As we near the end of the cinematic year, the awards season is starting to simmer. The New York Film Critics and National Board of Review have spoken, and next week the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes will announce their nominations.
Today I look at the supporting performer categories.
The Best Supporting Actor race is surprisingly thin this year. There are four semi-locks and one spot that could go almost anywhere, although it’s hard to surprise anyone anymore with these nominations.
I’ll go with the locks first:
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood. A lead-pipe cinch as the dad of Mason, who also grows during the film. Hawke has been nominated one other time for acting, and twice for screenwriting, and could conceivably get a nomination for songwriting.
Edward Norton, Birdman. Another lock, Norton is at his virtuosic best as the diva stage actor. Norton has been away from Oscar for a while, last getting a nomination for American History X in 1998. Where have you been, Ed?
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher. Ruffalo is getting strong buzz as a former wrestler in this film. His only other nomination was for The Kids Are All Right. It appears that Channing Tatum, who is making a revelatory appearance, will get squeezed out by category confusion.
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. The front-runner, and I love, love, love it, because it’s great when character actors, those “I know his face but not his name”guys get recognition. Whether it’s Richard Jenkins or David Paymer, these nominations make me happy, and this time Simmons will probably win, after playing such diverse roles as a neo-nazi prisoner, Juno’s affable dad, and J. Jonah Jameson. Now if only Steven Tobolowsky would get a nomination.
Who does that leave? I’m kind of baffled. I’ll roll the dice and get:
Tom Wilkinson, Selma. Wilkinson, one of the those never-a-bad-performance guys, plays Lyndon Johnson here, which is no more ridiculous than Jon Voight playing Howard Cosell or Anthony Hopkins playing Nixon.
Also in the mix: Miyavi, Unbroken; Robert Duvall, The Judge; Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes; Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice; Alec Baldwin, Still Alice.
Best Supporting Actress has a deeper bench, and just a couple of locks. But there are the usual suspects, or should I say suspect.
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood. The prohibitive front-runner, and the best chance for the Academy to honor the unique time-lapse acting of Boyhood. Fun fact: she would be the first of the acting Arquettes to get an Oscar nod.
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year. Chastain’s problem is she makes too many movies, and is great in all of them. She’s competing with herself this year, as her performance in Interstellar was also strong. This is what she won the National Board of Review for, so I’ll go with her for this film.
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game. Knightley is scoring high marks as one of the team that worked with Alan Turing in cracking the Germans’ Enigma code. She was nominated once before, for Pride and Prejudice.
Emma Stone, Birdman. Stone plays against type as a cynical drug addict who hangs around her father Michael Keaton’s neck like a millstone. The Academy loves those who specialize in light comedy to stretch their dramatic wings.
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods. Who else? It’s a meaty role, she gets to wear scary makeup, and she’s Meryl Streep. I think they keep nominating her because she shows up, even when she doesn’t have a chance in hell, and is always a good sport (she boogied with Pharell last year). I won’t list all of her nominations because life is too short.
Also in the mix: Laura Dern, Wild; Carmen Ejogo, Selma; Carrie Coon, Gone Girl; Anna Kendrick, Into the Woods; Rene Russo, Nightcrawler.