Sometimes a part is too big to be called a supporting role. As such, it’s an Oscar strategy, for instance, to group Brendan Gleeson (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) with the Supporting Actors. The film’s about two longtime friends. Gleeson, the senior of the two, doesn’t feel like a subordinate role.
Such dynamics aside, Gleeson does play a supporting role in the story’s core tension. Colin Farrell’s character is the one figuring out what to make of himself being cast out of a kindred friendship.
Gleeson adds so much to the uncluttered ins and outs of the film. He’s colorful in an understated way. He’s a cut above in a not especially noticeable way.
Barry Keoghan, in the same film, is the right-sized, truer fit for a Best Supporting Oscar. He’s a reflecting side-character in this rural island town. He’s a counterpoint friendship, a lesser friendship, compared to the Gleeson and Farrell characters.
In a still humble turn, Keoghan plays a more outgoing presence, a needier type. Oscar voters might say, Gleeson, he’s so fundamental to the story. They might also say, Keoghan, he so enriches what’s on display in this story. A good case could be made for voters
splitting votes for Gleeson and Keoghan, and opening it up (pleeeease don’t happen) opening it up for Ke Huy Quan to win.
Sorry to say, Quan will ride the baffling buzz to “Everything Everywhere All at Once” Oscars. He has a prominent part, but EEAaO offers a bigger cinematic house to contain it. A Supporting Actor nomination makes sense, but not a win.
As well, Quan has his Asian actor card played AND he’s in a come-back opportunity after many years since his promising child-actor start. He's good, but another example common in this year’s nominations: he’s well used but it’s not a standout acting gig.
The other two nominees don’t register much in the competition. Judd Hirsch, in “The Fabelmans,” plays a very noticeable little part in the family dynamic. His character may have meant a lot in young Steven Spielberg’s life, but it feels too much like a piece of the script they just didn’t want to leave out. Yes, Hirsch deserves a special mention in the credits. No, he doesn’t deserve an Oscar.
That leaves Brian Tyree Henry (Who?) in “Causeway” (“Causeway”?Did people actually see “Causeway”?) It feels like a TV movie. It’s actually a decent film about a recovering military veteran (Jennifer Lawrence), trying to return to her life. Henry supports well as her new friend, but it’s a “so what” performance in a “yeah, I get it” part.