Oscar Experts Typing: How many supporting actress slots will ‘The Color Purple’ snag?

Welcome to Oscar Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Oscar race — via Slack, of course. This week, we look at Best Supporting Actress, where one film is expected to take up two slots.

Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! Another year, another Oscars Best Supporting Actress race that remains wide open after the presumed frontrunner departed for another category. We’re now two months removed from the news that Lily Gladstone had chosen to campaign in the Best Actress race for “Killers of the Flower Moon” instead of Best Supporting Actress, and it’s hard to say any one contender has jumped fully into the vacuum left by Gladstone’s exit. Or is it? Most experts and prognosticators, including both of us, have moved presumed runner-up Da’Vine Joy Randolph into first place for “The Holdovers.” That certainly feels possible: Randolph’s presumed nomination feels exceedingly secure and this category might be the best chance “The Holdovers” has to win on Oscar night. If not Randolph, then several other contenders conceivably could win: Emily Blunt for “Oppenheimer,” Danielle Brooks or Taraji P. Henson for “The Color Purple” (which was finally unveiled this week), Penelope Cruz or Vanessa Kirby for, respectively, “Ferrari” and “Napoleon,” two epics from some of our best octogenarian filmmakers that have received mixed responses so far, or maybe even Jodie Foster for “Nyad,” a winning performance from a beloved two-time Oscar winner that has people remembering why they loved her in the first place. That’s a pretty impressive list and I didn’t even mention Julianne Moore for “May December,” which has seemingly already won over the SAG members, and Rosamund Pike for “Saltburn.” Plus, while we’re typing, let me pause her to recognize some “Barbie” faves, particularly America Ferrara for her Oscar clip of the year and Rhea Perlman for an extended and effective cameo as Ruth Handler. That’s a lot of boldfaced names and I didn’t even mention Rachel McAdams for “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” or Sandra Hüller for “The Zone of Interest.” What I’m getting at is that while Randolph could easily become a sweeper here, I also think there’s a lot of room for other performers to break through — and then if they’re nominated, perhaps even win. So let’s start there, because this feels like the one category that could have a few big surprises up its sleeve once the Oscar nominations are announced. Joyce, do you envision any underdog contenders cracking the field of five?

joyceeng: Silly question because anyone with half a brain cell knows nobody is locked in mid-November when nothing has happened except for you moving people in and out of your Best Actor lineup every week. This race, at this stage, is like last year’s: There’s a female-fronted ensemble film heavily predicted to produce two supporting actress nominees. When “Women Talking” flatlined, that “opened up” two spots. Of course, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” wound up bagging two spots, but that was not expected at this point last year. The chaos level of the current race will depend on the “Color Purple” ladies since Brooks and Henson are — to borrow a word from one of last year’s Oscar-nominated characters — ensconced in the top five. Since the musical is recognizable, crowd-pleasing IP with baity roles, I don’t think it’ll completely whiff here like “Women Talking” did. At the very least, it’ll likely claim one spot. But if “The Color Purple” is somehow blanked, two spots are theoretically up for grabs, and there are a bunch of coattails and passion picks from which to choose. It would also pave the way for more potential acting nominees from non-Best Picture nominees. You know how apprehensive I feel about having so many (18!) acting picks hailing from Best Picture picks. Foster is one of my non-BP nominee predictions. I’m not even sure who my second one would be in this category. Probably Moore, but if I had my druthers, Claire Foy, ironically, would be in there for “All of Us Strangers.” Third time’s the charm? Especially when no one’s expecting it? Deeper down in the odds are former champ Juliette Binoche, who’s going supporting for “The Taste of Things,” and Erika Alexander, whose warm turn in “American Fiction” got a lotta tweets after the film’s bow in Toronto but whose absence in the trailer has left some folks flummoxed. We’ve discussed the marketing angle already, and I expect her to be in the next trailer (should there be one), but she’s a dark horse for a nom if “American Fiction” goes over big. However, she has internal competition too, and as you’re already predicting, “American Fiction’s” second acting nom might come in supporting actor for Sterling K. Brown.

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Christopher Rosen: A nomination for Foy would be iconic — she’s the best part of “All of Us Strangers” with Jamie Bell running a close second and not even Film Twitter stans of the film seem to think her recognition is a possibility. I don’t think Alexander will get in here either — as you wrote, I feel like Brown is the supporting actor of choice from “American Fiction.” However, I’ll cape for John Ortiz over anyone else (we can type about this category next week!). Binoche is an intriguing option here as well because “The Taste of Things” is expected to land a nomination for Best International Feature and she’s a past winner. It’s just too many great options! Perhaps because of my proclivity to recency bias, however, I’ve become kind of infatuated with the idea of Moore getting in here. “May December” is an actors’ feast and Moore is really going for it with her performance — it’s comic and tragic and she really lands the plane in her final scenes. We both loved “May December” when it debuted at the New York Film Festival, but at least for me, it felt like a movie that was “too good” for the race. But maybe that’s elitist nonsense. After all, there’s nothing actors seem to like more than actors acting — and while Moore isn’t playing an actor in the film (that’s Natalie Portman’s onscreen profession), she’s certainly theatrical. Am I out of my mind here? Yes, but do you think I should be considering Moore more seriously?

joyceeng: I mean, I would nominate Moore just for her “hot dogs” line in the opening minutes. You could argue she has the ostensibly easier route to a nomination of the three “May December” stars. Portman is in a stacked lead race and Charles Melton is seemingly fighting for the final supporting actor spot. Just because of the function of the story, Moore has, comparatively, the least to do of the trio, but she crafts Gracie into a transfixing figure who provides no easy answers for Portman’s shadowing actress or viewers. It’s what makes her performance great, but I sense that will also irk some people who want Gracie to show more contrition for her transgression. You know the co-star swap for a veteran actor that the Oscars love to do in supporting categories? What if that happens with “May December” but across genders? I can see Melton hitting all the televised precursors — Golden Globes and Critics Choice feel like gimmes, SAG loves Netflix (#neverforget “Riverdale’s” Netflix bump), and he totally makes sense as a BAFTA jury pick — but missing the Oscar nom in the end, while Moore could have a rockier precursor run but make the Oscar five.

SEE Experts slugfest: Who will round out the Best Actor lineup?

Christopher Rosen: I could definitely see that happening, it’s true. I guess I’ll wrap here by citing another contender that has a lot of passion support but doesn’t seem all that serious in terms of the field: McAdams. Everyone who has seen “Are You There God?” has walked away from the film singing her praises and she’s perhaps one of the most underrated actors of her generation. It’s a wonderful performance and she’d be a great nominee… but she’s in 15th place right now behind many of the people we’ve already mentioned. It won’t happen, but I’d love to see it (and if anyone reading this hasn’t watched “Are You There God?” just yet, make it a priority over the weekend). I’ll get off my soapbox for now, however, and let you have the last word.

joyceeng: McAdams is just lovely in “Are You There God?”, and the mother-daughter dynamic between Barbara and Margaret is so beautifully rendered, but I suspect the film might be too small in the end to push her through. I hope the awards gods can at least bestow upon her a critics prize somewhere.

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