Best Supporting Actor

The supporting actor. He’s not the guy, he’s the guy behind the guy. That’s not always a bad thing though. The lead actor generally has to be the guy the audience is relating to, so those sort of roles can end up being kind of vanilla. The supporting roles though, that’s where the memorable weirdos come from.

Getting a great supporting role can afford an actor the opportunity to go completely off the wall with their performance, or at least take some calculated risks that aren’t likely to sink the whole film if they don’t pay off. As a result, the best supporting roles of the year can be more interesting than the best leads, and this year definitely has a colorful cast of characters.

Here are the ones that the Academy liked in 2012 with my predicted winner in red:

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Alan Arkin in Argo

Alan Arkin (Argo)

Why He Was Nominated:

Alan Arkin was nominated, in short, because he’s everybody’s favorite grumpy grandpa. He’s been around forever, he’s one of the most charming curmudgeons on the planet, he’s good in everything he appears in, and everybody loves him. He gets to spend most of his screen time in Argo playing off of John Goodman as well, and there was no chance that wasn’t going to be a whole lot of fun. Arkin added a lot of humor to Argo, but at the same time was able to successfully convey the emotional growth that his character, Lester Siegel, experiences.

Why He Might Win:

Argo has been gaining steam ever since the media decided to turn Ben Affleck’s “snub” in the Best Director category into a story. Perhaps more than any of the other films with multiple nominations, Argo keeps getting talked about, so there’s a chance that Arkin could get a win just because voting for Argo has been painted as being something a hero would do to help out an oppressed underdog.

Why He Might Not Win:

He’s likely not going to win because his name kind of stands out like a sore thumb here. Not that he didn’t do a good job or isn’t a beloved figure, but the role he played in Argo just wasn’t nearly as meaty or challenging as the roles all of these other actors played in their respective films. If you want to win an Academy Award, generally you’ve got to do some work, and Alan Arkin in Argo is mostly just Alan Arkin doing his Alan Arkin thing.

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Robert De Niro Silver Linings PlaybookRobert De Niro (The Silver Linings Playbook)

Why He Was Nominated:

First off, he was nominated because he’s De Niro. The guy is one of the most widely recognized faces in the acting world, known by everyone from grandmas to rappers, and any time the Academy can put a spotlight on a famous face they take it as a welcome opportunity. He was also nominated because The Silver Linings Playbook is something of a darling this year. It’s kind of artsy and kind of smart, but still easily digestible by mainstream audiences, so it’s the perfect thing for the Academy to push. Hence the fact that it has nominations in every acting category.

Why He Might Win:

He’s got a dang good chance of winning because he’s one of the biggest acting legends of all time, but the stuff he’s been doing in recent years has all been pretty crappy. This is the first time the Academy has had an excuse to parade young Vito Corleone and Travis Bickle around in a long time, so chances are they’re going to take it. De Niro’s work in the movie really was quite good too. He took a character who could have come off as one-note or cartoony and made him resonate.

Why He Might Not Win:

There’s really no reason why he shouldn’t win this award other than the fact that the competition is so stiff in this category that no pick can be viewed as a given. He’s got the recognizable name, he put in good work, and a win for him could be considered a feel good moment for the broadcast, but the same could be said for all of these other guys too.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman The MasterPhilip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Why He Was Nominated:

Philip Seymour Hoffman is widely considered to be one of the most talented and impressive working actors on the planet, and his role as the leader of a fledgling religion in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest offering afforded him perhaps the biggest opportunity he’s ever had to really show off and swing for the fences with his performance, so of course he’s going to get an acting nomination.

Why He Might Win:

There probably wasn’t a more visceral, electric moviegoing experience this year than what was provided by the couple of scenes in The Master where Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are left alone together. These guys have got some real chemistry, they visibly push each other to work harder, and as a result they’re able to not only grab your attention, but grab your attention by the short hairs and pull. Chances are good the auditing scene between the two is going to get a lot of play going into and during the ceremony.

Why He Might Not Win:

He might not win because The Master was a divisive film that took a lot of weird chances and didn’t end up resonating with everyone. Some people really liked this movie, but just as many were put off by it. Given its healthy amount of detractors, it’s hard to believe that Hoffman will have the consensus necessary to get a win. If The Master had managed to get a Best Picture nomination, it might be a different story.

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Tommy Lee Jones LincolnTommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Why He Was Nominated:

Tommy Lee Jones put on a ridiculous wig to act in a Steven Spielberg film, and in doing so he managed to steal chunks of a movie out from under Daniel Day-Lewis. I dare anyone to say he shouldn’t have been nominated for this.

Why He Might Win:

Lincoln is a movie that’s largely about talking, which audiences often find boring—but not when Tommy Lee Jones is the one doing it. There aren’t many actors in the world who are able to make talking as interesting as Tommy Lee Jones makes it in Lincoln. He gets one showcase scene in particular where his talking becomes about the most important thing that happens in the movie, and it’s pretty impossible to watch it and not walk away with a smile on your face. His character also gets an emotional payoff in the end that calls into question whether this was really a supporting role or not. Lincoln’s Thaddeus Stevens might just be too towering a role for any of these other characters to compete with.

Why He Might Not Win:

Jones already won this award in 1993 for The Fugitive. If he didn’t yet have an Oscar under his belt, he would feel due, and his win might be a lock. De Niro, by comparison, won his Best Supporting Actor Oscar all the way back in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II. If Jones is going to get the win, it’s going to have to be because enough voters thought that his performance really was that much better than everyone else’s beyond the politics of the ceremony.

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Christoph Waltz Django UnchainedChristoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Why He Was Nominated:

Because he’s a ridiculously charismatic and magnetic actor, and so far Quentin Tarantino has been the director who’s been able to best showcase his talents. Whenever Christoph Waltz shows up on screen, you know that the movie you’re watching is about to get a little better, but if he ever shows up in a Quentin Tarantino film again, you’re going to know that you’re about to get something that’s going to go down in history. Like his portrayal of Col. Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, his Dr. King Schultz is a character who’s going to be remembered for a very long time.

Why He Might Win:

Because his revelatory turn in Inglorious Basterds seemed like it was definitely going to be the role that defined Waltz’s career, but somehow he found a way to do something completely different in this film and still match what he accomplished there. At this point, the man has to be seen as something of an acting wizard.

Why He Might Not Win:

He just won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for appearing in a Quentin Tarantino film a couple of years ago, so it’s not very likely that he’s going to win one again anytime soon. If someone had beat him in 2010, it would feel like they kind of have to give him the statue in order to make up for the slight, but seeing as he just got one, hearing him give another victory speech would feel like something of a retread. You know how it is. You’ve got to keep these awards broadcasts fresh.

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Read more about The Oscars


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