This category could honestly go in any direction, especially with the split between precursor awards regarding winners in this category thus far. Yet before we proceed with predictions in this category, let us acknowledge the glaring injustice in this category: Both Rooney Mara in Carol and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl are NOT supporting performances. Both Vikander and Mara offered LEADING performances in their respective films and it is unfair (and somewhat desperate) that producers would dare to call these performances “supporting” in an effort to have them maximize their Oscar chances. It is especially unfair to those performances who genuinely ARE supporting, which cannot stand up against performances that have much more screen-time and audience focus. That being said, both Vikander and Mara were brilliant in their performances and their nominations are deserved…but should have been nominated in the correct category. This is not unusual with the Oscars (Al Pacino in The Godfather, Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain are some examples), but the Academy must consider a rule that clearly defines what is Leading versus Supporting. Fairness is essential and what we are seeing in the Supporting Actress field this year is blatant miscategorization.
Now focusing on this category:
We haven’t seen such an unsure year in this category since 2007 when Cate Blanchett won the Golden Globe for I’m Not There, Ruby Dee won the SAG for American Gangster, and Tilda Swinton ultimately won the Oscar for Michael Clayton. It was a highly unusual year for the supporting actress category and history seems to be repeating itself.
Normally winning a Golden Globe would be a good indicator of where the Oscars will go, which would seem that Kate Winslet would be the frontrunner. This would make sense, too, considering Winslet is the best part of Steve Jobs. She provided both the needed humor and humanity that film desperately needed and she stole every scene she was in. Winslet was the very definition of a stellar supporting actress, who gave the film its backbone. Without Winslet, the film would not have worked. Winslet deserved her Golden Globe win and would deserve the Oscar if she were to win it. However, The Academy has made it abundantly clear that they aren’t necessarily fans of the Steve Jobs film, which may put Winslet’s chances at an astounding low, even though she won the Golden Globe and the BAFTA.
What makes this further unusual was that both Vikander and Mara were nominated in the Leading category at the Golden Globes, therefore Winslet was not in competition with them, as she is now. Mara’s performance in Carol was the epitome of heartbreak and humanity and her performance shouldn’t be ignored at all. If anyone can pull an upset this year, it’s Mara. However, Vikander also gave a second extraordinary performance this year in Ex Machina, which she sacrificed a nomination for in order to have The Danish Girl nominated in this category instead. Voters are aware of this, and that gives Vikander an extra nudge towards a win. Yet looking at her performance in The Danish Girl, Vikander essentially stole the film from her male lead, Eddie Redmayne, which the film was supposed to be a vehicle for. Vikander offered tremendous conflict and confusion into her role and was effective in being the emotional component of the film. A win for Alicia Vikander would be very much deserved.
Alicia Vikander has stood a better chance of winning the Oscar when put in competition against Kate Winslet. She has won both the Critics Choice Award and the SAG, defeating Winslet and cemented a solid lead for her. The SAG win especially indicated she was a frontrunner since in the last 10 years the winner in that award ceremony has gone onto winning the Oscar 9 times.
Additionally, we shouldn’t rule out the wild-card nomination: Rachel McAdams. Her nomination was the surprise in this category and that shouldn’t be ignored. Her performance in Spotlight was subtle, to which her careful performance truly highlighted how delicate the ‘spotlight’ team had to be when uncovering very sensitive information in regards to an atrocity that had been ongoing for decades without any barriers or questions asked. If the Academy goes in the direction of awarding Spotlight Best Picture, and it is very much possible that they will, McAdams could benefit from a momentum bump in awarding the film the maximum amount of awards possible.
Lastly, everyone loves a comeback and Jennifer Jason Leigh gave just that in The Hateful Eight. Her loud, in-your-face performance stole the film from a very strong cast. While Leigh’s chances seem to be slim, it is very much possible the Academy could lean in the direction of a showy, Tarantino-esque performance, as they had before twice in the past with Christoph Waltz.
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Will Win: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Could Win: Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Should Win: Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Could Upset: Rachel McAdams – Spotlight