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5 of the Best Performances to be Snubbed an Oscar Nomination

1138856 - Django Unchained

We are currently in an odd film awards season where three of the biggest powerhouse talents of the year (any of which would have deserved a win in their category) didn’t even garner a measly nomination. We’re talking, of course, about Ben Affleck for Best Director, Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Supporting Actor, and Quentin Tarantino for Best Director. And that’s not even mentioning the absences of Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper and freak’n Christopher Nolan. Why??? How in the world does the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild nab a nomination instead? What were the voters snorting when they ignored Leonardo DiCaprio (AGAIN, no less!) for what should have been as much of a slam dunk win as Anne Hathaway’s? Especially considering this is DiCaprio’s best ‘performance’ to date?? This wasn’t that hard, Academy. This wasn’t as stellar of a year as, say, 1939 or 2004. No, this should have been pretty simple.

This year offers plenty of food for thought – just how many fantastic performances have missed having themselves cemented in the annals of cinema with an Oscar nomination? Who will future generations miss out seeing entirely just because that year’s Academy voters couldn’t tell the difference between quality and popularity? Let’s look at 5 names who missed the boat.

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michael-fassbender-shame

5. MICHAEL FASSBENDER – BEST ACTOR, SHAME

I remember literally yelling “no” when the 2011 Oscar nominations were announced and no name even remotely resembling Michael Fassbender was called out. Shame was totally shut out during the Oscars, but as frustrating as it was to have this NC-17 masterpiece withheld its due in Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress, it was in the Best Actor category where insult was added to injury. Fassbender was beyond good as the complicated protagonist who buries himself in pornography and one-night stands as to ignore how empty he feels inside. No performance in the Best Actor category that year was comparable to what Fassbender achieved. The role demanded everything a great actor dreams of – boldness, daring, with a wide array of genuine, raw and heartbreaking emotions. Genuine performances are hard to come by in Hollywood today – and we tend to notice an absence as glaring as this one. Fassbender not only should have been nominated – he should have won. Thankfully, he’s only at the start of what is doubtlessly to become a heralded career and he’s sure to have other chances as time goes on. But regardless, this omission is a stain on the reputation of the Academy voters.

THAT YEAR’S NOMINEES:

Jean Dujardin – The Artist

Demián Bichir – A Better Life

George Clooney – The Descendants

Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Brad Pitt – Moneyball (Fassbender’s slot)

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groundhogday-sadman

4. BILL MURRAY – BEST ACTOR, GROUNDHOG DAY

Probably the most under-appreciated entry on this list, Bill Murray delivers something rather remarkable as a news reporter trapped in a 24-hour loop in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania during Groundhog Day. In a role that could have easily been nothing more than an amusing little oddity, Murray turns Phil Connors into one of the best-acted comedy roles since black-and-white films, especially considering his staggering and exhausting range of emotion he conveys so effortlessly. One of the subtleties of the performance is how, if we look closely enough, we can see a full transcendent change in Murray as the loops continue and his sorrowful resignation of happiness grows. Murray’s grasp on what makes comedy and – more importantly – what makes a human being is what separates Groundhog Day from the many comedies that have tried and failed to similarly capture an intriguing premise. The vast accomplishments Murray pulls off here – from genuine emotion to comedic timing to his unique exaggerated normality – are assuredly worth a nomination. Yes, even in the fantastic year of 1993.

THAT YEAR’S NOMINEES:

Tom Hanks – Philadelphia

Daniel Day-Lewis – In the Name of the Father

Laurence Fishburne – What’s Love Got to Do with It (Murray’s slot)

Anthony Hopkins – The Remains of the Day

Liam Neeson – Schindler’s List

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Jaws_02

3. ROBERT SHAW – BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, JAWS

Very few cinematic characters have proven quite as indelible and everlasting as Captain Quint in Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, Jaws. Robert Shaw delivered the performance of his career with Quint, a hunter with the tenacity and hardcore grittiness of a modern Captain Ahab. Shaw has a variety of moments to shine, but none quite as phenomenal as his Indianapolis monologue about a shark feeding frenzy on afloat crewmen. His eyes become as dark as the sharks he hates. As great as every single moment of that film was, it’s the moments where Quint shows up that audiences remember.

THAT YEAR’S NOMINEES:

George Burns – The Sunshine Boys

Brad Dourif – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Burgess Meredith – The Day of the Locust

Chris Sarandon – Dog Day Afternoon (Shaw’s slot)

Jack Warden – Shampoo

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2. CHRISTIAN BALE – BEST ACTOR, AMERICAN PSYCHO

Christian Bale has always been an odd sort of fellow. Intense. Brooding. Perhaps a bit too driven in the arts. Thus, the performances that fit most perfectly with his unique sense of emulating is when he’s goes dark – REAL dark. As fantastic as he was in The Machinist, The Fighter and The Dark Knight Rises, no Bale role will ever match the flawless meshing of actor and role he achieves as the Wall Street yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman in the hilariously brutal American Psycho. The character is arguably as iconic of a killer as Hannibal Lecter – and Bale offers a master class as to how to tackle a complicated role with that perfect balance between Nicolas Cage and Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s the embodiment of a unique kind of evil. When Bateman’s funny, he’s HYSTERICAL. And when he’s dark – he’s freak’n terrifying. THIS, right here, is how you craft a character. Bale has never been better – and it’s a shame that the Academy totally missed out on recognizing this masterful portrayal of evil’s outlook on boredom.

THAT YEAR’S NOMINEES:

Russell Crowe – Gladiator

Javier Bardem – Before Night Falls

Tom Hanks – Cast Away

Ed Harris – Pollock (Bale’s slot)

Geoffrey Rush – Quills

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Gary Oldman Dracula

1. GARY OLDMAN – BEST ACTOR, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA

The Academy has had this love/hate relationship (mostly hate) with Oldman ever since the actor showed up in Sid and Nancy and continuously out-acted the shit out of the rest of his generation. He’s been doing this for decades, and quite a few of his stellar performances should have taken the Academy by storm. Immortal Beloved, a biopic on Beethoven. The Contender, a controversial political drama. Sid and Nancy, the story of Sid Vicious. Hell, even The Professional should have gotten some Best Supporting Actor attention for his mesmerizing child-killing cop. But the one film where we see the true blatant ignorance of the Academy is with Oldman’s best performance to date – as the vampire count himself in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Utterly engrossing, charming, and horrifying all at the same time, Oldman reinvented the vampire we all know and turned him into a work of pure cinematic art. Of any snub on this list, this still stings the most for me. If all was fair in Oscarland, Gary Oldman should have been an Oscar nominee as far back as the early-90s.

THAT YEAR’S NOMINEES:

Al Pacino – Scent of a Woman

Robert Downey Jr. – Chaplin

Clint Eastwood – Unforgiven

Stephen Rea – The Crying Game (Oldman’s slot)

Denzel Washington – Malcolm X

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Film reviewer, aspiring screenwriter, and slightly insufferable cinephile (by using that word, you can tell, I'm sure). I read screenplays (FOR FUN, believe it or not), watch movies, and write in my spare time. My idea of a great night is one which includes a buffet at Quaker's Steak and Lube, a matinee movie, and a ludicrously expensive tub of popcorn. I'm a fanatic of any films that have Tarantino, Nolan, Coen, Darabont, Hitchcock, or Refn above the title. I only just bought a PS3. My life before that? A Nintendo 64. So gaming is perhaps not my strength in life. I love writing with an unrivaled passion and I hope to have that love be the center of whatever career I end up doing for the rest of my life.
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  • http://www.geekenstein.com/ Craig Kandiko

    Wow, I didn’t expect Bill Murray, but I can agree, He was fantastic in Groundhog Day.

    • Joe Marino

      I typically don’t go for comedic performances (plus, drama is easier to recognize in regards to quality), but Murray’s in that film is one of the best. He’s funny and witty like we’d expect, but he’s also heartbreaking and full of genuine emotion. Just a full, admirable, fantastic performance.

  • Susan

    Gary Oldman’s Dracula wasnt even in the same year with those guys. Those are 1993 performances nommed in 1994, Dracula was released in 1992. In that year I would replace Clint Eastwood’s nom with Gary Oldman.

    • http://www.geekenstein.com/ Craig Kandiko

      You are correct! http://www.boxofficemojo.com/oscar/chart/?view=allcategories&yr=1992&p=.htm

      In that year, Bram Stoker’s Dracula won for Best Makeup. Good Catch. We will publicly flog Joe as soon as possible!

      • Joe Marino

        CRAP! Don’t know how that happened! Thanks, Susan! Fixing it now.

      • Joe Marino

        Let’s cue the “you had ONE job” jokes… lol

    • Joe Marino

      I actually didn’t much care for Rea’s performance in THE CRYING GAME. Of the five, he’d be the one I’d drop.

  • Pingback: 5 Great Performances Snubbed An Oscar Nomination | MOVIEVU – The Den of a Self-Proclaimed Over-Opinionated Underpaid Film Critic

  • http://www.facebook.com/sam.boney1 Sam Boney

    sorry but imho leo isnt good in anything… he’s all looks… hes a very bad actor… I will never pay to see a movie with him in it & change the channel every time he comes on

    • http://www.facebook.com/laurie.handforth Laurie Handforth

      if you don’t watch his movies how do you know he isn’t any good?

    • Joe Marino

      If that’s your opinion of him, I’d HIGHLY recommend seeing “Django Unchained.” Should effectively change your perspective.

  • irwan

    Yup! Oldman’s Dracula’s a classic performance that shoulda gotten ALL the awards that year..also his turn as an irish hell’s kitchen gangster in State of Grace.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laurie.handforth Laurie Handforth

    what about the year that Joan Allan wasn’t nomimated for The Up Side of Anger, or the year Leo wasn’t nominated for The Departed (that is the one he should have won) – I mean Mark Wahlberg – Seriously!!!

    • Joe Marino

      Both good performances! Allan would have been on this list had it been longer, as would Jean Reno for “The Professional.”

  • zsivaz

    Bill Murray was brilliant in Groundhog Day- but you have stated he should of replaced Laurence Fishburne in “Whats love gotta do with it”- I DISAGREE COMPLETELY. Fishburne’s portrayal of Ike Turner was incredible and should of actually landed him the oscar that year. You clearly havnt seen the movie- if you have you would not of said that.

    • Joe Marino

      I did think Fishburne was incredible – but of the nominated performances that year, I think Murray was better.

  • Me

    Michael Parks in Red State. Probably more deserving than any one else on this list.

  • -

    I’m glad DiCaprio in Django Unchained wasn’t actually on the list, I must be in the minority in thinking that it wasn’t deserving of a nomination (the only nominee I thought he was better than was Arkin, and I would have filled that slot with Javier Bardem). For me he peaked with The Departed, but he had the option of submitting that performance and he submitted Blood Diamond instead. It’s funny because he would have had a better chance of winning that Oscar everyone but me seems so convinced he should have won already.
    Anyway, aside from these, I’d mention Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows you’re Dead, and Steve Buscemi in Fargo.

  • GWill

    I thought Eddie Murphy’s performance(s) in The Nutty Professor should have been recognized by the Academy for a Best Actor nomination. He effortlessly pulls off multiple exhausting roles, but his portrayal of Sherman Klump is all at once funny, poignant, and heartbreaking, turning a role that would have been a broad, one-note caricature in the hands of a lesser actor into a true film milestone. Especially affecting are Sherman’s scenes with his mother, and remember that Murphy is playing BOTH roles and manages to find the right emotions without the other character being on set.