For a long stretch of the season – arguably going as far back as the 2014 Sundance Film Festival over a year ago – the Best Supporting Actor race has felt like it had a true frontrunner. And with less than a week to go before the Oscars put a bow on everything, that still appears to be the case.
And who doesn't want to see J.K. Simmons clutching an Oscar, really? I feel like I've written this sentiment countless times this season, but once more for good measure: he's been an in-the-trenches working actor for years. He's a great guy, he has a great story and – oh yeah – he's amazing in “Whiplash.” He makes the movie sing. Without this performance – and with due respect to the talented Damien Chazelle who no matter what would have cranked out a fascinating picture – I'm not so sure it would have been the critical and awards success that it's been.
It's not to say there aren't amazing performances elsewhere in the category. Edward Norton is brilliant and hilarious in “Birdman.” Robert Duvall reminds you why he's one of the best, coming away from the critically dismantled “The Judge” unscathed. Ethan Hawke might have quietly offered up his finest, most present work to date in “Boyhood.” And Mark Ruffalo may have topped his previous work as well with his “Foxcatcher” performance.
But the movement has been behind Simmons from the start. Don't expect any change of heart this late in the game. The only question that remains is how much the Academy might want to reward “Whiplash” otherwise. The screenplay? The editing? The sound mix? All are on the table.
Biggest campaign moment: This quintet has been locked in for so long it's hard to really pinpoint if there actually was one. So we'll just say the revelation of the Screen Actors Guild nominations, which firmed up this group early on.
Should have been here: Riz Ahmed's nervous nelly working alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in “Nightcrawler” would have been inspired, as would recognition for the late Gary Poulter, an undeniable presence in David Gordon Green's “Joe.”
Will win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Should win: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash” (but I really liked Norton and Ruffalo, too – tough call)