Tye Sheridan in Mud (Best Actor):
Why is it so difficult for male actors under the age of 21 to get an Academy Award® nomination? Are the older male actors who control most of these votes so competitive that they’re unwilling to objectively award excellence to someone substantially younger than them and of the same gender? Do they feel that the young “whipper-snappers” are getting attention they don’t yet deserve? I feel like young male actors are looked down upon by their elders in the field, and aren’t embraced until many years of experience in the industry. Young female actors don’t face as much adversity when it comes to landing an Oscar nom. Anna Paquin, Jennifer Lawrence, Quvenzhane Wallis, and Hailee Steinfeld all made it in with relative ease. Even Keisha Castle-Hughes was predicted by many before her surprise nomination was announced. But looking at young male performers, you’d have to go all the way back to 1939 to find a young male actor under 21 that received a “Best Actor” nod. The youngest male to ever win “Best Actor” was Adrien Brody for The Pianist, but he was 29-years-old and starred in a Holocaust drama, which of course increased his odds considerably. The stats do not lie — there is gender and age bias when it comes to young male actors scoring an acting nod. The last one was thirteen years ago with Haley Joel Osmont for The Sixth Sense, and he lost to a veteran actor who already won a golden statue once before. What will it take for things to change? And please don’t give me the “there’s a lack of outstanding young male performances in cinema” bullcrap of an excuse. Logan Lerman’s performance last year in The Perks of Being a Wallflower was just as riveting and impressive as anyone in the Lead Actor field that year (and a much stronger one than the offerings from Hugh Jackman and Denzel Washington). But he never even had a chance, as this ageist, anti-young male train left the station so long ago.
Perhaps Tye Sheridan will change this depressing pattern. While Matthew McConaughey is quite impressive in Mud, he’s nothing compared to his menacing and creepy turn in Killer Joe. Sheridan is the heart of Mud as young Ellis, delivering a performance so focused, professional, and moving that he raises the bar for child acting. He stares so deeply into every character he meets that you feel as though he’s searching their body for a soul. Sheridan’s piercing gaze suggests he’s on a mission to save the world, but really he’s just a kid trying to navigate his way through childhood. The dangers he faces and adult emotions he encounters haunt Ellis but force him to see the world as it truly is. Words cannot even begin to express how deserving I feel Sheridan is of a “Best Actor” nod next year. He’s got an inherent knack for acting, and is someone whose talent could one day stand next to the Brandos, De Niros, and Pacinos of the industry. After Tree of Life and now Mud, Sheridan is destined for a long and respected career. Why withhold an Oscar nod when he’s currently so much stronger than many of his peers that are three times his age and have been in the business long before he was even a thought in his parent’s minds? Everyone seems to be gushing about McConaughey in Mud because he’s the big star attached to the film and is the easiest to campaign, but it’s Sheridan who truly deserves every last inch of support from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. I’m crossing my fingers that he’ll get it.