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11/30/2017 01:51 pm ET

These 16 Women Are Vying For Best Supporting Actress In The 2018 Oscar Race

Television veterans Laurie Metcalf and Allison Janney are setting the pace.
Netflix/Universal/A24/NEON

Always one of the Oscars’ most thrilling categories, this year’s Best Supporting Actress race offers an eclectic lineup representing the array of talent Hollywood offers today. There’s 87-year-old veteran Lois Smith and 24-year-old newcomer Bria Vinaite; there are musical numbers, pop-star transformations and undersung troupers who’ve long awaited their due. 

With a few key players moving into the Best Actress lineup ― namely Allison Williams in “Get Out” and Brooklynn Prince in “The Florida Project” ― this contest has been whittled down in recent weeks. For now, it looks like a two-way challenge between Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf, with a handful of spoilers waiting in the wings.

Ranked according to their likelihood of being nominated, here are the 16 women who will hope to earn one of five spots on Jan. 23.

  • 16 Michelle Pfeiffer, "mother!"
    Say what you will about "mother!," but it's almost inarguable that Michelle Pfeiffer is its highlight. After taken a fou
    Paramount Pictures
    Say what you will about "mother!," but it's almost inarguable that Michelle Pfeiffer is its highlight. After taken a four-year hiatus, Pfeiffer has enough of a comeback narrative going right now that she can remain a factor in this contest despite the movie not becoming the box-office bonanza that Paramount hoped for. The three-time nominee tears through "mother!" with a vengeance, practically daring us to question her power as an actress.
  • 15 Michelle Williams, "The Greatest Showman"
    Exactly what's in store with "The Greatest Showman" has yet to be seen. This big, colorful circus musical -- the only no
    Fox
    Exactly what's in store with "The Greatest Showman" has yet to be seen. This big, colorful circus musical -- the only non-"Star Wars" contender that hasn't screened for press -- boasts a host of ladies awaiting their splashy curtain calls. The most famous of them is Michelle Williams, who's also on the Best Actress manifest for "All the Money in the World." But if "Showman" is worth anything, Williams will have to compete against three co-stars: Broadway dynamo Keala Settle, Zendaya and the always great Rebecca Ferguson. Williams and Settle get solo numbers, which helped Emma Stone ("La La Land"), Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Chicago") and Rita Moreno ("West Side Story").
  • 14 Carey Mulligan, "Mudbound"
    The size of the "Mudbound" cast could be its Achilles' heel. With this many strong performances, how can anyone cho
    Netflix
    The size of the "Mudbound" cast could be its Achilles' heel. With this many strong performances, how can anyone choose just one -- especially when Mary J. Blige is receiving most of the praise? In another year, Carey Mulligan could have snuck in for her reserved turn as an unhappy farm wife in racist Mississippi.
  • 13 Tatiana Maslany, "Stronger"
    Most of the "Stronger" prestige revolves around Jake Gyllenhaal, but two of the woman in his character's orbit are
    Roadside Attractions
    Most of the "Stronger" prestige revolves around Jake Gyllenhaal, but two of the woman in his character's orbit are making names for themselves, too. Two-time nominee Miranda Richardson gives a lived-in performance as a troubled mother, but it's Tatiana Maslany who's collecting the most largess. This movie isn't singular enough to prevail, but Maslany remains on prognosticators' lips, having elevating a girlfriend role to a textured portrait of a conflicted Bostonite struggling to find her way in the midst of tragedy.
  • 12 Kristin Scott Thomas, "Darkest Hour"
    It's been two long decades since Kristin Scott Thomas earned her only Oscar nomination to date, for "The English Patient." In
    Focus Features
    It's been two long decades since Kristin Scott Thomas earned her only Oscar nomination to date, for "The English Patient." In "Darkest Hour," she gives Clementine Churchill a graceful heft that elevates the character beyond a typical wife-in-a-biopic sideshow. The movie has far more going for it than its apparent Oscar-bait dressing, but most of the attention will center on Gary Oldman, who transforms as Winston Churchill via thick makeup and actorly affectations.
  • 11 Bria Vinaite, "The Florida Project"
    I omitted 7-year-old "Florida Project" breakout <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-florida-project-brookynn-pr
    A24
    I omitted 7-year-old "Florida Project" breakout Brooklynn Prince from my Best Actress roster, assuming she'd go supporting. But A24 opted not to commit category fraud, which makes more room here for her 24-year-old co-star Bria Vinaite, whom director Sean Baker found on Instagram. Like Prince, Vinaite has a naturalism so blissfully unrefined it's as if she were making a documentary. She may be too much of a Hollywood outsider at this point to join the Academy's ranks, unless the group shows a lot of love for "The Florida Project," which could clinch a Best Picture slot.
  • 10 Lesley Manville, "Phantom Thread"
    If there's an MVP of "Phantom Thread," it's Lesley Manville, whose glares are worth a thousand daggers. Playing the spinster
    Focus Features
    If there's an MVP of "Phantom Thread," it's Lesley Manville, whose glares are worth a thousand daggers. Playing the spinster sister of a fussy dressmaker (Daniel-Day Lewis), Manville may finally get her due. Best known for her work in Mike Leigh's movies, the acclaimed English actress has never been commercial enough to peak in America. Paul Thomas Anderson's films are always central to awards conversations, so this one could elevate Manville's Hollywood profile.
  • 9 Hong Chau, "Downsizing"
    It's hard to tell whether "Downsizing" is completely DOA or a massive sleeper candidate that not enough people are talking ab
    Paramount Pictures
    It's hard to tell whether "Downsizing" is completely DOA or a massive sleeper candidate that not enough people are talking about. In a surprise move, the National Board of Review named it one of the year's best movies this week, signaling that it could have legs after all. And anyway, Oscar voters almost always appreciate Alexander Payne's actors. Hong Chau's publicity team first started courting press attention over the summer, touting her work in "Downsizing" and HBO's "Big Little Lies." She walks away with the former, playing an aggressive Vietnamese activist who becomes the story's emotional core.
  • 8 Lois Smith, "Marjorie Prime"
    If 87-year-old Lois Smith earns a nomination, she'll tie with Gloria Stuart to become the oldest acting honoree in the Oscars
    FilmRise
    If 87-year-old Lois Smith earns a nomination, she'll tie with Gloria Stuart to become the oldest acting honoree in the Oscars' history. To wit, it would double as a de facto lifetime achievement prize, especially since "Marjorie Prime" went relatively unnoticed when it was released in August. Smith, who revives a role she originated onstage, is the film's highlight, and she has the added benefit of a magnificent appearance in the much more popular "Lady Bird."
  • 7 Melissa Leo, "Novitiate"
    Thanks to&nbsp;the controversial for-your-consideration ad she purchased for herself in 2011, Melissa Leo is cemented in&nbsp
    Sony Pictures Classics
    Thanks to the controversial for-your-consideration ad she purchased for herself in 2011, Melissa Leo is cemented in Oscar history. That adds to her leverage when it comes to a small movie like "Novitiate," which hasn't cracked $1 million at the box office. She chews plenty of scenery as a devout, bitter nun contending with the sudden progressivism introduced by the Catholic Church. In the end, though, this movie's limited shelf life won't do her any favors.
  • 6 Tiffany Haddish, "Girls Trip"
    The year's Tiffany Haddish infatuation is&nbsp;probably getting to me, but it seems like maybe -- just maybe -- we can make t
    Universal Pictures
    The year's Tiffany Haddish infatuation is probably getting to me, but it seems like maybe -- just maybe -- we can make this nomination happen. After "Girls Trip" became a critical and commercial success story, Haddish played her cards right with a bangup Showtime special, a snazzy "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig and a career-defining tweet about informing Barbra Streisand who Cardi B is. The woman is the very definition of an overnight star. The Academy is still dominated by older white men, but its newly diversified membership could be just what Haddish needs. This week, she scored the New York Film Critics Circle prize -- hopefully the first of many precursor kudos.
  • 5 Octavia Spencer, "The Shape of Water"
    Every word that&nbsp;emerges from&nbsp;Octavia Spencer's mouth in "The Shape of Water" is pitched to comedic perfection. Spen
    Fox Searchlight
    Every word that emerges from Octavia Spencer's mouth in "The Shape of Water" is pitched to comedic perfection. Spencer coats her character's hardships in the same brassy jubilance seen in her Oscar-anointed roles ("The Help," "Hidden Figures"). Without even trying, Spencer nearly steals the movie. But that "nearly" is key. Could this performance be a tad too similar to her work in the aforementioned titles? The Academy clearly likes her, but unless "The Shape of Water" is a gigantic hit at the box office this month, this go-round could be easy to write off.
  • 4 Mary J. Blige, "Mudbound"
    Mary J. Blige has gotten it percolatin' in movies before -- "Black Nativity," "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," "Rock of Ages" --
    Netflix
    Mary J. Blige has gotten it percolatin' in movies before -- "Black Nativity," "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," "Rock of Ages" -- but for most intents and purposes, "Mudbound" is her breakthrough role. She was nominated as such at the Gotham Awards, which inaugurated the season earlier this week. Blige disappears in "Mudbound," a sprawling drama about racial tensions in the Jim Crow South circa World War II. This is exactly the type of movie that registers with Oscar: topical, stylish and crawling with bravura performances. Alas, it's a Netflix release, and the streaming platform has yet to secure a nod for any of its actors.
  • 3 Holly Hunter, "The Big Sick"
    Far too&nbsp;rarely does a&nbsp;jaunty comedy sneak one of its supporting players onto the ballot. Perhaps Holly Hunter can j
    Amazon Studios
    Far too rarely does a jaunty comedy sneak one of its supporting players onto the ballot. Perhaps Holly Hunter can join the likes of Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids," Amy Adams in "Junebug" and Marisa Tomei in "My Cousin Vinny." (Imagine if she and Tiffany Haddish were nominated!) When "The Big Sick" premiered at Sundance in January, talk of a nomination for Hunter seemed like one of those pipe dreams that festival-goers gab about at after-parties. But the movie was a runaway hit over the summer, and Hunter has remained part of the awards talk. Three days before Oscar voting begins, Hunter will receive a career achievement prize at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
  • 2 Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"
    Hollywood's resident scene-stealer,&nbsp;Allison Janney's remarkable six Emmy wins make her an award show pro. It almost does
    NEON
    Hollywood's resident scene-stealer, Allison Janney's remarkable six Emmy wins make her an award show pro. It almost doesn't even matter that she's never been nominated for an Oscar: Janney is one of those fixtures whose name alone signals acclaim. She's playing another kooky mama in "I, Tonya," specifically Tonya Harding's foul-mouthed, boozy, parrot-toting mama. The role encapsulates Janney's flourishing career, containing shades of "Drop Dead Gorgeous," "Mom" and "The Way, Way Back." If the biopic becomes a hit when it opens next week, the Toronto Film Festival chatter that crowned Janney will skate on.
  • 1 Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
    With three Emmys and a Tony to her name, Laurie Metcalf is halfway toward EGOT certification. What's more, "<a href="https://
    A24
    With three Emmys and a Tony to her name, Laurie Metcalf is halfway toward EGOT certification. What's more, "Lady Bird" is on its way toward becoming a major hit. The tremendous reviews have helped it earn $12 million and counting, a great start for a limited release booked in fewer than 800 theaters. It's also helped to keep the buzz surrounding Metcalf's performance alive. The Oscars tend to prefer showboaters in this category, but Metcalf is one of those actresses whose veteran status makes her an instant pacesetter. She's affecting as a middle-class mother wading through everyday stresses and setbacks.
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