Let’s talk about category fraud. Like every year in this category, there are actors that, for on reason or another (mostly a bigger chance of getting nominated), decide to run in the supporting category even though theirs is actually a lead role. This year, there are no less than five actors with a considerably high chance of getting nominated that one could consider the lead or co-lead of their movies.
Let’s start with those than strand the line and could be argued as either lead or supporting. James Gandolfini is as much responsible for the creative success of Enough Said as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but there is no question for me that the character journey in that movie belongs to Louis-Dreyfus’s character. A nomination for Gandolfini would not only be a nice honor in the aftermath of his untimely death, but also a recognition of a truly brilliant performance of the subtle and comedic kind that doesn’t usually get nominated for the Oscars. However, at this point, and with so much competition, I’m starting to think that is unlikely to happen.
A performance that people seemed to have just accepted as supporting is Bradley Cooper in American Hustle, something I find really weird and arbitrary, since I could very well make the case the movie is as much about his FBI agent as it is about Christian Bale and Amy Adams’s con artists. Also amongst those lines is Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips. Even though the movie has the name of Tom Hanks’s character in the title, the movie devotes as much time to the background and motivations of Abdi’s Somali pirate as it does to Phillips. The reason he is in supporting is really because he is a completely unknown actor of Somali descent that has managed to more than hold his own next to one of the world’s biggest movie stars in his very first performance. The achievement is unquestionable, so it wouldn’t bother me too much if he were the only lead campaigning here, but alas, he is not.
This leads us to the performances that are unquestionably leads and still could be nominated here. I’ve been a huge fan of Daniel Brühl (ever since Good Bye, Lenin! and Inglourious Basterds), but I find it completely ridiculous that someone could say his role as Niki Lauda in Rush is a supporting one. Not only does his character narrate the movie, but the whole point of the film is the relationship between formula one racers Lauda and Hunt. I’ll be happy for Brühl if he gets nominated, since he is very good in the movie and it could lead him to get some great future roles, but saying he is supporting is like saying Salieri is supporting in Amadeus. Finally, there is also Will Forte, who doesn’t have much buzz, but I think could surprise with a nomination for Nebraska, again, in a performance that is undoubtedly a co-lead playing son to Bruce Dern’s deteriorating old Midwesterner.
With all these guys having a reasonable chance for a nomination, do any truly supporting performances still have a chance to get nominated? Fortunately, yes. The two performances most likely to get nominated next Thursday are actually supporting roles. They are Michael Fassbender, who will finally get nominated for 12 Years a Slave, and Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club. Besides them, it looks like Abdi and Brühl are pretty much locked in to be nominated. The last spot could go to any of the other guys I mentioned above, or maybe Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street. I guess we’ll find out who it is in a week.
Will Be Nominated: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Daniel Brühl (Rush), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Should Be Nominated: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), James Franco (Spring Breakers), John Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12), James Gandolfini (Enough Said)