For Plummer, 80, today shockingly marked his first Academy Awards nomination -- a supporting actor nod as the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. Mirren returns to her rightful place in the best actress mix as Tolstoy's fiery wife Countess Sofya.
The excellent film is a bit of a creeper to the general public due to its late release -- it opened for an Oscar qualifying week at the end of 2009 and again on Jan. 15.
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Both actors play off each other brilliantly and have nearly equal screen time with Plummer's Tolstoy dramatically going through his final days onscreen. His role is as full as his massive, gray beard with even the film's title referring to his final resting place. Yet he vies for best supporting actor while his onscreen wife settles into the best actress race. What gives with the disparity?
Sony Pictures Classics reasoned that the story is told through James McAvoy's character, Tolstoy's wide-eyed assistant. Thus McAvoy was their best actor candidate. Plummer was positioned as the best supporting in the award strategy. More than likely, Plummer's increased chances of nomination in the category played into the decision as well. And it clearly paid off even with the nomination.
That said, the road to Oscar victory is looking tough for even a sentimental favorite such as Plummer. "Inglourious Basterds" Cristoph Waltz has been sweeping through most award shows in this best supporting actor area.