On 10.4 I posted a Best Supporting Actor riff titled “Mahershala Ali Again. Really.,” which advanced the notion of a second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the Green Book co-star. On 10.26 I posted another called “Mahershala Ali Kick-Ass Syndrome,” which noted that 15 out of 25 Gold Derby “experts” had put Ali at the top of their Best Supporting Actor spitball lists…a seeming lock to win.

Today Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil took a stab at explaining the Mahershala surge.

Gold Derby-wise, Ali has not only jumped in front of Beautiful Boy‘s Timothee Chalamet in the Best Supporting Actor race, but “seems to have established a firm lead,” O’Neil notes.

This is at least one category, it seems, in which “less” may be judged to be of greater value than “more”. Chalamet’s drug-addict performance is anguished and intense in a kind of Lee Strasberg acting-class way — a guns-blazing thing — while Ali’s Don Shirley, a brilliant pianist, is quiet and subtle. So why is Ali suddenly out-pointing Chalamet by such a significant margin?

Because the viewer senses a guarded sadness in Shirley, and a guy who’s a bit too rigid and controlled. Understandably, you come to realize, but he’s breathing only through his music. Ali acquaints you with Shirley bit by bit, layer by layer. Before long you’re hoping to see him kick back and breathe a little.

“Timing is part of the reason,” O’Neil writes. “Green Book is now screening widely to industry audiences across Hollywood, and enjoying fresh, happy buzz as word spreads that it might be the next Best Picture winner and also that — watch out, pay attention — Viggo Mortensen could win Best Actor too. Really! And Peter Farrelly for Best Director.”