Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:
As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.
As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:
1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas
1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers
1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven
1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive
1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood
1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects
1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire
1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting
1998 – James Coburn, Affliction
1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules
2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic
2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris
2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation
2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River
2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
2005 – George Clooney, Syriana
2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter
2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners
2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:
3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven
Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.
2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.
1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.
And now the upsets!
3. James Coburn, Affliction
There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.
2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.
1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.
And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:
Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)
Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:
Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List
John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire
Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father
Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way.
The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!