No kidding: Steve Carell has a serious plus in the Oscars race

Competition is fierce for that fifth slot in the Oscars’ race for Best Actor. Over the past few months Steve Carell looked like a good bet for a nomination after “Foxcatcher’s” warm reception at the Cannes Film Festival, but Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) and Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”) have recently gained mojo.

Should Carell be worried? Yes. Healthy paranoia is always a good idea at the Academy Awards, but he  has many advantages, including the critical acclaim he reaped for his creepy role as a killer tycoon. He portrays a real-life person just like 8 of the past 10 winners in the category. He wears a plastic nose. (Hell, that helped Nicole Kidman to win!) And he’s made a successful crossover to Serious Actor from TV Sitcom Star (“The Office”) and Movie Goofball (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”).

Granted, Carell can’t win the Oscar, but shouldn’t all of this help him to snag a nomination?

Don’t make the mistake of believing that Carell’s silliness on the boob tube will hurt him now. Quite the contrary. Consider, for example, Sally Field winning two Oscars (“Norma Rae,” “Places in the Heart”) after gaining fame as the ridiculous Flying Nun and ditzy teenager Gidget on TV.

Not so long ago there was a sharp divide between superstars who appeared on the silver screen and actors who went slumming on TV. There was also an obvious reluctance by Hollywood to take any actor seriously who became famous for pratfalls.

Those ancient rules are now as broken down as old, flickering Philco TVs that once aired that camp classic “Charlie’s Angels” back in the days before Farrah Fawcett left to make a failed attempt to become a feature film star.

Since then, Tom Hanks went from flouncing around in drag on “Bosom Buddies” to marching up to the Oscars’ stage to claim statuettes for “Forrest Gump” and “Philadelphia.”

George Clooney went from “The Facts of Life,” “Roseanne” and “ER” to winning an Oscar for “Syriana.”

And academy voters went wild for Helen Hunt in “As Good As It Gets” after she swept the Emmys four times for “Mad About You.”

Oscar voters like to see actors show off their chops while performing a wide range of emotions in drama and comedy across various media. That proves they are real actors.


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