Our official racetrack odds have Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) as the clear frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actor. However, there are some among our Expert film journalists, Gold Derby Editors who cover awards year-round, the Top 24 Users (those who got the top scores predicting last year’s Oscar winners) and All-Star Top 24 (those who got the top scores when you combine the last two years) who are predicting an upset by recent BAFTA champ Dev Patel (“Lion”).
However, I would argue that Ali is even more of a lock than we realize for the following seven reason.
1. Critical sweep by Ali
The actor dominated the awards from the critics nationwide and pulled off a rare sweep of the top three: National Society of Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
2. Critical acclaim for “Moonlight”
While the film may have underperformed at the other guild awards, Ali won at SAG and is often cited as one of the key reasons for the critical success of the film.
3. “Moonlight” will win at least one Oscar
The film is up for eight Oscars and while “Arrival,” which is up for the same number may be shut out, it won’t happen twice in one year.
4. Snob appeal
Ali is a “classically trained” actor, is he not? Look at Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”) last year who pulled off an upset in this race over Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”). The Oscars love to give awards to “prestige” talent, and that is exactly what Mahershala is and how he has presented himself consistently throughout the awards season.
5. Consummate campaigner
Throughout awards season, Ali has been the personification of elegance and dignity. He gave an unbelievably heartfelt acceptance speech at SAG, in which he honestly and empathically spoke about being a Muslim, bravely doing so in the face of Trump’s controversial travel ban.
6. Ali is this year’s Alicia Vikander
When Vikander won Supporting Actress last year for “The Danish Girl,” many saw it as recognition for her critically-acclaimed work in another movie, “Ex Machina,” as well. Even though “Moonlight” lost SAG Ensemble, Ali (and Janelle Monae) still won as part of the cast of “Hidden Figures.” In addition, he also earned his first Emmy nomination last summer for his acclaimed performance as Remy Danton on “House of Card” and received praise for his “Luke Cage” work.
7. BAFTA factor
Yes, Dev Patel (“Lion”) won over Ali at the BAFTAs but that British actor was also nominated by this group for Best Actor in 2008 for “Slumdog Millionaire” even though he was snubbed at the Oscars. Besides Rylance, it is rare for someone who only wins BAFTA to go on to take home the Oscar. Penelope Cruz did it in 2008 for “Vicky Christina Barcelona” but she did not have to face Kate Winslet, who had won in supporting for “The Reader” at both the Globes and SAG. And when BAFTA champ Tilda Swinton repeated at the Oscars for “Michael Clayton” in 2007, that was the end of the most wide-open races in years: Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”) won the Critics’ Choice, Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There) the Golden Globe, and Ruby Dee (“American Gangster”) the SAG Award.
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.