HOLLYWOOD—Last week the nominees for the 2024 Academy Awards a.k.a. as the Oscars were announced. We can now analyze who is likely to be the winner in the BIG SIX as I like to call them (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor). This week we start the beginning of our weekly predictions leading up to the Academy Awards on Sunday, March 10.

This week the focus is all on Best Supporting Actor. Our contenders are Sterling K. Brown “American Fiction,” Robert De Niro “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Robert Downey Jr. “Oppenheimer,” Ryan Gosling “Barbie” and Mark Ruffalo “Poor Things.”

I really see this as a two-person race, with a potential dark horse and a possible surprise. I hate to say it, but I don’t think Ruffalo has much of a shot, but he really should. The problem with “Poor Things” is that it is a very quirky movie. It is a bit outlandish and doesn’t make sense. It is a movie I think will have trouble drawing an audience, especially members of the Academy, to watch. Ruffalo is solid in the flick, and this is a guy who has been nominated for an Oscar four times already and guess what, he has never won!

That is huge because there tends to be a trend where we have people win the Oscar because they are due after being overlooked so many times before. He was nominated previously in the same category for “The Kids Are Alright,” “Foxcatcher” and “Spotlight.” Yeah, Ruffalo is due for that prize, but I don’t think 2024 is going to be his year.

That brings us to Ryan Gosling who was previously nominated for Best Actor for “Half Nelson” and “La La Land.” There is no denying it that Gosling is incredible in “Barbie.” The character of Ken is iconic and an absolute scene stealer in the movie. If Barbie is not on the screen, you want to see Ken and that is the importance of a supporting character, you carry things if the Lead Actor or Actress is not on the screen and you have those moments where the audience is talking.

At the start of awards season, I was certain that Gosling was the front-runner for the prize, but that momentum has died down a bit, but that doesn’t mean it will not tweak back up. The problem is Ken is more comedic, and that is going to be a battle for Gosling who is up against two other actors with stronger dramatic performances which scream Oscar. That brings us to Robert De Niro. The guy has already won two Oscars for Best Actor “Raging Bull” and “The Godfather II.”

He hasn’t won an Oscar in almost 40 years but has been nominated a total of nine times including for this year’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Look, De Niro is one of the best of the best and he is wickedly evil in his latest performance. It is cruel; it is a standout, and I would argue people should not count out De Niro, even though Robert Downey Jr. is the front-runner for “Oppenheimer.”

Let’s talk about Downey Jr. who simmers as a villain in the epic “Oppenheimer.” He is not only a scene-stealer but plays a villain so well that you cannot take your eyes off the screen of this character. It is one of the best performances I have seen from an actor in 2023. It is important to note that Downey Jr. was previously nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for “Chaplin” in 1993 and Best Supporting Actor for “Tropic Thunder” in 2009.

With that said, he feels not only DUE for the Oscar, but his performance in the Christopher Nolan starrer is so strong it would be a massive upset if he didn’t walk on the stage to take the accolade.

Now we can talk about the dark horse that is quite the dark horse if I must say in Sterling K. Brown. There had already been plenty of talk about “American Fiction” during awards season, but it exploded last week with the five nominations the flick earned. Two for acting (Brown and co-star Jeffrey Wright) and the rest for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.

Brown is not only hilarious, but a bit of the heart in this dramedy. He goes toe-to-toe with Wright, and he takes quite a bit of the charm from the leading actor in the flick if you ask me. I hadn’t considered Brown a contender, but after seeing the flick, oh, he’s a contender and I think he’s an even bigger threat to Robert Downey Jr. then Robert De Niro.

With that said, Downey Jr. is the expected winner, a stunner is Robert De Niro, but I would not be surprised to see Brown’s name called when the envelope is opened. Remember, just because you’re the front-runner doesn’t mean you’ll win the big prize, just ask Angela Bassett who lost the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last year to Jamie Lee Curtis.