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They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

Directing and Supporting Acting Races

By J. Don Birnam

February 16, 2017

Look! The saints are marching in!

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Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis Gets Her Due

For all the excitement that Best Supporting Actor has, you can rest easily that your prediction will be safely correct in the sister award, Best Supporting Actress. This year the race features a diverse array of two past winners, one first timer, and two repeat nominees with overdue attached to their names. Most interesting here is that this race has seem locked for a long time, with the five nominees reappearing at the Globes, the SAG, nearly at BAFTA, and then again here. So it’s not really surprising that we know the ultimate outcome of that race as well.

First off, and least likely to win, is Lion’s Nicole Kidman, who won years ago in the lead race. Her performance is good as far as it goes, but it is small and muted, and almost an afterthought - particularly given that lead roles have been winning here more and more, you can count her out.

The same goes for Hidden Figures’ Octavia Spencer, who won a few years back in this race for a movie with a similar Oscar story, The Help. Had the movie peaked a bit earlier, Spencer may have lost this spot out to her costar Janelle Monae, but since it was released rather later, name recognition likely got her here. And while I do think that Hidden Figures is very well liked by the industry and they’ll want it to win something, I have a hard time thinking it will be this category.

Turning now to the newcomer, Moonlight’s Naomie Harris arguably gives the best performance in the category, at least among those that are actually supporting. Before Davis was declared supporting instead of lead for Fences, Harris probably had this wrapped up. If the British star could not even defeat Davis with her compatriots, don’t expect her to do so stateside. But her time may yet come.




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At least that is what Michelle Williams thought when she delivered yet another powerhouse performance as the grieving mother in Manchester by the Sea. The star has had several nominations since she became a more serious actress, but somehow seems to be getting more unlikely every time. If she had any chance of an upset, she would have shown up by now, and she has not.

And she will not, because the night most clearly belongs to the much beloved, much deserving, and much overdue Viola Davis, for reprising her Tony-winning role in the Best Picture nominees Fences. Davis, who was upset by Meryl Streep’s third Oscar a few years back, has been amassing nothing but good will ever since. Arguably, her next nomination was going to be a lock for a win since that day, and here you have it. She own the Critics’ Choice, the Globe, the SAG, and the BAFTA. It’s been a while since someone wins all four of those and not the Oscar, and do not expect it to happen this time around.

Here are the updated Best Supporting Actress Power Rankings, which, like Director, won’t change much from here to the Oscars.

Will win: Viola Davis, Fences
Could win: N/A


Next Up: Screenplay and Main Acting Races


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