2014 Oscar Power Rankings: Best Supporting Actor (Nov. 7)
The calendar turns to November, meaning a fresh slate of notable Oscar hopefuls finally start screening for larger audiences. At the moment, we have five legitimate contenders that have yet to screen, from David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle’ to Peter Berg’s ‘Lone Survivor.’ And while we wait for them to see the light of day, we continue to track the progress of proven contenders like ‘Gravity,’ ‘12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Captain Phillips.’
Academy voters are going to be extremely busy cramming in as many screenings as possible between now and the end of the year. Which films will establish themselves as the cream of the Oscar crop? Let’s catch up on the latest frontrunners in our major Oscar categories.
Jared Leto, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
‘Dallas Buyers Club’ finally opened in limited release on November 1, and will continue to expand over the course of the month -- which is outstanding, since you’ll now be able to see for yourself how powerful Leto and co-star Matthew McConaughey are in this incredibly moving drama. McConaughey’s outstanding chemistry with Leto helps create actual characters out of what normally devolve into caricature. Rayon (Leto), in particular, gives Leto a risky performance, but never a showy performance. The scene Leto gets with James DuMont, playing Rayon’s father, should cement his nomination this year.
Michael Fassbender, ‘12 Years a Slave’
Fassbender reunites with ‘Shame’ director Steve McQueen, and while ‘Slave’ is a vehicle for the always excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fassbender emerged from the fall film festivals as a legitimate 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.
Barkhad Abdi, ‘Captain Phillips’
Tom Hanks lends ‘Captain Phillips’ star power. But many who left Paul Greengrass’s maritime thriller raved about the talents of the man who put Hanks under the gun ... literally and figuratively. The Somali native brings actual sentiment to a complicated role, playing a pirate ordered to infiltrate a Maersk cargo ship and leave with valuables – even if it means taking the ship’s captain hostage. As ‘Captain Phillips’ continues to perform at the box office, the buzz on Abdi (making his feature-film debut) grows louder. What a story he would make all Oscar season long.
Tom Hanks, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’
Iconic actor Tom Hanks playing iconic Hollywood entertainer Walt Disney in a behind-the-scenes expose on one of the industry’s most beloved films? Why don’t you go ahead and take all of the Oscars, ‘Mr. Banks.' John Lee Hancock’s movie-magic drama finally screened for a wider audience as it prepared to close the London Film Festival (and, later, play AFI Fest in Los Angeles). It has been labeled a crowd-pleaser, and an awards contender, but it might be more of Emma Thompson’s show. Still, I’m slotting Hanks in, because he’s Hanks (and the category is thin).
James Gandolfini, ‘Enough Said’
I’ve spent weeks beating the drum for Daniel Bruhl’s performance in Ron Howard’s Formula-1 drama ‘Rush.’ That campaign seems to have cooled, while momentum 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. But giving the Academy a chance to honor the late ‘Sopranos’ star on Oscar night would be icing on the awards cake.