Best Supporting Actor is the category that we turn our attention to today. This is the first Oscar nomination for three of the nominees, whilst the other two are previous winners in this category.
Will win: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Should win: Sam Rockwell (Vice)
Also nominated: Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
The real contest in this particular category appears to be between the two actors who have triumphed in it before: Mahershala Ali and Sam Rockwell. Of the two, Ali is the favourite, though it is Rockwell who turns in the better performance.
Ali is excellent as Don Shirley in Green Book, and plays off his co-star Viggo Mortensen particularly well – however, it is a relatively measured, even one-note performance. Stoic through and through, there are a couple of scenes in which we get a glimpse of what Ali is capable of, but on balance the source material doesn’t give him much with which to flex his acting muscles. On the other hand, whilst Rockwell’s role in Vice is limited (he plays President George W. Bush to Christian Bale’s Vice-President Dick Cheney), his attention to detail is without comparison. Every mannerism and nuance of the naive and inxperienced Dubyah is present in his performance, and it’s a pleasure to watch.
Sam Elliott’s performance as Jackson Maine’s long-suffering older brother Bobby in A Star is Born comfortably qualifies him for the title ‘Best of the Rest’ in this category. The main plaudits for the film rightly went to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, just as the prize for this category will likely go to either Ali or Rockwell, but Elliott has turned in an understated and powerful performance that at least appears to have won him a new generation of fans.
Richard E. Grant’s performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? is certainly serviceable but ventures a little too far into the realms of caricature at times. Meanwhile, as pleasing as it is that Adam Driver has finally been nominated for an Oscar, there is a nagging sense that he has been nominated for the wrong film. His turn as Flip Zimmerman in BlacKkKlansman is solid but far from a career best, and in fact he has shown more depth in films such as Silence or even Star Wars.