This year’s Supporting Actress contenders offer a field of breakouts — and one established veteran. With her eighth Oscar nomination, Dame Judi Dench is seeking to follow up her first Oscar (“Shakespeare in Love”) with her second, for playing a grandmother who looks after her beloved husband (fellow nominee Ciaran Hinds) in Kenneth Branagh’s 1969 remembrance “Belfast” (Focus). This could give the lauded British actress the advantage against a field of first-time nominees.
Critics Choice and BAFTA nominee Aunjanue Ellis plays Brandi Williams, the nurturing mother of aspiring tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s sports drama “King Richard” (Warner Bros./HBO Max). The scene that clinched her nomination: Brandi challenges her overbearing husband Richard (Will Smith) in a kitchen standoff.
BAFTA nominee Jessie Buckley is a young academic mother (played as an older woman by Olivia Colman) in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Elena Ferrante adaptation “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix). And on Oscar nominations morning, SAG and Critics Choice nominee Kirsten Dunst found out that she and her fiance (and “Fargo” costar) Jesse Plemons had both landed their first nominations, for playing husband and wife again in Jane Campion’s noir western “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix).
Also seeking her first Oscar win is the current frontrunner, gold-throated Broadway musical star Ariana DeBose (“The Prom”) who dazzles as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” update, the role that won an Oscar for Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno in the 1961 classic. Golden Globe-winner DeBose landed Critics Choice, SAG, and BAFTA wins. If she wins the Oscar, she’ll hit the record books as the eighth Black and the fourth Latin American actress Oscar-winner. And she and Kristen Stewart, as the first openly gay women to be nominated for the Oscar, could be the first to acknowledge that fact on the global platform of the Academy Awards show. Voters should find that narrative irresistible.
Oscar contenders are listed in order of their likelihood to win.
Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)
Judi Dench (“Belfast”)
Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”)
Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”)