This year's prime acting contenders include an unusually large number of actors who've been overlooked for years … some of them, decades
In addition to the usual lines we'll be hearing at the next Academy Awards show — "I'd like to thank the Academy," "It's an honor just to be nominated," and all the other clichés — there's a pretty good chance that something else will be heard at the Kodak Theater:
"Well, it's about time."
That's because many of the main acting categories are studded with contenders who've had long, prosperous careers in which they've been largely ignored by the Academy.
Take Christopher Plummer, a prime Supporting Actor contender for his role in "Beginners," and an outside chance at a Best Actor nomination if his one-man show "Barrymore" is released this year.
Plummer has been acting onscreen since 1953 and in films since 1958, including roles in such landmark movies as "The Sound of Music" and "The Man Who Would Be King."
He spent the first five decades of that career completely overlooked by the Academy, then picked up his first nomination at the age of 79 in 2009's "The Last Station."
He has never won.
Max Von Sydow, 82, instantly anointed a strong Supporting Actor contender once people got a look at the gravity he brought to the trailer for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," has spent 60-plus years as a film actor and has been in more than 100 movies.
In that time, he has one Oscar nomination (for "Pelle the Conqueror" in 1988) and no wins.
Nick Nolte, with an affecting turn in "Warrior": 60-odd movies, two nominations, no wins.
Gary Oldman, whose lead performance in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is a marvel of understatement: 40-plus films, including acclaimed appearances in "Sid and Nancy," "The Contender" and many others, without a single nomination.
Even Glenn Close, a strong Best Actress contender for "Albert Nobbs," is 23 years removed from a remarkable string in which she landed five acting nominations in seven years.
She didn't win any of them, and she hasn't been nominated since.
And while one of her main competitors in the category, Meryl Streep, is Oscar royalty with 16 nominations over the past 32 years, she's also been a model of futility, going 0-for-12 since winning her second Oscar way back in 1982.
In a way, Supporting Actress contender Vanessa Redgrave (for "Coriolanus" and "Anonymous") is in a similar category to Streep: She has won in the past, but not since "Julia" in 1978, and is one-for-six over a 33-year film career that might well have deserved more Academy honors.
Certainly, those overdue actors will be up against a tough field of movie stars (George Clooney, Brad Pit, Leonardo DiCaprio), previous winners (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron) and hot newcomers (Elizabeth Olsen, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer).
And certainly, being overdue doesn’t guarantee an Oscar — just ask Peter O'Toole and Lauren Bacall, who ended up getting their gold statues in the form of Honorary Academy Awards.
O'Toole, in fact, initially considered declining the Honorary Oscar when it was voted to him, telling the board of governors that he was "still in the game and might yet win the lovely bugger outright."
He was nominated for "Venus" three years after reluctantly accepting that honorary award, but lost to Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland."
Let that be a warning to Plummer, and Von Sydow, and Nolte, and Oldman and Close: At the Oscars, just because it's about time doesn't mean your time as come.