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Nebraska, Finely Aged and Potentially Oscar Record-Breaking

I'm sure you've seen the melancholy yet uplifting new spot for Nebraska that points out the ages of its principal cast and how long they've been acting. It's inspiring, for sure, as longevity often is. Hollywood and the Oscars often favor the sprinters (note all the stars, particularly actresses, who won too soon and all the films that opened in the rush of awards season that were only hot for two months) but life is a marathon.

Assuming Bruce Dern and June Squibb are both nominated on January 16th (and smart money says they will be) they'll both be among the top three oldest performers ever nominated in their categories. It will break down like so...

01 Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story (1999) who was 79
02 Bruce Dern, Nebraska (20) who is 77*
03 Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond (1981) who was 76
04 Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby (2004) who was 74
05 Peter O'Toole, Venus (2006) who was also 74
06 Morgan Freeman, Invictus (2008) who was 72
07 Sir Laurence Olivier, The Boys From Brazil (1978) who was 71
08 Frank Langella, Nixon (2008) who was also 71
09 Paul Newman, Nobody's Fool (1994) who had just turned 70

Those are the only 70somethings ever nominated for Best Actor... if Robert Redford and Bruce Dern are both nominated we'll have a perfect full top ten of 70something Best Actor candidates; they're only two months apart in age (with Dern born first). Among these senior men Henry Fonda was the only winner. If Dern wins --  and I've long thought he might with that magic combo of a likely Best Picture nominee, a moving performance, and a stellar campaign --  he'll become the oldest winner ever in the Best Actor category. 

01. Gloria Stuart, Titanic (1997) who was 87... and the oldest in *any* category actually
02. Ruby Dee, American Gangster (2007) who was 85 *but there are conflicting reports on her age*
03. June Squibb, Nebraska (2013) who is 84
03. Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) who was 82
05. Eva Le Gallienne, Resurrection (1980 - recently discussed) who had just turned 82

Those are the only 80somethings ever nominated in Supporting Actress and none of them won. Can June Squibb break the pattern this year? (The current oldest winner ever in this category is Dame Peggy Ashcroft for A Passage to India (1984) who was 77). Speaking of Squibb, have you been watching the American remake of the British nursing comedy series Getting On? Squibb guest stars in one episode as a foul-mouthed cigarette-smoking patient. She and Niecy Nash are pretty great together.

What do you make of Dern & Squibb's Oscar chances? 

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Reader Comments (25)

I went to see "Nebraska" on Wednesday after you insisted I watch it instead of "The Hobbit." I'm glad I did. I think both Dern and Squibb are marvelous and deserve to be nominated. Dern's role is not very flashy, but he inhabits the role so effectively, a contemporary iteration of Willy Loman, albeit way more passive, a man to whom attention must be paid at least once. Squibb is hilarious, but we also see the tenderness underlying her barbs. Life has been a disappointment and her only outlet is to let her mouth run. I'd also love for Forte to be nominated. He's definitely a lead, though. For me, Forte, makes the movie work. He translates for Dern's character and through him we see what is driving Woody's determination. It's a sad, funny film and the performances are aces.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Well, you could include Redford on that list also. I know he's not a sure-thing nominee like Dern, but still - it's likely.

Also, Judi Dench, I think, with break into Oscar's Top 5 oldest nominees. ;)

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex in Movieland

Ruby Dee was 83.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Yeah, no mention of Redford?

I personally think Dern's campaign is pretty tacky, but that probably means it will work with the Academy.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I loved Nebraska. But to me, the Squibb character was just ridiculous in an otherwise fantastic film. The movie is so understated, just fantastic. Will Forte is way under-rated in this film. I hope Dern wins Oscar.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

3rtful -- there are conflicting reports on her birth year. It is sometimes listed as 1922 and sometimes as 1924

Alex -- yep. Judi, if she makes it is the 4th oldest best actress ever... if both Dern and Redford make it they're the 2nd and 3rd oldest Best Actors ever (only two months apart in age). Crazy right?

January 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I need to watch this. I was let down by The Descendants, after loving every Payne movie since Citizen Ruth. So I need this one to be great, like everyone says it is.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Nebraska is a masterpiece. Quiet, gentle, unforgettable.

I still need to view the Christmas crop of films, but so far, 12 Years and Nebraska are my top films of the year.

ITA with Raul, Forte is terrific. Heartbreaking work.

I want Dern to win Best Actor, But I also want Chiwetel.

Maybe it's time for the first tie since Fred March and Wallace Beery. Yeah, I'd be down with that.

Jorge, I know you're gonna love it.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I think Dern and Squibb would make a wonderful pair of winners *if they are nominated which they obviously will be*

I think Best Actor is extremely competitive with Dern leading the race BUT it still feels up in the air. I can see Ejiofor, McConaughey, and Redford still in contention all with great narratives to win. I don't think we'll really have an idea of where the race will shift until after we see who wins the Globe, SAG, and BAFTA *bafta in terms of momentum since they usually announce last*

Squibb has a harder fight in her category because of Lupita Nyong'o. She's young and beautiful, giving such a tragic devastating performance in the Best Picture frontrunner. I don't see Oprah winning at this point unless SAG rallys for her. So Best Supporting Actress feels like a two way race between Squibb and Nyong'o during this stage

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKent

Dern has a great chance... not so much Squibb,, she was just good but not a very fleshed out role

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I actually think Chiwetel is heading for the Oscar. I can't imagine BFCA awarding Dern over him, plus BAFTA will go for Chiwetel as well. I think the Globe may well go for Redford since he's an acting legend or McConaughey because they always love their stars.

Only SAG is a wildcard for me. They may go for Chiwetel, McConaughey, Redford or Dern for different reasons and all seem possible to me.

The one I count out is Tom/Leonardo (whichever gets the 5th spot).

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Hope Meryl can use this campaign tactic in her eighties....

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I can't imagine Squibb winning this year but I'm often wrong. :-) I certainly feel like the challenges faced by other likely nominees was far greater: Lawrence really was spectactular. And Winfrey was pretty damn impressive too - there were moments she delivered I would have never thought she could do.

I would prefer Dern not to win. I'd give it to McConaughey - I just think his is a more demanding role. However, I suspect I'm going to find DiCaprio quite impressive as well so I may end up rooting for him. The roles played by the other currently highly anticipated nominated actors...Ejiofer, Dern, Redford, Hanks...are all a little more contained (meaning, you capture the essence of the character as an actor and then you run with it). I AM NOT BELITTLING THAT ACHIEVEMENT - hell, these actors were GREAT at what they did - I just think McConaughey had the more complicated, challenging role. Dern does a wonderfully grizzled grumpy old loser but doesn't have to show that much range, really. And Redford does the "old everyman hunk who used to rule the world because he was so handsome and confident" facing harsh reality like the great, handsome, confident movie star he is - no small feat, my any means! And Ejofer does, indeed, suffer with humility, depth, and courage over and over again. And I do gladly admit that Hank's emotional outburst at the end of his film is extremely effective and feels very, very real, but the fear, pluck and trying to outthink your captors is not the most complicated performance to deliver. So - unless DiCaprio has a more demanding role than I think he does, I'm hoping for McConaughey!

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

I think that Bruce Dern has really good shot at winning. I would be delighted.

I'm MADLY in love with Getting On. I demand nominations for everyone. June was fantastic and I really hope they can bring her character back very soon.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I just don't get Nebraska. I don't see anything particularly cinematic in it, thought it was formulaic on a script level, and borderline pedestrian in terms of acting, Bruce Dern aside. I didn't hate it, I thought it was a perfectly pleasant little movie, but I don't really see what separates this in quality from something like Enough Said for example--another movie that seems to really be touching people, and which strikes me as absolutely better written and better acted on the whole, but which no one is suggesting is the best cinema of the year. It's totally baffling to me that in this great year, this movie of all movies is getting this much love.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Rankings in Best Actor (Not Personal):
Chiwitel Ejiofor
Bruce Dern
Matthew McConaughey
Tom Hanks

Rankings in Best Supporting Actress:
Lupita Nyong'o
Jennifer Lawrence
June Squibb
Julia Roberts

The movie was sweet but I was expecting that. Dern's Woody was basically my grandpa and yes, living with a quiet husband with Alzheimers can lead a woman to be inside and unfiltered which was my grandma. Listen, my grandma has given me the 411 on relatives and dead people's dirty secrets for years at inappropriate times so I don't think the cemetery scene was that ridiculous. Okay, maybe the skirt thing- I get that. Is it close to Payne's best? Absolutely not, but at least this felt like there was a beating heart than The Descendants- that give us the cinematic sins of making Hawaii look ugly as sin and wasting Robert Forster.

I wish Dern was in supporting because I can't abide by Leto sweeping. It's not that the role is too quiet, in fact, that's a strength for the role and why I like the performance but him as a co-lead but with no real time to himself in the film (that's also a point in the script because he is so lost). To me, he could easily pass as a supporting actor but that's too late and Dern has worked too hard campaigning as lead. But to me he'd be a safe #1 in supporting if he went there.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

CMG -- except for it's not a supporting role and neither are co-lead roles supporting. but leads that share the narrative duty. ayiyiyi. the way this has devolved in just one decade. soon all twenty acting nominations will be for leading roles.

TB -- enough said is an interesting comparison and though i prefer Nebraska i think this probably has a lot to do with Payne vs. Holofcener in terms of the auteur prestige factor. Unfortunately people just never build up great mythos around female directors, even the very good ones. whereas with men, they just need a couple of good movies and they're basically gods to everyone and people fawn/automatically take them seriously.

January 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel- Just note my anti-Jared Leto getting an Oscar is largely driving my Dern in Supporting theory. I dislike category fraud as much as you do.

TB- I also think Enough Said is better but it is firmly more a Comedy. I always compared Holofcener to Jason Reitman, who seems like a pale imitation of Payne and Holofcener but bizarrely got way more credos. I guess it pays to have Ivan Reitman as you dad*. Anyway, Holofcener seems more to lend her observational comedy to her characters but has the self-awareness to not make them all-knowing. It wasn't until Young Adult did I think Reitman ever did that. His characters always came off smug. People tend to think Payne's smug to his characters but I never got a sense he lent superiority to his characters and if anything they're all kind of suffering for trying to distance themselves from others.

*-Not that I'm saying privilege was the end all factor. Holofcener's step dad worked with Woody Allen for years.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

@Kent: Jennifer Lawrence.
@Jamie: Kate Hepburn.

Neither Dern nor Squibb are in my top 3 (in the nominee pool). I'd be rooting for Ejiofor and Di Caprio, Nyong'o, Hawkins and PAULSON to win.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

@Kent: Jennifer Lawrence.
@Jamie: Kate Hepburn. (She was in her '70s, but you know what I mean.)

Neither Dern nor Squibb are in my top 3 (in the nominee pool). I'd be rooting for Ejiofor and Di Caprio, Nyong'o, Hawkins and PAULSON to win.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

@NathanielR---Yeah it's the weirdest thing to me. That's part of why I've always had a hard time falling in line with auteur theory. So much of it seems like an excuse to hero worship all the same kinds of filmmakers. Even the female filmmakers who do get invited into the club, like Kathryn Bigelow or even Claire Denis, tend to have something of a masculine perspective. And I'd say the same kind of thing happens with people of color behind the camera. Steven McQueen for example is a amazing director, but his artistic influences are fundamentally coming from the same place as the Alexander Paynes of the world.

And none of this is to say that there's anything wrong with this artistic perspective, it's just weird to me that these are the only kind of artists who get recognized as auteurs. And then once you are recognized as an auteur, it's like you are good to go for life. Enough Said is sweet, but it's not Top 10 worthy like Payne's auteur vehicle Nebraska. You must go see Wolf Of Wall Street and you must give it the benefit of the doubt because it's a Scorcese, but no one is even reviewing things like The Selfish Giant or Mother Of George, let alone requiring that everyone see and love them.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Denis and Bigelow explore masculinity and male stubbornness on the same level Elaine May explores why men can be such funny jerks. As in, very good at it. So good at it, I think in some cases their studies fly over the heads of people at the Academy. I actually think Holocener is an important voice. Perhaps it as Nick Davis pointed out that on an aesthetic level, she is not too up to pace as much as her sharp writing. Payne's not one for aesthetics either (He doesn't really try to make the case for the black & white choice in Nebraska, for example) but I do wonder why Holofcener is not in the same conversation. Holofcener's movies are the type that would've thrived in the 70s and 80s but medium-sized films seem to be caught in a weird place.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

TB, I would argue that Nebraska is truly cinematic because it is an acute example of collaboration where every aspect is in perfect concert. The result: a series of slowly revealing quiet moments with a powerful cumulative effect. Not to mention the classic composition of the visuals. That's gotta be cinematic.

As for Scorsese, people feel they gotta go see Wolf not because he's an auteur, but because he's a legendary director whose legacy demands respect.

January 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Christopher Plummer?

January 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeets

Deets -- Plummer was in best supporting actor and i was only talking about best actor and best supporting actress (via Nebraska)

January 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

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