Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By The Sea)
Of all the categories this year, this one is probably the most predictable. Viola Davis has won nearly every precursor award there is, including the three top ones (Golden Globes, BAFTA and SAG), she is one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood, and she is a previous nominee. Despite two previous nominations (for Doubt and The Help), Davis has yet to win an Oscar. Amongst an array of black talent nominated this year, Davis is the most well known actress and is currently starring in a How To Get Away With Murder on ABC, a critically acclaimed turn. The Oscars will want to play catch up with this award (following Davis becoming the first black actress to win Best Actress at the Emmys), especially with the actress making a number of public statements stating she didn’t believe the Academy was racist or that the black performers nominated this year were only there for their skin colour. The Academy will likely want to reward Davis for giving them some breathing room. It also doesn’t hurt that she is a close friend of Meryl Streep, and presented her with the Golden Globes Lifetime Achievement Award, where Streep made one of the most famous speeches in award history. The association between the two will push voters toward Davis. The only thing that could hurt Davis here is if voters get annoyed that she is running in the supporting category for what is arguable a lead role. Though, that has never hurt actresses before, including Alicia Vikander who won this award last year for a lead role in The Danish Girl.
So while it looks as if this is a done deal (and it nearly is), this category was also the closest and toughest to predict before the precursor awards started to be given out. Every actress here is seen by critics as deserving of their place, and therefore none should be ruled out. Octavia Spencer is a new Oscar darling, and therefore could come in with a steal, but many believe Janelle Monae of Hidden Figures was more deserving. Yet, with Spencer and the rest of the cast of HF winning the ensemble award at the SAG awards, there is obviously support for giving HF an award. This is likely the only place it could get a major award, as it looks unlikely it will win in Best Picture or Best Adapted Screenplay. But my spoiler has to be Michelle Williams. The actress only appears in Manchester By The Sea for around 10 minutes, but there is one sequence that is so powerful, so tragic, so emotional that it has boosted her to this spot. Unfortunately though, Williams has always played second favourite. This is her fourth Oscar nomination, and on many previous occasions she was expected to win, but with nothing to show for it yet. The Academy may want to give her this as a show of approval, but Davis (because of HTGAWM) seems the more current of the actresses. Williams simply does not have any mainstream support, and while the Academy doesn’t necessarily listen to the public, they will want to look good, and giving Davis the award will do that and much more.
Potential Spoiler: Michelle Williams