Oscars 2014 Cheat Sheet: Best Supporting Actor

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As is traditional now that the Academy Award nominations have been announced, we’re profiling the nominees in each of the main categories and assessing their strengths and weaknesses going into the competition. We already profiled Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. Today we turn to Best Supporting Actor, aka The Category Where Fairytales Come True, with a newcomer, a rock star, Sydney Bristow’s geeky best friend, a mutant and a former teen comedy star duking it out for an Academy Award. Will the award go to a pirate, an undercover Fed, a slave owner, a dickhead banker or an AIDS victim? Read on and find out…

Captain Phillips

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. Abdi went from unknown to unbelievable with Captain Phillips, going toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks (on form) and matching him as the desperate head of a group of Somali pirates. This guy has talent to burn. 1. It’s just embarrassing when a newcomer can come in and do it better than actors who have been taking classes for years. No one likes an overachiever. Also, at 28 Abdi’s vastly younger than the average male winner in the Acting categories. 2. He was nominated for the Golden Globes and Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) awards, and actually won the BAFTA. 2. So far, Jared Leto has had things all his own way at the SAGs and Globes, so Abdi may be overmatched. (Leto wasn't nominated for the BAFTA) 3. It would be the perfect finale to a fairytale progression from unknown chauffeur to Oscar winner. 3. The Academy prefers their fairytales onscreen or in their own CVs (“can ride horses, swordfight and do a triple axel blindfolded”).
American Hustle

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. It’s an interesting and layered role, with Cooper’s Richie DiMaso trying to play two sides against one another and as the film progresses finding himself frequently squashed in the middle. 1. Cooper had to fight for attention amid screen-grabbing performances from Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams (as well as the non-nominated talent like Louis CK). Did he do enough to stand out? 2. He missed out on Best Actor for Silver Linings Playbook last year, so this could be his chance – and he had matching Globe and BAFTA nods. 2. He missed out on a SAG nomination, which could signal that he doesn’t have the support of enough of the acting vote, and didn't win the Globe or BAFTA. 3. He put up with that hair. In image-obsessed Hollywood, that must be the greatest expression of self-sacrifice for one’s art. 3. The hair was bad, sure, but he got a few nice suits in there so it could have been worse. It all pales next to Bale’s comb-over and Renner’s bouffant.
12 Years A Slave

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. He’s widely acknowledged as one of the best young actors working today, and this is just the latest in a series of flawless performances – particularly with Steve McQueen, who also directed him in Shame and Hunger. 1. There’s such a thing as an embarrassment of riches. It hardly seems fair to give him an Oscar as well as everything else. 2. He had the matching BAFTA nomination and was up for the SAG – and rightly so. Without Fassbender’s Epps to put an inhuman face on slave ownership, the film would not have worked half as well. 2. Leto has won everything going so far (except when Abdi did), so it may be that Fassbender will be overlooked this year. The voters may shrug and assume he has yet more great performances in him to come. 3. The Academy failed to nominate him for Shame or Hunger. Frankly, they owe him. 3. The Academy failed to nominate him for Shame or Hunger. Maybe they just don’t like him.
The Wolf Of Wall Street

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. It’s a performance that runs the gamut from venal corruption of the worst sort to knock-about comedy – and you can get away with some funny moments in the Supporting categories. 1. There was a lot of conduct unbecoming an Oscar winner in the film: shagging around, drug-taking, wanking. While it’s brilliantly done, we can’t help wondering if it’s perhaps a little much for the voters. 2. He’s a previous nominee (for Moneyball), which tends to be an advantage, and someone who has worked hard to dispel the notion that he’s just a teen comedy star. 2. He wasn’t nominated for a SAG Award, a BAFTA or a Globe. He cut straight to the big one – but can that work? 3. He wore horrendous fake teeth and a prosthetic penis. For that, and the pastel-heavy wardrobe, there has to be some sympathy. 3. Many voters left the film in horror at its vision of the soulless Wall Street lifestyle. Those absentees are probably not going to vote Hill.
Dallas Buyer's Club

WHY HE WILL WIN WHY HE WON'T WIN 1. He’s won everything going Stateside so far, from the Globes to the SAGs, and looks to be in prime position to have everything his own way on Oscar night. As the oldest nominee (unbelievably, he’s 42), Leto’s closer to the average age of a male Acting Oscar winner. 1. Winning all the other awards going does not guarantee Oscar success, and frontrunner status can just make you a target. And Abdi showed at the BAFTAs that he can win the big prizes too. 2. His role in Dallas Buyers Club as an HIV positive transgender woman required Leto to lose a lot of weight and spend a good while in the make-up chair, and as such, will impress the actors amongst the voting masses. 2. He was in Alexander, and people don’t forget that sort of thing easily. 3. He was Jordan Catalano, and if he doesn’t deserve an Academy Award for leaning that well, we don’t know who does. 3. If they start giving Oscars out just for being a teen heartthrob in the ‘90s, they’ll have to start handing them out to Keanu Reeves, Chris O’Donnell and Jason Priestley and then where will we be?