Best supporting actor is one of the toughest races to call. Traditionally, a safe way to pick a winner has been to ask, “Will this be the defining role for the career of this actor?” Unfortunately, this was not the career-defining role for any of the actors. George Clooney was good, but not amazing in Syriana. Matt Dillon was excellent in Crash, but had a very minor part. Dillon’s career defining film remains Drugstore Cowboy. Paul Giamatti should have won for Sideways last year, and a win here would be considered a make-up award. Jake Gyllenhaal was good but not great in Brokeback Mountain. His performance would have been more convincing if he was more believable as a middle-aged man in the latter part of the film. Finally, William Hurt was great in A History of Violence but already won a best actor Oscar for Kiss of the Spider Woman, his career-defining role.

If we look at who deserves to win, I would say that, despite his small part, Matt Dillon gave the most compelling performance. Dillon also has the benefit of being in Crash, a strong movie that is not predicted to topple Brokeback Mountain for best picture. In the past 10 years, the best picture and best supporting actor winners have been from the same picture only once, Morgan Freeman in last year’s Million Dollar Baby.

Although Dillon deserves to win, I do not think that he will. Giamatti has won the majority of Oscar precursor awards, most recently the Screen Actors Guild Award for best supporting actor. The SAG and Oscar awards for best supporting actor have matched up 54 percent of the time since the SAG awards first started. With all of these factors considered, I predict Giamatti to take home the Oscar.