Oscar season is in full swing, folks. 2012 has been a fantastic year in film so far, and with merely weeks to go before 2013 begins there are still a couple of highly anticipated films that have yet to be seen. Just like last year, I’ll be running down a preview of the upcoming Oscar race during this fine Thanksgiving week, giving readers a look at what the state of the race looks like right now. To be clear, this isn’t a personal list but rather an objective look at how things look to be shaping up. I’ve divided each category into frontrunners, likely to be nominated, and other contenders in order to parse out where things stand at the moment. There are multiple strong contenders in nearly every category, so this is looking to be a rather heated run to the finish line.
We’ll be looking at a couple of different major categories each day over the next four days, and we’re kicking things off with the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories. Hit the jump to read on.
First off, a caveat. Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained are the three major contenders that have yet to screen for critics. All three films are obviously going to be players in the Oscar race, but we’re currently uncertain as to what extent they’ll factor into the overall picture. As such, I’ve automatically excluded nominees from these films from being considered “frontrunners.” So if you see Anne Hathaway in the “likely to be nominated” category even though she’s likely a shoo-in for a frontrunner status, this is why.
Also, I’ve added a new category to this year’s preview called “For Your Consideration.” Under this header, I’ve singled out performances or films that I feel deserve consideration, but that are currently not a major part of the conversation. It’s essentially my way of pointing out actors or films that may have been overlooked, even though most of these picks are unlikely of gaining steam in the next few weeks. And with that, we’re off!
Best Supporting Actor
- Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
- Phililp Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Likely to Be Nominated
- Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
- Alan Arkin – Argo
- Leonardo DiCaprio – Django Unchained
- Russell Crowe – Les Miserables
- Matthew McConaughey – Magic Mike
- Javier Bardem – Skyfall
For Your Consideration:
- Ezra Miller – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This category is likely to be one of the most prestigious come Oscar night, as a number of Hollywood veterans gave terrific performances this year in supporting roles. The two major frontrunners at this point in time seem to be Tommy Lee Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Jones delivers an undeniably powerful performance in Lincoln as Thaddeus Stevens, and the film’s status as a frontrunner for the big trophy helps his chances greatly. Hoffman’s masterful display of talent in The Master is also undeniable, and as that film’s divisive reaction makes it a lesser player in the Best Picture race, many of its admirers will likely look to the acting categories to show their appreciation.
Moving up pretty heavily is Robert De Niro for his pleasantly surprising emotional work in the crowdpleaser Silver Linings Playbook. The two-time Oscar-winner gives his best performance in years as the father of an adult struggling with bipolar disorder, and if the film keeps gaining steam as it heads into wide release, look for De Niro to become a major player in this race.
Another veteran who is also getting a lot of love is Alan Arkin in Argo. Director Ben Affleck’s thriller is a bona fide contender for the Best Picture trophy, and Arkin’s role as Hollywood producer Lester Siegel is both hilarious and genuinely moving. The part may be a tad too small for Arkin to seal the deal, but he gave a terrific performance and is very much well-loved so he has a decent shot at a nomination.
Though we’ve yet to see Django Unchained, all the trailers and marketing material point to Leonardo DiCaprio giving one hell of a performance as plantation owner Calvin Candie. That said, it’s tough to predict a guaranteed nomination without first seeing what he does with the role and how much screentime he holds in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, so we’ll have a clearer idea once Django screens for critics.
The same can be said of Russell Crowe in the highly anticipated musical Les Miserables, as the role of the nefarious Javert could certainly give Crowe quite a lot of material to knock out of the park. With this one, though, I imagine much of the reaction to Crowe’s performance will depend on how well he handles the pic’s musical sequences. Thus far we’ve only heard an incredibly brief snippet of the actor singing, so everyone’s eager to see Crowe in action once the film hits theaters.
Matthew McConaughey is more of a longshot for his work in Magic Mike, but I for one would love to see his name among the nominees. His charming performance in Steven Soderbergh’s excellent drama reminded audiences that he’s capable of a lot more than the “loveable schlub” role he’s been maligned to in many a romantic comedy, and the guy is just as likeable offscreen. Javier Bardem is also a minor part of the conversation for his swell work in Skyfall, but it remains to be seen if two major dramatic scenes are enough to warrant Academy consideration.
As for my For Your Consideration pick, I’m going with Ezra Miller in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Miller blew audiences away last year with his unsettling performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but his wonderful work as Patrick in the feature film adataption of Perks proved that the guy has a seriously wide range of talent. Patrick is an incredibly complicated character in the source novel and this could’ve easily gone wrong, but Miller perfectly plays the semi-closeted character with equal parts humor and despair. It’s one of the more affecting performances of the year (I assume it hits home with a great number of people), and it’s a shame it hasn’t gotten more recognition.
Best Supporting Actress
Likely to Be Nominated:
- Helen Hunt – The Sessions
- Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
- Sally Field – Lincoln
- Amy Adams – The Master
- Samantha Barks – Les Miserables
- Maggie Smith – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
- Judi Dench – Skyfall
- Kerry Washington – Django Unchained
For Your Consideration:
- Doona Bae – Cloud Atlas
The Best Supporting Actress category is a lot more wide open than Supporting Actor, but there are plenty of fine performances that are likely to be recognized. Helen Hunt—who won the Best Actress trophy in 1997 for As Good as It Gets—appears to be back in a big way with the real-life drama The Sessions. She’s been a part of the conversation since January, and I don’t see her possibly not being listed among the nominees in this category for her excellent performance as a sex surrogate.
Anne Hathaway is considered one of the favorites for this award even though Les Miserables has yet to screen for critics. This is likely due to the fact that it’s her performance/voice work in the film’s trailer that’s been moving people to tears in under three minutes, but Hathaway has really come into her own in recent years and was nominated for Best Actress in 2009 for Rachel Getting Married. We’ll know if she’s got the goods for the win after Les Mis screens, but odds are very good that she’ll be landing her second Oscar nomination this year.
Sally Field is deservedly gaining praise for her turn as Mary Todd Lincoln in Spielberg’s Lincoln. The actress more than holds her own opposite living legend Daniel Day-Lewis, painting a human portrait of a woman whom history has maligned to “that crazy lady” status. Expect her to land a nomination (if not the win) come Oscar night.
One of the films that’s already been playing big for Academy members is the drama/comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Dowager Countess Dame Maggie Smith has been picking up considerable notice for her work in that film. Though she doesn’t have too many scenes, Jacki Weaver does fine work in Silver Linings Playbook as De Niro’s wife, and that film’s frontrunner status may nab her a nomination in this category as well.
Don’t count out Judi Dench for her wonderful performance as M in Skyfall either, as we’ve seen in years past that the supporting categories usually net one or two surprises come Oscar night. Also worth mentioning is Kerry Washington in Django Unchained should that film become a major Awards player, but it’s tough to parse out her true odds until the film has been seen.
For my money, though, one of the best performances of the year came from someone unfamiliar to most American audiences: Doona Bae in Cloud Atlas. The film’s passionate yet polarizing response likely renders its Oscar chances as slim, but in an ensemble cast that boasts three Oscar winners it was Bae’s work as Sonmi~451 that truly mesmerized. She evoked fear, curiosity, and bravery within the span of seconds, and she handled one of the most important characters in the film with ease. Whatever you think of the final product, it’s tough to deny the excellence of Bae’s performance and I’d love to see her land a nomination.
That’s it for the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories. Remember, this is merely a look at the state of the race right now, so a lot can (and probably will) change between now and when the nominations are announced on January 10th. Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts on these two categories, and I’d love to hear your own “For Your Consideration” picks.
Check back tomorrow when we rundown the contenders for Best Actor and Best Actress.