Best Supporting Actor
Coming off the the success of "The Avengers," Mark Ruffalo looks to have a good year coming up, with the heist flick "Now You See Me" and musical romance "Can A Song Save Your Life?" both brewing. But the film that could land him his second Oscar nomination is Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," which we figure is going to be a big player across all the categories. Ruffalo plays Dave Schultz, a gold medal-winning wrestler who befriended the Olympic team's sponsor, John du Pont (Steve Carell) only (SPOILER) to be killed by him. There's an obvious tragedy to the role, and Ruffalo's undergone a physical transformation too, bulking up and going part-bald. We haven't read the script, so it's always possible that Channing Tatum, who plays Mark, John's brother and teammate, may have the more potent character, but our money's very much on Ruffalo, who feels like someone who should have won an Oscar years ago (he's only been nominated once, for "The Kids Are All Right").
Like Ruffalo, Josh Brolin is another actor who feels like he's been much lauded, but in reality only has a single nomination (Bet Supporting Actor for "Milk"). But in "Labor Day," in which Brolin plays an escaped murderer who befriends a young boy and his agoraphobic mother (Kate Winslet), he might have one of the best roles he's ever had, and certainly one of the most awards-friendly. It should allow the actor to be both menacing and gentle, and given that Jason Reitman's directing the film, it's likely to allow some humor in there as well. It's probably a more significant role than most of these ones, but our gut is that Brolin will end up campaigning in Supporting, and has a damn good chance at getting into the five.
Despite plenty of acclaimed performances, Colin Farrell has never actually been nominated for an Oscar. And to pick up a nod for a Disney film about the making of "Mary Poppins" would be somewhat discordant with the rest of the one-time hellraiser's career. But he's got the showiest supporting role (although Paul Giamatti, as P.L. Travers' driver, might be one to keep an eye on too), as the inspiration for the title character in "Saving Mr. Banks." Farrell plays Travers' father, a good-natured man lost hopelessly in alcoholism. It's a beautifully written part, and given the connections with the now-sober Farrell's own life, has a tailor-made narrative in place for awards season. It's not the largest of roles, so it could end up being seen as too small for a nomination, but we think it's definitely a possibility.
After two back-to-back nominations for "The Hurt Locker" and "The Town," Jeremy Renner' sat out the last couple of awards seasons in favor of blockbusters like "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," "The Bourne Legacy" and "The Avengers." But with that initial salvo out the way, Renner is returning to the kind of prestige fare that made his name, and while he could well be a prospect for James Gray's "Lowlife," we think his chances are better with David O. Russell's untitled latest. The director's films are generally awards magnets for their supporting players, and Renner has the juiciest supporting role, as the state senator and hugely popular mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Angelo Errichetti, who is one of the targets of an FBI sting operation intended to tackle political corruption. We suppose Bradley Cooper (who's really the co-lead) or even Louis CK might be the one to stand out in the film, but the smart money is on Renner.
Like Farrell, Sam Rockwell has somehow failed to ever get an Oscar nomination, despite being one of the most talented actors of his generation. There's a number of possible films on the way, but his best chance may come with the Sundance flick "The Way Way Back." The film, directed by "The Descendants" writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, was one of the big Sundance hits, snapped up for record sums by Fox Searchlight, who hope to turn it into the next "Little Miss Sunshine." And Rockwell apparently steals the show as Owen, the manager of a waterpark at which protagonist Duncan (Liam James) works. Rockwell's turn has been compared to Bill Murray and generally praised to the skies (the Hollywood Reporter says it might be "the most winning performance in a career full of charm"). He's undeniably overdue for a nomination, and we definitely think this has the potential to finally get him one.