Oscar Experts Typing: Who will win Best Supporting Actor?

Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race the same way you’ve been communicating with your coworkers for the past year: via Slack. This week, with some movement in the Best Supporting Actor category, we chat about the three-man race for Oscar.

Christopher Rosen: Hello again, Joyce! We’ve spent a large amount of Slack time typing about the season’s best actress contenders in the lead and supporting categories — so it feels like an opportune moment to check-in on the male races, specifically Best Supporting Actor. For the first time since this lengthy season began, “Judas and the Black Messiah” star Daniel Kaluuya has taken a slim lead on the Gold Derby charts over “The Trial of the Chicago 7” actor Sacha Baron Cohen and “One Night in Miami” standout Leslie Odom Jr. I can’t say I’m totally surprised: I’ve got Kaluuya emerging as the victor on Oscar night. His performance checks off a lot of narrative-friendly boxes: despite an obvious age disparity, Kaluuya nails Black Panther leader Fred Hampton‘s speeches and vocal inflections; he’s a previous nominee who already kind of feels due for academy recognition; and — in the recent tradition of Best Supporting Actor — he’s a co-lead of his film, which puts him in league with past winners Brad Pitt, Mahershala Ali, and Christoph Waltz. But what do you think, Joyce? Is Kaluuya ready to sweep through the next two months, or will one of the other guys grab the gold?

joyceeng: I gotta first give you props for resisting the urge to mention Jared Leto right off the bat, but that’s what the rest of the chat is for. I’m totally not shocked either that Kaluuya has inched up to first. There’s been buzz about his performance and win chances for literally a year, and in this case, his turn lived up to the hype. It’s also the showiest performance of not just this trio but all the top supporting actor contenders. And yes, he’s basically a co-lead. In a race with no clear-cut frontrunner, he can definitely sweep, and I think it hinges on what the Golden Globes do next week. They could set him on the winner path like they’ve done for so many in recent years, but “Judas” only got two nominations, compared to three for “Miami” and five for “Chicago 7” — not that fewer nominations mean you’re dead in the water or that a lot of nominations means you’re for sure winning one (“The Irishman” and “The Post” say hi). But the Globes do like Baron Cohen and I could see him winning for this and not “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” But what about Odom? It’s a virtual tie between the three of them, but he’s slipped from first to third — though 13 Experts are still picking him — and you explained last month why he was the favorite. Do you still believe that or are you now a fully converted aKaluuyalyte?

Christopher Rosen: Well, not to flip-flop on something I’ve written, but let me flip-flop: I’m a convert, Kaluuya ‘21! But if anyone can stop him from winning an Oscar in **April** (just emphasizing the month again because, wow, there is a lot of time left!), I do think it’s Odom. He gives the best performance in “One Night in Miami” for many of the same reasons Kaluuya is so strong: Odom does a wonderful job of embodying an icon of popular culture (in this case, Sam Cooke), and has what amounts to a co-lead role in the film. “One Night in Miami” is also very well-liked and should grab more overall nominations than “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which also helps Odom’s candidacy. But before I switch back to the erstwhile Aaron Burr, let’s talk about Cohen here. In a regular year or one with a less robust roster of contenders, I feel like he’d be a slam dunk. His Abbie Hoffman in “Chicago 7” is a big performance, both against his perceived type and leaning into it, and it came just before his zeitgeist-altering work in “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” Plus, of these three movies, “Chicago 7” arguably has the best case for winning Best Picture (something I’ve written before and still believe!). Add those factors together and Cohen seems like a natural fit for Best Supporting Actor. Do you think there’s any chance he actually pulls it off — especially if the Globes go for him as you suggest? Or are we both just tilting at windmills and missing that the real front-runner is our pal, Jared. We live in a society, after all…

joyceeng: We do live in a society — one in which Borat could win an Oscar, but not for playing Borat. Or maybe it is, partially. It’d ostensibly be for “Chicago 7,” but we’ve seen people win before after having a great year with multiple films (see: Vikander, Alicia). “Borat” will forever have a place in American political history, and he’s been nominated for it before, in adapted screenplay, a nomination he could get again. I also think SBC is liked/admired and it really helps that no other “Chicago” dude has emerged as a possible nominee. I think Mark Rylance could pop up at BAFTA, and sure, we could get a surprise on nom morning, but so far, all of “Chicago’s” hopes (heh) in acting have funneled toward him. To be honest, I would give SBC an Oscar for his amazing Mark Zuckerberg burn at last year’s Golden Globes, a bit I’ve watched more times than I would like to admit. (Un)fortunately, I don’t think our pal Jared will win if he makes it. But is he going to make it? He can easily be the classic Globe and SAG nominee who’s snubbed, but I also feel like a lot of people are anti-dicting him because they don’t want him in. We both actually have him in. Are we the smart ones here or are we, not to mix Jokers, just agents of chaos?

Christopher Rosen: Well, Joyce, some experts just want to watch the world burn.

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