This weekend brings Nebraska to the big screen, and the film is already a big winner, as Bruce Dern won the best actor trophy at Cannes. Unfortunately, Dern has made a case that he should be up for the best actor Oscar, and that may have hurt his chances of winning a gold trophy.

The year isn’t over yet, but the best actor category is often packed with great performances, and often great stories behind those performances. That isn’t to say Bruce Dern doesn’t have a strong shot at winning, the problem is that if he had gone for best supporting actor, he’d be the odds on favorite to win. Often when an older performer gives a great supporting performance, it can serve as a way to give a lifetime achievement award at the same time. Look at this list:

  • Christopher Plummer – Beginners - 2011
  • Alan Arkin – Little Miss Sunshine - 2006
  • Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby – 2005
  • Jim Broadbent – Iris – 2001
  • Michael Caine – The Cider House Rules - 1999
  • James Coburn – Affliction - 1998
  • Martin Landau – Ed Wood – 1994
  • Jack Palance – City Slickers – 1991

So in eight of the last twenty one years, the trophy has gone to old veterans who are also character actors. You could also throw in Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper’s wins in there as well if you wanted to, which would make it over half the wins in the last twenty some years. Whereas when Peter O’Toole was nominated for Venus, he lost to Forest Whitaker. It’s that much harder for older people to win in the main category as the “oldest” winner in the last twenty some years is either Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman or Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets. Both of whom were still active film stars, not performers brought into the center stage for a possible final great role (granted, Dern works and will continue to).

That doesn’t mean Dern doesn’t have a great shot at winning, but he’s going to be going up against Matthew McConaughey and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and they’re more in line with the kind of work the Oscars love giving the best Actor trophy. But, as they say, the race ain’t over, and if Nebraska becomes a hit, that could get Dern more traction. but if the film doesn’t connect with mainstream audiences, that’s a strike against that wouldn’t matter if he chased the supporting category.

In many ways, if Dern does go for Actor, it means we could see Will Forte become an Oscar nominee, and possible winner.

Who are you rooting for in the best actor race this year?