Oscar nominee Mahershala Ali (‘Moonlight’): Does versatility make him this year’s Alicia Vikander?

Mahershala Ali has led the Best Supporting Actor race since the start of awards season for his devastating turn as a drug dealer turned father figure in “Moonlight.” Now that he has secured an Oscar nomination for the role, he should remain the frontrunner until the awards are given out on February 26. After all, Ali has seemingly been popping up everywhere throughout 2016. The academy may want to reward him not only for “Moonlight,” but for a whole year of superb work, just like they did last year for Alicia Vikander.

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In addition to Best Picture nominee “Moonlight,” Ali appeared in three other films this year with “Free State of Jones,” “Kicks” and “Hidden Figures.” He also had a successful stint in two Netflix series, becoming an Emmy nominee for the fourth season of “House of Cards” and portraying the villain Cottonmouth in “Marvel’s Luke Cage.”

If such a robust laundry list of credits sounds familiar to you, it may be because Alicia Vikander displayed a similarly successful catalog last year. She was featured in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “Burnt,” “Ex Machina” and “The Danish Girl.” The latter film landed her an Oscar nomination and eventual win for Best Supporting Actress. It’s quite possible that Vikander’s odds were helped by her stellar year.

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Both Vikander and Ali have not just quantity, but quality on their side. In addition to the film for which they received a nomination, they each had another film that drew Oscar attention. Vikander was a Golden Globe nominee for “Ex Machina” which rode a wave of positive buzz to two Oscar nominations, including a win for Best Visual Effects. In addition to “Moonlight,” Ali’s appearance in another Best Picture nominee “Hidden Figures” will assure academy members experience multiple sides of the actor.

The only other actor Best Supporting Actor nominee with multiple candidates is the tirelessly working Michael Shannon. However, his bid is the sole representation for “Nocturnal Animals” at the Oscars which dampens his odds at winning. Shannon’s other worthy films this year, like “Loving” and “Midnight Special,” never truly took off with academy members. And showing up as General Zod’s corpse for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is unlikely to help his case. So it’s Ali, who after appearances in two Best Picture contenders, will get the due recognition for a year of finely crafted characters.

Predict the Oscar winners now; change them till February 26

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films are faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on February 26 at 5:00 pm PT/8:00 pm ET. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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