Five reasons why Robert De Niro can (and probably will) win Best Supporting Actor at Oscars

1. It’s a wide open race.
The last five years, the Supporting Actor derby has been incredibly easy to call. Just consider the wins by Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men,” Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds,” Christian Bale in “The Fighter” and Christopher Plummer in “Beginners.” Were any of those outcomes ever in really in doubt? Each of those men was declared the frontrunner early in the season and then prevailed at both the Globe and SAG Awards. The Oscar presentation was really just a formality.

Finally, 2012 has brought us some suspense. There has been no clear critical favorite, with non-nominees Matthew McConaughey taking both the New York and National Society prizes for “Magic Mike” and “Bernie,” and Dwight Henry winning in Los Angeles for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Christoph Waltz was the upset Globe victor for “Django Unchained” while Tommy Lee Jones just triumphed at SAG for “Lincoln.”

It’s in topsy-turvy tourneys like this that we often see a different name called at the Oscars. Since Alan Arkin in “Argo” has a relatively small role and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “The Master” isn’t up for Best Picture, Robert De Niro would appear to have the best opening for a come-from-behind win.

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2. He’s gone the most years without winning.
Much has been made of the fact that all of these actors have already been honored with the Academy Award. For Waltz, Arkin and Hoffman it was within the past ten years. For Jones it was within the last 20. But you have to go back 32 years to De Niro’s last glory, for the classic “Raging Bull.” Many of the current Academy members weren’t able to vote for either of his first two wins. With the actor’s consistent work in films over the past three decades, he probably seems due for another career achievement trophy. True, he’s the only one in the category to have won twice. Still, this is De Niro whom we’re talking about, one of the most revered actors in Hollywood. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep already have the triple Oscar collection and Daniel Day-Lewis is headed there, too. The Academy won’t hesitate to add De Niro to this most exclusive club.

-ADDPREDICTION:85:7:Click to predict Supporting Actor Oscar:ADDPREDICTION-

3. It’s the classic Best Supporting Actor formula.
In “Silver Linings Playbook,” the one-time “Taxi Driver” is blessed with an important, sympathetic, screen time-heavy and beautifully written role. It’s a three-dimensional character, seen in the context of being a father, a husband and a businessman. He has the opportunity to show off a wide range of emotions, combining several big dramatic scenes with some quieter tearful ones, as well.  (Remember his heartfelt words of wisdom to Bradley Cooper near the film’s end?)

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The endearing performance is similar to other recent winners in this category, like Michael Caine in “The Cider House Rules,” Jim Broadbent in “Iris,” Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby,” Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine” and last year’s Plummer in “Beginners.” It doesn’t scream Oscar, yet it gently whispers it.

4. It’s the best chance to honor “Silver Linings Playbook” in a major category.
This is may be the best reason of all, so consider this carefully. Whether or not Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress, I suspect that many of those voting for her are diehard fans of the film. There’s a good chance that they’ll also be voting for De Niro. More importantly, those members NOT voting for Lawrence WILL want to honor the film somewhere.

Let’s face it: it’s extremely unlikely that “Silver Linings” is going to take Best Picture or Best Director. There’s no way that Bradley Cooper or Jacki Weaver can win, either. So for anyone who doesn’t feel like Lawrence is ready for the Oscar just yet, De Niro is the only place to turn.

It’s the same type of “coalition” that allowed Tilda Swinton to pull off a surprise win for “Michael Clayton” five years ago. She received votes from those Academy members selecting the film across the board, AND the non-“Clayton” voters who didn’t want the film to go home empty-handed. (I’ll happily admit that I came to that realization after the lord of all pundits, Pete Hammond, was the first to make the bold prediction for Swinton.)

If De Niro wins, you can expect a boisterous standing ovation before he takes to the stage and praises his director and cast members. Harvery Weinstein, David O. Russell, Cooper, Lawrence and Weaver will all surely be ecstatic. Even if the film loses every other category that night, a De Niro victory will be a true silver lining for “Silver Linings Playbook.”

5. People are overestimating support for Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln.”
So TLJ wins SAG and now he’s unstoppable, right? Hold your horses. A SAG triumph certainly helps, but it hardly seals the deal – especially in this competitive category.

Do you remember the Academy Award speeches by Ed Harris (“Apollo 13”), Robert Duvall (“A Civil Action”), Albert Finney (“Erin Brockovich”), Ian McKellen (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”), Christopher Walken (“Catch Me If You Can”) or Paul Giamatti (”Cinderella Man”)? No – because they lost the Oscar even after winning at SAG.

Think about Jones’ role in “Lincoln.” He has relatively little time on screen and not much character arc. The wig is a distraction and there’s been criticism that he comes across as too contemporary (and too Texan) for the part. With the lead actor Oscar already sewn up for “Lincoln,” will voters really feel it necessary to give it a supporting prize, too?

Finally, remember Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neil’s often discussed “huggability” factor. It sounds silly, but it really can be a key factor as Academy members mark their ballots. Think about it this way: would Hollywood rather give a giant hug to De Niro and his Philadelphia family man or Jones and his Republican congressman? (You have your Oscar answer right there.)


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16 thoughts on “Five reasons why Robert De Niro can (and probably will) win Best Supporting Actor at Oscars

  1. When they give D D Lewis an Oscar for his portrayal of Lincoln , they will reward T L Jones for his Thadeus Stevens …after all , they were the dynamic duo that made it happen and abolished slavery

  2. But couldn’t they also want to give a hug to Christoph Waltz? I want to give a hug to Christoph Waltz. What are the factors here that reduce Waltz’s chances, if any?

  3. I agree that De Niro has a great shot at winning. TLJ is the favorite however. I can’t see Waltz getting another supporting Oscar for a Tarantino movie so soon after getting a supporting Oscar for a Tarantino movie, despite really being a co-lead.

  4. Eddie Murphy won at SAG the year he was nominated for an Oscar for Dreamgirls with the winner going to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine.

  5. I get the sense that this article was just an excuse for Fox News to claim that Republican Congressmen today are similar to radical liberal activist Thaddeus Stevens.

  6. This is the worst supporting actor line up in years. Where is Ewan McGregor for “The Impossible”? Where is Leo for “Django Unchained”? Where is John Cusak for “The Paperboy”?

  7. Benny, De Niro doesn’t need a BAFTA nomination to win the Oscar. He wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor at BAFTA when he won his first Oscar in that category for “The Godfather: Part II.” He also wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe for that role either.

  8. Dang it. Come on. Don’t tease me like this. I have all 5 supporting actors there since they could all win. Right now I am going with Waltz since he seems like an agreeable 3rd choice pending BAFTA results. It does seem however that the Academy liked SLP more then any other precursor, so their results may not match up.

  9. I agree with your logic, Tariq, and I also think the fact that Streep and Nicholson already have that third Oscar only helps De Niro’s chances. He’s one of the “legends” of his generation, just like they are, and that’s the key to winning a third acting Oscar: being a living legend. Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman also fall into that category. Only Walter Brennan among three-time winners is an anomaly (and that’s probably because he had the good fortune to win a triple crown in the very early days of the Academy, before they started becoming more cautious and selective in choosing repeat winners).

  10. Point me towards De Niro’s “consistent work” in the past two decades, because I don’t see it. He has more often been embarassing than consistent. If that is your logic, Tommy Lee Jones has been far more consistent, with a recent lead nomination for Valley of Elah and another acclaimed performance this year in Hope Springs.

    The huggability / endearing argument is far more convincing.

    But in all honestly, Hoffman deserves it. The fact his film isn’t a BP contender is only a small detractor. Neither Beginners or The Dark Knight were BP contenders (the latter quite controversially snubbed), but Hoffman doesn’t have anything near the heat or buzz that Ledger, or even Plummer had. He is brilliant, though, and the Academy liked The Master enough to bring Adams and Phoenix back into the nominees circle. Hoffman is also one of the most consistently brilliant supporting actors in Hollywood and, although he has his lead Oscar, he certainly deserves some gold for his legendary supporting career.

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  12. DeNiro’s win is much more deserved simply on the basis of the work alone. Jones has been so much better in so many other, better movies (In the Valley of Elah; even No Country For Old Men).

  13. ‘those members NOT voting for Lawrence WILL want to honor the film somewhere’. SLP has proven a huge juggernaut with the academy and i can’t imagine any fan of the movie not picking her first.

    while De Niro was making Hide & Seek and Little Fockers, Jones was being rewarding for artistic roles in Three Burials and No Country. Plus his nomination of In the Valley of Ellah shows he has lots of leftover love from the Academy.

    I love De Niro in SLP, but the “you are more reptile than man” scene is an Oscar clip for the ages

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