Robert De Niro may land his first Oscar nomination in 20 years for his moving supporting turn as Bradley Cooper's father in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook." De Niro has won two Oscars (for the second "Godfather" film and "Raging Bull") but he has not been nominated since Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear."
Why? Look at his resume. In the intervening years, not to put too fine a point on it, De Niro has been chasing the money and dining on comedies ("The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle," "Analyze This," "Meet the Fockers") that sometimes even make fun of the iconic roles that inspired generations of actors. While he did the odd Indie flick for pals such as Art Linson and Barry Levinson ("What Just Happened," "Wag the Dog"), you have to go back to the 90s to find a cluster of films like "Copland," "Marvin's Room" or "Jackie Brown" that truly mine his prodigious talent.
The Santa Barbara Film Festival, which takes place in late January at the height of Oscar season, is mounting a December 8 tribute to the actor–who deserves one whether he gets a nomination for "Silver Linings" or not–by giving him its Kirk Douglas Award.
Like many other fine actors trying to make their way in the wasteland that is the Hollywood studios today, De Niro is realizing that upfront cash is not the best measure of talent and success. Working with the demanding and exacting Russell and a superb ensemble of actors, De Niro really steps up his game. A supporting actor nomination could be his reward.