As is the case just about every year, the best supporting actor and actress races are infinitely more interesting and varying than either of the lead categories. This is where performances truly light up the screen in brief moments, and in many cases it is their work that pushes the film in question over the top, from good to great.

This year, there appears to be a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor, an underrated legend in the industry who’s deserved Oscar gold more than once in his past. Right behind him, however, is another long-deserving actor who dominates in a film full of powerful performances. Let’s get into this:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

There are too many names for only five spaces, especially when at least two slots feel like foregone conclusions. First and foremost is Willem Dafoe as Bobby, the goodhearted hotel manager in The Florida Project. Dafoe is a lock, and a favorite, though these things can change from time to time. Right behind him has to be Sam Rockwell, whose wicked – and complicated – turn as the defiant small-town deputy in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a lightning rod of a performance.

That leaves three spots, and probably a dozen names when the dust settles. One thing that could hurt Rockwell’s chances is the performance of Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards, though Rockwell is more of a standout in the end. Dustin Hoffman may have had a chance at a supporting nomination for The Meyerowitz Stories, but his recent run in with the sexual harassment purge in Hollywood has all but ended his chances.

Armie Hammer could sneak into the nomination pool for his role in Call Me By Your Name, but the votes for supporting work in that one will likely end up going to Michael Stuhlbarg, who is the heart and soul of the unconventional romance. Michael Shannon has a shot for The Shape of Water, as does Richard Jenkins; but Richard Jenkins is the heartbeat of the film, and he will likely win out. That will leave the door open for Jason Mitchell, who delivers a powerhouse performance in Mudbound, to grab that fifth and final slot. Don’t count him out to upset the field and take home the victory.

PREDICTIONS

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me By Your Name

Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water

Jason Mitchell – Mudbound

Up next, Best Supporting Actress

Here are the predictions for THE SCREENPLAYS