Ranking the 89th Academy Award Nominees for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

In order to judge them fairly, I have taken it upon myself to watch all the nominees for Best Picture, Best Director and the acting categories, and I have to say that this year has some incredible nominees, most of which are deserving of their nominations. I will be ranking them category by category in different posts, from the nominee I feel is the least deserving to the nominee who I found to be superior to all the others. I’ve tried to remain as objective as I can, and taken as much into consideration as I can, in order to judge them fairly and honestly. This won’t be a commentary on who I think will win, and I will refrain from making actual predictions, because unfortunately there is a lot more to winning an Academy Award than just the performance. Its just a personal ranking of who I believe gave the best performances in each category. 

Best Supporting Actor is such a trick category – some of my favourite winners ever come from this category. Last year, we were spared a win from Sylvester Stallone when the incredible and brilliant Mark Rylance pulled off the shocking win. This year, we might see the same, but I am doubtful, as I assume it is going to go to someone who has done relatively well with critics awards. However, as I said before, this isn’t to predict the winners, but rather to rank the nominees in terms of their performances, which is what I’m going to do. The category this year isn’t the best, but there are still some very strong performances here. Personally, I wouldn’t give any of these men an Academy Award for their performances (a contrast to Best Actor, where the opposite is true, where each of the nominees would be worthy winners), but I’d say all of these men deserve their nominations.

#5 – Mahershala Ali as Juan in Moonlight


My problem isn’t that Mahershala Ali is nominated – he was very good. It is just that he was only the fourth best male performer in his own film, and I wish Ashton Sanders or André Holland were nominated, because they would be very worthy winners. Ali does very well with the small role, and he is captivating and moving, but he just doesn’t do enough to warrant any awards in my opinion. His performance is sold, but ultimately, while Sanders and Holland give legitimately great performances, Ali just doesn’t do enough. I needed at least two more scenes to justify Ali’s nomination, but the film just didn’t do enough with the character, who was actually fascinating, just not present enough. Like I said, Ali was good – but when the rest of the nominees in this category were far more central and present in their films, and Ali wasn’t, but some of his co-stars were, I have to say I was the least passionate about his performance. Ali is a great actor and his win will be deserving, because he’s a hard-working character actor, and I hope his inevitable Oscar win makes him a household name, and that even though I wasn’t that impressed by his performance in Moonlight, he still deserves the breakthrough. He was good – he just wasn’t my personal favourite, and the others just impressed me slightly more.

#4 – Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler in Manchester by the Sea


Manchester by the Sea was a great film – in fact, it was pretty much a masterpiece. Lucas Hedges is very good in the film, but I just found myself just a little unimpressed with him at times – his more dramatic moments were brilliant, but his attempts at being a normal teenager rendered pretty over-the-top and excessive, and I found myself annoyed by him in a way. Hedges is great, but just not good enough to completely sell me, and while his co-star gives an utterly amazing performance, Hedges just struggles a bit. He’s going to have a great career, and Manchester by the Sea is a brilliant spring-board for him to do amazing things.

#3 – Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton in Hell or High Water


There is no denying that Jeff Bridges is a legend – but he’s just made a career recently out of playing grizzled sheriffs and country men. In Hell or High Water, he gives the most Jeff Bridges performance he’s ever given, but rather than phoning it in and just playing himself, he adds quite a bit of emotional gravitas to the role, creating a character that is as entertaining as he is moving. He may not be the best in the category, but I think this is the best Bridges has been in years. I’m just wondering whether or not Bridges is going to try something exciting and new, rather than playing this kind of character. He did it so well here, he doesn’t necessarily need to do it again.

#2 – Dev Patel as Saroo Brierly in Lion


Dev Patel has been such a hard working actor in recent years, but only now did he manage to get a role that forced people to stop and take notice of him. He shows us a new side in his performance as Saroo Brierly, a man searching for his past. Arguably a leading performance, Patel gives the film a great amount of depth and does amazing work with the character. I feel like the first half of Lion was developed perfectly, the second half (where Patel features) felt slightly rushed. However, the emotional depth and great charisma that Patel shows in this film proves that he is a brilliant actor and his performance in Lion should be the first to a new and exciting career for the very hard working and dedicated Patel. I must note that if his co-star Sunny Pawar was nominated, I would’ve very easily placed him in the first position here, because that was truly an amazing performance.

#1 – Michael Shannon as Det. Bobby Andes in Nocturnal Animals


There isn’t a single thing about Michael Shannon’s nomination that I don’t love – he gives the best performance in his film, where he provides much needed humour. He managed to get nominated without any precursor support, and most of all, he’s just great in Nocturnal Animals. His role of the dedicated and cut-throat detective is incredible, and while he may not be as present in his film as some of the others, his role is the heart and soul of the film and the very reason I enjoyed the film so much. I expect many people weren’t huge fans of Shannon’s performance (and to be honest, if his co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson had been nominated instead, I would’ve easily chosen him for this top spot). Rather than being an amazing and memorable performance, it is an entertaining one and the one I liked the best out of the nominees – and hopefully Shannon continues his amazing work, and he should be back soon enough.

So in conclusion, this may not be the strongest the category has always been, and while none of these men would be incredibly deserving winners, they wouldn’t be bad winners either, and the eventual winner will be someone who gave a good performance, but not on the same level as previous winners of this category. However, all of these nominees are good enough and I don’t begrudge any of them for being nominated – I just wish stronger performances were in contention.


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