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April Foolish Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

by Nathaniel R

One intriguing possibility is Oscar Isaac as the painter Paul Gauguin in "At Eternity's Gate" -- the film is about Vincent Van Gogh's time in Aries (in which their friendship went awry) -- but will it be ready in time and get strong distribution?

And now we come to the one acting category that arguably has no super devoted fan base: Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Why have we never met an obsessive fan of this category? It's easy to run into people who love leading ladies and/or leading men and, we should know more than anyone given the Supporting Actress Smackdowns that that particular contest tends to fascinate a wide swath of people. So why no love for Supporting Actor? Could it be because the Academy uses this category, we'd argue more than the others, as an afterthought, filling it with 'thanks for the career' citations and 'we like this movie, so, sure' troupers. Any other theories out there as to the lack of love? Please note: this is not to disparage supporting players as we love to sing their praises for jobs well done. Supporting actors (and actresses) are essential to the overall success of the stories they help shape and color.  

We've got at least five true stories this year with heavily male supporting ensembles that could affect this category though it's difficult to know in advance which actor (if any) might make enough of a mark to stand out beyond the leading men or leading ladies

  • The undercover in the Klu Klux Klan drama BlacKkKlansman from Spike Lee (August)
  • Astronauts to the moon drama First Man  from La La Land's Damien Chazelle (October)
  • The Dick Cheney political (comic?) biopic Backseat from the director of The Big Short (December)
  • Mary Queen of Scots history is full of men wrestling for power through her (December)

INVESTIGATE THE CHART. What do you think might happen in this category? 

Previous April Foolish Articles
Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Cinematography, Original Score, Screenplays, Animated Features, and the Prediction Charts

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Reader Comments (39)

Don't know what the hell you're talking about. Ask most film bloggers or actors (myself included) and they'll tell you this is the strongest acting category (both for nominations and wins).

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

In reference to Corey Stoll for First Man you mention Damien Chazelle Non-leads don’t get attention. JK Simmons won Supporting for Whiplash; Teller wasn’t nominated.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJimG.

JimG: yes, but Simmons is a lead in Whiplash.

I have a I-wish-you-were-better love for the supporting actor category. I think its problem is that when the picking's are slim and the Academy has a chance to make some interesting choices in the category, they always lean away.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Very true Mike you'll get a coatail nomination like Alan Alda in The Aviator or Maximillian Schell in Julia etc etc or a veteran spot like Robert Duvall in The Judge.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Jim G -- what Mike said. That's basically a two character movie (and Simmons is a co-lead) but I suspect that the Corey Stoll role in First Man will be much smaller than that.

April 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Me34 -- i guess we run in different circles. I never hear people enthusing about that category. and though some of the winners are totally rich, they are often co-leads. But mostly i just think the nominating process is weirdly lazy with this category as Mike suggests.

April 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Not lazy just unadventurous,unwilling to look at other films and see a more worthwhile nominees and they are always there.

I never understood's Mudbound's total focus on Blige for acting consideration when Mitchell,Hedlund and Morgan and also Mulligan were all doing things worthy of praise,that happens to when one performance in supporting actor dominates allowing no room for others i'm thinking Ruffalo in Spotlight here.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Wait, Anthony Quinn won an Oscar for playing Gauguin in a Van Gogh biopic. Again?

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

On the category itself, the lack of love is strange, since it's common the best performance of a single year fits there, like Waltz in Inglorious Bastards or Plummer in Beginners.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I think that you have the wrong image for Martin Compston (great actor by the way, I recommend that everyone watches his debut in Sweet Sixteen by Ken Loach)...

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterkermit_the_frog

Kermit -- i didn't think that was him at first either but the internet seems to think it's him ... (from photos from the set)

my real question about this movie is who is Guy Pearce playing? One assumes its a major role given his fame but he has no credited role on IMDb yet for the movie.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Dick Van Dyke should be at the top of the list for an honorary Oscar.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

I’d love to see Crowe back in the convo. Seriously talented when he’s on.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHuh

I'm hoping someone from The Death of Stalin can get some attention ... like Tambor or Buscemi.

And Hugh Grant was great in Paddington 2.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Crowe does seem on paper like 1 of those welcome back noms for one who they used to love.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

What's more, Van Dyke would EGOT if he wins the Oscar.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Elliott and Rockwell look pretty cozy from here. Maybe I'm being too optimistic to think they'll push Chalamet into Lead but that feels like it could be a really sure thing if his CMBYN/runner-up to the Oscar buzz can be translated into a consecutive lead actor campaign. That could be one hella tight narrative, although I'm sure it'd be even easier in Supporting.

@Rod - I kinda wonder if Grant can happen. Maybe the release date helped with that BAFTA nomination but I'm sure a star turn that fun and light could go far if he's campaigned right.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

Because we're all tired from trying to decide who should have won in 1993? (Ralph/Tommy/Pete/Leo/John ???

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267


Totally agree with you about Mudbound.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentergrrr

forever -- that has to have been the best year of the category. Good call.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

@ forever1267 - Fiennes forever.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Jonathan Pryce, The Wife?? Any chance?

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermatt

I like the supporting actor category a lot but it's had some weaker years in recent times. But there have been some great years, such as 1993 as forever1267 has said, also 1974 (three Godfather Part II actors plua Astaire and Bridges), 1976 (Beatty, Meredith, Olivier, Robards, Young), 1979 ("I refuse to believe that Robert Duvall lost," said Hoffman, though I think Mickey Rooney was also great that year), 1982 (Louis Gossett Jr. vs. James Mason), 1988 (an intriguing bunch of performances and an inventive set of nominations the likes of which I wish the Academy achieved more often). In recent years, I think 2006, 2012 and 2014 were good, close races.

For this year, I too would like to see Crowe back in the mix (he was best in show for me in Les Mis). And if Corey Stoll is strong in First Man, a nomination would make up for the lack of a nomination for Midnight in Paris.

For this year

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Oops, I meant 2015. 2014 was not a close race!

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Crowe was apparently very excited about Boy Erased but early word isn't encouraging, to the point where the film's now had to go into reshoots. So I'm taking out Kidman and Crowe from my predix.

Elliot is a great call! This early on I'd be willing to bet money on him for a nod. Especially since it seems more and more the film will be an actual player.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

@matt- I'm considering a possible similar situation to Glenn Close's in Pryce's case. He surely doesn't have her film trajectory and overdue status in terms of Oscars or film awards in general (in fact, he's never been nominated for an Academy Award and arguably the closest he ever got to a nomination was when he won the Best Actor award at Cannes and got a BAFTA nod for "Carrington") but he could have a great year if "The Wife", "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" and "The Pope" all get released in the upcoming months. Francis and Don Quixote are awesome roles and he could very well hit it out of the park, not to mention Best Actor is more generous to veterans than Best Actress. The problem is neither of those two films have a release date yet, and all the development hell regarding "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" in addition to the fact that "The Pope" will be distributed by Netflix could obviously diminish his chances. Or, of course, they could simply just not be good enough. But if he kills it in every movie and they all get enough acclaim this year, he could be that omnipresent veteran riding a great narrative (in that case, I'd say "The Pope" would be his most likely vehicle or yeah, perhaps it'd be easier to get a supporting nod for "The Wife").

Let's see.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Oscar Isaac is one of our best actors right now. Id kill to get him nominated (not really, but probably). His lack of a nom for Ex Machina was fucking heinous. And I feel like Im in such a small contingent of people that didnt think Michael B. jordan was thhaaaattt great in Black Panther. It was pretty much just your standard great MBJ performance, although he portrayed the flop sweat of being an undeserving king very well.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKris01

Yeah I feel like since the best picture nominees went from 8-10, the acting nominees have mainly come from this pool and have been less adventurous. People just focus on the smaller pools of nominees so you end up with Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer getting nominated for Shape of Water. It’s like the Emmys when a show is popular it pulls in lots of supporting nods but I feel like the Oscars should reach out more.

April 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

The Lovely Bones was not a big Oscar movie, but Stanley Tucci was nominated for it, never mind the fact that he was miles better in Julie & Julia that same year. But a few years later, he was in the best picture winner, Spotlight, but went un-nominated despite turning in a better performance than Ruffalo. These supporting actor nominations don't always follow the trend (coattails of best picture nominees), and I still fail to see how some of these ever happen. I'm so bad at predicting this category.

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

I thought Boy Erased's buzz was very positive.

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMARKGORDONUK

Me34 is insane. This is the worst category year in and out. Lazy, lazy nominees.

What is Sean Astin doing in Gloria? I don’t remember a young male in the original.

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Evan -- the crazy thing is that Sean Astin is not young. He's in his late 40s.

Alex -- where are you hearing "not encouraging" abotu BOY ERASED? Just last week I heard someone raving about the footage they showed at cinemacon or whatever that event was. (And reshoots are not that uncommon... it's often nothing to worry about.)

April 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Technically speaking, "Boy Erased" received bad buzz from the script reviews (Most of them call it problematic with huge issues in key scenes) and let's not forget Cinemacon is a closed industry festival (Actually, having bad buzz there is news considering they almost like every film). Case point - Downsizing was one of the most buzzed films last year.

The other problem with "Boy Erased" is the release date at the end of September. Since "moneyball", Oscar contenders struggled there like Sully, Battle of the Sexes and Stronger. Late September has become a wasted line for films in recent years. And Focus is in full hands with Black Klansman, On the Basis of Sex and Mary Queen of Scots

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLeon

Leon -- if there's one thing i dont trust it's script reviews. Movies tend to change a lot from page to screen. and the right actor and cinematographer and director etcetera can make all the difference given that it's a visual / not a written medium.

I understand cinema con is an industry event and you should never take those at face value but on the other hand I don't think you should take ANYTHING at face value -- people tend to pick and choose which things they take seriously but i think the only thing that matters is consensus so everything that happens is a combination of a huge swatch of reactions both positive and negative. I can't believe, for instance, how many people take test screening buzz at face value as you're counting on one anonymous source who could have absolute polar opposite taste to you (and the world) to decide buzz on something! (But as for closed industry events... they're not actually useless. sometimes its unwise to write negative things given that invite lists are not sure things but journalists do talk amongst themselves. Anyway, agreed that thehype that comes from anything like that can be problematic since everyone is essentially rooting for the things that are being promoted.

on the other hand DOWNSIZING is not a great example. It was also raved to the high heavens at Venice... so some films just dont survive the early hype or something goes wrong in the journey from specialized events to public consumption. people got their knives out early for that movie... i'm still puzzling on exactly what happened there.

anyway... this is reminding me that i love punditry because it is really fascinating and complicated and full of people seeing things in different ways and who knows what will come to pass!

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

"And Focus is in full hands with Black Klansman, On the Basis of Sex and Mary Queen of Scots."

I cannot believe On the Basis of Sex will be an Oscar player. Mimi Leder and Felicity Jones are such a huge downgrade from Marielle Heller and Natalie Portman. There has to be a reason that the latter two dropped the project.

Also, on ScreenTalk this weekend, Anne Thompson said that Focus was explicitly saying that Black Klansman is NOT an Oscar player. That doesn't mean it couldn't get a nomination somewhere, but they are not planning a campaign for it.

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

We are experiencing a revival in this category, at least I hope we are. This past year saw one of the greatest lineups ever for Supporting Actor. All my personal picks got in. Any one of those dudes could've won and it would have been deserved. Jenkins was not a coattail nominee--he genuinely deserved to be nominated for his terrific work.

I hope this is a sign that the category no longer will travel in veteran actors who get recognized simply because they've had long, rich careers.

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

The pickings are hardly ever slim for this category. Most films have plenty of men in their casts, so there's always an overabundance to choose from, with many worthy performances getting lost in the shuffle. Now, the Academy actually picking the best 5 from all their options is another story, but there are always plenty of men to choose from.

April 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Rusty Crowe going the "Nicole Kidman in Lion" route. Nominate him everywhere, but he won't win anything.

May 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I'm as close to an obsessive fan of this category as you'll find, but this may be for the very reasons others are turned off, i.e. career awards. I'm pretty sentimental about that stuff.

That aside, if you look at my DVD collection, I have more Oscar winners in Supporting Actor than any other category, by far! My wife often says that this award is often for the best writing in the end, i.e. the character that has the best lines.

May 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave

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