2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actress Race

The 2021 derby for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars might have a bit more clarity than the currently wide open Supporting Actor race, but not much. I’m doing a deep dive on the four acting races as well as Picture and Director. If you missed the first post covering Supporting Actor, you can peruse it right here:

2021 Oscar Predictions: The State of the Supporting Actor Race

At this point when I was projecting the race in 2019 and 2020, I correctly identified three out of the five eventual nominees. Two years ago, that included the winner Laura Dern in Marriage Story as well as Florence Pugh (Little Women) and Margot Robbie for Bombshell. Scarlett Johansson was mentioned in Other Possibilities while I didn’t have Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell) listed. Last year, the trio of Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy), Olivia Colman (The Father), and Amanda Seyfried (Mank) were in my five. Eventual victor Yuh-jung Youn (Minari) and Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) were in Other Possibilities.

Since 2010, there have been three instances where two actresses for the same picture made the cut here. In 2010, it was Melissa Leo (who won) and Amy Adams in The Fighter. A year later, Octavia Spencer took gold for The Help while costar Jessica Chastain also got in. In 2018, both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz were nominated for The Favourite. 

The best chance of that happening in 2021 lies with Caitriona Balfe and Judi Dench for Belfast. The former could be considered the frontrunner at press time. I’m confident that Balfe will be in the quintet of hopefuls. My Supporting Actor forecast has both Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds in for Kenneth Branagh’s period drama. It might be foolish to bet against Dench and she could absolutely get her 8th nod. I do, however, feel the competition is steeper than Supporting Actor at the moment and she could miss out.

Other double nominee possibilities lie with Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson in The Lost Daughter, but I could just as easily see lead Olivia Colman garnering all the attention. The as yet unscreened Nightmare Alley could see either Toni Collette or Rooney Mara competing.

Then there’s Mass. Ann Dowd looks to be a better bet than Martha Plimpton. If the acclaimed drama catches on with the Academy, there could be room for both. For now, I’m far more confident in Dowd receiving her first nod after her somewhat surprise omission for 2012’s Compliance. 

With Balfe and Dowd penciled in, Kirsten Dunst also appears headed for her inaugural inclusion at the dance for The Power of the Dog. She could even be a threat to win.

After that, it gets murky. There’s plenty of hopefuls. 50 years ago, Rita Moreno took gold as Anita for West Side Story. The forthcoming remake could see Ariana DeBose nominated for the same role in Steven Spielberg’s remake. Marlee Matlin (35 years after taking Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God) got fine reviews for CODA. If the film registers with voters, she could be swept in. King Richard is anticipated to give Will Smith a solid chance at his first Oscar crowning and Aunjanue Ellis (as the mother of Venus and Serena Williams) could share in the wealth. Salma Hayek is part of the House of Gucci ensemble. She hasn’t been visible in the trailers and that gives me pause. Online chatter will be heavy for Rebecca Ferguson in Dune, though I question whether any of its cast makes its way in. Also worthy of mention: Olga Merediz (In the Heights), Gaby Hoffman (C’Mon C’Mon), Kathryn Hunter (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Sally Hawkins (Spencer), and Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans). All are feasible but will need lot some critics prizes to elevate their chances.

Meryl Streep is gunning for her 22nd (!) nomination for Don’t Look Up. Playing the President of the United States in the political satire, it feels strange to leave her out of the top 5 for such a high profile role. Let’s see what the critics think before I more carefully consider her.

One performer who seems to catching on is Ruth Negga for Passing. Nominated for Actress five years back for Loving, I was basically down to a coin flip between her and Aunjanue Ellis for a current slot. I’m leaning toward Negga in what would probably be the film’s sole nod.

Bottom line: right now I have Balfe, Dunst, and Dowd as (fairly) safe bets with the other two spots up for grabs. Here’s where it shakes out as October closes:

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees:

1. Caitriona Balfe, Belfast (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog (PR: 2)

3. Ann Dowd, Mass (PR: 3)

4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story (PR: 5)

5. Ruth Negga, Passing (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities:

6. Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard (PR: 4)

7. Judi Dench, Belfast (PR: 7)

8. Marlee Matlin, CODA (PR: 9)

9. Meryl Streep, Don’t Look Up (PR: Not Ranked)

10. Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Rooney Mara, Nightmare Alley

Next up: Best Actor!

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