As we head into the Screen Actors Guild awards, which will help clarify the frontrunners in the four Oscar acting races, perhaps it is a good time to look at the Academy’s nominees and their current place in the Best Supporting Actor race.
Of all the acting categories, Supporting Actor is, I think, the one without a clear frontrunner. In the other three categories, it is a matter of one nominee poised to win, where any other winner would be viewed as an upset. In this category, there are three actors in this category who could win this award.
Often times, the acting races at the Academy Awards are fairly cut and dry. By the time we get to the Oscar ceremony, it is usually pretty clear which actor is the frontrunner. A lot of this certainty lies in the Screen Actors Guild awards, whose winners often go on to win the Oscar. This is because the acting branch of the Academy is the largest, and the overlap between those voters and the SAG voters is enough to see a general pattern of voting.
This is not to say that upsets are impossible. An upset happened as recent as last year in this very category. So let’s look at who could possibly unseat the frontrunner this year.
It is rare to see two different actors win an Oscar for playing the same role. I can only think of one—Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather II. John Wayne and Jeff Bridges were both nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in two different True Grit adaptations, but only Wayne won.
This year, we could very well see a repeat character in Joker, which is somewhat surprising given the blockbuster films Joaquin Phoenix and Heath Ledger were a part of are not the usual suspects for the Academy Awards.
Twitter was ablaze the morning the Oscar nominations were announced. Joker received 11 (count ’em, 11!) nominations? No The Farewell? No Uncut Gems? No J-Lo? No Greta Gerwig for Best Director? No this. No that. Why this, but not that? There was room for X, but they choose Y? Blah-blah-blah.
The grumblings from Film Twitter is not without their merit. The Academy is known for its massive oversights year after year, and this has become particularly evident in the past few years. But there is a futile exhaustion to the Film Twitter banter, which is equal parts righteous, ironic, furious, annoyed, and contrarian. The reality is that the Academy is a somewhat arbitrary selection of industry insiders choosing what is culturally relevant. It has its limited import, but it is not worth getting up in arms about.
I don’t think there is an awful lot to say about the 2019 races for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. One is barely a race, and the other has a standout front-runner with only minor competition.
This isn’t to say that the two categories are complete locks, but they are both pretty darn close.
Best Production Design is not necessarily the easiest Oscar category to predict in any given year, but there are clear signposts that make a film’s production design “Oscar worthy.” Period settings. Visually-striking set dressing. Something lavish, or else something historical.