State of the Race – Supporting Actress

The awards race is in full swing with certain films’ paths shaping up, campaigns starting to take off and narratives falling into place.  Following bombshell award season news of Michelle Williams campaigning in Lead Actress for her role in The Fabelmans, awards pundits rushed to adjust their predictions in the Supporting Actress category. As it felt like Williams had quite a head start in the Supporting Actress race, the category now feels exciting and gives us a chance at quite a thrilling lineup. This week’s podcast episode featured a discussion on the Supporting Actress race, which you can listen to here.

Our Oscar Board has entire time’s current rankings in the Supporting Actress category as well as all other Oscar races. Let’s take a look at the consensus Supporting Actress performances and see where we can provide a narrative or path for each performance.

Top Contenders

Claire Foy – Women Talking
While two-time Emmy Winner Claire Foy has been in the Oscar conversation before for a supporting performance in Damien Chazelle’s First Man, she has yet to receive an Oscar nomination. While she picked up precursor nominations for her performance in First Man, she ultimately missed out on the Oscar nomination. Her performance was clearly seen and discussed by the Academy, however the film underperformed at the Oscars come nomination morning. Not only does her name recognition within the Academy bode well for her chances, but her performance is from a film that will surely be contending for Best Picture. Women Talking is one of the most discussed films of the awards race so far; currently the Sarah Polley film sits at an 80 on Metacritic and recently was named a runner up for the TIFF Audience Award.  The movie not only being well received by critics, but also audiences will definitely help the film and Foy in the Oscar conversation. Foy’s name has been singled out in almost all of the reviews as one of the best performances of a female-led ensemble. 

Hong Chau – The Whale
The Whale could have three contenders in Supporting Actress, but the name that feels the safest is Hong Chau. While she, similar to Foy, has been close to an Oscar nomination in this category before with her performance in Downsizing, she has yet to receive an Oscar nomination. With The Whale, however, Chau is in a film being widely praised and that is not only in the running for other nominations, but in the running for at least two wins… The Darren Aronofsky film has other Supporting Actress contenders, but Chau feels the strongest best. Not only has her performance been singled out, but she seems in a spot in her career where the Academy is aware of her. Chau also has another film coming out later this year, The Menu, and has screentime in Emmy winning shows such as Watchmen and Big Little Lies which gives her some additional name recognition.

Jessie Buckley – Women Talking
Even before Women Talking had premiered, many pundits had been predicting Academy Award Nominee Jesse Buckley to get a second nomination. Not only has she remained in predictions after the film has played at multiple film festivals, but she’s been towards the top of most predictions. Buckley was a surprise nominee last season for her role in The Lost Daughter; if she could sneak in the lineup that felt harder to break into, her getting nominated for a film contending for Best Picture feels like an easy prediction. Buckley not only has name recognition with the Academy voters but seems as if she’ll be very present on the campaign trail for Women Talking

Strong Contenders

Carey Mulligan – She Said
While She Said could put either Academy Award Nominee Carey Mulligan or Zoe Kazan in lead or supporting, based on the trailer and industry chatter, it seems Mulligan will land in supporting. Not only does Mulligan seem like an easier shot at a nomination given her past nominations but it also feels there won’t be room for two films with multiple actresses contending in the category. If the studio puts one actress in lead and one in supporting, it feels more likely they have a shot at getting nominated in what is turning out to be a crowded field. 

Kerry Condon – The Banshees of Inisherin
Martin McDonagh’s new film not only picked up multiple prizes at the Venice Film Festival but is one of the best reviewed films out of all the fall film festivals. While many are thinking The Banshees of Inisherin could be focused on both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson alone for acting campaigns, almost all reviews make note of Kerry Condon’s performance. While Condon has no previous nominations, the film being in highly competitive in multiple Oscar categories could help bring her along come nomination morning. 

Dolly de Leon – Triangle of Sadness
While Dolly de Leon is not yet a household name with Academy voters, she is someone they will be talking about all season. Triangle of Sadness may not be a typical Oscar film but will certainly be pushed by Neon all season long, which means it will get seen by at least some Academy voters. If the film is seen, there’s no way any Academy member leaves the screening without Dolly de Leon’s name on their mind given her fierce performance and shocking final act. The film is definitely not going to be every Academy member’s cup of tea, which is a battle for De Leon getting a nomination. 

Nina Hoss – TÁR
The conversation surrounding TÁR revolves around its leading lady, Cate Blanchett, but you cannot count out her counterpart, Nina Hoss. Many have described Hoss’ performance as internalized yet layered and the heart of a film so focused on an intense, immoral character. While her performance is subtle, you cannot ignore her name still being singled out in most reviews from a film that revolves around one character that is not Hoss.

Possible Contenders

Vanessa Kirby – The Son
The Son may appear to have lost steam in the awards race given its mostly poor critical reception, however I don’t think it is completely out of the race yet. The latest film from Academy Award Winner Florian Zeller may be divisive, but there are still some critics who have found the film powerful. Almost all reviews, good and bad, have singled out Academy Award Nominee Vanessa Kirby’s performance. Kirby has broken through in the past, in the Lead Actress category, when some were doubting her and the film behind her. 

Jean Smart – Babylon
While Babylon is completely unseen, you cannot count out the newest film from Academy Award Winner Damien Chazelle. Jean Smart, who has won 2 Emmy’s for her work in Hacks over the last two years, seems to have a small role, but her presence can never be written off; she always makes the most of her screentime. Smart has never been in the Oscar conversation before but is a household name across TV and has a Tony nomination to her name.  

Janelle Monáe – Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Knives Out was unable to pick up any acting nominations during its awards run, but Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery could have an easier shot with Janelle Monáe. Monáe, who has starred in two Best Picture nominees (one winner!), would be new to the Oscar acting conversation, but not to the Academy itself. Her performance is singled out in every review for the newest film from Rian Johnson and while that did happen for Ana de Armas in the first installment, she was placed in the lead category. If Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery picks up steam come awards season, I would definitely keep an eye on Monáe.

Stephanie Hsu – Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once could be a large player in the Oscar conversation if A24 is able to properly maintain momentum and get the Academy to see the film. If the campaign is successful, I do think Stephanie Hsu could gain a nomination. Her performance is stunning and at the very heart of the film. However, I’m a little cautious due to how crowded the category is and with A24 behind the campaign. I see a path where she breakthrough and gets a nomination, I just want to wait and see how the industry responds to Everything Everywhere All at Once before officially putting her in my lineup.

Wait and See

Sadie Sink – The Whale
Out of the Venice Film Festival, Sadie Sink’s name was everywhere following the premiere of The Whale. While the press and combined mostly positive reviews for her performance should have her as a bonified contender, given her newcomer status and small body of work with Academy viewership, I feel we have to wait and see how the industry responds to Sink for this performance. If critics rally behind her, she may move up in likelihood of gaining a nomination. 

Thuso Mbedu – The Woman King
While I feel Thuso Mbedu could be in the leading category, she is being campaigned in supporting. Mbedu is a standout even in scenes with Academy Award Winner Viola Davis. I do fear the film’s early release date combined with Mbedu being quite young and new to the Academy. Her powerful performance is worthy of remaining in the conversation, but we’ll see if she’s able to gain any traction with critics and precursors. 

Samantha Morton – The Whale
The latest film from Darren Aronofsky has quite a few supporting ladies contending this year. Samantha Morton’s role is very brief in The Whale, yet many have described it as a monumental moment in the film and shared with the current frontrunner for Lead Actor, Brendan Fraser. I do worry the role is too minor to breakthrough, but Morton is a well-established actress, who also has a role in another film competing this award season. 

Margot Robbie – Babylon
If Margot Robbie is officially moved to the Supporting category, she’d be on the lead on the Top Contenders list. However, as of now, Two Time Academy Award Nominee Margot Robbie’s placement has not been confirmed for either lead or supporting. For months, pundits and predictors have had Robbie in Lead Actress, however, the conversation seems to be veering towards supporting for Robbie following news of Michelle Williams, the previous front runner for Supporting Actress, shifting to Lead Actress. We’ll wait and see where Robbie ends up, but she’ll be a strong contender for a nomination in either category most likely. 

Angela Bassett – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
While the first Black Panther was not able to garner any nominations for acting at the Oscars, it did win the SAG Ensemble award. Academy Award Nominee Angela Bassett is not only overdue for an Oscar win, but just another nomination to her name. Bassett’s performance has been much discussed since the first trailer dropped for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. While sometimes talk amongst Film Twitter leads nowhere, you cannot ignore the amount of nominations the first film was able to pick up, the box office this film will do and how crucial of a role Bassett will play in the film and its success. We’ll wait to see if the performance is a stand out in a crowded season, but we do know Bassett is always worthy of the conversation.

While there are many other actresses in the running from Patricia Clarkson in She Said to Laura Dern in The Son to maybe Rooney Mara in Women Talking, as of today, the actresses and performances broken out feel the most likely in the race.

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