The supporting actor categories at the Oscars tend to be a rather difficult one to predict. Not because those performers don’t deserve recognition; they most certainly do. But because what constitutes a supporting role is typically hard to quantify and ranges wildly as to what can and can’t be considered. The category can be as short as a few minutes like Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs,” to as close to a leading role as you can get with Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit.” The criteria makes it hard to make accurate predictions, but that’s show biz, baby! The show must go on and all that jazz. It may be a challenge, but I think I can select some of the most likely candidates that will land nominations in this category.
These predictions will lean more towards heart picks, as there are only two that I believe are absolutes. The rest will probably be pretty hotly debated and admittedly, this will probably the category where I get the most wrong. But I’ve been erring on the side of caution for most of my early predictions, so this is where I’m going to cut loose and do a little bit of gambling.
So, here are my early predictions for Supporting Actress nominations we’re likely to see from the Academy Awards, aka the Oscars.
Jessie Buckley – “The Lost Daughter”
We’re going to start with the safer bets first. Much her co-star, it’s hard to bet against Jessie Buckley (“Taboo“). She is truly magnificent in “The Lost Daughter,” portraying the younger version of Coleman’s character Lena. It’s hard to stand out in any film that stars Olivia Coleman, but Buckley delivers a statement performance here. She is complexed and empathetic and sometimes downright repulsive in her actions, and she does so as if it’s all second nature, seamlessly transitioning from one emotion to the next. Buckley absolutely deserves to be included in the list, and I’m pegging her to be a strong contender to win.
Ariana DeBose – “West Side Story”
As much as I loved Buckley’s performance, the original Hamilton Bullet Girl bursts onto the scene in a career defining performance in “West Side Story.” DeBose is full of life and bursting with talent, and demands your gaze with every single frame. She is electric, and despite some other strong candidates I just don’t see how she loses this one. That’s right, I’m picking Debose to win it all. She really is THAT good, and one could even make the case that she’s the best part of one of the best movies of 2021. It’s rare that we can be so confident so early, but Debose really turns in one hell of a performance, and I’m willing to let it ride and confidently pick her as our 2022 Best Supporting Actress winner, not only a nominee.
Kathryn Hunter – “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
And now we get into the heart picks. While Kathryn Hunter (“Rome”) is most certainly on the list for consideration, it is highly unlikely that she will crack the top five for her role in “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” I won’t go into my rant again, but this is a prime example of what happens when you don’t let people see movies. She’s a standout performer in a star-studded film, and while “Macbeth” has all the makings of an Oscar-winning film, I think it will get lost in the shuffle, as will Hunter and her impeccable work in the film. The film is packed with solid performances, but Hunter playing all three of the weird sisters seems to understand Shakespeare better than anyone else. Of course, she doesn’t have a ton of screen time, she’s incredible and I believe she deserves to be recognized.
Kirsten Dunst – “The Power of the Dog”
While Kristen Dunst has been named a frontrunner and shoe in for the list, I’m still considering this heart pick despite it being a logical one. The reason for this is that I simply don’t care for Dunst as an actress in general, and she absolutely wowed me in “The Power of the Dog.” It very well may be the best performance of her career, and I think she should be at least nominated for it. There is no other Dunst performance I would ever consider in any Oscar category, so me giving her this credit for a stellar performance is note worthy. Again, she won’t unseat the frontrunner, but I’m ok with her finding her way onto the Best Supporting Actress category.
Cate Blanchett – “Don’t Look Up”
This one is all heart, as this particular performance is even lower on the general list than her work in “Nightmare Alley.” I know that “Don’t Look Up” has been an incredibly polarizing film, but Cate Blanchett being able to dial up her comedic chops to 11 and perfectly portray a morning talk show host. She’s just damn fun, and I’d love to see her be recognized for it. This is a highly unlikely pick, but I’m sticking with it and pulling for a dark horse inclusion. I rather enjoyed “Don’t Look Up,” and Blanchett does skip a beat in nailing her character and embodying precisely the kind of satirical tone the film attempts to be.
There are least 4 women who have a good chance unseating some of my heart picks. Two of them are from the same movie, which would be Caitríona Balfe and Dame Judy Dench for “Belfast.” Don’t be surprised if you see this film on a number of major categories, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Balfe will crack the top 5 before Dench. That sounds bolder than it really is. Aunjanue Ellis for “King Richard” is another likely contender, though she very well may come up empty handed for a multitude of reasons not all of which can be discussed here. Ellis deserves recognition, and I would be ok if she manages to get a nomination. Sundance and Critic darling “Coda” may not be able to crack many categories despite the immense praise the film has received, but I believe Marlee Matlin has the best shot to bring home some gold for the acclaimed film.
Those are my predictions for Best Supporting Actress. We’ll find out who gets the nods when the Academy of Motion Pictures announces their nominations on Tuesday February 8th, 2022.