Lito’s Oscar Picks: Best Supporting Actor

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SERIES 2: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Here’s the 2nd in my 96 part series on the upcoming Academy Awards…

The Nominees Are…

BARKHAD ABDI in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

FOR HIM: In a riveting debut performance (and first time actor), the Somali native gave a chilling and commanding performance as the lead pirate in “Captain Phillips” and held his own against Tom Hanks. Something has to be said about that. The BFCA, Globes, and SAG all nominated him.

AGAINST HIM: Which will likely be the reward. No one’s really honored him with a win. Much too new to the club and is up against some of the industry’s well respected actors.

BRADLEY COOPER in AMERICAN HUSTLE

FOR HIM: A wildly popular movie star, Mr. Cooper has scored his second consecutive nomination after a Best Actor nod last year for David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook”. Momentum is definitely with him. His turn as a smug FBI agent was a nice standout among the cast. He may get swept into the “American Hustle” wave.

AGAINST HIM: Perhaps his own movie-stardom is its own reward this year. SAG didn’t nominate him which is peculiar since the actor’s branch holds a lot of weight and crossover within the Academy. He’ll probably sit this one out.

MICHAEL FASSBENDER in 12 YEARS A SLAVE

FOR HIM: His terrifying turn as a sadistic plantation owner was an unforgettable portrait played with equal parts dignity and gusto by Fassbender who many thought should have earned a nomination for Best Actor in 2011 for “Shame”. It’s only a matter of time before this respected actor wins a Golden Boy. Momentum for the film is hot and he may get caught up in the sweep.

AGAINST HIM: Despite being nominated for almost every award, he really hasn’t been winning much of anything. This year, another performance has been hogging the spotlight and his isn’t it.

JONAH HILL in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

FOR HIM: Probably the biggest surprise nominee of the acting categories. A respected turn in a well reviewed Martin Scorsese film certainly doesn’t hurt. He was nominated once before in 2011 for “Moneyball” which shows that the Academy thinks he’s more than just a one-trick pony in raunchy comedies. He’s well liked and his drug addicted comic sidekick to DiCaprio’s Wall Street fraudster was a memorable one.

AGAINST HIM: This role borders between a dramatic performance and a raucous comedy. While satirical in nature, this is undoubtedly not the kind of performance that actually goes home with Oscar. The nomination is a huge vote of confidence for him and if he keeps it up, he’ll have other chances in the future.

JARED LETO in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

FOR HIM: As Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman who befriends Matthew McConaughey and becomes his business partner to provide alternative medicine to those affected in the early days of AIDS. Add to the mix his dramatic physical transformation and you have a role that has Oscar written all over it. Indeed, Leto has been the primary recipient of a bevy of critics awards including big wins from the BFCA, Golden Globes, and SAG. He has the most traction for the win and the moment feels right.

AGAINST HIM: Not a whole lot unless a possible last minute surge from fans of “12 Years a Slave” to put Fassbender on top.

THE LOWDOWN: This award is Leto’s to lose. Fassbender has a slight chance at an upset, I wouldn’t count on it.

MY PERSONAL PICK: JARED LETO

Of this lineup, I’d keep everyone except Jonah Hill. This was a competitive year full of worthy contenders from the late James Gandolfini’s tender turn in “Enough Said” to Daniel Bruhl’s frosty Formula 1 driver in “Rush” to James Franco’s out of this world drug dealer in “Spring Breakers”, but for my money, I would have included the quiet, but affecting turn of Will Forte in “Nebraska”. He’s just as compelling as Bruce Dern or June Squibb. As the son reluctant to drive his father to Lincoln, NE to collect a phony million dollar sweepstakes prize, it was the most touching father-son bond of the year and it took two to tango there. Bravo to the former SNL star.

But for the win, Jared Leto has my vote. The performance is daring, humorous, tender, tragic…. pretty much all the elements of an Oscar performance handled beautifully by a strong talent. Leto impressed me in 2000’s “Requiem for a Dream” and has now found an indelible role deserving of the prize. I won’t forget his Rayon anytime soon.

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