Netflix's first venture into feature filmmaking, "Beasts of No Nation," opens in theaters and debuts online Friday. Emmy champ Cary Fukunaga ("True Detective") pulled triple duty: he adapted Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 best-selling novel, directed and did the lensing. The film follows Agu (Abraham Attah), a young boy forced to fight in the civil war tearing apart his West African country. Idris Elba ("Luther") is the commander of a guerilla sqaud who turns the boy into a soldier.
Critics are making special mention of Elba in their enthusiastic endorsements of the film (see below). And seven of our Oscar experts — drawn from Yahoo, Variety, Rollling Stone, IMDB and other top media — are predicting that this supporting role will net him an Oscar. That support gives this Golden Globe champ and Emmy nominee for "Luther" leading odds of 7/2 to prevail with his first Oscar bid.
As you can see in this chart of the top five contenders for Best Supporting Actor, our experts are predicting that two actors who have an association with director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will be nominated. (Click on the chart to see the complete odds and rankings.)
Michael Keaton starred in his Oscar-winning "Birdman" last year; this year he contends for his featured role in Thomas McCarthy's "Spotlight" as the Boston Globe editor who leads a team of journalists investigating the child sex abuse scandal covered up by the Catholic church. He has the votes of three Experts, which translates into odds of 9/2.
Likewise Tom Hardy has three Experts predicting him to prevail for his performance in Inarritu's new film, "The Revenant." Hardy plays a frontiersman who abandons Leonardo DiCaprio's character in the Dakota territory only to have him trek 200 miles to exact his revenge. He has odds of 17/2 to win on his first nomination.
Rounding out the top five are two-time Oscar also-ran Mark Ruffalo for his turn as a fiery journalist who is part of the "Spotlight" team and three-time Tony champ Mark Rylance for his performance as a captured Soviet spy who is to be exchanged with a downed American pilot on the "Bridge of Spies." They are at 9/1 and 11/1 respectively.
After reading the rave reviews for Elba, be sure to make your Oscar predictions for Best Supporting Actor below. Don't worry, you can keep changing them right up until nominations are announced on Jan. 14.
A.O. Scott (New York Times): "That Mr. Elba can be scary and charismatic at the same time will not be news to anyone who saw him in 'The Wire,' but the Commandant lacks the ambition and the entrepreneurial savvy of Stringer Bell. He is, to Agu and the others, a larger-than-life figure, half monster and half wizard. Gradually though, we see his weakness, his desperation and his status as a pawn in a much larger military and geopolitical game. He shrinks before our eyes, and in retrospect our amazement at Mr. Elba’s accomplishment only grows."
Justin Chang (Variety): "Elba hasn’t had a big-screen part this substantial since he was cast as a very different kind of African leader in 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' (2013), and in his skillfully underplayed performance, the Commandant emerges as both a charismatic villain in the grand Hollywood tradition and a persuasive product of his environment."
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter): "Starting out with what could have been a cliched figure of a charismatic egotist lording over a bunch of helpless youngsters, Elba keeps revealing more and more layers of his troubled character, to the point where the Commandant begins to assume Shakespearean proportions as a Macbeth-like figure who may not really have what it takes to be a completely successful and enduring despot. The actor keeps pushing his characterization further and further to the rather surprising end, never taking the easy way."
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian): "It is a tale of fear, degradation and abusive dysfunction – a violent and disorientating nightmare with a shiver of Coppola’s 'Apocalypse Now.' Idris Elba gives an outstanding performance as a charismatic and sinister warlord who finds that military power, however intoxicating, is subject to the fickle imperatives of politics, and the suit-wearing opportunists in the cities far from the country badlands he has come to rule."
Make your Oscar predictions beginning with Best Supporting Actor to the right or at the bottom of this post. You could earn a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year's Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year's Oscar nominations). Last year the Top 24 Users led the way with an accuracy rate of 76.67% when it came to predicting the Oscar nominations. Next up were Gold Derby's Editors with 74.44%, followed by the Experts with 71.11% and all Users with 68.09%. (Click on any of these groups to see what they got right and wrong last year.)
Which group will be victorious this year? Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it's important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.
Photo: Idris Elba in "Beasts of No Nation." Credit: Netflix