PREDICTIONS: A Closer Look at the 2012 Supporting Actor Oscar Race

View the Oscar Prediction Charts for Best Supporting Actor

There is an unfortunate perception among people who closely follow the Oscars that the Supporting Actor category is more about rewarding veteran actors who are due for recognition than they are about giving the prize to the best performance in a given year. It could be argued this was the case early in the 2000s when actors like Jim Broadbent, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin won the award, but recently this category has been used to reward individuals who are doing something particularly unique and exciting. In recent years some of the most interesting actors of the here and now took home the prize including Javier Bardem, Christoph Waltz, and Christian Bale.

This year’s crop of potential nominees offers a nice variety of contenders for the Best Supporting Actor prize including previous nominees and first-timers. It is likely that this category will pit film legends up against relative newcomers, which is fantastic. Part of what makes the Oscars so enjoyable is the ability to celebrate new movements in the art form while still embracing the roots of cinema. Let’s take a look at these potential nominees, starting with the legends.

After appearing in over 150 movies, Christopher Plummer received his first Academy Award nomination two years ago at the age of 80 for playing Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. Since then he has been incredibly busy with nine movies since the beginning of 2009 and numerous voice acting performances for video games. Plummer might be back to win the prize this year for his deeply moving performance in Mike Mills’ Beginners. Plummer plays Hal, an elderly man who comes out as gay after his wife passes away. The performance is not as showy as recent winners have been, but it does have a lot going for it. Primarily he comes across as incredibly sympathetic but still flawed. It’s a difficult tone to pull off, but Plummer does so marvelously and should have enough respect from the Academy to at least score a nomination and he is the closest thing we have right now to a lock.

Thanks in large part to his collaborations with Ingmar Bergman, legendary actor Max Von Sydow has appeared in some of my favorite movies of all-time. Criminally he has only been nominated for an Oscar once for his leading performance in the forgettable Pelle the Conquerer. This is largely due to the Academy’s unspoken bias against Foreign Films. This year the multi-lingual Sydow is performing in English and in a film by Stephen Daldry, the most Oscar friendly director since William Wyler. The film is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Sydow plays one of the characters that young Oskar meets during his search for clues about his father. Nobody has seen Sydow’s performance yet, but those familiar with the book suggest that he will have a lot to work with.

Kenneth Branagh could receive an Oscar nomination for doing what he’s already been doing his entire career – imitating Laurence Olivier. Branagh literally plays Olivier in Simon Curtis’ My Week With Marilyn and his performance is one of the few things about the film getting praise. Albert Brooks is probably the best hope that Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive has at getting a major Oscar nomination. It would be the second nomination for both Brooks and Branagh.

The aforementioned Jim Broadbent could be back once again for his performance in The Iron Lady, which no one has seen yet. George Clooney is also a name that is difficult to ignore, especially because he has two performances that will be pining for the Academy’s attention. The smaller of the two is his self-directed role in The Ides of March where he stands out among an incredibly star-studded cast. Two-time winner Tom Hanks could also find himself back in the Academy’s favor for the first time in 10 years for his performance in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

There are also some new faces that could join the veterans in this year’s Oscar race. The most likely of these is Jonah Hill who surprised everyone with his most restrained performance to date in Moneyball. The role is unlike anything Hill has shown us before, and it could make it in as a nomination if the popularity of Moneyball persists and it scores in multiple categories. Armie Hammer gave my favorite supporting performance of last year for his dual role in The Social Network. He is back this year for Clint Eastwood’s film J. Edgar wherein he plays Clyde Tolson, close friend and suspected romantic interest of Hoover himself. That is another performance that is yet to be seen, but has Oscar-friendly written all over it.

A few other names that could sneak in include John Hawkes, who could receive his second nomination in three years for his performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Nick Nolte, who was well-liked in the quickly forgotten movie Warrior, or Brad Pitt/Sean Penn/Hunter McCracken for The Tree of Life.

Here is how my top five looks right now:

1) Christopher Plummer – Beginners
2) Max Von Sydow – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
3) Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
4) Albert Brooks – Drive
5) Jonah Hill – Moneyball

Check out the complete Best Supporting Actor charts and let me know your thoughts on the race!

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  • maybe its just me but i don’t see much strong nominations this year specially for this category. i mean last year had some obvious nominees which anyone could have predicted but till now the only supporting performances that i really liked are:

    1) Christopher Plummer – Beginners
    2) Hunter McCracken and Brad Pitt – The Tree Of Life

    i wasn’t much impressed by Albert Brooks but he does have a good shot at getting one.
    i haven’t seen much movies right now nor i am able to predict others but Alex have really predicted great potential nominees. good :)

  • Out of this year’s films that I’ve seen these actors are Oscar worthy:
    Philip Seymour Hoffman : Ides of March
    Albert Brooks
    Kenneth Branagh
    Brad Pitt: Tree of Life
    Christopher Plummer

  • Joseph Bridges

    I just watched Beginners and Christopher Plummer is hands down the best supporting role I have seen all year. The Academy loves roles that serve a political side like his coming out of the closet story at the age of 75 and considering he only has one other nomination and since he has been a revered actor since the 60’s they will throw him a bone even if he dosnt deserve the win (like I said, I think he deserves it; but the Academy is notorious for deeming someone worthy years after they should have won. i.e. Scorsese winning for the Departed when he had no fewer than 3 films that should have won best picture over the previous 3 decades).

  • I have seen the movie several times by now and I came to the conclusion that Christopher Plummer is simply stupendous. He is pitch-perfect in this movie. Most critics seem to be in sync about one thing: Plummer gettin’ an Oscar. With more than eight decades behind him, it’s about damn time Captain Von Trapp got some love from the Academy, as most agree his recently-outed father dying of cancer is a career-best performance for the Canadian

  • My predictions at this point in time would be:
    (in alphabetical order)

    Kenneth Branagh – My Week with Marilyn
    Albert Brooks – Drive
    Armie Hammer – J. Edgar
    Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life
    Christopher Plummer – Beginners

    (so far from what I have seen I would nominate)

    Brad Pitt – Tree of Life
    John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Phillip Seymore Hoffman – Ides of March

    – i have yet to see Beginners. I have seen my week with marilyn though. I just didn’t LOVE Branagh, but I thought he was great – although I actually preferred Eddie Redmayne.

    I sincerely hope Brad Pitt is nominated. Just watched Tree of Life this week – and I thought he was unbelievably good in it.

  • matt85

    I’ve got a question on Best Picture category… Why did you put The Artist on the first place and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo on the fifth place? And what about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy why such a drop?

    • ‘The Artist’ seems to not only be this year’s biggest crowd pleaser (and the right kind of crowd), but also it has the right gimmick factor that puts it in front. Oscar voters love period pieces and movies about movies.

      ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ has a such a strong viral campaign, that anticipation is incredibly high and I think that could help carry it with voters.

      I’m not sure about ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.’ It seems strong, but not AS strong as the movies ahead of it.

      • Jose

        With your first point, might Hugo actually have a chance of getting nominated since its both and if reviews are strong?

      • It might, but we’ll have to see how it plays with crowds once its complete.

  • matt85

    I haven’t see The Artist yet, but it seems to me that though the concept is nice, it’s also simple and calculated.
    I’m very looking forward to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I would be glad if Academy stop looking so badly at the dark thriller movies. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy might be a great film as well, but I don’t think that this movie will score if already The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo scored.

  • I would add in Michael Parks from Red State to my personal list.
    However I know he probably stands no chance.

  • graham

    here is my best of 2012
    a down to earth great film making achievement and perhaps the surprise of the year is;
    Hitler’s Grave
    this incredibly original and courageous movie holds you to the seats to the end of the final second
    Best Film
    Best Directing for Shokof
    Best Original script by Shokof
    Best Actress Taies Farzan
    i just loved it

  • javad

    having seen 3 films by Iranian Directors running in Oscars race of 2012, is significantly uplifting for me as i am an Iranian.However, what is more intriguing is that each film is a world apart from the other with a little giant difference in which Kiarostami and Farhadi are known to be Iranian filmmakers of the Iran Regime and Shokof is the rebel with a long list of activities against the Regime in addition to making films about the tyrranies of that is my surprising take on this amazing year.if i were the Oscars decision making body, i would be clever to choose the latter and start trading with the Regime since the other two Kiarostami and Farhadi are known pro Regime or at least not openly against that situation in Iran.with Shokof and his magnificant film Hitler,s Grave a boundary of daring to come out with what the root of all problems are in that region of the world a whole new wave of discussions can take form and i for one welcome such a courageous move, and that is why i would choose
    Hitler,s Grave for the BEST FILM
    Shokof for Best Directing
    and actors awards would go to the girl in Farhadi,s film
    Kiarostami can also celebrate finally to have made a film out of context with Iranian names

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