Best Supporting Actor, 2004
(Click on the linked film titles for reviews of the corresponding films.)

Alan Alda
The Aviator


He's well-liked by his peers, and has been for decades, and this is his first nod to show for it.

That can be a hindrance: it's a clear case of a nomination that pays its own rewards.
Thomas Haden Church

Plenty of critics' awards, a great backstory, a key role in a well-liked movie, some memorable lines. Lots to feel good about.
Except that this is the moment when the movie stars remember that, wait, he is a TV guy. Not everyone is convinced that Church is straying too far out of his own persona, and it'll take more than cat meows to get him past Morgan Freeman's Lifetime Achievement nomination and Clive Owen's declaration of arrival.
Jamie Foxx

It's a terrific lead performance.
It's a terrific lead performance. By an actor who already has a lead nomination.
Morgan Freeman
Million Dollar Baby

Is there anyone alive who thinks Morgan Freeman shouldn't have an Oscar by now? He's a hero to most of his colleagues, and he's managed to roll on up in a front-runner for Best Picture. Everything that won Robin Williams his Oscar in '97, with only the SAG in his pocket thus far, should do the same for Freeman fivefold.
If Clive Owen weren't such a potent competitor, Freeman wouldn't have a thing to worry about. As it is, he probably still doesn't.
Clive Owen

If Morgan Freeman weren't nominated and hunting his first win, Owen would be a perfect competitor. He has both the Globe and the New York Film Critics awards, meaning that both the star-fuckers and the prestige contingent are aligned behind him. His marquee value is already growing, with Sin City soon on the way. Closer's astringent tone obviously alienated voters in larger categories, but its high-art aspirations look tony and prestigious in a race like this (and Owen was the most widely heralded participant in the whole film, by detractors and fans alike). And he's British! It's Morgan, stupid.

WHO WILL WIN: Notice that I just couldn't find a ton to say on this page? Morgan Freeman's lead is pretty prohibitive here. Clive Owen is the only actor within striking distance, but the SAG results kind of proved who's boss.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Clive Owen and Jamie Foxx are both stellar, even in a race where all five performers, were very, very good. Foxx is too obviously the lead to possibly defend voting for him in this category. I also happen to think Owen is an equal lead among the four protagonists of Closer, but it isn't such a clear case of category fraud, so I'm pretty sure that's where I'd have to go. And damn, wasn't he great in that film?

...AND WHO OUGHTA BEEN INVITED: As persuasive as this line-up is, this is also the category with the most distressing omissions. David Carradine anchors a four-hour film, even having been absent from the first half. He is mysterious, forceful, serious, oddly sensitive, darkly funny, loquacious, and completely absorbing. He's the soul of the whole movie—heck, he's the reason the movie has a soul—which might also be said about Mark Wahlberg in I ♥ Huckabees, though is performance is utterly dissimilar: frisky, angry, bizarrely sunny in its utter dismay. I haven't even gotten to the sterling ensemble in Vera Drake or Dennis Quaid doing his best-ever work in In Good Company, and I'm already feeling sad about things that can't possibly happen on February 27. No doubt Gil Cates asked these guys to present. I hope they said no.

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