Oscar's Best Supporting Actor 2021

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Your pick for Oscar's next Best Supporting Actor?
18.18%
2 votes
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
54.55%
6 votes
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
0%
0 votes
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami…
9.09%
1 votes
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
18.18%
2 votes
LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
11 votes. You may not vote on this poll




Which of these five performances will be deemed Oscar-worthy?



Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami…
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
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I saw Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah on Saturday night and all I could think was "this dude's probably gonna win an Oscar."

That said, I assumed he was nominated as a Supporting Actor because a) typical "best chance to win" chicanery and b) plausible argument that Stanfield was the actual lead...and yet here he is, too. Weird. Did that movie just not have a lead?



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
Paul Raci was amazing in Sound of Metal. I'd pick him if the category wasn't rigged for Black Messiah.

Odom Jr. was pretty good, but I preferred the Malcolm X performance of that movie.



minds his own damn business
I'd pick him if the category wasn't rigged for Black Messiah.
On the contrary, I think that splitting the vote will hurt Judas more than help its chances.
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I was just about to say that: we have this discussion every time this happens. Whether it hurts or helps to have multiple nominees from the same film.



This is my favorite category this year, because I saw all the films the actors were in, and thought they were all brilliant.

My initial choice to win was Cohen, but now I'm leaning more towards Kaluuya or Stanfield. Kaluuya looks the frontrunner.
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Paul Raci was amazing in Sound of Metal. I'd pick him if the category wasn't rigged for Black Messiah.

Odom Jr. was pretty good, but I preferred the Malcolm X performance of that movie.

I, too am a little puzzled by all the fuss regarding Odom's performance. I thought the actors playing Malcolm X and Cassius Clay were both better than Odom.



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
I, too am a little puzzled by all the fuss regarding Odom's performance. I thought the actors playing Malcolm X and Cassius Clay were both better than Odom.

I think it's the Jennifer Hudson effect, where the performance is okay, but they really nail a musical portion and people gush about it.



I, too am a little puzzled by all the fuss regarding Odom's performance. I thought the actors playing Malcolm X and Cassius Clay were both better than Odom.

It's a way to give a Hamilton actor an Oscar because for some reason we can't give Hamilton it's Oscars this year...even though it was released as a film this year.


I never understand why the AA are so frightened of stage productions



On the contrary, I think that splitting the vote will hurt Judas more than help its chances.

I was thinking the same thing, which would clear the path for the nominee I think should win...Sasha Baron Cohen



I chose LaKeith Stanfield, although still baffled at the "supporting actor" nod for him. He was practically all over the movie.
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My Favorite Films





Sacha Baron Cohen trained as a mime and took his lanky physicality to British televison. His first breakout character was Ali G, the white rapper who would interact with the unsuspecting public and officials and Trojan horse satirical points underneath the guise of a brash fool. His next breakout character, Borat, got even more traction internationally with the megahit film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Cohen has continued to move through various projects, sometimes as his other comic personas like Brüno and The Dictator, as well as supporting roles in major films as in Scorsese's Hugo, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Tom Hopper's Les Misérables. The pandemic year saw two of his projects land through streaming outlets: the Borat sequel on Amazon and as Abbie Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin's Trial of the Chicago 7 for Netflix. It is the drama that has netted him his first acting nomination (he had previously been nominated for the first Borat's screenplay), but when coupled with his second Borat making political headlines and though only forty-nine perhaps a touch of an early career acknowledgment, it seems to be one of those overstuffed nominations that is tipping a hat to more than just the named performance.

This category seems pretty open to me, talent and performance wise, and if Cohen does bound to the virtual stage it will surely seem like a reward for more than just his spirited performance as Hoffman.




Paul Raci is seventy-three and has been acting for decades, but before Sound of Metal he was almost never seen on a movie screen. He seems to have lived many lives including two tours in the Vietnam War as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, as the lead singer of a Black Sabbath tribute band, and acclaimed stage work with the Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles. In between all of that he has also done a good amount of television and voice work, though rarely a central role. Raci is not deaf but was raised by two deaf parents, making him fluent in American Sign Language. All of that living and signing made him the perfect choice for Joe in Sound of Metal. He has been rewarded with many, many nominations this awards season, culminating with this Oscar nod. He is by far the least known of the five nominees, but Sound of Metal has proven to be a powerful and memorable film that managed a somewhat surprising and impressive six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Riz Ahmed. Raci would be an unlikely winner but he is a very worthy nominee.




Leslie Odom Jr. has also been working in television for quite a while, though more visibly as he had nice recurring roles on the likes of ”CSI: Miami”, “Smash”, “Person of Interest”, and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as well as memorable supporting roles in a few films including one of the WWII pilots in Red Tails and aboard Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. But it was his acting and singing as Aaron Burr in the megahit Hamilton on Broadway which earned him Grammy and Tony awards as well as fame. This has also led to his releasing several albums, post-Hamilton. All of which made him a natural fit to portray the legendary Sam Cooke interacting with three other legends in One Night in Miami…. That film holds four equally powerful characters so was it residual love for Hamilton that pushed him over his co-stars to get the Oscar nomination? Was it the singing? Perhaps. Either way at the age of only thirty-nine it has put him within a breath of winning his third leg of the EGOT. The invisible, non-nominated weight of his One Night in Miami… co-stars may actually weaken his chances of winning this time out, but I wouldn’t underestimate Odom’s career trajectory.




There are no rules as to what constitutes a leading versus a supporting performance. Which is part of how LaKeith Stanfield winds up in the Supporting category for his work in Judas and the Black Messiah along with his co-star Daniel Kaluuya. It does raise the natural question if they aren’t the “leads”, then who is? This may have been partly strategic, feeling that neither had a chance of winning against Chadwick Boseman or Anthony Hopkins as Best Actor, and in fact one or both may have even missed out on nominations in that category. As far as screentime goes it may feel like Stanfield is up there significantly more than Kaluuya, but turns out it was almost even. LaKeith has just short of fifty minutes and Daniel has just over forty-six. Four minutes difference in a 126-minute film is not a lot. And for what it’s worth Stanfield is on screen for 40% of the total film. Although it may seem counterintuitive or strategic categorizing them as supporting rather than lead performances it actually speaks to how much of an ensemble Judas and the Black Messiah is and how much story is told beyond those two characters being on the screen.

There is no doubt the main story concerns small time criminal Bill O’Neal (Stanfield) going undercover for the F.B.I. to infiltrate the Chicago chapter of The Black Panthers and their charismatic leader Fred Hampton (Kaluuya). That is the driving narrative. And both performances are powerful and memorable. The duplicity and shifting allegiances of O’Neal perhaps has more layers to play, but bringing the enigmatic Hampton back to life has its own challenges. Kaluuya was nominated three years ago as Best Actor for his breakout role in Get Out, losing to Gary Oldman’s overdue first win for his Churchill in The Darkest Hour. Will that perception of his being a “lead” and his real-life character being more noble than LaKeith’s give him the edge?



As for co-stars in the same category one perception is that they “cancel each other out”, voting wise. But if you look at the chart below you will see historically a co-star tends to win as often as they are both shut out. Going back to the 1970 ceremony, in the last fifty years in the four acting categories there have been thirty-five instances where co-stars from the same film have competed directly against each other. In seventeen of those face-offs a co-star triumphed and won the Oscar. That is 49%. If one of these Judas and the Black Messiah co-stars wins come Oscar night it will put it at exactly 50% since 1970.



As you can see in the chart, the red denotes a co-star who won. That was much more common in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was also fairly common for it to happen in the two lead categories back then. The last non-supporting pair nominated was Davis and Sarandon as Thelma & Louise – it has been all supporters since then. Daniel and LaKeith are the tenth pair of the 2000s and of the previous nine there were only three victors: Catherine Zeta-Jones for Chicago, Octavia Spencer for The Help, and Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. So while for the past fifty years it is sitting at about 50% it is more like 25% for the past thirty-five years.

Daniel Kaluuya has already won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and the SAG for this performance so he is definitely the favorite for the Oscar, but if there is going to be an upset it may well be his cohort.






I mentioned on our MoFo Oscar podcast that there have been quite a few performances nominated for Academy Awards that are primarily in sign language. I had misplaced that page of notes when we were recording, but here are the stats.

Paul Raci speaks and simultaneously signs almost all of his dialogue in Sound of Metal. As detailed above he has been signing his whole life. His is actually the tenth performance that is largely or chiefly in sign language to garner an Oscar nomination. The first was way back in 1948 when Jane Wyman won Best Actress for Johnny Belinda. In addition to being one of the biggest roles for a deaf and mute character at that time it was also notable for its frankness in dealing with rape. Fourteen years later the young Patty Duke was nominated and won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962). Alan Arkin garnered a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his deaf mute in the adaptation of Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), losing to Cliff Robertson's Charley.

John Mills won Best Supporting Actor for his deaf mute in David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970) and Marlee Matlin has the distinction of being the only actual deaf performer nominated so far when she won Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God (1986). She was only twenty-one when she won and remains the youngest winner ever in that category. Seven years later Holly Hunter won Best Actress for her deaf mute in Jane Campion's arthouse hit The Piano (1993).

Out of the first six primarily sign language performances to be nominated, five of them won Oscars.

Since Holly Hunter's win Samantha Morton was nominated as Best Supporting Actress in Woody Allen's Sweet & Lowdown (1999), Rinko Kikuchi as Best Supporting Actress for Ińárritu's Babel (2006), and Sally Hawkins as Best Actress for Guillermo del Toro's Oscar winning dark fantasy The Shape of Water (2017). Raci and Sound of Metal makes it an even ten.