Oscar History

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First Round Oscar Predix Continue: Supporting Actor

Two things we have to acknowledge right up front before we continue our first round of Oscar charts which will be finished by Saturday. Yay.

First. The supporting actor categories are often crazy foggy until people have seen the movies. Since men make up the bulk of film characters there is always a lot to choose from... even within the same film. Take Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Inherent Vice for example. I have yet to read the novel but literally every character in synopsis form sounds like a chance for actors to show off. That could result in a grandiose amount of overkill in scenery chewing for one film to handle- the acting equivalent of a rain of frogs, if you will. But it doesn't help us decipher which of the players will stand out. If you look at any of Anderson's early work -- the true ensembles before he started focusing on the journey of only one or two men (sigh) -- it was often hard to decide who was "best" because everyone was doing such strong work. I've gone with Josh Brolin as a prediction playing Joaquin Phoenix's old nemesis "Bigfoot" but it could just as easily be Benicio Del Toro as "Sauncho" or Owen Wilson as the musician "Coy Harlingen" or... well, you get the picture. The film has a huge cast.

Or it might be no one if the film is not well received. But the nominations for P.T.'s chilly weird The Master, not particularly "Oscar friendly" in the traditional sense, suggest that AMPAS is finally on this auteur's wavelength.

Second. There is no such thing as a line of demarcation between Lead and Supporting anymore. The two categories are fluid and mean nothing dissimilar at this point. It's like ten spots for men and ten spots for women. Period.

There are infinite ways to get away with category fraud in this day and age and the only time Oscar has ever rejected fraudulent campaigns is when a person leading the film has no other actor of stature around or of the same gender to pretend they are "supporting" them (Winslet in '08, Keisha in '03, etcetera). Otherwise they're always okay with it. Voters are especially forgiving of category fraud with male actors, perhaps subconciously reflecting heteronormative pack mentality --  some guy is always the alpha. So even if there is no way you can describe Fox (Collateral) in '04 or Affleck (Jesse James)  in '07 as "supporting characters" without sane people laughing at you, that's okay with Oscar because in no stretch of the Hollywood imagination are  Cruise and Pitt not alpha males. I think we can all agree on that.  

Which brings us to Foxcatcher. Here, things are decidedly more fluid. Carell and Tatum and Ruffalo are not big enough stars to pretend that all other men in any given movie would be supporting them. Hell, Tatum even has second billing to Jonah Hill in the 21 Jump Street series which I find... strange. (Was it the Oscar nominations? Is it the deferrence to alpha order? Tatum led more films before they joined up). Early word is that Sony Pictures Classics will campaign both Tatum and Carell as leads and Ruffalo as supporting. Whether this holds or not is anyone's guess. In Contention posted a piece on how rare double lead nominations are and cited the statistics (not since 1984 for men and 1991 for women) and called it "obviously stiff odds" and that's true, factually. But it's not true spiritually. The article left out the extremely crucial fact that studios don't try to win dual lead nods anymore. Who is to say that we wouldn't have had examples of dual lead nods since then if they had kept campaigning truthfully as they used to do? Maybe voters should check themselves before demoting lead actors to supporting and ask themselves the relevant question "would I vote for them as a lead?" If the answer is "no" than maybe you shouldn't vote for them in supporting. 


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Reader Comments (35)

Great picks, though I would add Takamasa Ishihara for "Unbroken". Arguably the villain of the story, some crazy moments in the book, and I think the Academy would just eat up the pop star turned actor narrative. All depends on the film being good though.

And you should really check out "Jersey Boys"! It's still playing on Broadway, I think. It's damn good.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Could you stop using heteronormative as a pejorative? Neither you nor I would be here without a man and a woman making love. Complaining about heterosexuality as the default is liking bitching about water being wet.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I think you're correct in guessing that SPC will get cold feet and demote Tatum to supporting. Carell is probably the favorite (at this very early stage, admittedly) for the win and they won't want any in-house competition messing that up.

Also, I know they're way down on your list, but I've seen Starred Up and while I'd loooove for O'Connell to get traction in the lead, I don't think anyone-- but particularly the slightly showcased Friend or more understated Mendelsohn-- will get nominations from this very dark picture.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

For supporting actor in May to me it seems two men who have been seen have two spots locked up. Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) and Norton (Birdman) have been seen and raved and with films possibly high in contention should get in. Of the Inherent men I go with Brolin because of his role. Tatum at this point seems good to campaign lead but knowing the competition it would be best for Channing to go supporting as he would easily get in along with his brother co-star. For the fifth spot I think it's a race between a new comer and a well established character actor. Simmons has a great role and has worked for so long this would be the perfect time to reconize him and then there is Miyavi from Unbroken who is a pop-star turned actor playing a bruteul leader who tortures the main character of the movie. I go with Simmons for now but I wonder how many men Sony Pictures can get with possibly Simmons, Ruffalo and Tatum all in.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

I came here to comment about Miyavi being left out of the Unbroken guys list and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. It's a plum role and if they embraced Leto, I can't see why they wouldn't embrace him as well.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJim

If you follow that In Contenton logic, then dual supporting actor nominations are just as difficult as lead - it hasn't happened since 1991 either! I'd like to see one for the rarity, but hopefully we can get it without fraud.
3rtful - heteronormative doesn't mean what you think it does. It has to do with limiting perspective to a single, traditional view. Heteronormativity prevents variety.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Ignoring the Miyavi thing is completely bizarre from everyone. Not just for the narrative, but also because of this: If Miyavi fails to be compelling or believable, the film fails. If he succeeds at that, the film succeeds.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Nat - Based on career momentum, the popularity of source material, and the the director, Neil Patrick Harris is on my supporting actor radar for Gone Girl. The book is next on my summer reading list after finishing "Inherent Vice" (which I'm enjoying and savoring) so I'm unfamiliar with the role. Any thoughts on NPH?

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

Have you heard about Hands of Stone? It's De Niro playing boxing coach in a biopic, the kind of role that always get you a nominations, even if the movie is not that good

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Its funny that you talk a lot about category fraud and then seem to encourage it by predicting against what SPC announced. Wouldn't people reading this get the idea that it is better for Tatum's chances to go supporting? Confused.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

I think one cast member from "This is Where I Leave You" gets some traction. It'll most likely be Tina Fey but the guys are impressive too.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

murtada -- well there's been no official word just "sources inside say..." and "my contacts say" which is different. especailly in May. but the main reason is a mundane one: i'd already posted my best actor predix and i need to finish the first wave before changing anything ;) it's just timing mixed with a little pessimism i suppose

/3rtful -- what Mike said. it's not a pejorative. it's just a status quo statement.

everyone -- you apparently all know much more about Unbroken then i do. ;) so i'm learning from you. but that said, i don't think being a pop star would have any bearing on Academy interest if it isn't a pop star they'd already heard of.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The Master is so oscar friendly imo, superbly acted and Joaquin deserved the oscar over day-lewis

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

There is no way that Miyavi and Edward Norton for Birdman aren't in the top 5. Locked! Or at least there is a locking mechanism near them.

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

far from the madding crowd is confirmed as of last month for may 1, 2015, so it won't be eligible...

May 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteralexander

I have a hard time seeing Brolin getting traction. He doesn't really have career traction on his side and IMO has never been worthy of awards consideration outside of Old Country for Old Men.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Erik -- LOCKED. ??? oh, you all know how i feel about that word in before even 1/10th of the movies have been seen. come on now.

May 30, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Everyone -- on Miyavi... i assume you're all assuming this is locked up because of the book? (since people haven't seen the movie yet). you might be right that it's an awesome role -- if you've read the book you have more to go on then i do.. so you might be 100% correct that it's a role that could be great on screen. but just a word of caution. adapting big fact based books to screen is rarely a transfer page by page scenario and so who knows what screenplay will emphasize. Also foreign actors are hit and miss with Oscar in key roles in studio fare. sometimes Oscar gets crushes other times they completely ignore them and no one bats an eye.

And don't get me started on Oscar's obvious lack of interest in Asian actors all throughout history.

May 30, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Albeiit in consideration, supporting actor is the kindest category for Asian Actors. But I agree NO ONE is locked in May.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterleon

Nathaniel - Good point about novels being rarely page for page, but trust, this is going to be a big role. And it's not the fact that he's a pop star that makes him more recognizable and thus more likely. It's the fact that it would be a great story, sort of a combination of Abdi and Leto from last year, two "narratives" awards voters and the media seemed to love.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I read somewhere else recently (I think it was on HitFix) that inside word from Sony was that even if they decide to go with a one-lead campaign for Foxcatcher, it might be Tatum who gets the lead push and Carell who goes supporting. Presumably this would be a move done to position Carell for a win rather than just a nomination, but if this report was accurate, then I assume they're waiting to scope out the competition before making any decisions.

Also, speaking of (presumably) category fraud, I have a hunch that they may push Christoph Waltz as a supporting actor for Big Eyes, which depending on your perspective may be the *third* time he's gone supporting for what was really a lead role.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Since ya'll talking about miyavi, I want bring up his rocker background to the topic. I mean he's not a rocker like Leto. He's a visual kei rocker. Visual kei is like the heavy metal bands dresses like drag queens with full makeup. I'm not sure a person like him will be welcomed on the campaign trail. I don't know about his English skills but he certainly has an interesting personality. If the movie and his role get rave reviews then he has a great chance of getting in. If he's on the borderline and he needs to campaign I don't know how that's going to be played out. His half naked pics or controversy pics like pointing a gun to himself will be all over the news. I'm not sure if the conservative side of the oscar branch will vote for him. I'm still surprised that Angie chose him for the role. When he was cast people in Japan was ShOcked! I guess people just thought someone like him would cast in a potential oscar movie role. Then again Angie is different. She likes the edgy side of miyavi. Oh he sure cleans up well in the movie. I barely recognize him.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeeun

Who has seen Birdman,if Norton is locked up,what were the other cast members like.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

I agree with Edwin - I think Weinstein will campaign Waltz as supporting and Murray as lead.

I don't think I really believe Unbroken will become this huge juggernaut. There are too many questions.

It feels like Ruffalo could become the frontrunner in this category, he's been building career momentum, but then again, so many weird things happen in the supporting categories.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Good picks, but I would include the guys from Fury, and I am holding out hope for some Tony Revolori love alongside Ralph Fiennes; he's equally great.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I especially like your "you never know" section.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I find it interesting that you're thinking Channing/Ruffalo will go supporting and Carell lead, when doesn't it feel like it should be the other way. Not in terms of getting nominated, but Carell being the flashy villain suits the supporting category more typically (Bardem Ledger, Waltz) and the less attention grabbing men's men actors in lead.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

@Nat - LOL that's why I joked about the 'lock' comment. But, I do think anyone doubting the strength of Unbroken is going to be in for trouble when they're playing catch up. As far as Birdman, we have a few people at AW who saw a screening and many of us have Norton at #1 or #2. Emma Stone, who will have three major roles this year, looks very good too. Keaton looks very, very good for a win. Superb narrative in what is likely to be a top 5 BP and BD film. You should take a peek at our Gold Rush Gang predicts and tell me what you think. :)

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

Glenn -- maybe. virtually anything could happen but for Ruffalo going lead (i hear he's a lead but the most supportive lead if that makes sense)

May 30, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Also, there is almost no one at AW that thinks Waltz will go Supporting. It's apparently an even more Lead performance than Adams. Weinstein has Cumberbatch as a Lead contender but that's really it. He has Fassbender in Macbeth but no one has much faith that that will go anywhere. Shakespeare is not the Oscar contender that is used to be. Although, Fassbender would be an ideal 'afterglow' nominee.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

I heard Norton has a bad reputation in the industry. Didn't he use to fight with the directors and delay productions? Feige and Marvel fired him as the hulk because of his unprofessional behaviors. I wonder if this will play a key role in nominating him....

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeeun

Seeun - yeah, Norton does have a really prickly reputation. That sometimes hurts people's nominatability but with Supporting categories so much depends on the fates of the movies and general career things for the actors. It's seriously weird how little the actual performances sometimes come into play sometimes.

May 30, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat: Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones, anyone? They knew they had to nominate him (because of his work in Julie and Julia), but they also knew they couldn't actually nominate his work in Julie and Julia (because it's low-key and backgrounded in a movie that, due to it's set-up, had a half that was hated (Amy Adams) and a half that was loved (Streep), so there was no way to justify more than one nomination, even if that second nomination was ALSO from the half that was loved), so here comes Peter Jackson to the "rescue" with a villain role. And thus the shot of Tucci contemptuously looking at his "Oscar clip" was born.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Erik--On paper, it looks like Waltz will have at least as big a role as Adams, if not bigger, but you know how campaigns can be. If the focus is all on Amy, they might try to sneak Waltz into supporting regardless of how big his role is. I think back to Iris, when Jim Broadbent had I think even slightly more screen time than Judi Dench, but he was nonetheless campaigned as (and won in) supporting. There are other examples of this too. Away from Her also comes to mind. Gordon Pinsent had more screen time than Julie Christie--in fact, it could even be argued that Christie should have been considered supporting--but Christie went lead and Pinsent got a supporting campaign (albeit one that went nowhere).

I do think Christoph Waltz is probably renowned and respected enough by now that studios won't automatically push him as a supporting actor anymore (I mean, he is a two-time Oscar winner, after all), but if the Best Actor field gets too crowded and it looks like he'll have a good shot in supporting, I don't put it past Weinstein to campaign him as a supporting actor under the logic that Amy Adams is "the" lead.

May 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Oh, and also Christopher Plummer in The Last Station. Even with a juicy role like that, he still got the supporting push. Never underestimate the tendency for category fraud when a movie has two leads.

May 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

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