There are a bevy of actors in films that received lukewarm reception – from the critics and audiences alike – that may have a chance of getting a nomination. The two with the biggest chances of this are Stanley Tucci as the tortured pedophile in The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson’s family drama that has been surprisingly panned, and George Clooney as the psychic warrior in The Men Who Stare at Goats, another picture met with mediocre reviews and box-office numbers. Out of these two, I expect Tucci to get the nomination, as most of the Clooney love will be deflected towards his lead role in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, a film that should be a frontrunner in several major categories.
There are a few other actors that can be shoe-ins one day and on the fence the next. One such performance is Matt Damon as Francois Piennar, the rugby-playing hero of Clint Eastwood’s Invictus. With Eastwood at the helm, all performances are elevated regardless of whether or not they deserve it, and Damon, while I am sure he is excellent in the role, should benefit from the Eastwood Oscar-favorite camp. There is also a film that should bring another nomination, it just depends on which actor will get the nod, because I cannot imagine them both being there.
An Education, a film about a young woman (Carey Mulligan) being romanced by a much older British aristocrat despite the reservations of her somewhat overprotective father, should get some acting nominations. Peter Sarsgaard plays David, the older man romancing young Jenny (Mulligan), and Alfred Molina plays her doting father, Jack. Out of these two, I expect Molina to get the nomination, leaving Sarsgaard out of the loop, simply because it has been Molina garnering the most buzz.
There are a few other fringe possibilities for supporting actor, including Anthony Mackie as Seargent JT Sanborn in Kathryn Bigelow’s war picture, The Hurt Locker, and Richard Kind in A Serious Man, the period picture from the Brothers Coen. Mackie has the possibility for Hurt Locker love being spread around in other categories, while Kind has the disadvantage of A Serious Man being criminally under seen. Another possibility, which may get in simply to fill the fifth category, is Christian McKay as Orson Welles in Me and Orson Welles. But it feels like, right now, that all of these aforementioned nominations are fighting for second place, much like Josh Brolin was last year in Milk up against Ledger.
Christoph Waltz, the viscious Jew Hunter of Quentin Tarantino’s fantasy war epic Inglourious Basterds, is the absolute embodiment of villainy. Whenever he is on screen, no matter his sunny disposition on the outside, there is true menace, true tension that is palpable. Waltz, an otherwise unknown in American cinema, is a lock as of right now, and unlike other acting categories, Supporting Actor has played toward the favorite in recent years. I expect that trend to follow this year with Waltz, who is the most deserving.
Matt Damon – Invictus
Alfred Molina – An Education
Stanley Tucci – The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds
Christian McKay – Me and Orson Welles
Peter Sarsgaard – An Education
Anthony Mackie – The Hurt Locker
Richard Kind – A Serious Man
George Clooney – The Men Who Stare at Goats
Brad Pitt – Inglourious Basterds