The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg has posted a piece that supports my 8.21 view that Bruce Dern‘s “Woody” role in Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska screams “snarly eccentricity for its own sake”, and that the smartest strategy on Paramount’s part would be to campaign Dern not as Best Actor but as a Best Supporting Actor contender. I laid out my case in a piece called “Can Dern’s Woody Get Traction As Best Actor?”. Hitfix/In Contention’s Kris Tapley and Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone disagreed and sent along their arguments, which I posted with their permission.
“If Dern goes lead he’ll have an outside chance of getting nominated, but if he goes supporting he has an exponentially better chance of getting nominated — and he might even win,” Feinberg states. I concur 100%. Dern will be in a very good position to win if he goes for Best Supporting Actor, but is almost certain to lose if he goes for Best Actor.
“The best actor race is always jam-packed with viable contenders, whereas the best supporting actor race is not,” Feinberg contends. “Consider how many actors with bigger names and/or higher batting-averages and/or cool narratives of their own Dern would be up against this year in the best actor category: Forest Whitaker (The Butler), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Matthew McConaughey (The Dallas Buyers Club), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Christian Bale (American Hustle), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Josh Brolin (Labor Day), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate), Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Twelve Years a Slave), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) — and Paramount’s own big-name contender Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street).
“Some of these actors’ performances won’t live up to expectations, but many will.
“Moreover, best actor noms almost always go to vibrant and showy performances, not quiet and passive ones like Dern’s in Nebraska — and, fairly or not, those generally come from younger men. The average age of best actor winners is 44. The oldest man to ever win a best actor Oscar was 76-year-old Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond (1981), and only one man older than Dern has ever even been nominated: Richard Farnsworth for The Straight Story (1999), who was 79 when he gave the last quiet and passive perf to score a best actor nom — 14 years ago.
“The best supporting actor race, however, is almost always thinner, and therefore a nom in it is more attainable. This year, possibilities include Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Michael Fassbender (Twelve Years a Slave), Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks), Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street), and a few others, none of whom appear or are even rumored to be slam-dunks.”