Academy Awards Project: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Order

Last year’s winner Sam Rockwell, for  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri .

Last year’s winner Sam Rockwell, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

A supporting role can serve the purpose of literally fulfilling its moniker; it is a character that enhances a lead in some sort of way. It can also represent a lead role that, may not be quite as prominent (duration or focus wise) as other lead characters. With the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category, we have five very different characters and purposes, ranging from the reason why a storyline exists, down to a minor role that happened to take place within the bigger picture. This year, all five picks are rather solid, and no one sticks out as particularly weak. Ranking all five nominees was difficult, because all five of the following gentlemen are definite highlights of the films they were in. Here are the nominees, ranked from worst to best.

Timothee

Biggest Snub: Timothée Chalamet-Beautiful Boy
Perhaps because the Academy did not want to substitute any of these nominees for a film that was off their radar, we find ourselves without young prodigy Timothée Chalamet. His anxious performance bolstered by the struggles a teenager can have with addiction is relentless. His cravings are savage, and his sober periods are a little too calm. His faceted take on drug reliance is impossible to shake off, because his failures feel so real.

Sam2

5. Sam Rockwell-Vice
Sam Rockwell won this category for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri last year. Believe it or not, this is only his second time being nominated. It's hard to say this is the least worthy nomination, because he still nails his character. His “dubya” impersonation is uncanny. However, seeing as the role is so short and is used mainly as a representation of how Dick Cheney toyed with W. Bush, it isn't hard to see why it might not be as substantial as the rest here. Still a riot to witness, though!

Adam

4. Adam Driver-BlacKkKlansman
For his first nomination ever, Driver plays police officer Flip Zimmerman reserved. This neutralized performance makes his undercover mission all the more believable. He faces bigotry head on, and he tries his best to play along. He cracks just enough that we can tell he is hurting, but most of his peers within the film cannot. This is a performance that uses minimalism as a catalyst; his carefully wavering gaze is our fear of what will happen next. The real officer is unknown to the general public, so Driver made this cryptic role entirely his own.

SamE

3. Sam Elliott-A Star Is Born
Elliott is not in A Star Is Born for long, but he makes every second count. As Bobby, the older brother of musician Jackson Maine, Elliott puts his heart and soul into every single word. His earnest care for his brother's wellbeing is very real, and it almost drips off the screen when he cries. We get his drive to help his troubled sibling; we get his tested patience as well. We firmly understand Maine story better by getting to know Elliott as the brother-turned-guardian Bobby.

Richard

2. Richard E. Grant-Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I am thrilled that Grant was not forgotten about this awards season, because his supporting role in the dramedy Can You Ever Forgive Me? is magnetic beyond words. Within seconds, you will feel as though Peter O'Toole was back on Earth with us. His mixture of eccentricity, confidence, and vulgarity is not just a scene stealer: it will occupy space in your brain for days to come. As Jack Hock, Grant also exposes the character's flaws too, come crunch time (and believe me, they are hard to ignore). This is an exciting soul shattered by self neglect and addiction, and all of it is mesmerizing.

Mahershala

1. Mahershala Ali-Green Book
Who thought that Mahershala Ali could top his previous work in Moonlight? His film-defining role as musician Don “Doctor” Shirley in Green Book is the main driving force of the film. As he rewrites Tony Lip's letters to his wife, Ali's channeling of Shirley’s words are the poetry needed to add some true prestige to Green Book. Every glance is a story in it's own right. His poise is true, not staged. This is a man who worked so hard to get to where he is, and he won't let turmoil ruin who he has set out to be. As an understated actor until lately, Ali likely injected a lot of his own years of climbing the ladder into this role. With a performance where every little decision he makes is hypnotic, Ali is the best supporting actor of the year.

Our Predicted Winner: So far, Mahershala Ali has been acing most awards ceremonies, so I think he will go all the way come Oscar time and earn his second Best Actor in a Supporting Role win.

Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.

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Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.