Best Supporting Actor Oscar Race More Crowded Than Ever

Oscars: Supporting Actor Race Includes 'Spotlight,'
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

A lot of great work is going to be left on the sidelines when all is said and done

Bar none, the most competitive acting race this season is for best supporting actor. The number of ensembles with multiple standout portrayals, as well as films with scene-stealing turns, makes for a dense category that could easily stretch to 10 nominations. This year, a lot of fine work is going to be left on the sidelines.

Let’s start with the ensembles. “Spotlight” — by any measure a strong best picture contender and likely the year’s Screen Actors Guild winner for best performance by a cast in a motion picture — is filled to the brim with prospects. Indeed, the entire cast will compete in the supporting category. Michael Keaton, fresh off last year’s best actor circuit, is probably out front in “Spotlight” as the conscience of the movie. But Mark Ruffalo sparks with a fiercely mannered portrait of a beat journalist; Liev Schreiber’s dialed down editor-in-chief simmers on a different level; and Stanley Tucci, as a forthright, noble attorney, got perhaps the biggest applause at the film’s official Academy screening.

The “Hateful Eight” ensemble could end up being “Spotlight’s” biggest SAG competition. Samuel L. Jackson will be the only actor campaigned as a lead, leaving Walton Goggins’ showy sheriff-to-be and Kurt Russell’s rowdy, raunchy bounty hunter most likely to pop among a supporting cast that also includes Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth.

As for other ensembles, Joel Edgerton, as complicit FBI agent John Connolly, is the stand-out in an organic and finely calibrated cast that supports Johnny Depp’s possessed portrayal of Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass”; Christian Bale is typically enigmatic as a hedge fund manager/savant in “The Big Short”; Robert De Niro could score points in David O. Russell’s “Joy”; and Jason Mitchell is getting the most buzz among the “Straight Outta Compton” crew so far.

Elsewhere, there are a couple of arguably lead performances in play– the sort that are always formidable when relegated to the supporting ranks. Jacob Tremblay, for instance, is in virtually every scene of “Room” and brings an incredible innocence to the picture that heightens emotion. And as Beach Boy Brian Wilson (younger version), Paul Dano is going the supporting route in “Love & Mercy,” with John Cusack (older version) in the lead. Dano could be the film’s best shot at recognition from the acting branch.

Among roles that get screen time more in line with the supporting category, Mark Rylance brings dry wit to his performance as a captured Soviet spy in “Bridge of Spies”; Benicio Del Toro coolly slithers through most of “Sicario”; Idris Elba is a primal, seductive force in “Beasts of No Nation”; and Tom Hardy tears into “The Revenant.”

But voters might want to wade farther afield, as there is great work out there beyond the usual names that dominate prognosticators’ discussions. Kyle Chandler, for instance, is underrated as Cate Blanchett’s soon-to-be-ex-husband in “Carol.” Emory Cohen is a delight as one of Saoirse Ronan’s love interests in “Brooklyn.” Both of Josh Brolin’s performances, as a swaggering climber in “Everest” and a mystery man in “Sicario,” merit voters’ love. There’s a lot out there: Michael Shannon’s unscrupulous broker in “99 Homes,” Forest Whitaker’s crusty trainer in “Southpaw,” Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace in “The End of the Tour.”

Still, one performance to really keep an eye on is Sylvester Stallone’s emotional turn in “Creed.” Like Harrison Ford in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the 69-year-old actor brings a beloved character from ’70s cinema back to life. It might be his finest on-screen work to date, and if the movie can catch an awards stride rather than merely be a commercial success, he could even find himself in the conversation for the podium.

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  1. pauloutlaw says:

    Edgerton mat be campaigning as supporting, but he’s arguably the (co-)lead in BLACK MASS, in terms of screen time, narrative and performance.

  2. other mike says:

    stallone or jason mitchell are my favorites. stallone was such a presence in my life as young man. obviously as a young boy, your film palet is going to be action flicks, king fu films, cartoons etc. stallone to me was an icon along with jackie chan, schwarzenegger, jean claude van damme etc. so to see him recognised would be really sweet.

    and jason mitchel was the stand out in straight outta compton. obviously the best actor was paul giamatti, a true actors actor. and jason and him had a really great rapport in the film. still be shocked if anything from that movie gets nominated. i know eminem and three 6 mafia won oscars, will smith and queen latifah have been nominated, but i’d still be fairly shocked. not just cause of the subject matter but because as far as biopics go, it was entertaining and didnt really look like a film looking for oscar, its first impulse was to entertain i felt.

  3. Bryan Reeves says:

    Im torn between Elba and Del Toro for my favorite male supporting performance this year. Stallone is a fantastic winner for an “Academy-type” pick and he adds so much nuance and emotion to the role, but both of those aforementioned performances are incredible and I would be floored if they were both nominated. Hopefully the critics’ awards can change that

  4. Zorro says:

    Pretty obvious that Mark Rylance is going to win for Bridge of Spies.

  5. Jack says:

    Harvey Keitel’s performance in Youth is the best supporting performance I’ve seen all year – I’m surprised he’s not one of the frontrunners.

  6. Bee Carter says:

    Tapley is in his own way a big a shill as Travers. Only instead of peddling quotes, he stans his favorite actors. Not even an attempt at objectivity with his Depp fanboying – now he’ll shill Stallone as well.

  7. cadavra says:

    I can’t see Stallone getting nominated; he’s burned too many bridges and people have long memories.

    What about TRUMBO? John Goodman and Dean O’Gorman surely merit consideration.

    • Phillipa says:

      What bridges has Stallone burnt?

      • cadavra says:

        In his early post-ROCKY days, he would throw his weight around sets and make everyone miserable. Kirk Douglas actually quit FIRST BLOOD and was replaced by Richard Crenna. Worst of all, he had a habit of firing directors and taking over the film himself; he did this so often that the DGA finally passed a rule forbidding stars from doing this; it was even informally known as the “Stallone Rule.” He may have become more humble in recent years, but as I said, people don’t easily forget being treated like crap.

  8. What about Harvey Keitel in Youth?

  9. TMW says:

    No mention of The Big Short’s cast? Really? Are you choosing to ignore this one because it wasn’t your cup of tea? Because you’ll end up looking silly if that incredible bunch of actors don’t win the SAG Award for Best Cast of a Motion Picture.

    • “Christian Bale is typically enigmatic as a hedge fund manager/savant in ‘The Big Short.'”

      Who looks silly?

      • TMW says:

        What I was referring to was your shilling of the cast of Spotlight for Best Cast of Motion Picture at the SAG Awards. According to everyone I know who’s been to the SAG nominating committee screenings The Big Short’s cast will be the one to beat. You made it obvious you weren’t a fan of The Big Short when you saw saw it. I smell a big time bias here.

      • Fix your nose then. I just mentioned a pair of big ensembles and moved on. I’d say whatever you’re doing here equates more to shilling than whatever you think I’m doing. Also, don’t go away. Want to hear from you after the SAG Awards.

  10. Jake says:

    Mark Ruffalo all the way!

  11. Jamie says:

    Glad to see Emory Cohen mentioned here because he is incredible in “Brooklyn” and is not getting the attention he deserves. The film wouldn’t really work without his performance.

  12. Zoe says:

    Damn, this is as brutal as last years Best actor category, so many great performances are going to miss out.I`ve got a feeling it may be Ruffalo`s year though.

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