Everybody loves Bruce Dern, but that’s beside the point when it comes to the Best Actor mosh-pit situation. Dern’s performance as the snarly, checked-out, beer-slurping Woody in Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska has an indelible something-or-other quality that may stick to industry ribs when they see it…or it won’t. But there’s a lot of competition out there so how can the friends-of-Bruce rally round and push him along so that at least he finishes fifth? Because from where I’m sitting the chances of Dern, winner of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s Best Actor prize, even being nominated don’t look all that great.

I really hope I’m wrong but if I am please tell me how. Have I posted this riff before? Maybe so but I need to go over it one more time because, you know, the nomination ballots have to be turned in no later than Sunday midnight. Kidding!

The three locks are Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 years A Slave), Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). That leaves two slots with at least five other contenders so no matter how you slice it three guys are going to feel a bit depressed when Oscar nominations are announced.

Nobody’s seen American Hustle yet but the always fascinating Christian Bale gained 40 pounds and shaved his head for his lead role in that film, so you know he’s probably a hot contender. (The weight gain alone might have done it, but when you add a bald-spot combover he’s nearly unstoppable.) And then you have Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, Forest Whitaker in The Butler and possibly Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street. So that’s seven potential nominees, and then on top of those guys you’ve got Dern in Nebraska.

I’m not saying Dern is in eighth place, but anyone who says he’s a lock for slot #4 or #5 is kidding themselves.

It seems to me that the fourth slot will probably go to Hanks (famous, well liked, has given two good performances this year in Captain Banks and Saving Mr. Phillips). It also seems that the fifth slot is between DiCaprio, Bale, Whitaker and Dern. What are the odds that Dern, the other gold-watch acting nomination recipient after Redford, can beat back Whitaker (the loyal African-American vote), Bale (the overweight combover vote) and DiCaprio for…what is this, his fifth Scorsese movie?

Not to mention the highly deserving Joaquin Phoenix in Her, Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight.

Again, if Dern can make it through and at least land a nomination, terrific. No one will be more pleased than I. I’ve tried to persuade Paramount to let me speak with him but they’re apparently persuaded that I’ll spoil the conversation with talk about the Best Actor chances and whatnot. I wouldn’t touch that. I’d just want to shoot the shit and hear all of his great stories from the ’60s and ’70s.