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Supporting actors get superlatives

How we got here: Supporting actor

What’s left to say about Javier Bardem? With his character’s eccentric weaponry, penchant for amateur surgery and peculiar take on Hume’s theories of determinism, perhaps all the prizegiving orgs are just too intimidated by him to refuse.

The Spanish actor’s angel-of-death turn in “No Country for Old Men” recently garnered him Golden Globe and SAG honors to all but cap off his season of, by co-star Josh Brolin’s count, 497 major awards. Though it’s entirely possible that Bardem will go home empty-handed on Oscar night, that’s seeming about as likely as anyone uttering the words “President Giuliani” this time next year.

That’s not to say that the category lacks the adequate firepower to handle him. Tom Wilkinson, here nominated for his unhinged attorney in “Michael Clayton,” has a previous supporting nom to his credit and specializes in the sort of theatrical virtuosity that the Acad’s enormous actor branch should appreciate. “Charlie Wilson’s War” nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman, with an Oscar in the lead category and two other films this year that some called worthy of awards attention, is another potent threat.

Though he has no Oscar experience, Casey Affleck has crept up closest behind Bardem in this race, picking up just about every award not claimed by the “No Country” thesp, most notably the National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics honors. Considering he portrays the assassin of Jesse James in “The Assassination of Jesse James,” some have grumbled that Affleck’s was essentially a leading role; in any case his correspondingly extensive screen time could certainly give him a better shot.

And then there’s Hal Holbrook, whose perf in “Into the Wild” is as unthreatening as can be. His brief appearance as a lonely widower is arguably the emotional crest of the film, and with so many killers and unsavories nominated against him, the Acad might be grateful for the rare bit of uplift.

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