Oscar Watch: Supporting actor


If the best actor category is particularly competitive this year, the supporting actor race seems unusually open -- one reason why Miramax is keen for the Academy to consider Philip Seymour Hoffman in support, rather than lead, for "Doubt."

Last year, Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men"), Tom Wilkinson ("Michael Clayton") and Hal Holbrook ("Into the Wild") made the supporting race one of the most memorable in history. But this year, no single actor has yet generated the same kind of buzz.

"No Country" star Brolin may get the recognition that seemed to elude him last year, this time with "Milk." But Brolin could see some votes siphoned off by other strong supporting performances in "Milk," most notably by James Franco and Emile Hirsch.

The wide-open race might give comedic performances that are usually overlooked a chance -- notably Robert Downey Jr. in DreamWorks/Paramount's "Tropic Thunder," and John Malkovich and Brad Pitt in Focus' "Burn After Reading."

Actor's actor Liev Schreiber could get recognized for his role as a resistance fighter in the World War II drama "Defiance." Ralph Fiennes, another vet, could also contend for "Duchess."

Hovering over the entire race is the question of how Oscar voters will respond to the late Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in "Dark Knight." Contrary to myth, death has not prevented the Academy from acknowledging worthy candidates -- from Spencer Tracy (1967's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?") to Massimo Troisi (1994's "Il Postino"). The Academy has proved itself responsive to Ledger before, with "Brokeback Mountain."