Since the 5th slot for Best Actor seems to be a tight race between Russell Crowe who is doing very well in the precursors but lacks as much fresh "buzz" as his rivals Terrence Howard, Jeff Daniels, and even the last-minute surge from theConstant Gardener himself, Ralph Fiennes ... let's look at the possibly meaningless (?) statistics from the past 5 years of Oscar (that's 25 nominees for the math-challenged) to see who most benefits.
Average age of nominees in this category:
46. The youngest recently was Adrien Brody (The Pianist @ 29) and the oldest Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby @ 74). 2005's Oscar bunch looks to be the youngest in some time (more on that here). Who is closest to the average age this year? Fiennes (The Constant Gardener) is 43. Next closest in both directions are Crowe (Cinderella Man) @ 41 and the never-nominated Daniels (Squid and the Whale) hoping for some career achievement 'thank yous' at 50.
Most common roles:
01. Creative types (writers being the most frequent sort) compose 36% of this category's recent nominees. That might give a leg up to Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale but it didn't help Michael Douglas, also playing a blocked formerly celebrated writer five years ago. It might also suggest that Terrence Howard's music dreams in Hustle & Flow might play resonantly to voters.
02. Physical or Mental Ailments of Significant Magnitude also score with voters. That matches up with 20% of the nominees. Surprisingly none of the contenders go that Oscar-bait route this year.
03 Grieving dads suffering the loss of children or spouse account for 16% of nominees. If you extend that to include characters fighting to keep their children alive/with them or those with deep regrets at lost relationships with their children the number expands to a weighty 28% of nominees. The most grief stricken of our possible nominees is Ralph Fiennes having lost his wife and unborn child in the first few minutes of The Constant Gardener. Both Jeff Daniels and Russell Crowe also get to milk emotions both complex (former) and overtly sentimental (latter) from the fear of losing their family.
Does it help to play an actual person, living or dead?
Does it ever. They make up nearly 50% of the nominations in this category. There was only one year recently without real figures. In 2003 all of the nominees played fictional characters. Not so surprisingly the corresponding snubbed actors were also playing fictional characters. To stand a chance in this category, you better be aping a real person...preferrably a famous one. The only fifth slot competitor playing a real characer? Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man.
Commonalities of Snubs ?
To understand the Oscars you have to have context of the year and the other people Academy voters could have selected. So, who, in recent years seemed like the 6th or 7th slotters (list below indicates precursor support and media attention followed by Oscar snub)? And why did they miss out?
2000 Michael Douglas Wonder Boys and Jamie Bell Billy Elliot
2001 Gene Hackman The Royal Tenenbaums , Ewan MacGregor Moulin Rouge! , and John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch , and Billy Bob Thornton in either Monsters Ball or The Man Who Wasn't There
2002 Richard Gere Chicago
2003 Russell Crowe Master & Commander
2004 Paul Giamatti Sideways and Liam Neeson Kinsey
Aside from the fact that nearly all of the snubs are fictional characters and most are in comedies, is there anything else that connects them? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Reminder: My final predictions have begun...Best Picture and Best Actor. And previously: Best Actress Commonalities because I can't stop. But you knew that already, didn't you?