The Supporting Actor race at this year’s Oscars seems to be a fait accompli, with a journeyman character actor looking to live the dream. It reminds me of the old SNL skit, “Jeopardy 1999,” when we a clue was revealed, “Once the Tidy Bowl Man, he went on to win 8 Oscars.”
J.K. Simmons, for his ferocious turn as the sadistic music teacher in Whiplash, is the odds-on favorite. He’s won the Golden Globe and the SAG, and his story is irresistible. He’s the guy in the Farmer’s Insurance ads, he’s the voice of the Peanut M&M, and he’s about to win an Oscar. The best part of it is that he totally deserves it. His Terence Fletcher was one scary dude, the kind that live forever in nightmares.
If he shouldn’t win, I expect it would be Edward Norton, as the narcissistic actor (oxymoron?) in Birdman. Norton has a lot of fun with this role, even so far as spoofing himself a little bit, but the performance is also edgy and uncompromising. Norton is the kind of actor you would have already expected to have an Oscar, and I hope he gets one one day.
That puts Ethan Hawke, as the single dad in Boyhood, out of the running. In another year, he might have shared the spotlight with Patricia Arquette, but the competition is just too strong this year. Unlike Arquette, he doesn’t really age, looking pretty much the same, so since Arquette did show age, she may get it and not Hawke. Incidentally, counting his screenplay nominations, Hawke has been nominated five times.
The also-rans this year are two great actors. Mark Ruffalo plays one of the wrestling brothers who come under the spell of creepy John du Pont in Foxcatcher. Ruffalo underplays, and it’s nice to see that being rewarded. Ruffalo, like Norton, is one of those guys you expect will win one day. Robert Duvall, nominated as the title role in The Judge (a film I have not yet seen) can see this nomination as a testament to the respect he has earned, for if it were anyone else in this role it wouldn’t have been recognized.
Will win: J.K. Simmons
Could win: Edward Norton
Should win: J.K. Simmons
Should have been nominated: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice