The power of the SAG. Days after winning not one but two Screen Actors Guild Awards for “CODA,” Troy Kotsur rocketed up the Best Supporting Actor Oscar odds into first place. He’s displaced season-long frontrunner Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”), who’s been in the top spot this entire time. Can Kotsur really go all the way at the Oscars? Yes.
In some ways, Kotsur — the first deaf actor to be nominated for an Oscar and just the second overall after his “CODA” wife Marlee Matlin — feels like he should’ve been the favorite all along, though this is easier to say with two SAG Awards on his mantle now. Like “CODA” itself, Kotsur has a rooting and likability factor that has widespread appeal. His turn as Frank Rossi is one of the highlights of “CODA” — an emotional, funny, crude yet warm performance that you immediately respond to and makes you laugh and cry. On the other end of the spectrum, Smit-McPhee’s alluring, nuanced work in “The Power of the Dog” is more mysterious and fully comes together for the viewer at the end of the film. It’s easy to see why SAG-AFTRA would go for Kotsur.
But perhaps more crucially, Kotsur’s role and profile check the boxes of a classic supporting actor Oscar winner. He plays a scene-stealing patriarch and is 53 years old — perfect for a category that has awarded the likes of “Little Miss Sunshine’s” Alan Arkin (a common comp for Kotsur) and typically skews older and favors veteran actors. At 25, Smit-McPhee would be the category’s second youngest winner ever after then-20-year-old Timothy Hutton from 1980’s “Ordinary People.”
SEE Oscars: The state of the Best Supporting Actor race
And in a macro sense, if voters actually think this way, supporting actor would be the easiest place for them to honor “CODA,” a feel-good film that a lot of people, at the very least, like but has just a mere three nominations, the others being Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It remains in third place in the latter, but has risen to fourth place in the Best Picture rankings on the heels of its SAG Award ensemble win. A bit reactionary? Perhaps. A reminder that SAG ensemble and Best Picture — two awards honoring two different things — have only aligned once in the last five years (“Parasite”) and three of the last five Best Picture winners weren’t even nominated for SAG ensemble. If anything, “CODA’s” double SAG victories make a more potent case for Kotsur winning his own category. The last time SAG and Oscar did not match in supporting actor was six years ago, when Oscar-snubbed Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”) took SAG while AMPAS crowned Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”).
But it’s important to remember that SAG was always going to be Kotsur’s likeliest precursor and the least likely for Smit-McPhee and “The Power of the Dog” in general, which went 0-3 and was snubbed in ensemble. The real test for Kotsur will be at Sunday’s BAFTA Awards. Smit-McPhee is still the odds-on favorite at BAFTA, where “The Power of the Dog” performed better than “CODA” did (just like at the Oscars), but if the momentum really is with Kostur, then he ought to be able to win there as well and truly establish himself as the one to beat with the two biggest industry precursors under his belt. But he’ll also have to prove he can take down “Belfast’s” Ciaran Hinds, who was snubbed at SAG, might have U.K. advantage, and fits the same classic supporting actor profile as Kotsur does.
So, no, the race is not over, but everything is coming up Kotsur at the moment and can continue to do so.
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