The complaint I hear most often regarding The Academy Awards is that, months before the ceremony, the winners seem to be locked in. It’s no fun to watch a race when you already know the outcome. This is not one of those years. The awards race started way back in January, in the wake of #oscarssowhite, at Sundance Film Festival where Nate Parker’s The Birth of A Nation was received rapturously. It was purchased by Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, a record for a film at Sundance. However, Parker quickly lost his title as the newest awards darling when word of sexual assault allegations made against him during his time at Penn State were made more widely known. That combined with lackluster reviews for The Birth of a Nation when it was released early this fall has resulted in zero nominations for the film at any awards ceremonies so far. With the clear frontrunner fallen from grace, this has made this year’s Oscars anyone’s game. All but one of the categories seems like it could go to a number of well deserving nominees. From now until the big show in February, I’ll be taking a close look at the major categories and determining who seems the most poised at that moment to take home an Oscar. During these campaigns where a moving speech or an attitude in too many interviews can be the difference between winning and losing, things are bound to change. This week I’ll be focusing on the Supporting Acting categories.
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Dev Patel – Lion
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Adam Driver – Silence
Ali has sweeped critics awards for his role in Moonlight as the drug dealer Juan who becomes a father figure to the main character Chiron, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. He will almost surely take home a Golden Globe on his way to the Oscar. Moonlight an ensemble film in the purest sense of the word, that the Academy will likely want to award in the acting categories in some way. Ali seems like the film’s surest bet. His biggest threats currently are Patel and Driver. Lion has been fairly quiet this season, but Patel’s performance as a man who was separated from his family in India as a child and goes on a journey to find them as an adult, could pick up steam. Silence has been described as a hard watch, but the Academy usually shows love to Martin Scorsese films and may warm to it. Driver lost fifty pounds from his already thin frame to play the part of a Jesuit missionary in 17th century Japan, which is the kind of suffering for art that the Academy tends to award. Bridges will likely score a nomination for his role as a sheriff in the much loved, modern day western, Hell or High Water. Hedges could be nominated if Manchester by the Sea continues to build in the way it has been, but at twenty is much younger than the typical nominee. Aaron Eckhart could sneak in if the Academy took to Sully more than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did. The film was completely shut out of the recently announced Golden Globe nominations.
Michelle Williams – Manchester By the Sea
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Viola Davis – Fences
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
This is Davis’s category and everyone else is just happy to be here. Davis is currently the only lock for her role in Fences, an adaption of an August Wilson play that she and Denzel Washington both received Tonys for when the play ran on Broadway. Davis is really more of a co-lead to Washington than supporting, which when compared to former frontrunners Williams’s near ten minutes total in Manchester and the handful of scenes Harris has in Moonlight, doesn’t seem fair. Many have cried category fraud at Davis’s submission into the supporting category and combined with last year’s win for Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl in this category for what was also essentially a co-lead, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy found a way to regulate this more in the coming years. Kidman will surely be nominated for her moving portrayal of the adoptive mother of Dev Patel’s character in Lion. Gerwig stars in the warmly received 20th Century Women, but I could easily see her swapped out for either Janelle Monáe or Octavia Spencer in the NASA historical drama, Hidden Figures.
Check back next week where I’ll be taking a look at the very close Best Actress race.
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Chandler Ferrebee is an aspiring filmmaker and program support intern at Light House Studio.