So many amazing performances throughout the years in film history. The highest honor in the business since 1927 is to win an Academy Award. Yet, like any award show, the best does not always win. What’s worse is when the actor or actress delivers an perfect take on a character and isn’t even nominated. While I am not saying they should have won in their particular categories, it is a travesty these portrayals on screen were not even in the hunt. This is my Top 10 Actors/Actresses Snubbed for an Oscar Nomination. I have excluded any foreign language performances as there are hundreds to choose from and the Academy almost never nominates them anyway.
10. Kate Winslet as ‘Clementine Kruczynski (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”):
Fortunately the amazing Kate Winslet won a well deserved Oscar for her performance in “The Reader”. Unfortunately, it was for the wrong movie. While she did become an icon in “Titanic”, her most complex role was playing the quirky girl that a shy man falls head over heels for in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Director Michael Gondry could not have achieved such sublime joy/bitter anger at life simultaneously without the work done by Winslet. It is a performance filled with fun and shitty-ness all at the same time. Sounds like a real-life romantic relationship to me.
9. Moira Shearer as ‘Victoria Page’ (“The Red Shoes”):
What a tragedy of life Moira Shearer’s character Victoria Page in “The Red Shoes” had to go through. Striving for stardom in whatever medium is one thing. Driven towards complete insanity no matter what you do is on a different level. Shearer plays perhaps the most talented ballet dancer ever. Her moves are utterly exquisite. When renowned theater producer Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) gets his sights set on this angel it quickly becomes clear that he will squeeze every ounce of talent out both on and off the stage. Insanity slowly trickles in for this starlet until the final curtain call. From beautiful dancing sequences to forcibly subdued meetings with rich people for a job, Shearer delivers a performance that is perhaps more relevant today than it was in 1948.
8. Samantha Morten as ‘Sarah’ (“In America”):
Call me a homer, but I simply love the heartfelt Jim Sheridan directed“In America”. This movie represents everything America, as well as a family, should be. One word, kind. At the heart of this story is the mother of an Irish immigrant family trying to hold things together. Samantha Morton plays Sarah, a mother trying to take care of her family when they come to New York after having just lost a child. The two remaining daughters are reeling, adjusting to the big city lifestyle. Her husband is stressing about putting food on the table. There is also a crazy black man who yells living directly above them. What keeps things together is Sarah. Morton’s performance combines emotional and realistic reactions with a simple look. Genuine care is an amazing thing to see.
7. Charlize Theron as ‘Furiousa’ (“Mad Max: Fury Road”):
Pardon my French and I mean no disrespect. This is one badass bitch! While MAD MAX may be the title of the movie poster, Charlize Theron as Furiousa is the real S.O.B. you don’t wanna f-with in“Mad Max: Fury Road”. Armed with a giant truck and just 1-and-a-half arms, Furiousa is determined to free a group of beautiful girls from the grasp of a post-apocalyptic world. Sure, she picks up Mad Max along the way. Does not stop her quest. Theron transcends female characters in action movies here. Just watch when she drops to her knees screaming in the desert. That is simply iconic status.
6. Meg Ryan as ‘Sally Albright’ (“When Harry Met Sally”):
Obviously rom-coms are a dime a dozen. Then a great one comes along and people write it off because this isn’t serious dramatic work. What the hell are you talking about? Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actresses ever. Name me one great comedic performance from her. Yep, it ain’t that easy. Case in point, Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally…” has every element of the plucky girl next door the audience would expect and then some. In this role she goes from annoying to compulsive to egotistical. And that is simply in the first 15 minutes! Add in the classic diner scene and you have got yourself an all-time performance.
5. Jennifer Lopez as ‘Catherine Deane’ (“The Cell”):
Look, nine times out of ten I do not like whatever J-Lo is doing both on and off the screen. But I call a spade a spade. Her role in “Hustlers” as a sneezy stripper was phenomenal. However, her best work was in the mind bending 2000 sci-fi thriller “The Cell”. Directed by Tarsem, a director well known for his extreme yet beautiful imagery, J-Lo stepped into the realm of the bizarre here. Her character, Catherine, is a social worker who uses a new type of mental technology to enter the minds of mentally ill patients. When the F.B.I. undergoes a manhunt for an imprisoned girl whose kidnapper they have already captured, Catherine is tasked to maneuver the minefield that is the brain of a psychotic. So many different levels of the psyche simply as an actress here traveling around different parts of the mind. J-Lo does it with gusto.
4. Naomi Watts as ‘Ann’ (“Funny Games”):
No surprise most Americans did not see this movie. Director Michael Haneke’s remake of his own French original movie is essentially an attack and satirizes Hollywood and its viewers’ love for seeing carnage. I think it’s brilliant because it’s true, but fans of the “Saw” movies might not quite feel the same way. The whole breaking-the-fourth-wall stuff is not going to please ‘Torture Porn’ movie enthusiasts. Still, Naomi Watts’s performance in “Funny Games” is absolute bravery. As a mother of two on holiday, Watts and her family are tortured both physically as well as mentally by two strangers dressed as golfers. She will do anything for her family against these monsters. This is perhaps the most terrified depths of a human soul one has captured in a role.
3. Linda Hamilton as ‘Sarah Connor’ (“Terminator 2: Judgement Day”):
How did Linda Hamilton not get nominated as Sarah Conner in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”? It’s an honest question. In the first movie she was an unlikely hero. In T:2 she was an unstoppable badass. While yes, ‘Arnie’ is the “I’ll be Back!” icon, Hamilton was a rare action movie heroine. The scene alone when she fakes being asleep and chokes out the guard at the psych ward is deserving of award consideration. Let us also not forget the “GET OUT OF THE WAY JOHN!” climactic scene. Sarah Connor was badass personified.
2. Gena Rowlands as ‘Mrytle Gordon’ (“Opening Night”):
Gena Rowlands and legendary indie-film director John Cassavetes had a well documented tumultuous life together in show-biz. While each had their issues, Rowlands would often play a version of her severe alcoholic husband. Rowlands was also neurotic with a short fuse in real life herself. For me, the best on screen example of this bumpy yet loving relationship has got to be “Opening Night”. What makes this movie so good to the point in which Broadway shows have adopted it through the years you might ask? Gena Rowlands. Booze aside, Rowlands plays a popular actress that is so far gone it does not matter what type of drug is in front of her. Yet, when it is time to open the curtain Rowlands turns on like a light bulb. A phenomenal look at a human being fighting their own mind to simply wake up in the morning.
1. Sally Hawkins as ‘Poppy’ (“Happy-Go-Lucky”):
One of the kindest films ever made goes number one here. Sally Hawkins in “Happy-Go-Lucky” is so phenomenal that it goes in the category of nobody else could have played this role. Film festival veteran Mike Leigh made a movie that is literally the film’s title. Hawkins is the one that takes things home. Looking through a microscope at a primary-school teacher named Poppy, “Happy-Go-Lucky” explores all of the aspects of this 30-ish woman trying to figure things out. From teaching to dating to basic life stuff, Poppy will continue forward no matter the a-holes she encounters. This is one of those performances only a certain personality can achieve. Thank goodness they chose Sally Hawkins.
Now for the Gentleman:
10. Michael Fassbender as ‘Brandon’ (“Shame”):
This one is a bit of a downer to be fair. It’s also a masterclass of acting. “Shame” is not a movie for the faint of heart, hence the name. On the surface “Shame” is about a sex addict, and we’re talking hardcore sex addict, who on the surface looks like just another boring rich Wall Street guy in New York. Nope. Turns out he’s got a lot of stuff buried deep down that he refuses to deal with, including whatever the hell is going on between him and his druggie sister (Carey Mulligan). “Shame” is not just a movie about addiction but more a look inside the root of pain. A feeling Fassbender portrays beautifully.
9. George Clooney as ‘Everett’ (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”):
Of course George Clooney is the shit. He’s basically a modern day James Bond except he does not kill people. Tons of awards and accolades. One that slipped through the cracks was his old-timey performance in the Coen Brothers cult classic“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”. Loosely based on Homer’s “Odyssey”, this Southern tale set in 1930’s Mississippi is an absolute riot with three misfit escaped convicts bumbling their way through the South. Turns out, these idiots can sing. Clooney captures that thin line between “The Three Stooges” and seriousness that truly brings this whole fiasco together for a fantastic result.
8. Humphrey Bogart as ‘Fred C. Dobbs’ (“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”):
What else is one supposed to say about Boggie. Well, I would argue one more Oscar nomination. Humphrey Bogart is the staple when it comes to the term ‘Hollywood Royalty’. His turn as Rick in “Casablanca” is his most renowned role in movie history. I would say, while “Casablanca” is the better movie, his portrayal of the crazed-for-money Fred C. Dobbs in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is Boggie’s best singular performance. Humphrey goes through a multitude of emotions and phases as a character in a time when most films were plug in and play roles to pump out everyday. Director John Huston created a multi-faceted character that Bogart could thrive in. Fred C. Dobbs starts off as a desperate gambler and drinker stuck in Mexico. When he gets info with some old-time gold digger, the man goes off on a crazed crusade in the desert in hopes of striking gold. Multiple obstacles stand in his way, including strife with his accompanying crew as well as Mexicano gangs attacking them. In the end, was the gold worth it? This is a tour-de-force performance centered around never achieving the proverbial ‘Holy Grail’.
7. Barry Pepper as ‘Frank Slaughtery’ (“25th Hour”):
Barry Pepper has been overlooked for so many years when it comes to awards that it is a crime. This guy has taken on so many supporting actor roles to the point in where he is now an all-timer. His best was a brilliant performance as Frank Slaughtery in “25th Hour”. While this movie is about a drug dealer going to jail played by Edward Norton, Pepper is the dynamite at the center of an otherwise downward spiral look at life. As soon as you see this Wall Street a-hole tell an intern that his matching striped tie and shirt makes him look like “A Fucking Optical Illusion” to the ladies then it is on. A rating system about how attractive people are combined with breaking down when he is forced to beat his friends’ face off and you have got one complex d-bag.
6. Willem Dafoe as ‘Jesus’ (“The Last Temptation of Christ”):
How many people have portrayed Jesus? That is not rhetorical, it is an honest question from me. How many people have played JC? Doesn’t matter because the best ever was William Dafoe. How he wasn’t nominated for this take on the holy figure is criminal. I know the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” was controversial because director Martin Scorsese shows an alternative ending to the life of Jesus (even though he still sacrifices himself for us in the end). But you cannot deny how Dafoe went all in as the most famous crucified man in history. He brings a level of humanism, one aspect of Christ, and at the same time feels holy in a realistic way. The speeches he makes to his followers, whether you believe or not, are the type of stuff real leaders make.
5. Billy Bob Thornton as ‘Willie’ (“Bad Santa”):
If Santa actually existed, please let it be Billy Bob Thornton in the holiday classic“Bad Santa”. Yes, the character Willie is a die hard alcoholic with a less than positive outlook on life and a skilled thief. Only Billy Bob could make this character lovable. He is the ultimate screw up that does not appear to give a shit, but also has a heart underneath the harsh exterior. I challenge anyone not to be rooting for this angry basterd in the end. This is a role, particularly in comedy, that nobody else could pull off. In the words of co-star Lauren Graham as she is having sex with Willie in a car; “F*** ME SANTA! F*** ME SANTA! F*** ME SANTA!”. While vulgar, Billy Bob Thornton makes this as well as several non-PC situations feel as though they have a sense of family togetherness.
4. John Cusack as ‘Lloyd Dobler’ (“Say Anything…”):
I will concede 99.9% of teenage rom-coms do not warrant genuine acting. It is mostly phoning in 101 (showcase exhibit A with the image above). The one true standout is the star of the best rom-com movie ever made, John Cusack in “Say Anything…”. Lloyd Dobler is your standard boy in love with a girl. What makes Cusack’s portrayal is that it is so genuine that every man can relate to the feeling of being jelly in a woman’s hands in the past. The key to this performance is in the little things a viewer would not notice upon the initial viewing. His first phone call with his crush Diane in which he fixes his hair in the mirror even though he is on the phone. His un-flinching awkward first dinner with his girlfriend’s father declaring his desire to be a kickboxing athlete with the family’s other rich friends. This guy seems on paper like a total loser. Cusack makes him so heartwarming and relatable to everyone who has been in love.
3. Jack Nicholson as ‘Jack Torrance’ (“The Shining”):
I’m pretty sure Jack Nicholson is doing just fine with all of his nominations and Oscar wins. There is however one that egregiously was overlooked. Stanley Kubrick was a genius but also hated by the PC side of the Hollywood community because he was an a-hole. Don’t care, call the game clean. “The Shining” is arguably the greatest horror movie of all time. At the center is Jack Nicholson playing a man losing his mind both metaphysically as well as physically. The movie is about a descent into madness. Nicholson literally throws caution to the wind and descends into madness himself. A truly terrifying performance that ends with the character so angry he freezes to death.
2. Bill Murray as ‘Phil’ (“Groundhog Day”):
There are few movies that could not possibly exist and succeed without a particular actor/actress. The classic comedy “Groundhog Day” is the blueprint. Yes of course the argument can be made that it is a perfect script for the perfect actor. So what? Bill Murray delivers one of the most exceptional comedic performances in history, and he pours his heart into this movie that was never intended to be a classic. This bitter weatherman, Phil, forced to cover the same nonsense groundhog tradition year after year is driving the man towards insanity. Turns out, life becomes insane as he must relive the same day over and over. Murray’s character goes through an array of emotions along the process towards realizing what truly matters in life, kindness.
1. Jim Carrey as ‘Truman Burbank’ (“The Truman Show”):
This snub is so classic that even Jim Carrey himself joked about it while presenting an award at the 1999 Oscars. Everybody in the audience was hilariously as confused as you were. And on top of that, Roberto Benigi won the award? What!? I mean “Life is Beautiful” is a very good film about the holocaust. But I’m sorry, Carrey’s portrayal as Truman was transcendent in a movie that called the coming Reality TV outbreak years before it took over. Known for being the goofy comedian who excels at physical jokes, Carrey showed that he has got way more stuff hidden in his theatrical back pocket. This character is forced to go through so many emotions that it would take a paragraph to list them all before we even get to the small nuances. You can be in love with the boisterous speeches, I love ’em too. This is the sneakiest of the sneaky good when it comes to film acting.