Handicapping the supporting acting categories this far out can be difficult, as its hard to know, without seeing the films, what roles will be the kind that will grab attention, or how big the roles are. Generally, films that are acclaimed will pick up more nominations, although there is the occasional supporting nomination that comes from a movie that has no other nominations, but that’s rare.
There are only a few films in the Oscar hunt that have not been seen by critics, so word has filtered out. Interestingly, the one film that may dominate Best Supporting Actor, American Hustle, is one of them. In alphabetical order:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips. In the spirit of Harold Russell and Haing S. Ngor, this category has bestowed nominations on non-professional actors who play roles suited to them by special circumstances. Abdi, a Somali immigrant, beautifully plays the ringleader of a group of pirates. That he manages to show the character’s humanity may get him a nod.
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle. Just ask Javier Bardem about how an embarrassing hairdo can get you an Oscar. Cooper, as an FBI agent, sports certainly the worst hair since Bardem, shown in the picture above. When I saw the trailer this scene drew appreciative laughs.
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave. As the chief baddie in this slavery drama, Fassbender, who has been hovering around Oscar recognition for a few years now, figures to score a nod.
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club. Yes, Jordan Cattelano is back. Leto has a showy role as an AIDS-afflicted drag queen. Cross dressing, like bad hair, is prime Oscar bait. And he’s supposed to be very good.
Jeremy Renner, American Hustle. Renner is another character in this film with hair that needs to be seen to be believed. As the corrupt mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Renner’s coif looks like it was sculpted out of driftwood.
Also conceivable: Daniel Bruhl, Rush; Harrison Ford, 42; James Gandolfini, Enough Said; Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks; Geoffrey Rush, The Book Thief.