Rotten Tomatoes' Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Margot Robbie leaps into the race alongside Laura Dern, Annette Bening, and a surprising newcomer.

by | November 4, 2019 | Comments

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie (Photo by Courtesy of Lionsgate (Hillary Bronwyn Gayle))

Recent screenings of the Fox News sexual harassment feature Bombshell have forced pundits to recalibrate the Oscars race. Charlize Theron’s uncanny transformation into Megyn Kelly is now a major contender for Best Actress. And we still have Greta Gerwig’s Little Women to come; first reactions for that film have been heralding the work of Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. What was once thought to be a light year for female performances – and one in which Renee Zellweger was looking like a lock – is suddenly shaping up to be a powerhouse.

And it’s not just in the lead actress category.

Supporting performances often prove the hardest to predict because the category can be stacked with leading performances positioned for “supporting” mostly to up their chances of winning (see Alicia Vikander’s win for The Danish Girl). But we’re going to give it a shot.

The 2020 race now features three high-profile female-led efforts with Oscar-worthy supporting performances (BombshellHustlers, and Little Women) – this is in addition to impressive works from earlier in the year, like The Farewell. As with our Best Actress predictions, our list of supporting female performances runs deep, with several marquee names and several newcomers in contention. It will be interesting to see who cuts through as critics groups start releasing their honors lists and we move towards the Indie Spirit Awards.

If history tells us anything, it is that most of these names won’t make it to Oscar night, but we’re pretty confident many of them will be right up there in the awards chatter. So read on as we break down our early picks for 2020 Best Supporting Actress contenders.

Don’t agree with our picks? Have at us in the comments.

Laura Dern, Marriage Story (2019) 95%

(Photo by Netflix)

Newly announced to join original Jurassic Park co-stars Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum in the upcoming Jurassic World sequel, the Big Little Lies star also features prominently in two Oscar-caliber films in the fall: She plays the matriarch in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and a no-nonsense lawyer with a talent for dispensing prescient Yoda-like advice in Noah Baumbach‘s Marriage Story. Having two bites at the apple usually serves potential nominees well, with voters picking the strongest of the two to nominate. And though she’s being praised for her performance in Little Women, her work with longtime friend and collaborator Baumbach is what’s getting the most buzz. Dern, who’s on the Board of Governors for the Academy, is also a very active and well-liked member, so it would be a significant upset for her not to make it to Oscar night.

Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers (2019) 87%

Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection
(Photo by Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection)

Most pundits are still not fully sold on Hustlers star Jennifer Lopez’s Oscar chances, but you can place us firmly in the “J-Lo for an Oscar nom” camp. Lopez, who plays the acrobatic stripper-turned-“mini mob boss” Ramona in the flick, is seductive, hilarious, and deadly. Also, she’s showing early that she has no intention of coasting through the season. (And yes, we include her recent walk down the Versace runway wearing a reimagining of her iconic green dress and her highly anticipated Super Bowl performance as part of an overall “campaign.”) Looking forward, perhaps the former In Living Color Fly Girl’s biggest obstacle is getting everyone to recognize how exceptional she is in the role. We don’t need convincing. Enjoying her best reviews since Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, Lopez switches from charismatic mom-like figure to lethal crime boss with no more effort than she’d take to slide on a new pair of pumps. So yeah,  it’s time “Jenny from the Block” got her due.

Annette Bening, The Report (2019) 82%

Amazon Studios
(Photo by Amazon Studios)

There are several films on the fall slate that deal with political themes, and it’s yet to be seen how that will play with Academy voters. Among them are Richard Jewell, Queen & Slim, Bombshell, Jojo Rabbit, and The Report. The voters do sometimes embrace the political – Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant looked unbeatable at the 2016 Oscars but was nevertheless defeated by the quiet newspaper procedural Spotlight – and Supporting Actress contender Annette Bening will be hoping they do so this year for her transformative portrayal of Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Amazon feature about the 9/11 torture report.

Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell (2019) 98%

(Photo by A24)

Before last year’s Oscar campaign, a film like The Farewell, its lead actress Awkwafina, and the script/direction from newcomer Lulu Wang would have been hopeful but unlikely to vie for a golden statuette. Then Roma proved anything is possible, particularly in what the film signaled for actresses Marina de Tavira and Yalitza Aparicio, who were both nominated for Oscars. This is why we’re confident in the chances of the hilarious and heartfelt performance by Shuzhen Zhao as The Farewell’s Nai Nai, the elderly matriarch who is kept unaware of her own terminal illness to spare her unwanted pain. The film is based on an actual lie from the life of director Lulu Wang – the family gathers in China to say goodbye to Nai Nai under the guise of a family wedding – and Zhao is astonishingly good at its center, delivering cutting one-liners and intimate life lessons. Zhao also comes with the kind of Cinderella story voters love: this is her first on-screen performance.

Nicole Kidman & Margot Robbie, Bombshell (2019) 70%

(Photo by Lionsgate)

Early word on this Fox News sexual harassment drama is nothing but raves for lead actress Charlize Theron and supporting stars Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman. Robbie was already a contender for her work as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, but those who have seen Bombshell say this is the performance more likely to get her nominated. The I, Tonya actress’s portrayal of a young, impressionable Fox News staffer who’s harassed by founder Roger Ailes is the stuff that Oscar highlight reels are made of. As Gretchen Carlson, the first woman to raise concerns at the network and who eventually filed suit for harassment and wrongful termination, Nicole Kidman is equally noteworthy. Both are a serious threat for nomination.

Also in contention: 

  • Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
  • Jennifer Hudson (Cats)
  • Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit)
  • Octavia Spencer (Luce)
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite is My Name)
  • Florence Pugh (Little Women)
  • Meryl Streep (Little Women)

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