HOLLYWOOD—Last week we examined the Best Supporting Actress race, this week we take a look at the nominees competing for Best Supporting Actor. While many are expecting a shoo-in for the coveted award, some should remember Oscar loves to deliver surprises and this category is notorious for delivering curveballs.

In 2006, so many were certain Eddie Murphy was a front-runner for his role in “Dreamgirls,” but surprise the Academy gave the award to Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine.” Last year was also decisive, as many expected Tommy Lee Jones “ Lincoln” or Robert De Niro “Silver Linings Playbook” to claim the prize, but it went to Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained.”

This year Jared Leto “Dallas Buyers Club” is the front-runner, but there could be some surprises come Oscar night. The addition of Jonah Hill “The Wolf of Wall Street,” who was snubbed by SAG and the Golden Globes makes this an interesting race. Why? Well it means the Academy ”˜saw’ Hill as a major player in the movie, and trust me he steals quite a bit of scenes in the over-the-top dramedy. Hill could be major thorn in Leto’s side to claim the ultimate prize.

Other scene stealers include Barkhad Abdi “Captain Phillips” and Bradley Cooper “American Hustle.” First and foremost, Cooper delivers some of his best work in “Hustle” as a neurotic, eccentric FBI agent who shines amongst a cast of stellar actors. If Cooper wasn’t facing such stiff competition, I’d say he has a chance in this race, but some of the competition, shine just a bit more than he does.  Newcomer Abdi is an equal counterpart to his co-star Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips.”  He really is a driving force of the picture, and delivered not just a commanding performance, but a frightening one as a first-time actor, that members will be sure to acknowledge. His biggest fault is being a newcomer, who steals the show, but not enough to compete with the likes of Leto, Fassbender or Hill.

Let’s be honest in my opinion this is a three-person race between those three. Michael Fassbender is a revelation as a slave owner notorious for his cruelty and demonizing of his slaves. It’s so frightening, so evil, he’s a staple in “12 Years a Slave” that you cannot forget, no matter how much you attempt to. Fassbender biggest threat is the fear of Academy members who are hesitant to watch the movie because of its intense subject matter. “12 Years a Slave” could perhaps be one of the most important pieces of cinema in our time, unfortunately, because of its harsh depiction of America’s dark spot, people are shining away from seeing it. Be warned, if more members see Fassbender’s work, he could steal Leto’s thunder come Oscar night.

Well we’ve spoken about Leto for his performance in “Dallas Buyers Club” and it’s a reason for it; he virtually steals the show. His transformation as a transgender prostitute dying of AIDS is frightening. He immerses himself completely to this character, not just in dress, but in tone and presence.  We see Rayon and it’s a heartbreaking tale to say the least.  There are two scenes in particular that Leto embodies ”˜Oscar moments.’ First, is that emotional encounter with his father, not dressed as a woman; it just further depicts an open moment of the character to the audience. The second scene involves the character coming to grips that death is knocking on his door. It just shattered my heart in so many ways.

So it’s Leto’s award to lose in my opinion, but if the Academy looks beyond all of the hype that has been building this awards season they will examine the work of both Hill and Fassbender. This race while some expect a closed field is quite closer than they’d expect.  Leto for the win, but Hill or Fassbender for an upset; it’s always great to be thrown a curve ball come Oscar night.