Arguably the hardest award to predict this early in the year is Best Supporting Actor. Because there are so many fleshed out male parts available in any given film, you have a wide field to choose from. Any given film could have at least four contenders to consider. However, when all is said and done, unless the year is as weird as 2015 was, you can usually narrow it down to three or four pretty easily. And this year is no different.
The easiest thing to do when predicting the Oscars is to look into older actors in showy parts. Look at Sylvester Stallone last year-after 40 years of dreck, he brought back his most famous role with heart and wit, and he most certainly came in second in that race. This year, we have four old-timers giving it another go around the block. Liam Neeson, Steve Martin, Warren Beatty and Brendan Gleeson all have roles in Oscar-worthy films. If you asked me to name the two most likely frontrunners at this time, I could tell you in a heartbeat-Neeson and Martin. Liam Neeson famously ain’t got no statute, despite his stellar performance in Schindler’s List. You can see America’s response to this here:
In Silence, Neeson will be playing Father Cristóvão Ferreira, a real-life priest who became disillusioned with his faith after witnessing and receiving torture himself. His disappearance is what sets off the events in the film, and if he is given a dramatic scene, he should work wonders. The role was originally slated for Daniel Day-Lewis, which should indicate the caliber of performance needed for the role. On an interesting note, Neeson was the first choice for Lincoln in Lincoln, which means that if he wins the Oscar, they will have won for roles turned down by their counterpart. That’s a fun fact.
Meanwhile, we also have Steve Martin for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I haven’t read the book yet, but I know a little about the story, and I believe he is playing the eccentric and slightly greedy owner of the Dallas Cowboys. If this is true, as long as Martin-who is long overdue for recognition, as his performances in The Jerk, Pennies from Heaven, and All of Me can tell you-stays balanced between comedy and drama, he could be the breakout of the awards circuit this year. Plus, how much fun would it be to see him up on stage giving his speech?
The wild card here is Warren Beatty. Beatty was a sex symbol in the 60s and 70s, giving spectacular performances in Bonnie and Clyde and Shampoo. He switched over to writing and directing on top of acting in 1978, and has received a nomination in at least one of these fields, if not all three, for all of his releases. He hasn’t directed since 1998 or acted since 2001, but his passion project has finally been completed-a romantic comedy taking place in the shadow of Howard Hughes, with Beatty taking on the role of Hughes. Hughes’ eccentricities have inspired many films over the years, and the actor who plays Hughes is often Oscar-nominated, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, or even the winner, such as Jason Robards. However, Hughes may be a lead in the film. Or Beatty’s ego will get the best of him and he will submit himself as lead for a supporting performance. Either way, Beatty’s nomination as a Supporting Actor is on the fence at the moment.
That leaves us with Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson has been putting out consistently good performances over the years (look at his performance as Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter as proof), and has come close to a nomination several times. I personally thought he should have been a contender for Best Actor in 2014’s Calvary. However, considering Live By Night hasn’t even been announced as a 2016 contender yet, his performance as the police officer father of Ben Affleck’s gangster, I’m going to throw him in at number six for the time being.
The next thing you must look at is who will be rewarded for the hard work they’ve put in over the years. What this means is, quite often, the Oscars will finally throw an actor a nomination as a reward for the hard work they’ve been doing for a long time. Look at Tom Hardy last year. His nomination wasn’t as much for The Revenant as it was for all of his great performances, from Inception to Mad Max: Fury Road. Another example is J.K. Simmons for Whiplash (which incidentally happened to be the best performance of that year, which is nice considering those don’t always line up). Contenders for this year include Ben Mendelsohn for his role as a convicted sex offender confronted by his “victim” several years later (I’m not trying to be offensive with the quotation marks, for the record, it’s a part of the plot I don’t want to spoil) in Una (this may go lead, however), Vince Vaughn in Hacksaw Ridge, Vin Diesel in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (how awesome would that be?), Edward Norton in Collateral Beauty, Armie Hammer as a slave owner in The Birth of a Nation, or Craig Robinson (The Office) from Morris from America. However, if I had to narrow it down to two, I would say it’s Adam Driver or Oscar Isaac. Driver is certainly the more attractive choice. After years of putting out fantastic performances on HBO’s Girls and stealing films such as Inside Llewyn Davis and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Driver may finally receive some love for his role as the good-hearted priest in Scorsese’s Silence. However, as much as I would love to see this happen, I think Driver will be beaten out by his Inside Llewyn Davis and Star Wars co-star, America’s Boyfriend Oscar Isaac. Isaac has been putting out awards-caliber performances since at least 2007, and came close to being nominated for the incredible Inside Llewyn Davis. Isaac has a role in The Promise as a medical student embroiled in a love triangle with Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. It has a strong concept and a great director, but realistically, it will just be making up for Isaac’s snub for the following:
Finally, you have to guess the breakout star. This is essentially a piece of guesswork, as you can never predict who is going to be the most talked-about performance of the year. However, last year I predicted a little-known Broadway performer named Mark Rylance to take home the statue, and even though I second-guessed that at the end, he proved that you should always trust your gut when it comes to these predictions. So, having read The Yellow Birds, I can narrow down this choice to one of two actors: Tye Sheridan and Jack Huston. Both have awards-worthy scenes, but I am taking two things into account for my pick. First, who has the meatier part, and second, who has stuck around through production. The film has gone through several different iterations in the past year, losing its director and two actors, forcing them to change to Alden Ehrenreich and Huston. In fact, it appears the only thing the studio has liked so far has been Sheridan, who has been around since the beginning. For this reason, I’m predicting Tye Sheridan to be the breakout star of this year’s Oscar race.
On a side note, as much as Steve Martin and Liam Neeson are nominations I would love to see, I have a personal horse in this race. I would love to see Nick Kroll receive a nomination for Loving. While Michael Shannon seems like the more obvious choice, early reviews seem to indicate he is more of a cameo than a real role. Kroll, however, plays Bernie Cohen, the lawyer who manages to convince the Supreme Court to unanimously rule against interracial marriage bans. He isn’t portrayed as a White Savior the way many movies do, but instead as a shrewd lawyer who knows he has a case he can win and gain publicity. Kroll has been putting out fantastic performances for years, from the German on Community to The Douche on Parks and Recreation, and most notably his sketch comedy show The Kroll Show or his performance as Ruxin on The League. The comedy world got Steve Carell nominated for Foxcatcher, it’s going to get Steve Martin nominated this year, and if they have any sense, they should add Kroll to that list as well.
Well, these are my thoughts on the toughest field yet. I’ll be tackling Best Supporting Actress tomorrow, and you can see my thoughts on the full field here:
- Liam Neeson-Silence
- Steve Martin-Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
- Warren Beatty-Rules Don’t Apply
- Oscar Isaac-The Promise
- Tye Sheridan-The Yellow Birds