Best Supporting Actor

2003 wins: Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, L.A. Film Critics, National Board of Review

Nominated: SAG Awards, BAFTA, Chicago Film Critics, Online Film Critics

Oscar pedigree: None

Cooper on expanding his role: “I had to go out on a limb and tell Spike (Jonze) that Laroche was wide open for interpretation and I needed more than one scene. … He would suggest, ‘Here’s a writer from New York (Meryl Streep) and you’re a Florida redneck, so what would she think of you?’ Then another scene where she’s an intrusion to him. And another where he’s intimidated by her.”

What we said: “All but stealing the film is Cooper, who seizes a rare opportunity as an extroverted, rather than buttoned-up, character to bust loose like an uncaged alligator. … Cooper’s Laroche evolves into a deeply realized figure as he unexpectedly lifts the curtain on his life story.” — Todd McCarthy (Nov. 11)

What the others said: “Expect Oscar to chase Cooper. Best known for character roles (‘American Beauty’), he gives a bust-out star performance that brims with magnetism (not easy if you’re acting with no front teeth).” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

This could be the night: He cleaned up at the Globes and snagged many critics’ awards along the way. This first Oscar win could make up for leaving him out of the race for “American Beauty.”

Then comes the rub: A flower picker hasn’t been recognized by Oscar since Peter Sellers got a nom for playing Chance the gardener in “Being There” (1979).

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