Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Oscar Spotlight: Best Supporting Actor

It still feels too early to start ironing out real Oscar predictions, and therefore I’ve decided to take a brief look at the acting categories, one per week, throughout October and November. Many buzzed-about films have yet to be seen, and more may still emerge in the next two months. For now, here’s a brief rundown, sight unseen in some cases, of the likeliest contenders at this point. Please feel free to add your own thoughts as well as to point out any actors I may have missed in the comments section.

The veterans:

Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
The biggest (and technically, only) lock in this category is three-time nominee Geoffrey Rush, who won in 1996 for “Shine” and was nominated again in 1998 (in supporting) and 2000. His film is supposed to be very baity and he’s a respected actor sure to claim his fourth nomination.

Ed Harris (The Way Back)
Four-time nominee Harris is the most Oscar-friendly face in four-time Oscar-nominated director Peter Weir’s period epic opening just in time for Oscar consideration. Harris has yet to win and, if the film is a hit, could definitely take home this award. He may face internal competition from the likes of Colin Farrell, but his chances will mostly depend on how the film fares.

Dustin Hoffman (Barney’s Version)
Seven-time nominee and two-time winner Hoffman hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar in thirteen years, and now may be just the time to honor him. He’s also easier to nominate (and more entertaining) than costar Paul Giamatti in the lead category, so his mustachioed portrait of a former cop and wisecracking father may return him to the Oscar race.

Bob Hoskins (Made in Dagenham)
Hoskins has only been nominated for an Oscar once, back in 1986 for “Mona Lisa,” when he lost to Paul Newman. While he surely won’t win, he could be nominated for his heartwarming portrayal of the most supporting male character involved with the 1968 women’s strike at a Ford factory in Dagenham. Of note: Hoskins earned a Golden Globe nod back in 2005 for his supporting presence in “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”

Michael Douglas (Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps)
Douglas won an Oscar back in 1987 for “Wall Street,” and now his appearance in the sequel could net him another nomination – in the supporting category. I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t judge. Still, it’s rare to earn a nomination for playing the same character again, and I think charges of category fraud may come into play. We’ll see; it’s hard to know.

Harrison Ford (Morning Glory)
Call it the Alec Baldwin slot had he been nominated last year for “It’s Complicated.” Of course, he wasn’t, so that about guts the chances of popular actor slash one-time nominee (for 1985’s “Witness”). If the film is a hit (we’ll know by the end of the weekend), there’s a chance he’ll get residual career love, but it’s slim.

The not-yet-nominated on the cusp:

Christian Bale (The Fighter)
After “American Psycho,” “The Machinist,” and “Rescue Dawn,” it’s hard to believe that Bale has never been an Oscar nominee. A supporting role in a buzzworthy Best Picture contender starring Mark Wahlberg may be just the trick, except for one thing. Bad boy Russell Crowe won his Oscar before revealing his temper, and Bale’s public image may prove to be quite a hindrance.

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Garfield is getting big this year, earning raves for his performance in “Never Let Me Go” before the Facebook movie even came out. Technically speaking, he’s probably the strongest actor in “The Social Network,” and therefore he shouldn’t have a problem getting in as the film’s moral center unless Oscar voters choose not to recognize the performances within.

Sam Rockwell (Conviction)
After being ignored for “Moon” last year, it’s likely that Rockwell can finally earn his due for his portrayal of an innocent man serving time in prison. It’s not entirely relevant if the film succeeds with Oscar voters considering Stanley Tucci still got nominated last year for “The Lovely Bones.” Rockwell, at this point, is a good bet.

Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
This hard-working actor has starred in plenty of films over the past ten years, and now his role in this year’s indie comedy darling may net him his first Oscar nod. His chances will depend on just how warmly the film is embraced, starting with the Golden Globes. He’s at a disadvantage as a supporting actor in a comedy, but he’ll probably be fine.

The one-time nominees:

Jim Broadbent (Another Year)
Broadbent won back in 2001 for “Iris” and now stars in Mike Leigh’s “Another Year.” He doesn’t face the same problem as his costars, who could easily be placed in either the leading or supporting categories, and therefore he may have the best chance to be nominated for his believable and realistic portrayal of a devoted husband.

Josh Brolin (True Grit)
After not being nominated for his starring role in “No Country for Old Men,” Brolin is back as a supporting villain in the new Coen brothers movie. Since then, he has become an Oscar nominee, for 2008’s “Milk.” The acting love for “True Grit” will likely go to last year’s winner Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, so Brolin may coast along with them and may not.

Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Renner was nominated last year for his lead role in Best Picture winner “The Hurt Locker,” and now he’s got a supporting part in Ben Affleck’s Boston-set crime thriller. He’s certainly the most entertaining actor in the film, and that could help, but I’m not sure the film will go far enough to carry him to an Oscar nomination.

The unpredictables:

John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
This is a true long shot. Whether “Winter’s Bone” will earn any Oscar attention is a mystery, and anyone who sees the film will surely be impressed with character actor Hawkes’ frightening performance. It’s uncertain whether voters will actually remember his name, and it’s likely that his great turn will go unrewarded.

Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Singer Timberlake isn’t someone who would have been pegged as an eventual Oscar nominee a few years ago, but his performance as Napster found Sean Parker in the Facebook movie may just change that. He’s got internal competition – namely Andrew Garfield – and it’s up for debate whether Oscar voters will take him seriously.

Come back next week for a look at the Best Supporting Actress category!

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