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Months of Meryl: THE RIVER WILD

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« Podcast: Those Polarizing Wolves on Wall St. | Main | Box Office: The January Drought »

Oscar Symposium: The Fifth Spot (Part One)

In which a new Film Experience tradition begins. A pre-nomination mini-symposium about fifth spot battles...

NATHANIEL R: Things that are awesome that come in sets of five: fingers, boy bands, the filmography of John Cazale, golden rings to be used for Olympics or in song, toes, Oscar nominees... It always comes back to the Oscars here at The Film Experience, don't you know?

I never thought of myself as any more averse to change than the average person but when the Academy changed the Best Picture system in 2009 and 2010 to a top ten and then to anything between 5 and 10, the magic number suddenly becoming 9 in both 2011 and 2012, it felt like a direct attack on my sanity. But Oscar categories come in fives!!! I've never stopped internally protesting and whenever anyone suggests that the acting categories should widen as well, a little part of me dies inside or reaches for smelling salts. I've taken solace in recent rule changes that bring Original Song and Visual Effects to a clean five-wide system as well and I pray that Hair and Makeup eventually goes there, too. I need the clarity of that organizing number.

This year we're starting a new mini-symposium tradition at the Film Experience in which we gather to discuss the fifth spot. There's no point in debating the locks but usually at least one spot is up for grabs. Please welcome our panel of five: Kurt Osenlund (The House Next Door), Nathaniel R (The Film Experience, c'est moi), Christopher Rosen (Huffington Post), Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) and You (in the comments). These "what ifs" we're discussing become moot on January 16th when the nominations are announced but they're fun while they last (10 more days!). Eventually each year's acting shortlists take on a feeling of inevitability in retrospect... even the "surprise" nominees that didn't have much support in the precursors.

Are any of you feeling bullish about a surprise nominee that you think will seem inevitable once their name is read on Nomination Morning? [Supporting Categories after the jump...]

Chris, Kurt, Nathaniel, Sasha and You 

KURT: Hey everyone. First of all, Nat, AMEN to the rule change of five Original Song contenders, and to your lovely hat tip to John Cazale. So you want to know who's going to pull a Jacki-Weaver-in-Silver Linings Playbook this year? If there were more support for August: Osage County, I'd say Chris Cooper in Supporting Actor, but love for that movie just doesn't seem to be there beyond Meryl, Julia, and perhaps Letts's screenplay. But you never know. Cooper's so subtly wonderful in that role, and at the NY press conference, Meryl wouldn't stop singing his praises, which could be telling (for what it's worth, she also gushed over Margo Martindale). I think Will Forte in Nebraska would kind of fall into the surprise-but-duh category. He's not quite out of the blue (NBR win), but definitely not a frontrunner by any stretch. There's a helluva a lot of support for that film, and I could definitely see Forte being a coattail-rider if we wind up with nods for Pic, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, and Cinematography (because it's in black and white! *shoots self*). If I wanted to be really brave, I wouldn't count out Matthew McConnaughey in Mud either. Perhaps he, and not Tom Hanks, will be the one popping up in two categories this year. And I don't know--could Weinstein drum up enough support to squeeze in Steve Coogan? It's such an Oscar safe-zone movie, and Coogan gets to truly support a major contender with Oscar-clip outbursts to boot.  

CHRISTOPHER: Hello, everyone! Thanks for having me participate in the symposium. (I can only assume I was invited because my last name has five letters?) Piggybacking off Kurt, I, too, think Will Forte is a possibility in Supporting Actor. Like Weaver last year, Forte's candidacy consists of a rising tide lifting his boat. In a similar fashion, Jennifer Garner feels like a legitimate option for Best Supporting Actress. No one is really talking about her, but maybe that's a mistake. As support for Lee Daniels' The Butler all but disappears (no nods from either the Producers Guild or Writers Guild), and Dallas Buyers Club ascends to near locked-down Best Picture nominee status, Garner could grab away Oprah Winfrey's presumed nomination.

Other "surprises" I could see happening: Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper for American Hustle, Amy Adams for Her and -- gasp! -- Jean-Marc Valle for Best Director.

SASHA: Thanks so much for inviting me to join in the fun. I agree with Chris that it's evident Dallas Buyers Club is a player. It is one of the few movies that offers a true dramatic experience - hero who rises, does some good, changes, redemption, etc. It is also James Schamus' last hurrah at Focus - thus I expect the industry to rally around it for that reason as well, though they certainly wouldn't if it wasn't a good film. More than either of those things, though, is that McConaughey is a hero at a time when the industry seems to favor those stories. The surprise I expect to see in the supporting actor category is Jonah Hill for Wolf of Wall Street. That is one of the stronger films, despite the bluster and so-called controversy around it. There are many who need heroes - but there are also those who want to keep the rebellious spirit alive.

Just how warmly do voters feel about Dallas Buyers Club? How many nominations?

I'm still not sure I would count The Butler out, however. I figure The Weinstein Co is going to get one of their movies into the Best Picture race and it might just be that one. What a shame if both Fruitvale Station and The Butler are squeezed out.

KURT: That's some bold stuff there, Chris. I do think Garner is a possibility worth considering, and one I really didn't consider, but I genuinely don't think anyone's taking Oprah's nod away, least of all Garner, no matter how much The Butler's support deflates. And while I do think it's time to start worrying for Inside Llewyn Davis, I don't think it's time to be going whole-hog for Dallas; Pic and Screenplay, okay, but Director? I surely hope not. I'm trying to be objective and voter-minded here, but my god, there are so many films (contenders, no less) that are better directed than that. Though I definitely wasn't Team Amour, let's hope last year's nods for Haneke and Zeitlin were good signs for the Directors branch. Nat knows I openly hate Dallas, but that aside, I think the SAG ensemble nod is a shame. This is a two-man showcase, not an impressive ensemble piece. It's the whole problem of ensemble nominees "needing" to be Best Picture hopefuls. What about the extraordinary cast of Out of the Furnace? That's a stunning ensemble, and since we're talking Supporting Actor, Casey Affleck is on my personal list for the best performance of his career. I'm still on topic right?

NATHANIEL: I still don't understand the politicking against Dallas Buyers Club (AIDS is not a gay disease and the gay community fought for so many years to make sure people understood that that it strikes me as really problematic that gay people are suddenly angry that one AIDS narrative marginalizes them) but now we're really off topic! Veering back... veering back...

Sasha, I hadn't considered the inside Hollywood push for Schamus but you're right that that could totally be a contributing factor given the tough year for Focus. Chris's idea of a surprise Garner shot is... "interesting". (I use the word in the way it's used in the vernacular when you have no idea what else to say about a friend / acquaintance / strangers' latest anything but you have to make small talk). See, my test of how annoying an Oscar nomination would be is, here me out, how baby Oscar geeks decades from now might feel about it when they're watching the movies with little understanding of that year's context. Moving through the field they're all like "sure sure sure..."  from Lupita to Lawrence to Squibb and then "'huhwhazzat'? Why did they nominate that limp thing" Some nominations and wins only work in the context of a given year or career but when you come to them later, it can be so head-scratching. I feel like a Garner nomination would be just that. B

ut here I am jumping to the actresses, and since we're already throwing down with both supporting categories let's wrap both up with something concrete? Can we agree that it's like so...

SUPPORTING ACTRESS Lawrence | Nyong'o | Squibb | Winfrey
THE FIFTH SPOT: Sally Hawkins vs. Roberts/Winfrey (if people feel they've been amply rewarded)

SUPPORTING ACTOR Abdi | Brühl | Fassbender | Leto
THE FIFTH SPOT: Bradley Cooper vs. Jonah Hill vs. James Gandolfini?

CHRISTOPHER: I can agree with that. But Daniel Brühl? (I'm not complaining since he was so good in "Rush") To me, Cooper should get that last slot, but I wouldn't be surprised if Gandolfini gets in on sentimentality. The fact that he's also wonderful in Enough Said doesn't hurt much either. As for Supporting Actress, the arguments for Garner could also apply to Hawkins. There's some big, late-breaking support for Blue Jasmine, and that could mean an additional nomination here or there. (Hawkins, like Gandolfini, is also really great in the film; despite my Garner Hail Mary plea, even I won't vouch for her performance level.)

That written, my guess would be Roberts taking the final slot. She's the best part of that film, and -- unlike Streep -- she hasn't been nominated three times in five years. There's no voter fatigue with Roberts, and I think that could be a factor.

SASHA: Usually the results end up being far less surprising than they are surprising. Jennifer Garner is not strong enough to get in. She could have gotten in if she'd had a bit more to do in the part except look concerned and hammer a wall. The one possible Oscar scene she has is when she says, "he was my friend too." And it's ... awkward. That doesn't mean she won't get in, like Maggie Gyllenhaal in the Crazy Heart year. But usually when an Oscar nominee replaces a SAG nominee it is less for their star power and more for a buzzed performance that word of mouth is helping to boost. Both actress categories feel locked to me. Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey are so popular within the Academy it would be among the biggest shocks ever if they were omitted. Lupita Nyong'o is as locked as you can be. Ditto Lawrence. That leaves June Squibb - and hers is among the years best. So to me, it's as locked as Best Actress. 

And just to pipe in on Dallas Buyers Club - I think the complaints, as far as I know, come from the idea that only this redneck homophobe was in charge of the fight to cure AIDS from the FDA blocking the meds and information. The only reason this sort of rang true to me was after having watched How to Survive a Plague and to see the gay community become such an unstoppable force during that time. So yeah, the film is Ron Woodruff's story. It does not tell the whole story by a long shot. On the other hand, it occurs to me that the Oscar race is like a political election now. These kinds of attacks seem pointless to me, ultimately. They matter in the moment but then the hysteria fades away faster than Paul Ryan's gym photos (always good for a laugh).

NATHANIEL: So it sounds like none of us think there's any real movement in Supporting Actress. That kills me since I am the web's most tireless crusader against Category Fraud and even Tracy Letts refers to Julia Roberts as "the protagonist" of August: Osage County.

KURT: Oh, that wretched category fraud. I've honestly made my peace with it at this stage as it's clearly going nowhere, but whenever something like Julia in August happens, I immediately think, "Poor Nathaniel is pulling his hair out." Wait, you don't have hair. Well, whatever. You have to admit it was an absolutely essential move on Weinstein's part to retract Meryl's Supporting campaign effort and position both actresses where they currently are. Before, things were precarious, and Julia would not have landed a Best Actress bid. As is, I don't think either actress can lose (the nomination, that is).

NATHANIEL: But that's just it. If someone is not strong enough to compete in their correct category, they shouldn't be competing at all!  I wish, again and again, that I wasn't the only one who truly cared about it. I'd rather people NOT think of it as my pet peeve and be outraged themselves. I remain perplexed that actors themselves don't mind since the vast majority of them are not "lead" players and don't seem to understand that they're voting against their own kind.

Daniel Brühl leads Rush but eyes a Supporting Actor nominationAnyway... it will kill me to see Sally Hawkins get so close again only to finish in sixth place again as she presumably did in 2008 for Happy-Go-Lucky. Please to understand: This should in no way be misconstrued as me wanting the categories expanded to include the also rans. It's only to reiterate that I would just like to see the supporting categories used as they were intended: to honor MVPs in supporting roles. This is why I'm no fan of the impending Brühl nomination even though I've been quite fond of him ever since Good Bye Berlin! (2003) but it's funny what degrees of stardom due to perception. Captain Phillips may be named for Tom Hanks but both he and Barkhad Abdi get long buildup parallel scenes with coworkers / family / home to prep for their oncoming collision so to me it's a two lead mano-a-mano thing just like Rush. I think this category is even weaker than usual so I understand the need to shove all these leading roles into it but it still pisses me off when we could have James Franco in Spring Breakers in there if the voters had balls.

But I digress: Cooper, Hill or Gandolfini?

SASHA: I agree with you, Nat, on category fraud. But there is no putting that genie back in the bottle. American Hustle seems to be an unstoppable force in the awards race. Part of me thinks the culture of celebrity - watching the famous people play dress-up - is driving that. But be that as it may, it’s a star-driven industry and a star-driven race. I think all three of those you mentioned have a shot for supporting. If I had to pick a surprise choice it would be Hill. If I had to pick the one most likely it would be Bradley Cooper.  But I would not be that surprised if Gandolfini got in. Gun to my head I would probably go with Cooper. Too bad that Cooper wasn’t Chris Cooper from August: Osage County but it ain’t.

NATHANIEL: I think both Coopers are great this year :dons "peacekeeper" sash: but I agree that Bradley is in the best position. Though at least one celebrity on twitter  is so gung ho for Jonah Hill that...

... I wonder.


And while we're speaking of those wolves of Wall Street... let's move to Best Actor. It's not that people haven't missed an Oscar nomination after the magic trifecta of Globes, BFCA and SAG but it's not a common occurrence in any way so we can probably lock up four men (McConaughey, Hanks, Ejiofor, Dern). That leaves Robert Redford, who I once thought would win, wondering if all is truly lost (sorry) for his Oscar campaign though he never seemed all that into anyway, given the preternatural stoicism of his star persona. So Redford vs... a whole slew of men for the fifth spot.

The votes will be (presumably) all over the place but a lot of people have picked up at least one key pre-nomination honor. Thoughts? Frustrations? Predictions?

BEST ACTOR Dern | Ejiofor | Hanks | McConaughey
THE FIFTH SPOT: Robert Redford vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Christian Bale vs. Forest Whitaker vs. Oscar Isaac 

SASHA: I do think Redford will get in ultimately. He’s just too big for the Academy to ignore. It’s one thing for the SAG voter assemblage, a randomly selected group, to ignore him. It’s a whole other thing for Academy members, many of whom have either worked with Redford either in front of or behind the camera, not to mention filmmakers who benefited from having their films show at Sundance, etc. Reverence must be paid. So to me he isn’t the weak fifth, although I could be totally off base here. The heart wants what it wants, dammit.

To me it’s Tom Hanks - although I think Captain Phillips is SO beloved by all that he’s probably solid. Nonetheless, if there is one who could squeeze in I would either go with Leonardo DiCaprio and a last minute push by people who recognize how he gets shafted time and time again, or Forest Whitaker - as part of the powerhouse team that is The Butler. What The Butler needs is enthusiasm, which is doesn’t have. It doesn’t invoke passionate support from people, which hurts Whitaker, and the film, ultimately (I realize that’s putting it mildly - but I’m speaking outside the snooty critics bubble). You will know if American Hustle is headed for a Best Picture win if Christian Bale bumps out any of the Best Actor five. I think I’m sticking with the five you’ve mentioned, though, Nat.

CHRISTOPHER: We're doing an awfully lot of agreeing here, but I have to agree as well. Try as I might to come up with a reason to sneak DiCaprio in for giving his best performance ever, I just don't see it happening. As The Wolf of Wall Street has gotten "Zero Dark Thirty'd," it seems like a nomination for DiCaprio gets further and further away from reality. Even if the film-critic debates about "Wolf" are isolated to film critics, some voters are still probably noticing. At least Jessica Chastain herself wasn't a producer on Zero Dark Thirty; she wasn't as front and center as DiCaprio has been throughout this controversy. So, with regrets, he's out.

do you think Leo has more reason to be cocky about his Oscar chances than we do?

In part two, the agreements end: The Butler, 12 Years, and Wolf divide us as we wrap up

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Reader Comments (43)


But would you place Steve Coogan in PHILOMENA into the Lead Actor or Supporting Actor category? He had just as much screen time as Judi Dench if I recall?

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

In the past decade, only one year has someone who made it with the Globes and SAG not missed with Oscar (2009-one of the most bizarrely lockstep years I've ever seen) and only one year has all of the Oscar nominees been nominated for either the Globe or the SAG Award (2006, thanks primarily to an all-over-the-map Supporting Actor lineup with the Globes and SAG Awards). Therefore, I think it's a bit presumptive to assume all of the Globe/SAG nominees make it. My gut says that Cooper AND Hill get in for Supporting Actor, with Bruhl getting bumped for a film few are talking about. The other three categories seem very locked in place, and this would answer both patterns.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Great read, thanks Nathaniel.

For Supp Actor I agree on Leto, Fassbender & Abdi. Think the last 2 spots are up for grabs. Bruhl will miss, he's in the spot of getting SAG/Globes and missing Oscar. Gandolini will translate his SAG nom to Oscar and I agree with Sasha that Hill will be the surprise nomination. He really pops in Wolf and that would get him in. .

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Wow, is Hanks a lock for a nom? Too bad. Redford shouldn't be fighitng for a spot. Neither should Leo. To be honest? Right now? I'd give the statuette to Leo. An insanely great performance in an insanely great movie. He's channeling something I haven't seen anyone channel since Jack Nicholson was in his prime in the early 1970s.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErik

i hate the politicking against DBC. Its as if the viewers don't understand the point. DBC is more about how we misjudge ignorant people like Ron and that they are capable of great things. The movie never plays the savior card. The whole point is at the end he shocked to see everyone applauding for him. One reason is because he lost but the other is because he never intended on being a hero. The movie intelligently keeps his struggle personal and is about Ron and not others. As for an unpredicted spot i might actually have to agree with Garner. Not saying it will happen or if she deserves it, but it is very possible. The supporting actress category isn't that strong.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Had a blast reading this - even if the whole bit about Jennifer Garner is a real head-scratcher (if only because she has absolutely nothing to do in the film)!

I feel the category fraud issue with Julia Roberts, and if Best Actress weren't so locked up (and over-abundant with potential spoilers) it's quite possible voters would have ignored the campaign and nominated her there anyway (a la Kate Winslet in The Reader). As it is, I'm not even sure she makes it into Supporting Actress since the film - and the performances - are so divisive. And I also think it's possible that she splits her own vote - people who have her at #1 or #2 spreading out between Lead and Supporting - and misses completely. As it is, it looks like they're tying themselves in knots between campaigning her in Supporting and yet saying that she's the protagonist, and thus the lead, to justify the new ending (or at least I assume that's why, as I haven't seen the film since it still hasn't opened...). This may be the worst campaign Harvey has ever run - or maybe it's sneakily the best. We'll see on nomination morning.

I disagree about Abdi, though. While it's true he has a similar amount of screen time to Hanks, from what I remember he's mostly silent, with Hanks getting most of the lines. Thus, Hanks has the bigger part. Not that I would cry foul if they campaigned Abdi in Lead, but the Supporting category feels right to me.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Oscar Isaac and Sally Hawkins are both on my wish list, but I'm pretty sure they won't make it. Redford and Roberts are just too big to be ignored by the Academy.

I always agree with you on the category fraud debate. It must be constantly denounced. Too bad there's no math formula or something to help us because it can get blurry. For instance, I think you're 100% right regarding Julia and Brühl, but for some reason, I just don't see Abdi as a co-lead in Captain Phillps. I'm not sure if it has to do with the fact that's he's a newcomer or that all I can remember is the breakdown scene (and I loved the movie).

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

When he's really been in contention for an Oscar, Hanks has never missed. He's never missed a precursor either. They've even nominated some of his more mediocre efforts for Best Picture (The Green Mile; Extremely Loud; we can probably add Banks to the list). I seriously doubt those movies would have gotten in with a different leading man.

They LOVE Hanks. They love him more than they love Streep. He's a lock.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Nathaniel, why didn't you call out Kurt and Christopher for mentioning Will Forte as a possible "supporting" actor contender? Will Forte is clearly a co-lead and that is another instance of category fraud. If you're going to come down hard on category fraud you have to be consistent about it. Make sure you call out Katey Rich too for perpetuating category fraud since she is championing Daniel Brühl for best "supporting" actor (see her article on the Vanity Fair website).

It's interesting how people turn a blind eye to category fraud once one of their favorites sneak in for a nomination.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStan

If the The Butler is declining as you mention, the Oprah Winfrey nom weakens by the minute. Because of the strong performance by Blanchett and raves, Blue Jasmine and Sally Hawkins have gotten a second tide into the race. Hopefully that means craftsmanship versus popularity gets Hawkins in and Winfrey out.

I dont understand the political dicking about Dallas Buyers Cub either. But Garner is not strong enough in the movie for a surprise nod. I really LOVED DBS, but this is a stretch

Hanks and Redford are the weakest links in Best Actor. I was hoping for a surprise nod for Idris Elba but that will never happen.
So that means Ejifor/McConaughey/ with Dern/Bale/Whitaker/DiCaprio/Hanks/Redford/ Isaac fighting for the last 3 spots. Only the first two are locks for me. Even though with the so called controversy, the Academy can't be that blind and not nominate DiCaprio for his phenomenal performance in WOWW. Bale is equally strong in American Hustle, so this category is not zipped up just yet

Hmmm I don't get the love for Bradley Cooper nor Jonah Hill for supporting nod. Its not acting to me. They are being themselves in a very charming way. The End. Chris Copper is great in AOC. But so is Andrew Dice Clay in Blue Jasmine. That is a wild car and a very welcoming as well. Yay for Bruhl though he is a co-lead

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Did you talk about Best Actress? I would really love to see Amy Adams in over Judi Dench. Judi was good in Philomena, but the role was lightly written and something she could do in her sleep. I think she gave a stronger performance as M in Skyfall. While as some have said, the screenplay failed Amy Adams' character in the last third of American Hustle, she was amazing, especially with her eyes. Shame on SAG and shame on the Academy if she's not nominated. HER won't be released her until this weekend, so I can't second a Supporting nod.

For Best Actor, Redford should DEFINITELY get in over Whitaker, who IMO was weak in The Butler. I was more riveted by David Oyelowo and Yaya DaCosta than any of the other performers in that "just so-so"-average movie. Haven't seen Inside Lleywyn Davis yet, but I'm in love with the soundtrack, so wouldn't mind seeing Oscar Isaac in the fifth slot.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

One note with all this Garner talk: did anyone else feel she should have gotten a nomination back with "Juno"? I do. DBC doesn't use her well but she can be quite wonderful.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

Stan -- i absolutely agree that people should not turn a blind eye but i can only harp on this so much. i'm tired of people associating this with me so relentlessly because literally no one cares but me ...everyone else will let it slide if they want someone to be nominated... and I am actually deeply ashamed of film critics organizations that play along (WHY. WHAT DO THEY HAVE TO GAIN FROM IT?) which is half the problem... all these other organizations tell Oscar "it's okay. cheat all you'd like. we will too. fuck those character actors for not being movie stars!"! I'm willing to sacrifice my beloveds even when it's painful. not nominating Jake Gyllenhaal for Brokeback Mountain just pained me but he's a lead --- but with the occasional exceptions - most romantic dramas are two-lead films and that one inarguarbly was and there just wasn't room.)

RANT OVER. i've mellowed as much as i can on this topic in the past few years. Now when it's a grey area now i'm trying to not complain. Like with Abdi. I get it and i wont really bitch if he's nominated. But Bruhl is unacceptable. He is inarguably a leading man in that film. even moreso than Chris Hemsworth! it's like when Casey Affleck was "supporting" Brad in "Jesse James" both are leads but you just have to call bullshit on situations like that.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

John T - - i'm not sure what you mean with your wording about only once... do you mean you have to get those or only once didn't you get those? i got lost.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

As much as I would like to be the rising tide that lifts Will Forte's boat, the man is a lead. Stacy Keach should've gotten more love for a great turn in a truly supporting role.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterzig

I am so sad that nobody talk's about Sarah Paulson for Best Sup. Actress, to me she gave THE best performance by an Actress/Actor Lead or Sup. last year, PERIODE!!

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

ScarJo: the surprise everyone/nobody saw coming...

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Good Bye Lenin*

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJim

All these category frauds are disheartening to me as well. Think of ALL the actors in actual supporting roles who have been ignored because of lead actors nominated in the wrong categories.

And I'm with on having a top five, Nathaniel. I wish the academy would go back to five best picture nominees, and have five for every category. I've stopped being excited over best picture, and the real excitement happens in the acting categories, or directing like last year.

There's got to be at least one surprise in the acting categories, right???

Do you think Bradley Cooper receiving a second nomination is too soon, Nathaniel?
On a side note, I think Bradley Cooper is lead. I think AMERICAN HUSTLE is definitely a trio of leads.

And I really hope SOMEONE bumps Daniel Bruhl and Julia Roberts out of their slots. Category fraud seems like an all time high this year lol

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKent

Nathaniel-Sorry, that does read as confusing. Let me explain.

Each year for the past decade (with one exception), the Academy has nominated at least one actor that didn't score a Globe or a SAG nod:

2012: 3 (Quvenzhane Wallis, Emmanuelle Riva, and Jacki Weaver)
2011: 2 (Gary Oldman and Max von Sydow)
2010: 1 (Javier Bardem)
2009: 1 (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
2008: 1 (Michael Shannon)
2007: 2 (Laura Linney and Tommy Lee Jones)
2006: 0 (This is the only year every nominee came with a SAG or Globe nomination)
2005: 1 (William Hurt)
2004: 2 (Alan Alda and Clint Eastwood)
2003: 4 (Samantha Morton, Djimon Hounsou, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Marcia Gay Harden)

And each year for the past decade (again, with one exception), at least one actor scored with both the Globes and the SAG Awards and still missed with AMPAS for that performance:

2012: 4 (John Hawkes, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman)
2011: 2 (Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton)
2010: 1 (Mila Kunis)
2009: 0
2008: 1 (Kate Winslet)
2007: 2 (Ryan Gosling, Angelina Jolie)
2006: 1 (Leonardo DiCaprio)
2005: 2 (Russell Crowe, Ziyi Zhang)
2004: 1 (Paul Giamatti)
2003: 2 (Evan Rachel Wood, Maria Bello)

Therefore, it stands to reason that at least one of the Globe/SAG nominees (probably Bruhl or Abdi) will be cut, and at least one actor who didn't score with either awards body manages to be the fifth slot nominee (my gut says Hill, though Forte makes just as much sense on paper).

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Category fraud is good for keeping out award season wonders from waltzing into a ceremony as a nominee and leaving as a winner. Then after the fact everyone wants to say Hollywood was unfair to this person for not having a proper career boost after an Oscar win—as if that award by design is for making or breaking careers. Really, I prefer and so does the actors branch that nominees that are actually going to stick around Film for the long haul should be in serious consideration for nominations and wins. People claim that Supporting Oscars are less prestigious than their leading counterparts but complain the loudest when pedestrian nominees take it. So and so prestige actor/actress is Oscar less but this nobody award season wonder has one. The Academy is so backwards. No you are if you think we should go back to the days of thoughtless supporting nominations that water down the category to an afterthought. Don't make Supporting the new Animation/Documentary/Short/Foreign Language/Original Song irrelevant.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I care about category fraud, too!

What makes Robert's supporting campaign especially frustrating is that she has nothing to gain from another Oscar nomination. The recognition could really help someone like Sally Hawkins, who hasn't been given the roles her talent warrants since Happy-Go-Lucky.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

I really hope Forte doesn't get a best supporting actor nomination. He's barely functional in the role, and he's also a co-lead, as others have pointed out. I don't want Squibb to be nominated either, but I'm resigned to that one.

Best Actor:. I hope Bale gets in. He does heroic work on American Hustle, as does Amy Adams. Cooper and Lawrence are great in support, but Bale and Adams have to hold a very messy film together and they do it beautifully.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I was bullish on Gandolfini getting a nod for his superb work in "Enough Said" ( as well as pretty much everything he's done of late) and sentimentality but I've reneged on that. The Academy seems reluctant to go sentimental for a first time nominee and goes whole-hog on showy repeater (for better or worse) so I've gotta predict Cooper or Hill in the fifth. My only hope now is that those two split the vote and pave the way for Gandolfini.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

My heart cries out because right now it seems that 2 of the BEST performances of the year are not going to get Oscar recognition:

Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf) and Amy Adams (Hustle)

If I had to choose - I'd have DiCaprio replace Hanks and Adams replace Dench but, I hate to admit it, this is more for personal reasons than quality reasons. I actually think the quality of performances is pretty equal between Hanks and Redford - with Hanks having that marvelous emotional scene at the end - but Redford is such a star and I just love the idea of seeing him recongized again as an actor for this role. And although Dench is wonderfully natural and appealing in her role, Thompson is such a delightful personality and we haven't seen her as much recently as we've seen Dench.

I was just thinking this morning about what happens when it gets down to six for five slots. Like you all indicate - sometimes there are performances that simply can't be denied - Blanchett this year - but often we're got 6 (or more) really great performances and it IS tough to determine which are the top five. In those circumstances choices can't help but be affected by influences outside of quality considerations. I mean - Hanks, Redord, Dern, Ejifor, Isaac, Bale, B. Cooper, Jordan, Phoenix, Forte - all excellent lead performances providing unique and special qualities to their films (I consider McConaughey and DiCaprio a step above these colleagues this year because of the complexity and range of the characters their played) so when you try to narrow those 10 performances down to the 3 slots left after McConaughey and DiCaprio get their due) how else do you make you choices except for personal reasons and perceptions. It goes with the very nature of trying to narrow such a vast number of lead performances (note, I didn't even mention Gyllenhaal and Jackman in that list) down to five. But that's also why I agree with Nate's wish they'd go back to that for ALL categories. That's what put the films into perspective with the year and the other years.

Of course, there needs to be a SPECIFIC definition for what represents a "supporting" role in a film - number of scenes, number of minutes on screen, link to central story arc, etc.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Roark, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thought Forte was terrible. Squibb, too, really.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

I'm telling everybody right now Brie Larson will get nominated for best actress!!!! And james Franco for best supporting actor

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Bradley Cooper is a strange case. Sometimes I think leading, sometimes supporting. I can't decide.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

My picks based on both perf, history and strength of support:

BA: Dern | Ejiofor | Hanks | McConaughey | Redford--I don't see room for anything different.

BAress: Blanchette | Dench | Streep | Thompson | Bullock--I think this is locked as well. If anyone rocks this category, it will be Adele Exrtraconsonatsandvowells--Its lesbians, French and will make the old, white guys of the academy feel young again.)

BSA: Leto | Abdi | Fassbender | Gandolfini | B.Cooper--possibly Hill in place of Gandolfini or Cooper. But....this is the last chance AMPAS has to recognize Gandolfini who has a shelf of awards from everyone else and a decent body of film work. Hill and Cooper will have other chances. Carnavale could slip in here too. (Fassy is weak even if he rocks in the role. Bruhl doesn't stand a chance.)

BSAress: Lawrence | Nyong'o | Squibb | Winfrey | Roberts (I would love to see any of the following in there as well, but don't see who could be bumped except perhaps Squibb--Paulson, Hawkins, Martindale, Steenbergen (I know, I'm way off in left field with that last one, but she got great notices, they like her and she makes middle age look good.).

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

As someone who was surprised that Phoenix got in for The Master after dissing the Academy (or was it just the awards process?), I think maybe he can't be counted out for Her, provided the voters go for the film in a big way. I think Dern and Hanks are at least slightly vulnerable compared to Ejiofor and McConaughey. I'd love to see DiCaprio get in, but after being snubbed for J. Edgar and Django, I guess all bets are off. Regardless of "category fraud," Bruhl doesn't seem like a lock to me. But I've given up prognosticating in this category since the Albert Brooks/Drive snub.

If Dallas Buyers Club gets much love, Garner could get what I call the Penelope Milford in Coming Home nod - quintessential left-field coattails nomination.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjbryant

I love the symposium! Since I usually read all five of you on separate sites, it's great to have you here together (and at more than 140-characters a pop).

Surprises in both the "locked" best actor and best actress categories seem possible...call them the "known unknowns":

Phoenix in "Her" could easily crack the top five, and I wouldn't be shocked if Ejiofor was the one bumped. (Are enough voters watching "12 Years a Slave"?) And do voters put his understated performance at the top of the list in a such a competitive year?

Adams' "Hustle" performance seems much loved by everyone who sees it, me included. We already know the Academy has their eye on her. I factor her in to my top five. At risk: Dame Judi, Meryl.

The supporting categories are very confusing -- not just fifth slots but fourth, too. Category fraud is not just an ethical issue, it's a murky swamp for voters and prognosticators alike!

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Great symposium, though I have to mention that Nathaniel's talk of Hawkins being 6th in 2008 is VERY OPTIMISTIC!

I think that she was behind Kristin Scott Thomas (who got the BAFTA nomination ahead of her) and so was 7th (or even 8th, if you don't discount the fact that Winslet was very likely Top 5 for BOTH of her performances that year!)

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKermit_The_Frog

Now that you mention it, a Bruhl or Abdi snub does sound highly possible. Those were both surprise picks to get the SAG/Globe double... I could see one of them missing.

A Tom Hanks supporting nod, however, is not happening, as Kurt and Suzanne in the comments mentioned. He's gotten no precursors and the movie is fading. (Plus, he wasn't nominated for Extremely Loud.) They did love him in the 90s, but that love has diminished since.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I'm really very surprised Colin Farrell has not received any kudos for his performance in "Saving Mr. Banks." I thought his performance was outstanding and incredibly heartbreaking. Any comments on this thought?

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark Ursa

Mark -- I thinkn he's good in it but i think the problem sometimes, at least in terms of kudos is that his roles are never big enough or they are plenty big but in the wrong kind of movie (In Brudges). and also, though i personally love him, i think sometimes he pushes a little too hard. He's got real screen presence but he's probably not subtle enough in a lot of cases, including this one.

Kermit -- but as i wrote at the time, it is statistically speaking one of the top 5 worst snubs of the past 30 years or so... mean she had SO MANY PRIZES and nominations. it was really a tough break for her. and for Angelina Jolie in Changeling? Ugh. what a world.

January 6, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Alas it's true Nathaniel what you wrote about Farrell - but I thank you Mark for bringing him into these exchanges anyway. God I keep wishing that one perfect role would come along and the right director to help him keep a lid on it. I don't think it's unreasonable to believe he might be capable of a McConaughey level of transition if he's very, very lucky.

Gosh Nathaniel - I do remember you writing so eloquently about Sally Hawkins that year and I remembering agreeing so heartily. She was so surprising and heartfelt and enlightening in that film. (Gosh I had no idea I'd been reading you for 5 years now. I really need to hit that SUBSCRIBE button!!!!)

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

Personally I think Franco as Supporting in SB is category fraud... but wherever he gets the attention, I'm good (esp. since the category placement is arguable... Julia's is not)

I think Oscar Isaac will surprise, at the expense of Hanks/ Redford.

Really thought DiCaprio was gonna take it this year... best performance ever, coupled with "give him the damn thing already"... *sniffle*

Go Sally!!!

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Surprise nomination:

For each category so no stone is left unturned:

Best Actor- Bale/Phoenix/Isaac. I liked the performance a lot. If Her does solid elsewhere, Phoenix should be a factor. None of these 3 have a Harvey Weinstein to back them but Bale is the kind of actor who feels as though he should have more than one nomination. Of the 3, Phoenix has probably the strongest team around him at WB. I think Isaac may surprise. It's a musical performance and even if people didn't like the character you cannot deny it's one of the stronger vocal performances of a leading man for some time.

Currently: Ejiofor/Dern/McConaughey/Redford/Hanks(most vulnerable)

Best Actress- Adele or Amy Adams. Amy would not be too much of a surprise but the way she has done during the duration of awards season has been disappointing. I think Hustle is in a stronger Best Picture position than say Argo was and I think it will probably get more than one actor. Still think Adele can surprise, however. But who is left out? Could preferential ballots ruin the place-holders? Like Sandra? Okay, too far. Thompson and Streep, maybe? How many #1 ballots are both really in? Exarchopoulos is the one who may benefit from being in enough people's #1 slot.

Currently: Blanchett/Dench/Bullock/Thompson/Adams

Best Supporting Actor- This is one where I struggle with actually finding 5 place-holders. What is considered a shocking nominee, Gandolfini, is somebody on my ballot. Will say because of precursors that Cooper will be a 'surprise' but to me he has a much easier route than Bale or Adams in his category. I want Hill to happen but not seeing it without DiCaprio.

Currently: Leto/Fassbender/Abdi/Gandolfini/Bruhl (Substitute out Bruhl for Hanks if Hanks losing Leading Actor nod)

Supporting Actress: Sarah Paulson, please!!!!

Currently: Lupita/Lawrence/Squibb/Oprah/Hawkins

Yes, I am predicting August to lead an egg.

Sound likes one of the pundits is already turning on a movie they liked just like they did on last year's Best Picture winner (except the former was actually a good movie and I don't understand the cynicism- celebrity dress 'em up is about 85%, a generous low-ball number, of Oscar movies historically).

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I'll bet that Steve Coogan gets a BAFTA nomination, thus propelling him into the discussion of who gets the fifth slot for Supporting Actor. My head tells me it'll be Cooper just based on the fact that his film is getting the most attention, but my gut still says Gandolfini.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Best Actor-There's no way Ejiofor and McConaughey don't get nominated. They're definitely locks. Hanks, Dern and Redford seem like sure bets as well. I'm really sad Michael B. Jordan didn't get more attention this award seasons, especially regarding the Globes and SAGs. I was really rooting for him. I don't think Bale or Isaac will make it in. I definitely don't see Whitaker making it in the top 5. He's a brilliant actor but I was much more impressed with Oprah and Yaya DaCosta in The Butler. But this was one of the best years for the Best Actor race. There was so much worthy competition.

Best Actress-This is actually the category I'm least excited for this year. However, I'm Team Blanchett all the way. Although she won for The Aviator, she's long overdue since she was snubbed for I'm Not There. She should've won that Oscar. I can't wait for her to have two golden statues under her belt. I'm proud of Bullock's recent achievements in her career and she's a lock. I think the other three slots will be filled by Thompson, Streep and Dench. But I don't like how the Academy continuously disses Amy Adams. SHES SO VERSATILE! But she'll win eventually. I would love for her to surprise us come January 16th though.

Best Supporting Actor-I know everybody's been loving Leto and not only is he a lock but he is a deadly threat to the other four contenders, I'm really rooting for Fassbender to win. He was fascinating and I'm just impressed with everything he does. And not to sound rude but I see Fassbender as more of an "actor" than Leto. Leto's great too but who knows when he'll make a film again? I think not only does Fassbender deserve it but we'll be seeing much more consistent work from him. I don't know if I'm making sense but I'd rather the Oscar go to someone I know for a fact will continue to bless us with impressive film work. Anyway, I also feel like Abdi is another lock which is surprising because I didn't expect him to get Golden Globe and Sag nominations at all. I wouldn't mind if Hank was a double nominee this year or McConaughey (DBC/Wolf of Wall Street). Hill does seem to be amazing in Wolf of Wall Street (even though he was a waste of a nomination for Moneyball) and I'm impressed with Bradley Cooper in American Hustle (even though I think the Academy is overrating American Hustle. It better not beat 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture).

Supporting Actress-This is the category I'm most passionate about. If Lupita does not win (we know she's a lock for a nomination), the Academy would be really pathetic. She was a revelation in 12 Years a Slave! I like Jennifer Lawrence and all but Hollywood needs to hop off of her! I get it. She's talented. She has a great personality. She's charming. She's YOUNG. And that's what the Academy loves: the fact that she's young. If she was in her mid-thirties with the same type of talent, they would not be on her as much. And I was pissed when she beat Jessica Chastain last year for Zero Dark Thirty. And if they even try to give her a SECOND oscar when she's only like 22-23! I WILL GO CRAZY, especially when it's Lupita's year anyway! Some BRILLIANT actresses that are middle aged haven't even been nominated once and Lawrence is going to have three noms (and one win) in like four years. Just my opinion though. Squibb also seems to be a lock. Julia Roberts "eat your fish scene" in AOC should make her a lock for a nomination alone. And lastly, I don't get all of the shade many people have towards Oprah in The Butler. She literally made me forget she was OPRAH! That's enough to earn her a nomination. She won't win though. Like I've been emphasizing from the beginning, this is Lupita's year.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I can see Steve Coogan being a surprise Supporting Actor nominee for Philomena

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

I would be shocked if Jennifer Garner got in for DBC (and I would not look back retroactively and think "oh yeah, makes sense". No, legitimately shocked). And I quite liked her in the film but she's so out-shined by the brilliance of McConaughey and Leto. If any "surprise" happens it will be Sally Hawkins, and I think Blue Jasmine in general could end up being very well rewarded by the Academy with picture, screenplay, and actress (of course). Director and costumes are not out of the question, either. If Hawkins is in she either knocks out Julia (sometimes the Academy actually has the balls to not reward category fraud, e.g. Winslet and Castle-Huges) or Oprah (because The Butler seems dead in the water). My dream snub would be June Squibb, however (I really don't understand the love for this performance, or film to be honest). Is Scarlett Johansson completely out of the picture now?

I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Adele Exarchopoulos is not getting nominated. I mean, seriously we are kidding ourselves. If they are not going to go for Michael Fassbender (a much more well-known actor, as well) in an English-language NC-17 film, then they are not going to go for her. If she surprises with a BAFTA nomination, however, maybe my opinion will change. I think the surprise will be Amy Adams, but ultimately I'm banking that the penultimate five will be the last standing.

I really do think Leonardo DiCaprio will knock out Robert Redford. Hanks is safe, and although Redford is a legend, DiCaprio truly is riveting in his film. I know he's continuously snubbed, but I think that stops this year.

Supporting actor is such a mess but I believe Abdi/Bruhl/Fassbender/Leto are the safe ones and the last one will be Bradley Cooper. The Academy will likely be all over American Hustle and Cooper and Lawrence will be the actor representatives for the film.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

I agree Cooper is in for supporting actor. And if they want to give it a major acting prize - he could win too. Russell will also win original screenplay.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

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