2014 Oscar Power Rankings: Best Supporting Actor (Nov. 20)
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ has been screened. ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ continue to establish their dominance. ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ make noise, and we’re still waiting on ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘American Hustle.’
In other words, the dust swirling around the first stage of the annual Oscar race is starting to settle, and select portions of the picture are beginning to clear.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday – when voters in various creative bodies spend quiet days absorbing Oscar contenders – let’s catch up on the latest frontrunners in our major awards categories.
Jared Leto, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
So far, this race has been characterized by the vocal lack of campaigning, with both Leto and Michael Fassbender telling media members they have no intention of lobbying for nominations. It doesn’t stop either one of them from establishing themselves as frontrunners in the category. Matthew McConaughey’s outstanding chemistry with Leto helps create actual characters out of what normally devolve into caricature. Rayon, in particular, gives Leto a risky performance, but never a showy one. The scene the actor gets with James DuMont, playing Rayon’s father, should cement his nomination this year.
Michael Fassbender, ‘12 Years a Slave’
Fassbender reunites with his ‘Shame’ director Steve McQueen, and while ‘Slave’ is a vehicle for the always excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fassbender emerges from ‘Slave’ as a legitimate (and terrifying) Best Supporting Actor contender. There were many who believed Fassbender deserved an Oscar nom for his searing portrayal of a sex addict in ‘Shame.’ News that he won’t actively campaign for an Oscar shouldn’t hurt his chances at a nomination (but might ultimately cost him a win).
Tom Hanks, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’
I finally caught John Lee Hancock’s ‘Mr. Banks,’ and I believe it has more than enough movie-making magic to make a deep run in this year’s Oscar race. While it’s Emma Thompson’s show, Hanks brings a Midwestern persistence to the iconic role of Hollywood entertainer Walt Disney in a behind-the-scenes expose on the making of ‘Mary Poppins.’ You often need one great scene in a solid movie to make the race, and Disney’s recollection of a grueling paper route job might be the moment that cements Hanks’ nomination.
James Gandolfini, ‘Enough Said’
If the top three nominees are set in stone (or the closest thing to “stone” we can have at this point), then the last two slots remain incredibly fluid. Names like Daniel Bruhl, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Matthew McConaughey (for ‘Mud’) and Barkhad Abdi remain in the mix. Momentum, meanwhile, is heating up for Gandolfini’s tender, big-hearted and vulnerable turn as a divorcee wading into the dating pool in Nicole Holofcener’s ‘Enough Said.’ His performance certainly earns a potential nomination. Giving the Academy a chance to honor the late ‘Sopranos’ star on Oscar night would be icing on the awards cake.
Barkhad Abdi, ‘Captain Phillips’
Vulnerable. Very vulnerable. Supporting parts from ‘American Hustle,’ ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ or ‘August: Osage County’ could (and likely will) knock Abdi – a newcomer – from this slot. The ‘Captain Phillips’ campaign feels like it has lost its heat, but the Somali native brings actual sentiment to a complicated role, playing a pirate ordered to infiltrate a Maersk cargo ship. Producer Scott Rudin knows how to campaign, so this race can change in Abdi’s favor somewhere down the line.