I have one more acting race to break down before I can unveil my full list of predictions, and it is the hardest race of the lot. Seriously, I’m not sure any of my Best Supporting Actress predictions will be right until Monday morning – and even then I’ll probably demand a recount. Still, the sheer insanity of the process is half the fun, so let’s not waste any more time talking about it, and just dive straight into my predictions for Best Supporting Actress at the 93rdAcademy Awards.
At the moment, there are eight contenders for Best Supporting Actress. None of them have the widespread support of precursors; all of them could equally miss out. But as things currently stand, I’m going out on a limb and dividing the actresses up into three groups, with my eventual five coming off of each list: the “Mostly Safes,” the “Ingenues,” and “The Legends.” Let’s start with the “Mostly Safes,” because they are the most likely. These are actresses with baity roles, a well-liked film, and actresses that everyone’s talking about. While I’m not 100% sold on either of them, they do feel like the safest bets. I’m talking about Olivia Colman in The Father and Youh Yun-Jung in Minari. Colman is probably the safest of the contenders right now: she’s hit all of the precursors, The Crown is the most-talked about show on TV, and awards bodies love her. As the daughter of an ailing father, she has the weighty material to carry her over the finish line. Her only hurdle is the lack of Academy love for her film overall – without screenings, and a butchered screener rollout, The Father will be fighting for every nomination it gets. She’s still safe, but it’s a climb. As for Youh, she has the added benefit of being a much-beloved actress in an Academy favorite. Word on the street is Minari is about to have a big day, and thanks to Youh’s impeccable work as the brassy, cursing grandmother who instills life lessons, she’s a big reason for that success. The Globes passed her over, leaving me a little shaky on her chances. But between the industry’s love for her overall, the film’s massive support, and her status as a Korean icon, I’d say she’s still a pretty safe contender for a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Up next, we have the “Ingenues.” Sort of like how the Globes love a pretty young woman to throw a trophy at and name the next “It Girl,” so too does the Academy like to reward younger actresses making a big breakthrough, either by going against type or by radiating over the entire film. Think Emma Stone in Birdman/The Favourite, or Margot Robbie in Bombshell, or Florence Pugh, or Alicia Vikander, or Amy Adams, or Hailee Steinfeld, or…you get the idea. This year, there are three potential ingenues in the mix, and all of them are in an interesting position. The one I believed to be safest this time last year was Amanda Seyfried, who went against type in Mank as the legendary Marion Davies. It’s shocking to me that she isn’t the frontrunner right now – it’s the best performance of the year, dominates the film from beginning to end, and tackles Hollywood royalty with skillful aplomb. However, Seyfried has yet to win an industry award, and she somehow missed out on a SAG nomination – an award that should have been her surest bet. Suddenly her narrative is called into question.
Meanwhile, Helena Zengel has an interesting narrative as a young child holding her own against Tom Hanks in News of the World. Zengel is stellar in that film, and she’s so far only missed at the Critics Choice Awards. Zengel is definitely in the mix, but it all depends on how News of the World plays: while several Academy members have called it one of their favorites of the year so far, it has failed to make a major splash at any of the guild awards so far. And then there’s the biggest shock: Maria Bakalova for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. It’s been almost a decade since a broad studio comedy received an acting nomination (it used to be a lot more popular, with films like The Heartbreak Kid making the cut). And in her first outing as an actress, the 24-year-old Bulgarian held her own opposite Sacha Baron Cohen’s game-changing improvisation style and brought down a sleazy politician. Bakalova has received the most critical awards out of any performer this year, and has hit all of the precursors thus far (although it was Lead Actress at the Globes, which she lost in an upset). It’s a real challenge to get a comedian into the Oscars, but could Bakalova be the real deal?
Which brings us to the “Legends,” older actresses who haven’t been nominated in a while and are desperately in need of their first (or a second, or a third) Oscar – think Allison Janney, or Laura Dern, or Viola Davis, or Sally Field. There are three actresses in this grouping vying for selection, and none moreso than Glenn Close. With seven nominations and zero wins, Close is in desperate need of her first Oscar. And after losing dramatically in 2018, and having a meaty role as a swearing Southern grandma in Hillbilly Elegy (boy, the Academy sure does have a type when it comes to their grandmas) made her seem like a frontrunner all season. However, while it’s true that Close has hit all the precursors to date, there’s one major problem: critics and audiences hated Hillbilly Elegy. Like, outright rejected it. Netflix pushed it hard and it only cracked the Top Ten most watched films of the day for like, a week (the average is two weeks to a month). In fact, I personally thought Close was the worst part of the film, hamming it up in over-the-top makeup. The Academy is usually kinder to acting showcases, but still, this will be a hard sell.
Also in a fist fight for another nomination is Ellen Burstyn, who would be the oldest nominee in Academy history. While I personally wasn’t a major fan of Pieces of a Woman, Burstyn is certainly remarkable as the mother of a grieving daughter. Burstyn so invests herself in the role that she improvised an entire monologue, and even though the monologue was the most contrived, Oscar-y speech you’ll ever hear, she still sells the hell out of it. Now Burstyn has struggled to find support in any show to date. So far, only the Critics Choice Awards have nominated her, and outside of Vanessa Kirby, no one is really talking about the film. But make no mistake: Burstyn is playing the game, working the interview circuit, and is beloved in the industry. She’s got a real chance at sneaking in for that final slot, no matter her preseason record. Which brings us to our final, most surprising contender: Jodie Foster. Now, before the Golden Globes, nobody had The Mauritanian on the map. Once it got nominated, it was viewed as an outlier. But then a few things happened. First, the late-breaking film premiered for critics, and received some widespread support for Foster’s performance. I myself think its her best since Silence of the Lambs – she’s really good in it. And then, Foster pulled off the upset and won the Globe. So now, despite missing out on SAG and Critics Choice nominations, she has to be taken seriously as a contender. Honestly, it all comes down to how recently voters watched her film: if they watched it weeks ago, and it failed to make an impact, she’s likely sitting this one out. But if that’s the last film they watched before voting, and she’s fresh on the brain…who’s to say?
So now that we know who’s competing, the time has come to ask: who’s getting in? Well, I’d say both Colman and Youh will make the final cut. After that, I would pick Glenn Close off the Legend chart, because of course she’s going to get nominated. Which leaves two finalists, both of whom have the shakiest ground to stand on: Seyfried and Bakalova. Seyfried’s going to benefit from the overall Mank love, and I feel pretty confident she’ll sneak in. As for Bakalova, she’s in an interesting position: it is incredibly hard for a comedy – especially a broadcomedy – to make the final list. It hasn’t happened since Bridesmaids. But here’s the thing: if Bakalova makes the cut, she could win. In fact, the only reason she’s not my #1 right now is because the nomination itself is on thin ice. So I’m positioning her at #5 for now, and if/when she makes the final list, I’m bumping her to the top. This could be the craziest win since Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.
Now, there’s always a chance the Academy really shakes things up. This year’s already been crazy enough, as two of my original five nominees (Ariana DeBose in West Side Story and Olga Merediz in In The Heights) were pushed back to 2021, while my fifth finalist, Toni Collette, has already dropped off the map. Maybe the Academy will pull a Marina de Tavira or a Tom Hardy/Jonah Hill and pick someone like Dominique Fishback for Judas and the Black Messiah, or Saoirse Ronan for Ammonite, or even Nicole Kidman for The Prom. Anything can happen. But as we enter the home stretch, I feel pretty confident in these five women, and can’t wait until the post-season so I can feel less-stressed. You can see my full list of contenders right here, while the potential Best Supporting Actress nominees can be found right here. Once again, here are your Top Five:
- Youn Yuh-Jung – Minari
- Olivia Colman – The Father
- Amanda Seyfried – Mank
- Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy
- Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm