Rotten Tomatoes' Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions: Best Supporting Actress

Amanda Seyfried, Jodie Foster, and Maria Bakalova lead our picks for the category.

by | December 18, 2020 | Comments

Amanda Seyfried in Mank

(Photo by Netflix)

We’ve seen a few more theatrical exits since our last edition of Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions, with Zola and The Green Knight announcing dates that confirm they will compete for the 2021 season. The new lineup from the Sundance film festival was just released, and with the season extending due to COVID-19, all of the Sundance premieres will be eligible to compete in 2021 if they choose. Films like Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga could slip in at the wire.

Our predictions were also selected before the New York Film Critic Circle and The Los Angeles Film Critics association made their selections, so things will likely look different in our next update. Still, an awards season unlike any we have seen in recent years is in full effect. The socially distant season with a virtual show likely on the horizon, however, won’t stop Hollywood’s efforts to reward itself with the Oscars, Golden Globes, and other awards. The voters will have their say and cast ballots on what they think is the best cinema of 2020 – and part of 2021.

So we now arrive at our Best Supporting Actress predictions. Yes, it’s early, given that with the new timeline, we are still four months away from any trophies being handed out, but this isn’t exactly a normal Oscar year. Check out our recent feature on everything we know — and don’t know — about the 2021 Oscar season and bookmark our Awards Calendar so you can stay up to date on all the date changes.

The Best Supporting Actress race is quite intriguing, with a newcomer from spoof comedy and foreign-language performance emerging as strong contenders. Maria Bakalova from the Borat sequel was a frequent target of praise when the film premiered last month, and though Youn Yuh-jung’s eccentric grandmother in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari utters just a handful of English words, she steals every scene, which is a feat considering she is going up again Steven Yeun and an equally frequent scene-stealer in child actor Alan S. Kim. Some familiar names also make appearances on our list, with Jodie Foster and Ellen Burstyn looking strong from nominations after previous wins for The Silence of the Lambs and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, respectively.

Our list includes some films that have yet to be seen but for which pre-release buzz and expectations are high. Whether we like it or not, the campaigns are quietly underway, the conversation has started, and we’re now ready to join it. If history tells us anything, it is that many of these names won’t make it to Oscar night, but we’re pretty confident most of them will be right up there in the awards chatter. So please read on as we break down our ridiculously early picks for 2021’s Best Supporting Actresses.

Disagree with our picks? Have at us in the comments.

Amanda Seyfried

As the most prominent female in David Fincher‘s biopic about writer Herman Mankowitz’s time in Hollywood, Amanda Seyfried has emerged as a compelling choice for Best Supporting Actress. Lily Collins is brilliant as the clever secretary to Gary Oldman‘s equally brilliant turn as Mankowitz, but Seyfried steals the show as the long-time mistress to William Randolf Hearst, the supposed subject of Citizen Kane.

The black-and-white Hollywood biopic’s initial raves have cooled slightly, as critics were left a little cold by the aimless narrative despite its jaw-dropping cinematography and an almost religious reverence to the time period. The Tomatometer score has slipped a tad to a still respectable and Certified Fresh 84%, but on the subject of Seyfried, the verdict is nearly unanimous – it’s her best work. This would the Mean Girls star’s first nomination after previously providing noteworthy supporting work in films like First Reformed or Les Misérables, the latter of which, you’ll recall, incidentally did win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Anne Hathaway.

Despite the lower score, we think that as Netflix’s top offering next to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank is still a safe bet to pencil in for double-digit nominations, including Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actor in addition to our choice for Seyfried in the Best Supporting Actress race. According to Jeanne Kaplan of Kaplan vs. Kaplan, “It is the disheveled Oldman and the illustrious Seyfried who carry Fincher’s film. Add to their outstanding performances the fabulous costumes and the sensational score, and you have a real contender for Best Picture.”

Ellen Burstyn

Ellen Burstyn in Pieces of a Woman

(Photo by Benjamin Loeb/Netflix)

Ellen Burstyn was nominated the first time in 1971 for Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show before winning with her third nomination in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore in 1974. Burstyn, who has been nominated 6 times, could pick up her seventh nomination this year and make her the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar, topping Christopher Plummer, the previous title holder. As the narcissistic, controlling mother in Pieces of a Woman, Burstyn is vicious yet heartbreaking, giving humanity to a character the audience is engineered to hate and eventually becoming sympathetic while she attempts to piece together her very broken daughter (Vanessa Kirby) following a family tragedy.

It’s worth noting that difficult mothers have been racking up Oscars for actresses for years; Shirley McClaine in Terms of Endearment, Joan Crowford in Mildred Pierce, and just a couple of years ago, Allison Janney took home a statue for her performance as Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya. This year’s Best Supporting Actress race is still very much up for grabs, so don’t be surprised if Bursten makes history on Oscar night.

Maria Bakalova

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

(Photo by ©Amazon)

One of the more pleasant surprises of 2020 was the announcement of a new Borat film from comedic prankster Sacha Baron Cohen. Serving as writer, star, and producer of Borat: Subsequent MoviefilmCohen was a welcome addition to the 2020 season with his bumbling Kazakhstani journalist, and he brought his equally clueless daughter along, courtesy of newcomer Maria Bakalova. A graduate of the National School of Arts in Burgas, Bakalova is a fresh face to American audiences though she has been a critical darling in her home country of Bulgaria.

At the tender age of 24, Bakalova is also a standout from the Bulgarian feature The Father, which is that country’s selection for the 93rd Academy Awards. Likely a part of that campaign and the full-court press that Amazon has planned for Borat 2, we are confident she will make it to Oscar night. Streamers like Amazon, Netflix, and AppleTV are poised to navigate the new awards landscape more fluidly with deep pockets and top talent.

As much as this year will be about independent cinema, those with the cash to host screenings — even virtually — will have a leg up on the competition, and in a year when most folks are watching from home, what they see will be more important than ever, and getting a voter to tune into a film with a previous (and likely future) Oscar nominee is plenty tempting. We would also be more than OK if professional babysitter Jeanise Jones grabbed Oscar voters’ attention, but the chances — we hate to admit it — are slim.

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster in The Mauritanian

(Photo by Graham Bartholomew/©STX Entertainment)

Another latecomer to the 20/21 season is The Mauritanian, and with it, Oscar-winner Jodie Foster. The film is generating talk among pundits and critics because it was not assumed to be a player in 2020/21; after critics groups and Oscar voters were recently given screeners, it quickly emerged as a late-season favorite.

The courtroom thriller about a Guantanamo Bay inmate seeking release rings as a “9/11” take on Bridge of Spies, which garnered Mark Rylance his first Academy Award. Foster stars alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, playing real-life attorney Nancy Hollander, who tries to release a 10-year Guantanamo Bay inmate suspected of hiring the 9/11 conspirators who flew the planes into the Twin Towers and The Pentagon. The film is based on the memoir by Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who wrote and published the book while he was still incarcerated, giving another juicy storyline for voters to bite into along with the political commentary.

Thanks to Foster, Cumberbatch, and a gripping screenplay, STX looks poised to make a deep run with this thrilling real-life drama after they fell short of Oscar glory for their film Hustlers last year. As a previous winner, Foster knows how to navigate the Oscar season and many will welcome her return to award-worthy cinema, particularly with Kevin McDonald, who directed Forest Whitaker to an Oscar win in The Last King of Scotland, behind the camera.

Yuh-jung Youn

Youn Yuh-jung in Minari

(Photo by ©A24)

It is supremely unfair to compare Lulu Wang’s The Farewell with writer/director Lee Issac Chung’s semi-autobiographical Minari; however, there are a couple of similarities. Both center on Asian-Americans and feature eccentric grandmothers who steal the show. Last year, Zhao Shuzhen was tragically snubbed for her turn as Nai Nai in The Farewell, and though we fear the same may happen to Soonja, our grandmother from Minari, we pray voters will not make the same mistake twice. Starring Steven Yeun (who was also recently snubbed for his masterful work in Burning) as a Korean immigrant who arbitrarily moves his entire family from Los Angeles to Arkansas in search of the promise of a better life, Minari was the toast of Sundance 2020 and is still Fresh at 100% on the Tomatometer.

Alan S. Kim plays Chung as a child, while Yuh-Jung Youn plays his hilarious grandmother Soonja in this feature about Chung’s formative years growing up in Arkansas as the son of a first-generation immigrant. The chemistry and comedic timing between the precocious child and aging women are the heart of the film, while Yeun (who is also one of our picks for Best Actor) and his wife, played by Han Ye-ri, provide the soul.

Though Youn will be the recipient of most of the Best Supporting Actress support, Han will not be dismissed, either. Han is the perfect counterpoint of anxious trepidation against her husband’s unwavering determination in a mostly Korean-language performance. Yuen is the star of “the scene” that every Oscar nominee must feature, but it’s only made possible and further improved by what Han gives in return.

Also in contention:

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