Your Guide to the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

Why should you care about the Academy Awards? In a sense, the Oscars are just as contrived as any other of the dozen awards handed out in the preceding months. However, somewhere amongst the glitz, glamour and incest the show has created, the awards have grown into something more. Win a Golden Globe for Best Picture, and forever your DVD is plastered with a “BEST PICTURE” slogan. Win an Academy Award, and your movie (or your role) becomes canonized.

When we went through the Best Supporting Actress handicap yesterday, I first presented the previous ten winners of the award. With two exceptions, including last year’s winner Jennifer Hudson, the list was dominated with actresses that would go on, or had already, been prominent lead actresses. Let’s compare it to the men’s list:

Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting”), James Coburn (“Affliction”), Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”), Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic”), Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”), Tim Robbins (“Mystic River”), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), George Clooney (“Syriana”), Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”)

This list is decidedly tamer, with character actors dominating the list after Robin Williams and George Clooney, who didn’t deserve the victory in the first place. There is no real pattern at work, but unlike the women, we are seeing less child actors nominated here.

This year’s Oscar race for the Best Supporting Actor award is interesting: the winner may already be in the bag. As the memorable and horrifying Anton Chigurh, Javier Bardem scared every audience that watched “No Country for Old Men.” While Josh Brolin is given the title of lead actor for the film, Bardem has nearly as much on-screen time, and certainly is more domineering. He’s an accomplished European actor with many awards under his belt, and you can expect the Oscars to give him one more this year.

So after Bardem, a line forms for who else will be nominated. The other lock, in a world where the Academy Awards are as predictable as Britney Spears, is Hal Holbrook for “Into the Wild”. For those that have seen the movie, the scene in the car has been heralded by many critics as the scene of the year. Alan Arkin’s victory last year has fueled rumors that Holbrook may up-end Bardem as the Oscars look to honor the actor that has previously only been nominated for Golden Globes. There is no trophy for second place, but for a man who will be 83 on Oscar night, Holbrook’s performance of Ron Franz was victory enough.

The race behind these two:

— My review of “There Will Be Blood” yesterday only hinted on Paul Dano, who overacts a bit in the movie but is memorable as one half of the movie’s message, and has some scenes that will really resonate. If TWBB hit the Academy hard, he and P.T. Anderson will get nominations. If not, both will be overlooked.

— “Michael Clayton” and “Zodiac” were two movies I saw and did not understand the hooplah about, but after both, I thought Tom Wilkinson and Robert Downey Jr. were deserving of Oscars. Wilkinson’s name has been a popular one throughout Oscar season, while Downey has come on late. However, in the end, it’s probably a case of too little, too late.

— I said in my movie thoughts post that Philip Seymour Hoffman might be the best actor alive right now. If he’s not, he’s on the short list. He has three movies this year in which he has been mentioned as a potential nominee, but in a loaded Best Actor race, he might be overlooked. His supporting role in “Charlie Wilson’s War” was really remarkable in how he outshone Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Casey Affleck is in a similar boat, as his performance in “Gone Baby Gone” has drawn a lot of support, so nominating him in “The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford” would almost be recognition of his great year. The Affleck brothers really found themselves in 2007, and since Ben certainly won’t be nominated for Best Director, I do hope Casey gets himself nominated.

Handicapping the Race

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men (-500, money line)
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild (3:1)
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton (10:1)
Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood (12:1)
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (15:1)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War (40:1)
Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men (50:1)
Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma (80:1)
Robert Downey Jr., Zodiac (100:1)
Max Von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (150:1)

If I did the nominations: Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”), Robert Downey Jr. (“Zodiac”), Hal Holbrook (“Into the Wild”), Tom Wilkinson (“Michael Clayton”), Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”). NOTE: I have not seen “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”.

The WHAP Award goes to: Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men”.

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