Early List of 2013 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Contenders

The supporting categories at the Oscars are always a nightmare. The field is so much larger and even genre films stand a larger chance at not only a nom, but a win as Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) have proven in recent years. This year, Waltz is back with Tarantino and possibility once again and with a new Batman film from Christopher Nolan we have a new villain to consider. But things don’t stop there.

Where to begin? How about an early list of what I see as the top contenders based on pedigree, history, director, buzz, etc.

In alphabetical order:

  • Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths)
  • Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

If I was a betting man these would be my top three picks without hesitation. Harrelson is turning in fantastic work and was denied last year for his performance in Rampart after a nod for his work in The Messenger in 2010. Dwight Henry feels like a shoo-in to me and if what I saw of The Master in Cannes is any indication, Phoenix and Henry are the two front-runners at this point if that’s even a possibility this early in the year.

After this, however, it gets a bit tougher and the list isn’t short.

Let’s begin with Ben Affleck‘s Argo, who do you pick? Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Scoot McNairy, Tate Donovan, Richard Kind, Kyle Chandler or Michael Parks? Your guess is as good as mine. That October 12 release date will be looked at closely, but if history tells us anything, a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September seems likely.

Speaking of McNary, he has a solid role in Andrew Dominik‘s Killing Them Softly alongside Ben Mendelsohn and James Gandolfini. I would guess Gandolfini won’t have a chance, but McNary and Mendelsohn shouldn’t be counted out for their greasy contributions to what is an excellent film.

When it comes to films with multiple possibilities, alongside Argo you have to look closely at Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark ThirtyTom Hooper‘s Les Miserables and Ruben Fleischer‘s Gangster Squad.

I don’t have any idea how Bigelow’s Bin Laden picture will play out, but the fact we’re looking at names such as Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Edgar Ramirez, Kyle Chandler, Nash Edgerton and maybe even Mark Duplass as part of the ensemble cast means this is a film to keep an eye on. Unfortunately, it will be a question mark until December 19, though I expect buzz will start brewing long before then.

Les Miserables offers up Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne and Sacha Baron Cohen for consideration, but I’m not sure if Crowe will be considered lead or supporting. For now I’ll place him here unless anyone cares to enlighten me as I’ve never seen the play or any of its adaptations.

Now, I have my doubts about Gangster Squad. It has moved around the release schedule a lot and maybe, just maybe, because Warner wants it to open the Toronto Film Festival, which kicks off one day before its September 7 release, but even that seems unlikely considering every critic would have already seen it. Nevertheless, you have Sean Penn, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Nick Nolte to consider so there may be an outside chance.

You want another massive multi-contender title? How about Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln? Who might be up for Supporting Actor? Oh, no one other than Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Tim Blake Nelson, David Strathairn, Jackie Earle Haley, David Oyelowo and Jared Harris. Granted, I am mentioning virtually everyone in this case, but only because I don’t know who has the meatiest role. Based on what I’ve read elsewhere it seems Harris as Ulysses S. Grant, Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln and Jones as Thaddeus Stevens are getting the most support from early prognosticators, but at this point no one really knows much.

Moving on we come to Leonardo DiCaprio who is the strongest actor this year with a chance at both a Best Actor and Supporting Actor nomination as his Jay Gatsby will certainly be looked at as a top contender for lead while his portrayal of the villainous plantation owner in Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained will be looked at for supporting. When it comes to Django I also wonder what kind of shot Christoph Waltz has? Will he be considered supporting or a co-lead with Jamie Foxx? Again, we’ll have to wait until late December.

And speaking of The Great GatsbyTobey Maguire must not be forgotten as it will face off against Django on Christmas Day. I wonder, though, will Joel Edgerton have enough to work with as Tom Buchanan? I doubt it.

A trio of films I have no idea how to classify include or where to place their performers include Trouble with the Curve (John Goodman and Justin Timberlake), the Dustin Hoffman-helmed Weinstein acquisition Quartet (Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly) and the surprising independent hit of the summer, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson).

Now how about a trio of actors thought to be in contention last year for a nomination only to miss out. I’m talking about Tom Hardy who missed out with Warrior, but now takes center stage this summer as the lead villain in The Dark Knight Rises. Next is the aforementioned Woody Harrelson who plays the villain in Martin McDonagh‘s Seven Psychopaths. And, how about Albert Brooks, whom many thought would be nominated for Drive? This year he’s back in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up sequel, This is 40. Chances with a comedy are slim, but like I said, genre features have a better chance in these supporting categories.

No. We’re not done. Not yet.

You’ve heard of Ralph Fiennes, William H. Macy, Jude Law, Robert De Niro and Ian McKellen right? Well, they’re back with Fiennes starring in Mike Newell‘s Great Expectations as Magwitch; Macy is in the much talked about Sundance hit Six Sessions (previously known as The Surrogate); Law is Alexei Karenin in Joe Wright‘s Anna KareninaDavid O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook and McKellen, well, he returns to once again play Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a character he’s already received an Oscar nomination for playing.

Whew! I’m done and that makes 34 possible contenders and I’m sure by the time we get to December there will be a few I haven’t yet mentioned that will enter the conversation. Perhaps you even have some you can think of right now.


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