Welcome back to my ever-extensive Oscar coverage. In the days leading up to the Oscars, I’ll be predicting every award, but focusing in-depth on what I call the “Big 8”. In my last installment, I predicted the Best Original & Adapted Screenplay Oscars, and you can check that out here.
Let’s get back to the party and cover the supporting acting performances. I feel like these are the two slam dunk categories, based on all of the buzz plus who has won some of the other major awards (SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globes, etc.)
Let’s party, supporting style!
Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johannson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Who Will (And Who Should) Win? In my last installment, these were two separate questions. But here, the answer to both of these questions is the same, so I’m not gonna waste the extra space and we’re just gonna talk about Laura Dern.
The divorce lawyer she plays in Marriage Story has to be ruthless, and she certainly conveys that. However, she also has to do that while being likable. You have to know that she’s a shark, but she only brings out her teeth because she’s trying to get her clients to a better place in their life.
Dern is terrifying in the courtroom scenes; just an absolute whirlwind who is going to exert every breath she has until she gets what she wants. She could probably beat Michael Jordan in a game of basketball just based on her strength of will alone. But she also is sweet and kind to Scarlett Johannson when she comes in for the initial meeting. It’s a bonding and a pitch and a seduction all in one, and Dern is the absolutely perfect person to play it.
Give her the Oscar right damn now. I’m calling this an Oscar lock.
Upset Special? Not gonna happen. Just not a chance. This is Dern’s award and she should start writing her acceptance speech. Anyone besides her is just going to be a change in the universe that I was unprepared for.
That being said, if anyone else could win, it’s Florence Pugh for Little Women. She gives Amy March a substance and weight that other performances haven’t. She’s not just the bratty youngest sister out for her own advancement. There’s depth and impetus and Pugh brings this character to full life and makes Amy her own Little Woman.
Who Got Snubbed? Two giant snubs here are Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers and Shuzhen Zhao for The Farewell. Both of them give very different performances, but they are both the critical weight to their respective films. Lopez is just a tour de force whirlwind as the dancer turned criminal mastermind; the film just feels weightless and flightly when she is not onscreen. As for Shuzhen Zhao, her Nai Nai, a woman not being told of her terminal cancer diagnosis, is as central to the film as she is the center of the family. Kathy Bates and Margot Robbie were both fine, but they’re taking up space where much better performances should be.
Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood
Who Will (And Should) Win? Another case where I think the Academy voters are going to get it absolutely right, because they’re going to give it to Brad Pitt. This is an almost lock. I’m like 95% sure this is how it’s going to go down, which means that I’m probably going to fuck this up.
That being said, this is the best supporting performance nominated (more on who wasn’t nominated later). Pitt’s Cliff Booth has so many elements, and I think that this is the only actor who could play this part. You need someone who is so laid-back and seemingly care-free, but is also ready to throw shit down at the drop of a hat. Pitt is both California cool and a menacing figure, and switch back and forth between those like a switch was flipped.
He’s been acting a long time and has never gotten an Oscar. Next Sunday, that streak ends.
Upset Special? The reason this is only a 95% lock is because that other five percent is all Joe Pesci in The Irishman. In a film that has problems, and I’ve talked about those before, Pesci brings an understated and calm demeanor to a man who definitely could make sure you and every member of your family was dead in a matter of seconds if he wanted to.
Pesci is the one guy in this film the CGI young technology actually kind of works for, probably because his motion is always so small. But, with the slight lift of a hand, you’re always on edge because of the gravitas he brings to the character. Pitt should win, but if Pesci gets his second Oscar, it won’t be the end of the world.
Besides, are you gonna tell him he shouldn’t win? There’s no way I’m gonna.
Who Got Snubbed? There are two performances I would have liked to see here, one of them upset me a little and another one if such an egregious error that it makes me wonder exactly what the fuck is going on with the Oscars.
Let’s start with Zack Gottsagen. His performance in Peanut Butter Falcon as a young man with Down syndrome trying to get to his favorite wrestler is an absolute gem of a performance in a film that not enough people saw. He is the heart of this movie: he’s funny and sweet and is doing some really good acting and it broke my heart that the Academy missed out on a performance that I’m still thinking about.
That being said, the giant snub was Song Kang-ho in Parasite. There was only one supporting performance better than Pitt’s this year, and it was for the role of a father of a family all playing a long con while trying to make a better life for themselves. Song, a longtime collaborator with writer/director Bong Joon-ho, is the metaphor for the film. As his character changes, so does the film. Yet the performance never feels like a plot device, and that’s because Song brings such an earnest performance out and gives this character life.
Hopkins and Pacino are out, Song and Gottsagen are in.
Who do you think will take home the Oscars? Leave your thoughts in the comments.