The Oscar prediction charts are revised for ACTOR and SUPPORTING ACTOR and boy is the competition ever on. Here are 5 questions for you to discuss in the comments and as you consider your own predictions at home.
1. Is Best Supporting Actor actually stronger than Best Actor this year?
With the decision of Spotlight to run its two arguable leads as supporting (it is an ensemble film so this makes a kind of justified sense... even if a "convenient" kind) and excitement for Johnny Depp's Black Mass star turn already dying down (or is this just our imagination?) the Best Actor race suddenly looks a little thinner than expected and the Supporting Actor race a lot fuller. The category confusions that crop up every year now as well as Hollywood's deep love of all star male ensembles have made things a lot harder for true supporting players of the male persuasion. Years ago, for example, I'd guess that Stanley Tucci had a slam dunk case for his scene stealing in Spotlight and Chiwetel Ejiofor had a real dark horse opportunity as the sympathetic home base of The Martian (think Ed Harris's nominated role in Apollo 13) but I couldn't fit either of them into even the top 15.
2. Will young actors be in the mix for a change?
While Oscar's love of young women and resistance to young men is well documented on this site (and in any perusal of Oscar stats) two of the most well regarded performance from the recent festival circuit were Abraham Attah, who is only 14, and Jacob Tremblay, who is only 8, who lead Beasts of No Nation and Room respectively. In almost all cases male leads who are very young go supporting with Oscar voters (think Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People, River Phoenix in Running on Empty, and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense) though their female counterparts are harder to predict in terms of which category they might find traction in. Still I wonder if anyone will believe Attah as "supporting?" In the recent IndieWire TIFF poll we discussed -- which provides a good example of how few critics care about "category" distinctions -- Tremblay was very high up in the supporting votes (despite being the only male star of his two-hander movie) whereas Attah was high up in the leading charts despite playing opposite a pretty big star of the same gender in Idris Elba, who himself had extremely few leading votes (they were mostly supporting) which suggests to me that people won't ever think of Attah as supporting Elba but the other way around.
3. Both male acting categories won't clear up until...?
Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight starts screening. Or perhaps you think the key film is another film entirely.
4. Which actor do you think has a better shot at winning (if nominated) than he does at actually being nominated?
My guess is Harvey Keitel in Youth. His film director/best friend feels like a supporting character, at least until he takes over the movie for about 20 minutes or so. You could make an easy case that he's more overdue for Oscar gold than the Spotlight boys for example. But maybe you feel this odd distinction goes to someone else in either lead or supporting - Dicaprio perhaps.
5. Do you think Oscar statistics will get a shake up this year?
The last time two men from the same film were nominated in the same category is quite a long time ago now though it didn't use to be all that rare. Two supporting actors happened in Bugsy (1991) 24 years ago. Two lead actors happened in Amadeus (1984) 31 years ago. Three supporting (male) actors nominated for the same film happened thrice, first with On the Waterfront (1954) and then twice over with The Godfather parts 1 and 2 (1972/1974)... could Hateful 8 or Spotlight actually make it a fourth? (Since 1991 the only category that has seen any double nominations in acting -- and it's happened a lot -- is Supporting Actress.)
6. If you had to vote for your own supporting actor ballot RIGHT NOW (preferences not predictions) who would you include?
It's a tough call but I'd be looking at these 11 names (Brolin, Del Toro, Elliott, Ejiofor, Tucci, Schreiber... and the guys from the best of summer in review) and these 2 if I decided to allow for the supporting distinction (Keaton & Keitel), category distinctions I'm still having internal debates about.