Who Did We Pick For Best Supporting Actor/Actress, 2014?
For as much as we’ve been hearing about the hotly contested battles for Oscar gold this awards season, it sure feels like most of the big categories are sewn up. Yet Oscar junkies like myself know all to well that “best” doesn’t always equate to making one’s way to the podium to ramble on about who you’ve forgotten to thank on your long journey to this point in your life. So many factors are at play in determining who will walk away with Academy Award honors. Is there buzz around the movie? Is the person generally liked amongst his or her peers? How strong of a “pick me” campaign have they waged? The bias is unfortunate, but alas, it exists.
Today I want to look at the supporting roles, given out early in the ceremony and signaling that we now have a good three hours until we need to give a shit again. Traditionally, if there’s going to be a shocking twist, these are the categories from whence it will come. I will list the nominees in order of worst to first, based not necessarily on performance, but rather the direction I see the Academy going. Remember, it’s not always about the “best”.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Bradley Cooper – ‘American Hustle’
Cooper is fine here, but his work in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook was better, and he failed to walk away with any hardware then. ‘American Hustle’ is an ensemble film, proven by the fact it earned four acting nominations. They all work well together but none stand out like they did in director David O. Russell’s previous two films (‘The Fighter’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’) which garnered awards for Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale. You don’t walk out of ‘American Hustle’ saying to yourself, “Damn, Bradley Cooper!”
Barkhad Abdi – ‘Captain Phillips’
Pretty impressive for a guy that was, what…driving a limo in Minneapolis or something before landing this gig? Let’s be real though. Greengrass wanted authenticity in his film, so I’ll do the math and say that Abdi was the best of the Somalis that auditioned. That he was able to add some heart to the role was a bonus. It’s a nice story, but he has no chance.
Jonah Hill – ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Let’s look back to 2007 when we were all laughing at the fat kid drawing dicks in ‘Superbad’. At that time, who here thought we’d be referring to that guy as 2-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill? Show of hands? Anyone? Hill is the real deal, matching Leonardo DiCaprio point for point in ‘Wolf’. Scorsese’s film is dividing viewers however, and I don’t see the Academy giving it any unnecessary attention by awarding it here. I hope Hill keeps getting these opportunities going forward, if for no other reason than to hear an epic acceptance speech, but that will have to wait.
Michael Fassbender – ’12 Years a Slave’
Fassbender succeeds on every level in bringing the evil slave master Edwin Epps to life. He stands out in a film that is chock full of standouts. ’12 Years a Slave’ is an uncomfortable watch, and Fassbender raises the uneasiness in every scene he occupies. I’d dare say this would be his award if not for the next level performance of Jared Leto.
Jared Leto – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Oh, the Academy does love to award actors who give themselves over physically to a role. Leto is transformative as the transexual with Aids, Rayon; full of sass and vinegar, but also a tragic figure burdened by resentment and regret. For all the time Leto spent in makeup and dime store dresses, it’s when he visits his estranged father dressed as the son he could never be that truly breaks your heart. Leto deserves this award.
Should Win – Jared Leto
Will Win – Jared Leto
Actress in a Supporting Role
June Squibb – ‘Nebraska’
June Squibb, the 84 year old firecracker, is fantastic in ‘Nebraska’. She steals every scene she’s in, but unfortunately, she really isn’t in enough. Her character adds a nice comedic element to the film but ultimately plays a fairly unnecessary role in the overall narrative. This nomination is a nice nod to her under appreciated body of work, but she needn’t practice any acceptance speeches in from of a mirror.
Sally Hawkins – ‘Blue Jasmine’
I’ll admit it. I had no idea who Sally Hawkins was before ‘Blue Jasmine’. She’s fine in this film, but I wonder how much of her performance is buoyed by the next level effort of leading lady Cate Blanchett. It feels sort of like when something is so good it elevates everything around it. Hawkins should settle into her seat and enjoy the show.
Julia Roberts – ‘August: Osage County’
Roberts elevates her game for the first time in a while amidst the fantastic ensemble of ‘August: Osage County’. But I feel like I’ve seen this performance from her before. When Roberts is at her best she can scream and shout with anyone, but all of those roles just seem familiar. She struggles to step outside her Julia Robertsness enough for me to ignore the fact that I’m watching Julia Roberts. I hope that makes sense because I’m not sure even I understand it.
Jennifer Lawrence – ‘American Hustle’
This race is the closest of any of them, and J-Law could certainly get another opportunity to navigate the steps leading up to the awards podium, but I think she just misses. I’m actually rooting for her to lose this one. I love Jennifer Lawrence. She’s the real deal at 23, America’s Sweetheart and always one sound bite away from headline inducing gold. Alas, she’s also at risk of over-exposure and that will inflate if she wins this award. I don’t want Lawrence to go away. I don’t want people to grow weary of her. I think a loss here helps her in the end.
Lupita Nyong’o – ’12 Years a Slave’
If there is anyone that portrays a more tragic figure in ’12 Years a Slave’ beyond Lupita Nyong’o, please present evidence. Nyong’o embraces and exudes such a pained, haunted soul of a character that has little left in the way of humanity, and in a film centered around the arc of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Solomon Northup, it’s Nyong’o’s tortured slave Patsey that will stick with you well after the credits roll. I think her win at the SAGs propels her to take top honors on Sunday.
Should Win – Lupita Nyong’o
Will Win – Lupita Nyong’o
I’m not seeing any major surprises in the supporting categories this year. Lawrence could sneak up and take Nyongo’s Oscar, but I doubt it, and Leto is about a solid a lock as you can get. These picks are low hanging fruit for sure, but if any of you have reason to counter them, I’d love to hear your reasoning in the comments section below.
The Academy Awards take place Sunday, March 2.