Best Supporting Actor Contenders 2016

A significant number of potential nominees are still unseen

If there is any category this awards season that just makes you want to throw your hands up in the air it’s the Best Supporting Actor race.  Besides the fact there is no frontrunner, we’ve reached the middle of October and there are still two late arriving films the could completely upend the race.

The first is an unexpected arrival, “The Big Short.” Paramount Pictures ‘ drama features a number of potential best supporting actor players including Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling (Steve Carell is considered the lead at this time).  Director Adam McKay is still finishing the picture in time for its AFI Film Fest debut on Nov. 12 and only studio execs have really screened it so far.  The studio has made a late splash at AFI in the past with “The Fighter” and “Selma,” but they’re smartly playing the low expectations game with this one.

The second is a film that’s been on everyone’s radar for sometime, Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.”  Outside of the fact Samuel L. Jackson appears clearly in the Best Actor race the ensemble nature of the picture is making it hard to determine who could actually pop as a supporting contender. Unlike another superb ensemble piece that’s already screened, “Spotlight,” there are simply too many players and dramatically conflicting reports from insiders on who might seriously earn some heat. And, frankly, that’s somewhat bizarre considering an early version of the film’s screenplay has circulated for over a year.

There are also question marks over Robert De Niro in “Joy” and whether Sylvester Stallone is really a player for “Creed” or not.  Throw all those questions into a pool without a performance that’s truly blown anyone away and it truly feels like any perceived “snubs” in the category will be few and far between.

So, for the moment, here’s a look at the Best Supporting Actor players still in the game.  A list that’s seriously “subject to change.”

The Top Five

Benicio Del Toro, “Sicario”
Would be surprising if he missed the cut, but can he actually win it all?

Paul Dano, “Love & Mercy”
Borderline.  The early screener will help.

Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Few have seen, but those who have are hyping Hardy’s performance more than his co-star DiCaprio.  Considering Leo might be the frontrunner for Best Actor that’s saying something.

Michael Keaton, “Spotlight”
It would be shocking if one of the actors from Tom McCarthy’s Best Picture frontrunner didn’t land a nomination. The question is whether it’s Keaton, Ruffalo or both.  We’re going with the “Birdman” star…for now.

Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Might need a critics’ group honor or two to lock this up.

Almost There

Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Will Academy and guild members consider it a movie or will the fact it’s opening day and date in theaters and on Netflix muddy the waters?

Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Slightly showier, less subtle turn than Keaton’s.  Still, as a two-time nominee who sort of surprised with a nomination in this same category last year for “Foxcatcher,” he can’t be counted out.

Jason Segel, “The End of the Tour”
Screeners are out, but Segel might also fall into the camp of contenders in need of some critics’ groups year-end love to pull it off.

Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”
Word is Stallone’s performance is worth the hype.  Can he actually be nominated for playing the same character he’s portrayed in six other movies?

Jacob Tremblay, “Room”
Amazing performance from an 8-year-old.  We think it’s lead, but maybe it’s not?

Trying To Crack The Field

Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Along with Steve Carell this is the performance getting the most early buzz.  We’ll know more when Adam McKay’s latest debuts at AFI Film Fest on Nov. 12.

Joel Edgerton, “Black Mass”
Supposedly there is more industry love for Scott Cooper’s gangster flick than you’d expect considering the mixed to positive reviews.  If that’s truly the case than Edgerton, who deserves to be a player in the Original Screenplay race for “The Gift,” could surprise here.

Oscar Isaac, “Ex Machina”
A brilliant performance, but is the movie to Sci-Fi and dark to get the love it deserves?

Seth Rogen, “Steve Jobs”
The acting branch will likely appreciate this performance more than some other pundits expect.  Right now Universal’s focus is smartly on Fassbender and Winslet.  At some point getting Rogen into the fray will become a priority.

Liev Schreiber, “Spotlight”
Already an underrated turn, Schreiber could surprise and bypass Ruffalo or Keaton to crack the five.

Really Unknown

Robert De Niro, “Joy”
The fact the film’s director, David O. Russell, got him a nomination in 2013 for “Silver Linings Playbook” cannot be discounted (really).

Walton Goggins, “The Hateful Eight”
Or Kurt Russell or Tim Roth or Michel Madsen or Demian Bichir or Bruce Dern…

Kurt Russell “The Hateful Eight”
Or Walton Goggins or Tim Roth or Michel Madsen or Demian Bichir or Bruce Dern…

What do you think of this year’s Best Supporting Actor field? Share your thoughts below.

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.
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