Rotten Tomatoes' Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

The late Chadwick Boseman, Leslie Odom Jr., and Bill Murray lead what we suspect will be a streaming- and indie-heavy selection of nominees.

by | November 25, 2020 | Comments

Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods

(Photo by Netflix)

Since our last edition of Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions, we’ve had confirmation of categories for several lead vs. supporting performances. It’s confirmed that Chadwick Boseman will compete for Best Actor in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and for Best Supporting Actor in Da 5 Bloods, setting up for a possible double posthumous nomination. Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’The French Dispatch has confirmed it’s (likely) skipping the 20/21 season as it’s still undated after being pulled from its October release, which was primed to capitalize on star Timothée Chalamet’s heat factor. Fox Searchlight is not likely to date the feature far away from the new October date for Denis Villeneuve’s anticipated take on the sci-fi epic Dunein which Chalamet plays lead alongside recent Emmy-winner Zendaya.

An awards season unlike any we have seen in recent years is in full effect, and though we are still waiting on dates for contenders like Judas and The Black Messiah, we know that there will be few announcements of consequence after the Thanksgiving holiday. If a film like Zola or The Green Knight is not dated soon, it’s a given they will wait to compete for the 21/22 season. Still, it seems not even a pandemic can stop Hollywood’s efforts to reward itself, with the Oscars, Golden Globes, and others deciding that the shows – even if delayed – must go on.

So we now arrive at our Best Supporting Actor predictions. Yes, it’s early, given that with the new timeline we are still five months away from any trophies being handed out, but this isn’t exactly a normal Oscar year. Check out our recent feature on everything we know — and don’t know — about the 2021 Oscar season and bookmark our Awards Calendar so you can stay up to date on all the date changes for major awards.

One Night in Miami

(Photo by ©Amazon)

One Night in Miami continues to fare well as a contender, and earlier this month, Amazon confirmed they will split the cast across the lead and supporting categories, opting for Leslie Odom Jr. and Aldis Hodge to compete for supporting with newcomers Eli Goree and Kingsley Ben-Adir competing for Best Actor. The other male-led ensemble, The Trial of the Chicago 7, took a different approach, placing all the actors in the supporting category. Both Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom debuted to stellar critical receptions and both feature supporting performances that may make waves, but we have singled out our picks below for who we think has the legs to compete in this marathon season.

Several films likely to be in the conversation have already screened and earned Tomatometer scores, and pundits are already singling out the major standout performances in them. Our list includes some films that have yet to be seen, but for which pre-release buzz and expectations are high. Whether we like it or not, the campaigns are quietly underway, the conversation has started, and we’re now ready to join it. If history tells us anything, it is that many of these names won’t make it to Oscar night, but we’re pretty confident most of them will be right up there in the awards chatter. So please read on as we break down our ridiculously early picks for 2021’s Best Supporting Actor hopefuls.

Disagree with our picks? Have at us in the comments.

Leslie Odom Jr. 

Four famous friends — Jim Brown, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Cassius Clay — met for one magical night in Miami, and the film that fictionalizes the legendary evening might garner an Oscar-winning performance. Leslie Odom Jr. and Aldis Hodge as Best Supporting Actor contenders are both compelling choices in the conversation, but we are giving the edge to Hamilton star who closes out the film with a stirring rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gon’ Come.” With one of the best lines of the film and an exclamation point of a closing number, Odom rises above the already impeccable ensemble. Of the four, he’s the one we see making it to Oscar night, and as of today, he’s our pick to win it all.

With pointed commentary on the politics of art and the burden of being young, Black, and gifted, One Night in Miami, its cast, and many players below the line are already on the top of just about every 2021 predictions list, but Odom is the only performance consistently pegged for end-of-year awards. Adding in the recent release of Hamilton on Disney+ over the summer, the man who originated — and won a Tony for playing — the role of Aaron Burr may indeed find himself giving acceptance speeches again soon. This is not to say we are counting Hodge out completely. Hodge percolated around the Best Actor conversation last year as the title character in Brian Banks, but the film’s lackluster reception kept him outside the conversation; it’s possible he could squeak in this year, but for now, our money is on the man playing Sam Cooke.

Chadwick Boseman 

In our recent round-up of reactions to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, critics universally agreed it was heartbreaking but rousing to see star Chadwick Boseman‘s posthumous performance in the August Wilson musical. Pegging him as the Oscar front runner for Ma Rainey has many thinking his work in Da 5 Bloods will be mostly pushed aside. However, as the Supporting Actor category at the time of writing feels considerably light, his turn in the Spike Lee Vietnam war film could make him a double first-time nominee after his tragic death.

Netflix and Boseman’s estate recently announced that they plan to campaign for the star as a tribute to his life and legacy, and as both Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey are Netflix productions, they will push both performances heavily. As “Stormin'” Norman, the fifth Blood and the only one not to make it home, Boseman’s performance is the heart and soul of the story, and Delroy Lindo’s fiery turn as the tortured vet serves as a pitch-perfect complement to what the Black Panther star did on screen. And if you think that a double first-time nomination is a long shot, we might remind you that Scarlett Johansson pulled off the same feat just last year for Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story.

Bill Murray 

There is just something about Bill Murray with certain directors. Murray’s other frequent collaborator Wes Anderson is (likely) out of contention for 2021, but his role in the new Sofia Coppola film has him back in the conversation. Taking place over the course of one evening, the film centers on a father and daughter teaming up to find out if her husband is cheating, and hilarity ensues.

Perhaps Coppola’s most accessible work to date, On The Rocks was released by Apple and A24 recently to positive reviews, but it’s unlikely to have viability in the other major categories. As the director’s first Black lead, Rashida Jones is hilarious in the father-daughter caper-comedy, but Murray has the only role of consequence for end-of-year accolades. The screenplay and direction, though very well done, are a bit too pedestrian — even in this streaming-friendly season — but Murray has the goods to go all the way.

Picking up a nomination here would be fitting, as it is the first collaboration between Murray and Coppola since 2003’s Lost in Translation, which garnered the eccentric actor his first Oscar nom. Bill Murray doing “Bill Murray” things anywhere in public is entertaining and noteworthy — they literally made a whole movie about it — so we are betting his ability to charm (even via zoom) will win him points with voters. Another tragedy of the 2020 season is that we’ll miss out on all the Bill Murray awards party stories that would no doubt become legends.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Sacha Baron Cohen

In a surprise move, Netflix recently announced that all of the performances in Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 would compete for Best Supporting Actor, including Frank Langella as Judge Hoffman, Mark Rylance as defense council, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the prosecuting attorney, and Succession’Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin. In doing so, Netflix is essentially leaving it up to the voters to determine who they favor, and the Academy tends to favor prior nominees in these cases. With that in mind, the two names most often mentioned are Sacha Baron Cohen and Yayha Abdul-Mateen II. Mateen, who is currently filming the fourth Matrix film, is one of the hottest rising stars in Hollywood and very much top-of-mind following his recent Emmy win, and Cohen, who made his a triumphant return as Borat for the sequel a few weeks ago, is also a prior nominee who many are saying rises above the rest.

The story of seven men charged with inciting a riot outside the Democratic convention in 1969 as part of a larger protest to the Vietnam War is another film tailor-made for awards in an election year and should resonate with voters. As Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II magnificently delivers on the tensest moment of the film — a film, we might remind everyone, that centers on the events of a riot — which is quite a feat. Cohen’s natural comedic timing and biting political wit make his performance as Abbie Hoffman feel authentic and lived in; it’s a jaw-dropping embodiment of one of the most recognizable men of the 1960s’ counter-culture movement.

David Strathairn 

Frances McDormand and David Strathairn in Nomadland

(Photo by ©Searchlight Pictures)

Woody Harrelson was not expected to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Sam Rockwell was the favorite by a mile. And as half of the pair at the center of the beloved love story Call Me By Your Name, Armie Hammer was thought to be a lock for the fifth Best Supporting Actor slot. But on nominations morning, Hammer was snubbed completely, while Harrelson joined Rockwell with a Best Supporting Actor nomination mostly because members simply adored the movie.

We are predicting a similar situation to the latter for David Strathairn in Nomadland: Though his performance is flawless, it’s not the typical role to break through if it weren’t attached to such a beloved Best Picture contenderBased on the best-selling book of the same name, Nomadland is largely a vehicle for lead actress Francis McDormand, but as it has the most heat in this “screener season” and is being distributed and campaigned by Fox Searchlight (the same studio behind Three Billboards), we’re betting Strathairn squeaks in as a fellow van-lifer who, like McDormand’s character, takes to the road after hitting hard times. An ultra-positive and unassuming love interest looking to put down roots, Strathairn gives balance to McDormand’s character, who only discovers freedom alone, on the open road. Having been previously nommed for playing Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck is an added bonus and why we think he will join director Chloé Zhao and McDormand with an Oscar nomination in 2021.

Also in contention:

Thumbnail Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

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