Why Steve Carell Should Campaign Supporting for ‘Last Flag Flying’

We reported a few days ago about the launch of the Amazon Studios awards site where Steve Carell was to campaign in Lead Actor for his performance in “Last Flag Flying.”  This was all before the film made its debut at the New York Film Festival on Thursday evening.  The film’s reception was solid, with many (including myself) loving just about everything it had to offer.  For others, it didn’t seem to resonate but one thing that remained constant was the praise for the Oscar-nominated Carell.

Is Amazon re-thinking their “Last Flag Flying” strategy?

Since then, the category placements have disappeared on the site and we can only speculate as to why this is.  Quietly (or not so), we’re hoping that the studio that brought Casey Affleck and Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea“) to the Oscar podium last year is rethinking their strategy on the placement of the three actors.  It was initially listed that co-stars Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne would try their hands in the Supporting Actor race but it seems that many are already calling “fraud.”

The film gives an equal focus on the three characters, although it is about Carell’s character “Doc” and the impending funeral of his son.  Not being able to give any accurate numbers in terms of screen time, I’d say that Carell probably has the least of the three men since there are two sequences in which it’s Cranston and Fishburne solely, and for an extended amount of time.  Carell also has the least dialogue, but even when he’s quiet, he’s emoting a pain that can be felt in every frame.

We bring this up because if Amazon is serious about Richard Linklater‘s film walking out with an Academy Award in February, they should heavily consider placing all the men in Supporting Actor.  Though Lead Actor hasn’t yielded an impressive amount of contenders thus far, it’s been widely believed that Gary Oldman will be marching to the podium for his work as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

Willem Dafoe’s competition?

Supporting Actor has a lot more fluidity, even if it is more competitive.  Willem Dafoe has been agreed upon frontrunner for his work as a motel manager in “The Florida Project” but there’s room for someone else to gain some traction.  Carell’s work, much like his first nominated turn in Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” skews the line between Lead and Supporting.  If campaigned Lead, this would be the third instance in which many pundits believe that he’s making the wrong category choice in his hopes for an Academy Award.  Much like the aforementioned “Foxcatcher,” Carell campaigned in Lead for “The Big Short,” a film that felt more ensemble than one man’s story.

In the case of “Foxcatcher,” Carell likely would have lost his supporting bid to eventual winner and steamroller J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”), but he may have contended better or at least, provided some competition to the frontrunner.  During the time of “The Big Short,” his co-star Christian Bale was able to snag an Oscar nomination but Carell may have been able to contend better next to frontrunners Sylvester Stallone (“Creed”) and eventual (and surprise?) winner Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies”).

This time around, if Carell maneuvers his way into a Lead Actor slot, which is entirely possible, it’s widely believed he’ll just be among three other men who will be clapping for Gary Oldman at every award show.

So we say this in the name of “category fraud,” keep all the men in the same category, whichever category that will be.  While Bryan Cranston’s work is something that feels the “loudest” in the room, that doesn’t always equate to the best.  What Carell is doing is simply magnificent, and something that is surely worth the price of admission.

“Last Flag Flying” is currently screening at the New York Film Festival and will open in theaters on Nov. 3.

The Oscar Prediction pages have been updated.

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MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |