Supporting actors leading at the Oscars

Our panel of pundits have winnowed the possible contenders in the Best Supporting Actor race down to just a handful of possibilities. On this, the diamond anniversary of this category at the Oscars, it is worth looking back at what sorts of roles have won this award over the first 74 years to predict who could prevail this year.

Among the winning archetypes of the past: Leading Man Slumming (George Clooney in “Syriana,” Jack Nicholson in “Terms of Endearment); Character Actor (Christoph Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds,” Chris Cooper in “Adaptation”); Mid-Life Crisis (Tim Robbins in “Mystic River,” Jason Robards in “Julia”), Young Buck (Timothy Hutton in “Ordinary People”); Grumpy Old Man (Alan Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine,” two-time champ Melvyn Douglas in “Being There” and “Hud”); and Spry Ole Devil (Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby,” oldest ever-winner George Burns in “The Sunshine Boys”). 

This year, we see examples of all these among the likely nominees. There are leading lights Christian Bale and Matt Damon taking featured parts in “The Fighter” and “True Grit” respectively. Geoffrey Rush offers a compelling characterization in “The King’s Speech” as do Sam Rockwell in “Conviction” and Jeremy Renner in “The Town.” John Hawkes is most definitely enduring the crisis of his life in “Winter’s Bone” while Mark Ruffalo creates one in “The Kids Are All Right.” The up-and-coming Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer stand out in “The Social Network.” And Michael Douglas manages to be both grumpy and spry as he reprises his Oscar-winning role in “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.”

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