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Awards Season 2021: Breaking Down “Best Supporting Actress”

As far as I can tell, the acting categories are starting to feel like locks. Unless the upcoming SAG awards do something drastic, I feel like Chadwick Boseman, Carey Mulligan and Daniel Kaluuya are all ready to accept their first Oscar. However, many of us are still perplexed by who is the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actress category and today, I plan to answer that by pushing you towards two of the nominees: Olivia Colman and Youn Yuh-jung.

To start, let’s summarise the wins so far. The Golden Globes are usually a strong predictor for who is the frontrunner in the category, and yet winner Jodie Foster is not even nominated in the category. Alongside this, Maria Bakalova was campaigned and nominated in Lead Actress: Musical/Comedy and ended up losing the award to Rosamund Pike. However, Bakalova pulls a surprise and wins Best Supporting Actress in the Critics Choice Award, and has been the only person nominated in every major precursor from the category this year.

Given this stat, it would seem obvious to have Bakalova in the frontrunner position, right? Well, if it was for any other movie I would say yes. However, I am still not sure how accessible Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm will be to the entire Academy voting body. Without a Best Picture nomination, it is hard to become a frontrunner for the acting race (except in specific circumstances such as Chadwick Boseman this year). There is no sense of urgency for the Academy to give Borat Subsequent Moviefilm a win, and it does feel like the nomination is the recognition for Bakalova, a new face in the scene and someone that is sure to take the win in the near future.

There are people also trying to drive the narrative of Glenn Close winning for her role in Hillbilly Elegy but I am really doubting it here. Firstly, this is a role that has (in my opinion unfairly) given Close a Razzie nomination. Having the same performance nominated in both is rare, but to potentially win both? It is clear that people want to reward Close, but there is no urgency to reward her for this film. It once again is not a Best Picture nominee, which is going to make people less likely to prioritise the film if they have not seen it yet. If Close was going to win this year, it would be a sweep across the season and yet she has not done that. If Olivia Colman can win against her in a year that felt dominated by Close, she (or another actress) can also do it under these circumstances.

The final nominee who I feel pretty confident is not winning on the night is Amanda Seyfried for Mank. As much as the film has the most nominations, it missed out on major ones such as Original Screenplay and Editing, meaning it might not be as loved as expected. Seyfried missed out on a SAG nomination against Helena Zengel, showing a lack of support from a large group of people who could influence the Oscar results. Despite it being a Best Picture nominee, the fact it will most likely take home prizes for the likes of Best Production Design means there is no urgency to reward Seyfried here, especially as this is her first nomination from the Academy.

Now we come down to the two ladies who I feel have the strongest shot at the win. Firstly is Olivia Colman in The Father, who I will admit does have less passion for a win considering she only won so recently for The Favourite. However, that narrative did not stop Mahershala Ali who won twice in the span of three years for Moonlight and Green Book. Not only that, but I really feel like with six nominations, the Academy is going to want to award The Father somewhere and this is the easiest pathway. It is a long shot for Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, and Editing, and lead actor Anthony Hopkins would have won in a year without Boseman sweeping the season. If the Academy wants to give The Father a win, they simply have to reward Olivia Colman and know that she will give another incredible speech.

On the other hand, Youn Yuh-jung is an actress that has been working for over five decades and this is the first time she has been recognised by the Academy. This is somebody that should have the overdue momentum going, and I do think she has a strong chance at getting the Oscar. She finds herself in the same position as Colman in which her film Minari has six nominations and no obvious place to reward it aside from Supporting Actress. Not only that, but this is a performance that critics have championed and it seems like the industry is also recognising it. Whilst the snubs of previous films in the acting categories such as The Farewell and Parasite could make it hard for Youn Yuh-jung to push forward, I hope that the nomination proves the love that is there for her and that the stats show that she is a frontrunner in the category.

What did you make of my analysis? Are you still convinced another actress is winning the category? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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