This year’s Supporting Actor field includes a veteran Oscar-winner going up against a batch of newbies. That may or may not prove an advantage, as all the first-time nominees are featured players in Best Picture contenders, while J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash’) stars in Aaron Sorkin’s delightful “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon), which landed a PGA nomination but missed the Best Picture cut. Clearly the Academy actors appreciated this surprising look behind the scenes during one intense week of the “I Love Lucy” TV show. Simmons seems born to play curmudgeon William Frawley, who despite his penchant for day-drinking, delivers his jokes on cue opposite Lucille Ball (nominated Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (nominated Javier Bardem).
Seeking their first Oscar acting mentions: Critics Choice and BAFTA nominees Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jesse Plemons both landed nominations for their roles in Jane Campion’s festival hit “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix). Smit-McPhee plays Peter, an enigmatic medical student who joins his mother Rose (nominee Kirsten Dunst) and her new husband George (Plemons) on a remote Montana cattle ranch. Out of his element on the range, Peter is happy for the couple’s newfound happiness, until George’s surly brother Phil (nominee Benedict Cumberbatch), a loudmouth bully, seeks to undermine his new family at every turn.
Also a first-timer at the Oscar table, surprisingly, is Belfast-born stage veteran Ciaran Hinds, who shares the screen with Dame Judi Dench as the doting grandparents to young Buddy (Jude Hill) in Kenneth Branagh’s festival hit, ’60s remembrance “Belfast” (Focus). Hinds and Dench make us laugh and care and cry in Branagh’s moving testament to family and loss.
And Theater of the Deaf star Troy Kotsur is also both poignant and profanely hilarious opposite Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”) as the parents of a budding singer (Emilia Jones) in Sundance prize-winner “CODA” (Apple TV+). Kotsur marks the first deaf male Oscar nominee, and given his sweep of SAG, BAFTA, and Critics choice, he’s going to mark an historical win, too.
Nominees are listed in order of their likelihood to win, below.
Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)
Ciaran Hinds (“Belfast”)
Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”)
J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”)