da 5 Bloods”)
Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”)
Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)
Paul Raci (“Sound of Metal”)
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Frank Langella (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Pedro Pascal (“Wonder Woman 1984”)
Jeremy Strong (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Charles Dance (“Mank”)
Johnny Flynn (“Emma”)
Eli Goree (“One Night in Miami”)
Lucas Hedges (“French Exit”)
Lance Henriksen (“Falling”)
Aldis Hodge (“One Night in Miami”)
Arliss Howard (“Mank”)
Jonathan Majors (“Da 5 Bloods”)
Clarke Peters (“Da 5 Bloods”)
Mark Rylance (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
J.K. Simmons (“Palm Springs”)
Eddie Redmayne (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
David Strathairn (“Nomadland”)