Though the Oscar supporting actor race might seem geared for a Christopher Plummer coronation, the big twist that came on nomination day should give any expert pause.

For weeks, most supporting actor kudos among the critics groups were divided between two men: Plummer, for his role as a late-out-of-the-closet father in “Beginners,” and Albert Brooks, a mid-level gangster who clashes with underlings in “Drive.” But while Plummer reached Oscar’s final five, Brooks, the toast of film critics groups in New York, Chicago and Boston as well as the National Society of Film Critics, was shut out.

A Jan. 29 SAG award for Plummer, added to his momentum, which includes a Golden Globe and BAFTA. Looking to surprise will be Kenneth Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”) and Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”), who each received BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG noms, SAG nominee Nick Nolte (“Warrior”) and Max von Sydow, said by many to be the most award-worthy part of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

In contrast to the supporting actor competish, the Oscar race for supporting actress has been wide-open all winter, with even the perhaps unexpected snub of Shailene Woodley (“The Descendants”) doing little to sort things out.

The two nominees from “The Help,” Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer, complicate matters on their own. Chastain has been a kudos darling this season, but sometimes all or in part for one of her many non-“Help” roles, while Spencer began peaking in the form of Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA victories.

But those in the remaining trio haven’t exactly been ignored. Berenice Bejo offers stature as category’s representative from the most-nominated movie this year, potential best pic winner “The Artist,” while Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”) and Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”) have multiple honors from critics groups to go with their SAG noms.

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