This week we look at the contenders for Supporting Actor, which is a very wide open race, probably the most open of the top six categories. So open in fact, that there may not even be a single lock yet among all the candidates, so we'll just go through them one by one.
First up it's Michael Fassbender, who's gotten the most buzz for his role as the alcoholic and power mad slaveowner Master Epps in 12 Years a Slave. Comparisons to Ralph Fiennes' Nazi in Schindler's List have been made, and he would seem the closest thing to a lock right now, if it weren't for his recent public statement that he will not be campaigning for the Oscar. Not everyone has to campaign, sometimes the performances are good enough to win without it (Monique in Precious is the most famous example), but it always helps, especially if there is any hesitance over the performance. But whether there is or not with this one is an unknown right now.
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club is another heavy favorite, having gotten pretty ecstatic reviews for the film, along with its lead, Matthew McConaughey. He plays a drag queen, Rayon, in a scene stealing, highly flamboyant role that seems designed for Oscar attention, and he could even be favored to win, if nominated. There have been some naysayers over the performance who say it's a little too campy, but the Oscars usually love flashy, so I doubt that'll be a problem for them.
And after those two it's a pretty open field. There's Tom Hanks in Saving Mr. Banks, who's gotten some good notices ahead of the film's opening, he may be able to get double nodded this year for Banks and Captain Phillips. There's Daniel Bruhl, who got fantastic reviews for Rush a couple of months ago, but the movie was pretty much a bomb here in the States, we'll have to see if anyone remembers him at the critics awards, or at least the Baftas. There's newcomer Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips, who may be able to sneak in for a great turn as the Somali pirate ringleader.
Then there's George Clooney, who could manage a nod for Gravity if the movie's beloved enough by the voters, and Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street, which hasn't opened yet, but it looks as if he could be a scene stealer in it. American Hustle, also not out yet, will have last year's Best Actor nominee Bradley Cooper in a supporting role that might grab attention. And the last couple relative longshots (although everyone mentioned here stands more or less an equal chance) are Will Forte for Nebraska and Steve Coogan for Philomena.
It's tough to predict a field of five here at the moment. The critics awards may or may not clear things up, as last year's supporting actor category was a similar situation, with a slightly different mix of five people appearing at just about every precursor ceremony from the Globes through the Oscars. It looks like this year could be the same, with at least ten likely nominees to draw from. Here's my best guess for right now:
1. Michael Fassbender
2. Jared Leto
3. Tom Hanks
4. Daniel Bruhl
5. Barkhad Abdi
I do have a feeling about Jonah Hill for some reason, I just can't actually predict someone for a movie that hasn't been seen by anyone yet. But if he pans out, he'd probably replace Bruhl or Abdi. Next week, we'll take a look at the Best Director race as it stands right now.