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Here are the nominees this year for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
The lowdown: These are some terrific actors, titans of the industry. So much so, that each of them has already won at least once! In other words, yawn. No one’s life or career is going to change in any way as a result of this race. Hoffman and Waltz crafted the richest performances in this category, largely because they are effectively playing lead roles rather than supporting ones.
Arkin, on the other hand, is getting too much credit for a narrow role that hardly ranks at the top of this genius actor’s filmography. Jones etched a fine portrait as Thaddeus Stevens and is likely to win his second supporting statuette (his first deserved win, really, since his The Fugitive Oscar was a gimme).
But De Niro seems to be building last-minute momentum, doing publicity the likes of which this reticent two-time Oscar-winner never has before. Like Anne Hathaway in the other supporting category, he clearly wants to win badly. But does he need a third? Only two men, Walter Brennan and Jack Nicholson, hold that honor, and Nicholson is the only actor in the modern era to do so. (Note: this record could also be broken by Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead category).
Sure, De Niro is an intense, legendary actor. He has created iconic roles in movies like Mean Streets, The King of Comedy, Cape Fear, The Deer Hunter, and, especially Taxi Driver, plus the two dynamic roles which earned him his golden boys: young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II and Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. The latter is, arguably, one of the most essential film performances of all time. By comparison, his Silver character feels incredibly slight. Should it really bring him more gold?
Snubs: Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ewan McGregor, The Impossible
Should win: Waltz
Will win: Jones over De Niro