By Sara Vilkomerson
November 01, 2017 at 01:00 PM EDT
Everett Collection; Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight; Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix; Sundance Institute

Earlier this fall, I overheard a critic say, “Supporting actor is a bloodbath this year.” This turns out to be less hyperbolic than one might think. Certainly it’s the category that’s the most crowded with deserving candidates.

Here’s who could follow Mahershala Ali’s Oscars 2017 win for best supporting actor:

Sam Rockwell has been turning in one unsung fantastic performance after another for decades (and is in the running for Most Well-Liked in Hollywood). His performance as the dim cop who dares to go up against Frances McDormand’s avenging mother in the sharp Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is maybe his best ever — subtle and surprising. Then there’s another beloved journeyman, Richard Jenkins, who is the voice and — in many ways — the true heart of Guillermo del Toro’s magical and romantic The Shape of Water. Likewise, while the coming-of-age romance Call Me by Your Name is lush and beautiful and poignant, it’s Michael Stuhlbarg — playing the father of Timothée Chalamet’s character — who, in delivering the final-act speech, gives the film its best and most stirring moment. Willem Dafoe, who has always had a kind of glittering hard edge in previous roles, is  at his most effective as the quietly resigned and decent Bobby, the hotel manager in The Florida Project.

Some of the toughest competition for these actors will come from their costars. Armie Hammer, as the object of desire in Call Me by Your Name, should be a favorite for his dance moves alone. Woody Harrelson hasn’t been so funny and sweet since his Cheers days in Three
, and Michael Shannon is electric and weird and wonderful in The Shape of Water. But then it’s hard to argue with Mark Rylance’s dignity and strength in DunkirkBen Mendelsohn’s stuttering King George in Darkest Hour, Jason Mitchell’s heartbreaking turn in Mudbound, or Idris Elba spitting Sorkin-ese with ease in Molly’s Game. And did you see Dustin Hoffman in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)? If enough Oscar voters can put up with the Netflix of it all, he could zoom straight to the top of the heap.

Finally, in a perfect world, voters would not forget about the fantastic, downright Shakespearean turn by Patrick Stewart in Logan from last March. Yes, sir, yes!