Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we look at Best Supporting Actor, which has a steamrolling frontrunner but a far-from-locked field.
Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! It’s our final typing of the year, so what better time to consider the men of the Best Supporting Actor race one last time — potentially one last time until March? I kid, but I don’t: Not even Cate Blanchett feels as inevitable as Ke Huy Quan, whose performance in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” coupled with an irresistible comeback narrative has him well out in front in this race. Quan is like Troy Kotsur and Kodi Smit-McPhee combined. Quan has won 22 precursor awards so far, including victories from both critics groups in New York and Los Angeles, as well as the five people who voted for him at the Gotham Awards. His only “miss” came at the National Board of Review, where Quan lost to the ostensible runner-up choice, Brendan Gleeson. But not even that was a surprise in context. Last year, that group gave its supporting actor honor to Ciarán Hinds. In the last eight years, seven NBR supporting actor winners were over 60. They just seem to like the elder statesman. So with Quan comfortably ahead and Gleeson all but assured of his first nomination, what do we make of the rest of the category? We’re both high af on Barry Keoghan, who for my money actually gives the best performance in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” the highest of high praise considering his co-stars and their work. The consensus is the “Banshees” boys will be joined by “The Fabelmans.” In our odds, Paul Dano is ahead of Judd Hirsch. I’ve got Hirsch locked in: Having just watched “The Fabelmans” again over Christmas weekend (it’s a re-re-re-watchable), I was just blown away by his brief performance. He does more in eight minutes than most of the year’s Best Actor contenders do in full performances. It’s a show-stopping sequence. I think he could be this year’s Alan Arkin, who was present in more of “Little Miss Sunshine,” but really didn’t have that much more to say or do in the final accounting, stopwatches be damned. As for Dano, who sits in third place in our odds, the cast is simple: His final scene is a killer — plus he was so good in “The Batman,” and is blowing up on Netflix because “Prisoners” has been an unexpected juggernaut for the streaming service, according to the inscrutable viewing charts. But I’ve wavered on him all season — mostly because I don’t have faith academy voters will appreciate his nuanced work of restraint. As a result, I put Brad Pitt in there for “Babylon” since we saw it back in November. But, you’ll be shocked to know, I’m back on Dano as the year comes to a close. I just think it’ll be easier for him to land on more ballots because most “Fabelmans” fans will likely just put Dano and Hirsch together on their ballots in order of preference before they even get down to the other contenders. So for all this typing, I’m with the herd: Quan, Gleeson, Keoghan, Hirsch, Dano. What about you, Joyce? Do you think there’s room for both Dano and Hirsch, or do you have another man in mind?
joyceeng: This category is just a Xerox of the race two years ago: A locked frontrunner for months, three ostensibly safe nominees and a wide-open fifth slot. Oscar voters were so dispassionate about all the borderline contenders that they filled that slot with LaKeith Stanfield from that two-hander with no leads, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” I’m not saying we’re going to get a left-field surprise like that this year (although if we did, who would it be?), but that was just a highlighter-worthy example of them favoring people from strong films in the supporting categories. It was why I slotted in Jesse Plemons last December when that race was still madly erratic. So in that regard, the top five makes sense — “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “The Fabelmans” are arguably top three in Best Picture, give or take a “Top Gun: Maverick” — but that also means there’ll be two sets of double nominees, something that’s only happened once in an acting category in Oscar history. I have everyone but Hirsch, whose buzz originated and peaked when “The Fabelmans” premiered in Toronto, and the film is feeling more like one people like and admire than love. Even fellow one-scene wonder Bradley Cooper had more hype at this point last year (and more critics’ awards and nominations too). My last spot is occupied by Ben Whishaw, who’s merely a placeholder since I have no idea who to put there. “Women Talking” has had a tough go of it lately, but maybe it was a good thing its release was pushed to Dec. 23 because the “box office bomb” headline marketplace was cornered by “Babylon” over the weekend. I am more and more considering Brian Tyree Henry from my beloved “Causeway,” even though he’d be a lone nominee. But this is the kind of scattered field that can break his way because he’d have a lot of passionate support. Weirdly, the other fringe contender I can see with passion is Eddie Redmayne? I can’t think about this anymore.
SEE Oscar Experts slugfest: Mailbag episode! Who will be Dench’d? And our favorite films of 2022
Christopher Rosen: I appreciate you placeholding with Ben Whishaw but I haven’t heard anyone talking about him seriously since walking out of the premiere of “Women Talking” at Telluride when he was already being positioned as the Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman” of the year. (Awards punditry, so funny sometimes!) But I’m not ruling him out, or really anyone. As you wrote, it would be great to see Henry gain traction here — and I think there’s definitely a path for his nomination. Actors love him, it feels like the academy has been waiting for him to have The Role, and he’s really *the* focus of the Apple awards campaign machine (sorry to “Emancipation”). Even Brad Pitt, his “Bullet Train” co-star and supporting actor competitor, is in the tank for Henry. But you asked for a left-field surprise here, and let me provide one: “Glass Onion” star Edward Norton. The three-time Oscar nominee gives, bar none, the predefinite performance of the year in the Netflix whodunit, basically sending up Elon Musk and Netflix itself in the process. It’s a character that will reverberate past the 2023 Oscars, and I could see a lot of actors appreciating Norton’s swings here — especially if this group decides to “want to say something” with its vote. (“Disruptors *are* sh–heads,” feels appropriate in a year where theatrical movies are fighting to hold onto relevancy.) “Glass Onion” is still a fringe Best Picture nominee, but I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that it lands an acting nomination too. Most people have focused on Janelle Monáe — and she’s had a lot of precursor support — but because of this category’s relative lack of depth, I think Norton could be the upset pick. Unless it’s Tom Hanks?
joyceeng: You’re trying as hard to make Norton happen as much as Miles Bron is trying to make Klear happen. Norton is a ton of fun and you can tell he had a blast in the role, but I wouldn’t say he was taking a lot of swings here — he’s just so good at playing pricks in general. “Glass Onion’s” acting hopes feel like they rest with Monáe, who’s hardly a lock herself. We talked in our mailbag episode about how Monáe’s performance is not traditionally Oscar-y, which also rings true for Norton. It’ll be wild if Hanks made it in when the Globes didn’t even touch him, and he’s only had one nomination in 20 years. Mark Rylance would be cool, but I can’t see a lot of voters getting through “Bones and All,” whose buzz has pretty much flatlined. Many moons ago, Woody Harrelson’s name was tossed around for “Triangle of Sadness” as he was the Famous Person in the cast, but it’s a small albeit memorable role, and I think if a non-Dolly de Leon actor were to shock, it’d be Zlatko Burić, who won the European Film Awards’ single Best Actor category over Film Twitter darling and lead performer Paul Mescal. I’m not switching to any of these people right now, but they can all be curveballs. Last year, Oscar also defaulted to a familiar face in the end, J.K. Simmons. A few folks fit that bill this time around, including Pitt. (Flashback to when you had “Babylon” scoring three acting nominations last month.) He gives arguably the best performance in the film and has the most affecting and effective character arc. Did your capricious heart move off of him after “Babylon” was a bust?
SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Is Kerry Condon the only safe Best Supporting Actress nominee?
Christopher Rosen: Never. I’ll defend “Babylon” quickly. Did anyone think it wouldn’t flop, especially after every single other “prestige” movie flopped this year? Meanwhile, that the Cinemascore is a C+ is a feature, not a bug. “The Wolf of Wall Street” similarly gave audiences the middle finger and was rewarded with a low audience score too. That movie somehow grossed $400 million worldwide because it came out a long time ago when people went to the movies and sometimes liked to be challenged by the material. Not so much anymore! I wouldn’t bet against “Babylon” scoring two acting nominations — I still think Margot Robbie is pretty much locked in and I could see going back to Brad before the week is out, tbh. (Jean Smart, love you and the small press push you engaged in last week, but it’s probably not going to happen.) Let’s look at last year, where Simmons got in just because he’s Simmons. Who’s like that this year in a movie that won’t compete in Best Picture? Let me direct you to two-time Best Actor winner Sir Anthony Hopkins for “Armageddon Time.” Hopkins is top tier in a movie that is still lingering despite flopping like everything else. It doesn’t seem possible, but given the competition for the fifth spot, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were the octogenarian to land a nomination here. But I’ll leave you with the last word. Maybe I have the wrong Hopkins performance? Any hope for August faves Micheal Ward or Zen McGrath?
joyceeng: Now you’re just being a troll. You very well know the answer to that question. I miss the days when you were conducting the Jeremy Strong train for “Armageddon Time.” Hopkins is heartwarming in the film (and hilariously evil in “The Son”), but he’s in a weaker position than BTH, except for the fact that he’s old in a category that loves the olds. Simmons also wasn’t a lone nominee and benefited from the acting branch going HAM on “Being the Ricardos” (remember that brief moment in time when we all had Nicole Kidman winning?). If the final five does turn out to be a double-double-single, Quan really can just sleepwalk to the stage. So I guess my final typing of 2022 is to savor this moment, when we’re utterly clueless as to how this lineup will shake out.
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