For the first time in Academy Award history, all the Best Supporting Actor nominees this year are previous Oscar winners:
Alan Arkin – Argo
Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
This should be the first true Lincoln vs. Silver Linings Playbook matchup of the awards show on February 24th. Yes, the categories of Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Makeup & Hairstyling, and probably Best Supporting Actress, will have already been determined and distributed amongst a handful of movies. The importance of the winning Best Supporting Actor nod is that it will point viewers in the direction of who might capture the biggest prizes at the end of the night; Best Director and Best Picture.
Alan Arkin (2006 Oscar winner for Little Miss Sunshine) offers Academy voters a potential lifeline to Argo fans for snubbing Ben Affleck in the Best Director category. Will it be enough? Probably not. Did Arkin’s role as a film producer in the dramatization of 6 U.S. hostages escaping Iran rise to the level needed to win? No. As for Philip Seymour Hoffman (Oscar winner for Capote, in 2005), his role in The Master was probably not seen by enough moviegoers and that, combined with having won an Oscar within the past decade, won’t inspire Academy voters to give him the 8.5-pound gold statuette this year.
That leaves us with the 3 most likely Best Supporting Actor candidates; Waltz, Jones and De Niro. Christoph Waltz (Oscar winner for Inglourious Basterds) carried Django Unchained atop his bobbing tooth carriage and powered the film with his clever wit. However, having won his Oscar the most recent of all these nominees (in 2010), Waltz’s chances seem diminished as well.
This year’s Best Supporting Actor will go to a Hollywood legend; either Robert De Niro or Tommy Lee Jones. De Niro has been nominated 7 times for an Academy Award, taking home the Oscar twice; once for Best Supporting Actor in the classic Godfather Part II (1975) and the other for Best Actor in Raging Bull (1981). Jones has 4 Oscar nominations on his resume, topped off by his Best Supporting Actor win for the 1993 thriller The Fugitive.
Tommy Lee Jones does a great job in Lincoln as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens; his support and counsel of and to the President demonstrated how politicians, even during those most difficult of times, were still able to do the People’s business and seek change for our nation’s good. Although I think Lincoln will do very well on Oscar night, Jones is not a slam-dunk in this very competitive category.
De Niro hasn’t been nominated for an Academy Award since Cape Fear in 1992…and he hasn’t won an Oscar in over 30 years! De Niro has distinguished himself right into the elite club of Hollywood’s finest actors, rivaled only in size to gatherings of former U.S. presidents. He's been in acting for over 4 decades and resides at the epicenter of Hollywood’s closest inner-circle--joining the likes of Eastwood, Nicholson and Streep--enshrined into our cinema history for their combined excellence and longevity in film.
Robert De Niro delivered film’s best supporting actor performance last year in the movie Silver Linings Playbook. He scored a touchdown in his role as a troubled, feisty, but loving father that when you look back you understand just how central to the movie’s success and overall dramatic storytelling his performance played. That excessively superstitious, rabid Philadelphia Eagles father placed game bets and shook audiences with his obsessive compulsive disorder while at the same time giving raw, unequivocal, tough love to his son, Pat—who battled his own discomforts. The film’s poignancy comes through De Niro’s emotional support for Pat’s bipolar disorder and showed us how to care, help, and treat those who suffer from this illness; all key contributors that provided a look inside life's playbook on human compassion. For that alone, Robert De Niro deserves this Oscar.
Winner: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook