Arguably the most interesting of the acting categories this year, Best Supporting Actor is always prone to a high degree of drama and conspiracy, as category fraud runs amuck post-Golden Globes. You can argue the screen time of these fine actors, but there are never clear guidelines as to what constitutes a ‘supporting’ role. Drama aside, these are one of the few categories this year that don’t feel locked down this point in Oscar season. Surprise nominees have changed the game and studios campaigning in categories where their performers don’t belong have made the supporting roles the most volatile, and we may be looking at some surprises come February.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – Should Win
Sylvester Stallone, Creed – Will Win
Power Rankings: Stallone-Rylance-Bale-Hardy-Ruffalo
I love Stallone’s narrative after the surprise success of Creed. He’s never won an Oscar, and what a better way to pay tribute to the acting veteran than a win for the role that made him so renown. If the Oscars go this route, which they most likely will, I have no qualms because Stallone is great in the movie, but I think there a few better actors on this list, technically speaking. Mark Rylance, who was probably the only sure thing in this list when we were talking last October, gives a quietly destructive performance in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Despite the film’s wavering success post-release, Rylance has been the one constant that critics can agree on. A first-time nominee, Rylance hasn’t had a role like this before, and it’s a knock out (Creed joke).
The other three nominees is where this category gets interesting, because I could honestly see any of them taking home the trophy as well. Christian Bale is probably the most likely of the three remainders, which would be a shame because I think Steve Carrell gives the best performance in The Big Short. Nevertheless, Bale is on a roll with supporting roles as of late, able to blend into these eccentric characters (see: American Hustle) with ease. As far as Tom Hardy is concerned, despite being the saving grace in that unbearable film, I wouldn’t count him out as well – we could be looking at another Dallas Buyers Club Actor-Supporting Actor victory. Mark Ruffalo takes the last spot as the inevitable Spotlight nominee, beating out fellow Michael Keaton in an explosive performance, but one that most likely won’t go down as one of his best. Spotlight is juggling a lot on its plate right now, and it may be difficult to gauge its prospects, but I have a hard time imagining a Ruffalo victory Oscars night. His narrative repeats itself again from last year’s Foxcatcher, another chilly film with great performances, and if history repeats itself then he’ll be left out in the cold.
So who was left off the final list this year? Many. Room’s Jacob Tremblay was right on the bubble for this one, and he would’ve been a refreshing change of pace for a category that normally skewers older. Given the AMPAS’s love for the film (including Best Picture and Director nominations), I was shocked by this one after Tremblay’s SAG nomination. Other near misses included Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation and Jason Mitchell for Straight Outta Compton, two diverse performances that are the best parts of their respective films. Elba’s omission is especially head-scratching, given how well he’s been received including a Golden Globe and ISA nomination. My personal nomination for this category, however, would’ve been Jason Segel in The End of the Tour. The quiet Sundance film didn’t make much of a splash on the fall circuit, but Segel gives the performance of his career as author David Foster Wallace.