Caitríona Balfe (Belfast) and Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) top the supporting actress contenders this season, hitting every precursor and each come in with narrative and bonafides.
For Balfe, who I had as my #1 for months, she’s in a Best Picture frontrunner so there’s no dismissing that. DeBose comes in not just with those same precursors but as the surprise critics’ leader, too. Latinx representation at the Oscars has been paltry at best, even in the new era of diversity and inclusion the Academy is striving to improve on and a nomination here would be one small step in getting there.
A trio of actresses earned three of the four: Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog) missed BAFTA, Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard) missed SAG and Ruth Negga (Passing) missed Critics Choice. While Dunst and Ellis are both in top film contenders and should be safe, it’s Negga who’s gotten the actual industry support from both groups, despite being in a lower profile film. But Negga has been, for most of the season, Passing’s main (and sometimes) only representation.
Another trio has just a single precursor, each with more or less power than the other. Moreno, playing a different character in West Side Story than she previously did, has only earned Critics Choice. The built in narrative for her was never fully realized or capitalized on and were WSS stronger throughout critics and guild season, she could have made it. Two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett surprised everyone when she showed up at SAG for Nightmare Alley but she wasn’t even longlisted for this performance at BAFTA (they opted for her in Don’t Look Up instead). Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter) started to earn some critics’ steam but the focus this season has largely been on the film’s lead, Olivia Colman, and on Maggie Gyllenhaal as a first time feature director. Her BAFTA nomination is probably an anomaly but she’s extraordinary in the film.
Ann Dowd (Mass), like Negga, has been the main push and presence for her film with a very delicate and complicated subject (the aftermath of a school shooting). I think the film needed a more robust fall festival presence so that word of mouth could build for her (and for it) and for those that were possibly squeamish or nervous about the topic. Her BAFTA nomination is an interesting piece of the puzzle this season but it should be noted her performance was the only thing longlisted by BAFTA and she could have been a jury vote rather than a chapter voted top two contender.
All of this boils down to what could happen and that’s two shocking spoilers for this category, the first being Judi Dench (Belfast). Despite not being able to hit any precursor (in the pre-jury era of BAFTA she easily would have made it) there is still room for her to show up and give one of these ladies a shocking snub on nomination morning. Another I had been toying with is Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth. While she’s been campaigned in lead it’s also one of those borderline roles and she hasn’t had any precursor traction in best actress this season while her co-star, Denzel Washington has (save BAFTA). While it’s a long, long longshot I can’t help but think of the wildness the Academy threw us last year when they nominated LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah) in supporting actor. But, the only way that happens for McDormand is if Macbeth overperforms; it’s got to hit Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay. But what’s really against her is her own co-star, Kathryn Hunter, who’s had true supporting actress buzz, she even won NYFCC.
But all of that is probably for naught as I think below is a nearly unmovable top 5.
Here are my final 2022 Oscar nomination predictions for Supporting Actress.
1. Ariana DeBose – West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – GG, CCA, SAG, BAFTA
2. Caitríona Balfe – Belfast (Focus Features) – GG, CCA, SAG, BAFTA
3. Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog (Netflix) – GG, CCA, SAG
4. Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA, BAFTA
5. Ruth Negga – Passing (Netflix) – GG, SAG, BAFTA
6. Judi Dench – Belfast (Focus Features)
7. Cate Blanchett – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) – SAG
8. Ann Dowd – Mass (Bleecker Street) – CCA, BAFTA
9. Frances McDormand or Kathryn Hunter – The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films)
10. Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter (Netflix) – BAFTA