Oscars nominations cliffhanger: Will there be surprises in supporting races?

Could we see some surprises in the supporting acting races when Oscar nominations are announced on Thursday? After the academy made the shift from five Best Picture nominees in 2009 (first to 10 and then to a sliding scale of anywhere from five to 10), voters had to spend more time on that part of the ballot and there was an unexpected change in the supporting acting nominations, which are now more likely to be paired with leading ones. 

Will Oscar champs Meryl Streep (“Into the Woods“) and Robert Duvall (“The Judge“) be the lone acting nominees from their films or be the newest victims of this trend? If they are snubbed, who are most likely to get nominated instead? 

Over the last five years, only 13 of the 50 supporting nominees did not have a costar represented in the lead categories. Compare that to the previous five years, when 29 featured players reaped bids without being boosted by their film’s stars. Likewise, only four of the most recent 10 lead winners did not have a supporting castmate in contention while it had been 7/10 in the preceding five years. 

This explains three of the biggest shockers among recent Supporting Actress nominations: Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”) last year, Jacki Wever (“Silver Linings Playbook”) in 2012 and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Crazy Heart”) in 2009. None had been nominated at Critic’s Choice or SAG and only Hawkins received any recognition from the Golden Globes and BAFTA. However, each was in a movie with the either a Best Actress (Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”) or Best Actor (Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”) winner. 

This year, Supporting Actress has at least one slot up for grabs. If David Oyelowo makes it in to Best Actor for “Selma” could Carmen Ejogo also? Likewise for Rene Russo (“Nightcrawler”) if Jake Gyllenhaal gets a nomination. And Kristen Stewart (“Still Alice”) and Laura Dern (“Wild“) could get swept along by support for Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon respectively. 

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

Last year, Jonah Hill surprised with a Supporting Actor bid for “Wolf of Wall Street.” While leading man Leonard DiCaprio did not win the Oscar, I would argue he came pretty close.

Duvall is the only aspect of “The Judge” to receive any awards recognition. Could Tom Wilkinson score for “Selma”? Charlie Cox also pops into my mind for his role in “The Theory of Everything,” which should reap bids for stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. And what about Riz Ahmed from “Nightcrawler“? 

Even in years where there where there were no surprises in the supporting races, these nominations were very telling when it came down to predicting who would win the leading races.

In 2011, Jean Dujardin won Best Actor for “The Artist” over George Clooney in “The Descendants.” Dujardin’s co-star, Berenice Bejo, was nominated in supporting actress while Clooney was the lone acting nominee from his film.

And back in 2009, the first year of 10 Best Picture nominees, Colin Firth (“A Single Man”) and Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”) went head to head in Best Actor. At first, pundits thought Firth was in the lead but he ended up losing to Bridges. A major sign of this shift came when Firth’s co-star, Julianne Moore, was snubbed in supporting in favor of Bridge’s castmate Maggie Gyllenhaal.

See latest Oscar rankings when the Experts’ predictions are combined

As with any rule, this one does comes with a few exceptions. Streep won Best Actress over Viola Davis in 2011 despite being the lone acting nominee for “The Iron Lady” while one of Davis’s co-star in “The Help,” Octavia Spencer, won Supporting Actress and another, Jessica Chastain, was nominated in that category. Similarly, in 2010 Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”) won Best Actress over Annette Benning (“The Kids Are All Right”) even though Bening’s co-star, Mark Ruffalo, contended in Supporting Actor. 

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