Oscar Breakdown: Best Supporting Actor

Oscar Contenders Supporting Actor Split - H 2014

Oscar Contenders Supporting Actor Split - H 2014

Prior to the 86th Oscars on March 2, THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg will present an eight-part series of posts breaking down the key facts and figures pertaining to each of the "big eight" Oscar categories. (For his predictions, see the weekly "Feinberg Forecast" post.) This post focuses on the best supporting actor Oscar race.

And the nominees for the best supporting actor Oscar at the 86th Oscars are...

Barkhad Abdi, a Somali immigrant who was driving a limousine in Minnesota a year ago, is the sole acting nominee from the best picture-nominated blockbuster Captain Phillips, in which he portrays the leader of a band of pirates who take hostage the American captain of a cargo ship. The 28-year-old made a major impression in his big screen debut and will forever be associated with the entirely improvised line, "I'm the captain now!" For his work, he has received Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG noms and has a still-pending BAFTA nom, as well.

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Then there is 39-year-old matinee idol Bradley Cooper, who is nominated for a David O. Russell film for the second year in a row. Last time he was recognized for his leading role in Silver Linings Playbook; this time he's up for playing a colorful supporting part: a fast-talking, quick-tempered, glory-seeking cop -- with curls for the ages -- who gets hustled by the hustlers he caught in his web. He has already received Critics' Choice and Golden Globe noms and has a still-pending BAFTA nom, as well.

Of course, we can't forget about Michael Fassbender. After years of doing nomination-worthy work -- including in two prior Steve McQueen films, Hunger and Shame -- the intense German-Irish actor is finally a nominee for his portrayal of a sadistic, contemptible 19th century plantation owner/slave master in McQueen's latest, 12 Years a Slave. The Irish-German thesp, 36, has already scored Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG noms and has still-pending BAFTA and Independent Spirit noms, as well.

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Oh, and take a second to digest this: Jonah Hill, who came to most of our attention via Superbad, is now a two-time nominee -- and deservedly so. Two years after winning a ticket to the big show via great work as Brad Pitt's sidekick in Moneyball, the master improviser is heading back again for his scene-stealing work as Leonardo DiCaprio's sidekick in The Wolf of Wall Street -- a quaaludes-addicted schmo who strikes it rich as a member of Jordan Belfort's entourage and future successor. Hill received no awards recognition for this performance prior to the Academy shoutout.

Last, but certainly not least, is Jared Leto, the rock star who returned to movies, following a six-year hiatus, to play an HIV-positive transgender woman named Rayon -- as you do. Leto dropped 40 pounds to convincingly portray the sweet but tortured associate of Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodruff -- and, remarkably, remained in-character for the entire shoot. Thus far, he has swept all of the major acting honors, winning the Critics' Choice, Golden Globe and SAG awards, not to mention the New York and Los Angeles film critics' top prizes; he also has a still-pending Independent Spirit nom.

At this point, if Leto doesn't take home the Oscar it will probably be the biggest shocker of the night.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg