Battle of the Sams: Will Elliott or Rockwell make the Best Supporting Actor Oscar cut?


Sam is in? But which one? Now that the four televised precursors have spoken, four spots in the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race appear to be secure: Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), Timothee Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”), Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) all scored Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA nominations. The last spot has been split between two Sams: Elliott (“A Star Is Born”), who made Critics’ Choice and SAG, and Rockwell (“Vice”), who was shortlisted at the Globes and BAFTA. Assuming the other four are in, which Sam will take the final spot in the Oscar lineup?

Elliott has had a rocky Oscar journey for what many felt was a safe nomination after “A Star Is Born” opened to great reviews and became a box office hit. The Globe snub was surprising, but in hindsight, given how “A Star Is Born” flopped with just one win, for Best Original Song (“Shallow”) out of five nominations, at the Globes, it’s obvious the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not love the movie as much as we thought it would. Elliott rebounded at the SAG Awards, where “A Star Is Born” leads with four bids, but stumbled on Wednesday when he missed at BAFTA to Rockwell.

Recent Oscar nominees who got in with the Critics’ Choice and SAG combo include Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea,” 2016), Rachel McAdams (“Spotlight,” 2015) and Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook,” 2012). Elliott’s situation is most akin to De Niro’s as they’re both older, respected icons, and you know, play a concerned family member opposite a troubled Bradley Cooper character. Unlike two-time champ De Niro, Elliott has never been nominated for an Oscar, so this would be the perfect time for longtime admirers to give him a career nomination.

SEE Guild scorecard: “A Star Is Born” is 11 for 11 after costume design and makeup nominations

Elliott also has the advantage of the strength of his film. “A Star Is Born” is a perfect 11/11 with guild nominations, so it’s top of mind for the industry and is for sure a top three Best Picture contender. Arguably, Hedges, McAdams and De Niro were also helped by the strong support for their films, all of which were up for the top prize. “Spotlight” won Best Picture, while “Manchester” earned two above-the-line awards in Best Actor for Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan. “Silver Linings Playbook” only won Best Actress for Jennifer Lawrence, but it nabbed a surprise Best Director nomination for David O. Russell and was the first film in 31 years to get bids in all four acting categories.

“Vice” has been a far more polarizing film — with critics at least; the industry has been more receptive to it. The scathing political satire has hit seven of the 11 guilds, including scoring a very important Directors Guild nomination for Adam McKay. Rockwell and the ensemble were snubbed at SAG even though Christian Bale and Amy Adams got in, but that could possibly be attributed to “Vice” being one of the final screeners the SAG nominating committee received.

Recent Globe and BAFTA nominees who made the Oscar cut are Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World,” 2017), Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” 2013), Amy Adams (“American Hustle,” 2013), Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine,” 2013) and Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained,” 2012), who won the Oscar. With the exception of “Blue Jasmine,” these films, like “Vice,” were late breakers, which explains the snubs from SAG, which votes earlier and relies on screeners. (The Plummer situation is also unique since he stepped in to reshoot Kevin Spacey‘s scenes after the latter’s sexual assault scandal broke.)

SEE 5 performers who got Oscar boost from BAFTA nominations

But what might help Rockwell the most is that he just won last year, for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” He’s in the perfect position for the classic afterglow nomination that doesn’t really have a shot at turning into a win (no offense, Sam). See: Jeff Bridges (won for 2009’s “Crazy Heart,” nominated for 2010’s “True Grit”), Eddie Redmayne (won for 2014’s “The Theory of Everything,” nominated for 2015’s “The Danish Girl”) and Penelope Cruz (won for 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” nominated for 2009’s “Nine”). Plus, his performance as a dim, malleable George W. Bush is flashier than Elliott’s subtle work in “A Star Is Born.”

Of course, there’s also the chance that both Sams will make it and one of the precursor consensus four will be left out, or that both could be snubbed for a surprise nominee.

PREDICT the Oscar nominations now; change them until January 22

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.

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