Oscar Breakdown: Best Supporting Actor

A Series Discussing and Predicting the 93rd Academy Awards.

The 93rd Academy Awards are quickly approaching as they’re scheduled to air on Sunday, April 25th.  As we make our way there, let’s discuss the nominees and predict the winners.  I’m bravely placing my predictions on the internet to hold myself accountable after what I’m calling The Great Mistake of 2019 (AKA, when I changed my vote from Olivia Colman to Glenn Close and was WRONG, despite knowing in my gut that Olivia would take the Best Actress trophy). Here we’ll breakdown the nominees and discuss who will win, who should win, who could win, and who should’ve been nominated.  Let us begin with: Best Supporting Actor.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Abbie Hoffman, The Trial of the Chicago 7

For those of you who only know Sacha Baron Cohen from his work as Borat, I implore you to watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 if only to see just how talented this man really is.  Baron Cohen became a household name after donning that infamous neon singlet, but he remains relevant by proving he’s got real, well-rounded acting chops.  Before I saw Judas and the Black Messiah, I thought for sure that Baron Cohen would win an Oscar for his portrayal of Abbie Hoffman.

A founding member of the Youth International Party (a role in a movie that, funnily enough, is existing along the same timeline as Judas) as he’s the surefire standout in a cast that features a over dozen big names. Many of which that already have acting Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys.  As Hoffman, Baron Cohen is there to poke holes in the operatic insanity of courtroom drama brought on by the US governments relentless witch-hunt against these seven protestors while they should be focusing their efforts on things like Civil Rights and the Vietnam War.  To keep it short and sweet: he really does steal the show.

Daniel Kaluuya, Fred Hampton, Judas and the Black Messiah

It’s been well documented in my life, both in my published work and through my instagram monologues, how much I love Daniel Kaluuya.  Kaluuya is truly one of the greatest actors working today and what a gift it is to watch him sink his teeth into a cinematized version of the late Fred Hampton.  As the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, the over-30-year-old Kaluuya exudes his typical dose of charisma as he somehow convinces us he’s never more than 21 years of age (the age Hampton was when he was assassinated by the police).  This speaks both to the ageless nature of Hampton and the commitment of Kaluuya as it becomes hard to tell the actor from the subject. 

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The two things that really got me with this performance were the vocal work and the employment of relentless eye contact.  Kaluuya, raised in Camden Town, North London, naturally has a thick English accent.  But in this movie, you can’t tell me he wasn’t born in Summit Argo and raised in Maywood, Illinois.  He literally sounds like they plucked him from those very Chicago suburbs.  As for the eye contact, Kaluuya literally spends the entire film weaponizing his wide-eyed, unflinching eye contact to get whatever he desires, and I don’t mean that pejoratively.  He uses it for trust, for communication, for sex, for rallying, for celebration, for grief, for everything.  It is truly incredible to watch.  These things make for a sympathetic portrayal of the Chicago hero, something American media seems so afraid to do with members of the BPP (even just this year, Aaron Sorkin’s portrayal of Fred Hampton in The Trial of the Chicago 7, too, teeters on one-dimensional).  Hollywood, give us more Kaluuya, he hasn’t made one misstep yet and it would take a massive misstep from the Academy to not present Kaluuya with his freshly minted Oscar.

Leslie Odom Jr, Sam Cooke, One Night in Miami,

What a wonderful few years to be Leslie Odom Jr!  A double Oscar nominee this year for songwriting and acting, Odom Jr has collected a ton of hardware recently for his revolutionary (pun intended) performance in Hamilton and is continuing to draw buzz and acclaim for his performance as another real person, Sam Cooke, in Regina King’s debut directorial feature, One Night in Miami.  Odom Jr is fully a co-lead of this film but it’s nice to see him nominated for bring Cooke to life.  He maneuvers Kemp Powers’ hefty, Oscar-nominated script with zippy aplomb, firing back at Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcolm X about how to use their newly found influence as Black men in a society determined to only allow them to color within the pre-determined Caucasian lines.  Plus, the film concludes with Odom Jr golden voice crooning out “A Change is Gunna Come,” which is the perfect parting gift.  He is the perfect representation of this cast but it’s such a shame all four of them couldn’t be nominated as one.

Paul Raci, Joe, Sound of Metal

The quietest, most subdued performance of the bunch, Paul Raci’s Joe is also the only true supporting performance recognized.  That is to say, he is the only one who isn’t toeing the line of category fraud.  Both Judas and the Black Messiah are nominated here, one-fourth of the central Miami quartet is among the supporting nominees, and the character arguably billed number three of the C7 is considered supporting among his peers as well.  And then there is Raci.  Raci plays what is described as a “late-deafened and recovering alcoholic who runs a shelter for deaf recovering addicts.” 

His sympathetic Joe brings with him a weathered stoicism and unwavering confidence that is a welcomed presence in the often chaotic and frantic world Sound of Metal creates around its central character (played with frenetic genius by Riz Ahmed).  It’s the type of assured performance that makes you thankful for what you have, thankful for what you’ve been through, and thankful for those around you.  I’m very pleased to see Raci collect his first nomination at 72, and I hope this opens up a new chapter in his career.

LaKeith Stanfield, William “Bill” O’Neal, Judas and the Black Messiah

In the words of the man himself: “I’m confused too but fuck it lmao”

(LaKeith Stanfield is brilliant in this and everything else.  This nomination is truly shocking but not undeserved.  Bravo.)

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya

Could Win: Sacha Baron Cohen

Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya

Should’ve Been Nominated: Alan S. Kim, Minari

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