REEL BRIEF’s Oscar Watch: Best Supporting Actor

Here’s the REEL BRIEF list of Best Supporting Actor names with the best shot at earning an Oscar nomination in 3 1/2 weeks:

1.  Edward Norton – “Birdman”  As theater actor Mike in “Birdman”, Norton went mano a mano with Michael Keaton’s burnt-out superhero persona in this behind-the-scenes look at a Broadway production.  The tension Norton brings to every scene he delivers can best be summed up as flammable.  A combative storyline surrounds the entire cast, but it’s the combo of Keaton and Norton that gives audiences a volatile mix of personalities so convincingly testy that viewers will be left cringing and shaking their heads.  Without Norton’s tightly wound performance, “Birdman” loses its edgy, hardened delivery that it needs to really shine.  Norton remains at #1 for now.

_AF_6405.CR2Michael Keaton (L) and Edward Norton (R) in “Birdman”. 

2.  J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash”  Simmons plays an over-the-top jazz instructor to a school ensemble, preying on his students using his….how should I put this…hmmm.  OK, got it.  Using his poor people skills.  Ruthless teaching techniques from Simmons’ character pushes one of his most talented young musicians to the brink–brink of what?  I won’t spoil it for you.  Although Norton and Simmons are both shoe-ins for receiving Oscar nominations, forecasting which of these two will actually take home to golden statue on February 22nd is more difficult to determine.  Heads up alert–look for Simmons and Norton to switch places come mid-January.  Sorta like the college football rankings.


“The key is to relax. Have fun.” Ok.  Whatevs.  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”.

3.  Ethan Hawke – “Boyhood”  Starring as the father of the young boy named Mason, Hawke (along with Patricia Arquette) showcase the turbulent journey of this child growing up before his parents–and us–the moviegoers.  “Boyhood” has garnered overwhelmingly positive responses from critics and audiences.  Filmed over a 12-year period, “Boyhood” director Richard Linklater is the easy front-runner in the Best Director category.  Additionally, “Boyhood” is making everyone’s Top 10 list for Best Film of 2014.  Thus, Hawke, Arquette and Linklater are relishing this publicity and accolades for their movie.  The 5-way race for Best Supporting Actor has been reduced to a 3-man field: Edward Norton (“Birdman”), J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Hawke in “Boyhood”.


Ethan Hawke is “Boyhood”.

4.  Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher”  Ruffalo, an Oscar nominee for 2010’s “The Kids Are All Right” and a real-life brain tumor survivor, achieves in 2014 his two finest film performances ever; this past summer’s music playlist winner “Begin Again” and now the deadly “Foxcatcher”.  mark-ruffalo-foxcatcherAs Olympic wrestler David Schultz and brother to Channing Tatum’s character, Mark Schultz, Ruffalo gives a chilling portrayal.

A true life crime drama, “Foxcatcher” initially earned some Oscar buzz this Fall before several last-minute, even stronger, films were released.  Now, while Steve Carell’s unrecognizable role as John du Pont has unfortunately not generated many nominations this awards season, Ruffalo’s job in “Foxcatcher” has been noticed–earning an award nomination from the SAG, Golden Globes, and the Screen Actors Guild.  Soon, Ruffalo will also make the Best Supporting Actor list when the Oscar nominations are announced on January 15th.

 (Pictured above) The Incredible Hulk Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”.

5.  Robert Duvall – “The Judge”  As the small town judge and father to whom Robert Downey Jr. must defend in a hit-and-run murder trial, Duvall effortlessly plays the angry, bitter role of Old Man.  While “The Judge” movie suffered from useless subplot baiting during critical times during the film, the acting was superb throughout from the trio of Duvall, Downey and Billy Bob Thornton.  And while audiences got their fill of Duvall’s angry side, they also were given glimmers of a softer side to his character.  No one will forget when Duvall’s hard-nosed, prideful character must be rescued by his son (Downey) after an accident in the bathroom.  That single scene says it all about Duvall’s exceptional work in “The Judge” and a track record in Hollywood spanning 44 years of excellence–including 6 Academy Award nominations (with 1 win for Best Actor in 1983’s “Tender Mercies”).  Duvall won’t win his 2nd Oscar for “The Judge”, but he deserves to be nominated–again!


Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall fighting it out in life and court (“The Judge”)

The REEL BRIEF Oscar nomination predictions so far:

Best Supporting Actor

1.  Edward Norton – “Birdman”

2.  J.K. Simmons – “Whiplash”

3.  Ethan Hawke – “Boyhood”

4.  Mark Ruffalo – “Foxcatcher”

5.  Robert Duvall – “The Judge”

Best Actress – Full write-up

1.  Julianne Moore – “Still Alice”

2.  Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl”

3.  Shailene Woodley – “The Fault in Our Stars”

4.  Felicity Jones – “The Theory of Everything”

5.  Hilary Swank – “The Homesman”

Still a heavy favorite:

6.  Reese Witherspoon – “Wild”


Best Actor – Full write-up here

1. David Oyelowo – “Selma”

2. Eddie Redmayne – “The Theory of Everything”

3. Michael Keaton – “Birdman”

4. Benedict Cumberbatch – “The Imitation Game”

5. Bill Murray – “St. Vincent”

Outside shots

6. Brendan Gleeson – “The Calvary”

7. Timothy Spall – “Mr. Turner”

8. Bradley Cooper – “American Sniper”


Best Picture – Full write-up here

1. “Selma”

2. “Birdman”

3. “The Imitation Game”

4. “Boyhood”

5. “The Theory of Everything”

6. “Gone Girl”

7. “Still Alice”

8. “American Sniper”

9. “Unbroken”

10. “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Outside shot

11. “Interstellar”

Next: REEL BRIEF’s Oscar Watch: Best Supporting Actress.

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"Patrick, you are my go-to guy when it comes to the box office".   - Judy O.

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