Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Weekly Top Ten Part II: The Ten Best Actors Never to Be Nominated for an Oscar

10. Mia Farrow
Mia Farrow delivered any number of great performances for her former husband Woody Allen before they split up. She could have been nominated for Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987), Another Woman (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Alice (1990) or Husbands and Wives (1992), and was overlooked each time. This doesn’t even mention her non-Woody work of which Rosemary’s Baby (1968) was undoubtedly the best. Mia Farrow is a gifted performer, who transitions easily between comedy and drama, and yet she has never been nominated for an Oscar? I find that odd.

9. John Cusack
If I could be anyone, I think it might be John Cusack. He’s always funny and charming in his movies, despite the fact that he’s made some bad ones in his time. But when he gets the right role, no one is better than he is. Say Anything (1989), where he was brilliant as a teenager head over heels in love. The Grifters (1990) as a conman out of his depth. He was one of the best Woody Allen surrogates in Bullets Over Broadway (1994) Grosse Point Blank (1997) as a hitman going to his high school reunion. The strange puppeteer in Being John Malkovich (1999). The criminal in the vastly underrated The Ice Harvest (2005). The man struggling with his wife’s death in Grace is Gone (2007). Or even the wonderful horror film 1408 (2007). For me, Cusack’s best work remains High Fidelity (2000), as a record store owner going through the five most painful break-ups of his life. He was hilarious and real in that film. How has he not been nominated yet?

8. Kevin Bacon
The six degrees of Kevin Bacon game has turned him into a little bit of a punch line, but looking back over his work, you see a remarkable actor who has delivered any number of great performances. The gay hustler in JFK (1991), the prison inmate in Murder in the First (1995), the astronaut in Apollo 13 (1995), the abusive guard in Sleepers (1996), the corrupt cop in Wild Things (1998), the crazy man seeing things in Stir of Echoes (1999), the cop investigating his two friends in Mystic River (2003), the just released pedophile struggling with his urges in The Woodsman (2004), as half of comedy duo with a dark side in Where the Truth Lies (2005). The vengeful father in Death Sentence (2007). The loyal Nixon aid in Frost/Nixon (2008). Bacon has worked with some of cinema’s best directors, and has delivered some great performances. He should have been nominated by now, right?

7. Steve Buscemi
Steve Buscemi is a God to many indie film lovers, but a look at his entire career shows an actor of remarkable range who has delivered one great performance after another. As the “performance artist” in Scorsese’s New York Stories segment. The fast talking Mr. Pink in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The guy who won’t shut up in the Coen Brothers Fargo (1996). The alcoholic in his own Trees Lounge (1996). The insane serial killer in Con Air (1997). Donnie, the mildly challenged bowler in Coen’s The Big Lebowski (1998). The news reporter in Interview (2007). Buscemi came close one time to a nomination – for his amazing work in Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World, as a pathetic, lonely older man who falls for the teenage heroine (Thora Birch), and is heartbroken when she leaves him. One of the best character actors around, Buscemi should have been nominated for at least one supporting Oscar by now.

6. John Turturro
How has John Turturro been so good in so many films over the years, and never received an Oscar nomination. In films like Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), Jungle Fever (1991) and Clockers (1995), the Coen’s Miller’s Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998) and O Brother, Where Art Thou?(2000), Robert Redford’s Quiz Show (1994) and Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd (2006) he has delivered amazing performances, and yet the Academy has shown little to no interest. Like Buscemi, Turturro is one of the best character actors around. Also like Buscemi, he is all by ignored by the Academy.

5. Joseph Cotten
Perhaps it was his close relationship with Orson Welles – who was never Hollywood’s most popular guy – but somehow Joseph Cotton went through his entire brilliant career and never got nominated for an Oscar. Three of his best roles came early in his career. One as Jed Leland, Kane’s best friend and then enemy in Citizen Kane (1941) for Welles, followed by his performance as Eugene Martin in Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). In 1943, he was great as Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, where he wasn’t quite the good guy he pretended to be. His other great role was in Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), where he plays Holly Martins, who goes on a search to find his old friend Harry Lime (Welles again). Each of those performances should have surely got him a nomination. He has other great work among them- Gaslight (1944), Duel in the Sun (1946), The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), Portrait of Jeannie (1948), Niagara (1953), Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964). But it’s those four performances that cement his legacy – and should have earned him four Oscar nominations.

4. Donald Sutherland
One of the best, most offbeat leading men of the 1970s who has turned himself into a great character actor in recent years, and still Donald Sutherland has never received an Oscar nomination. Starting with The Dirty Dozen (1967), and continuing through MASH (1970), Klute (1971), Johnny Got His Gun (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973), The Day of the Locust (1975), 1900 (1977), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and Ordinary People (1980), Sutherland was consistently great in all of them, and never got a nomination. His supporting work in Backdraft (1991), JFK (1991), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), Outbreak (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), The Assignment (1997), Without Limits (1998), Space Cowboys (2000), Pride and Prejudice (2005), American Gun (2005) and Ask the Dust (2006) have all also been wonderful. This is one of those cases where it takes almost a willful effort on the part of the Academy NOT to nominate someone.

3. Gary Oldman
Surely there must be some sort of mistake if Gary Oldman has never been nominated for an Oscar. I mean come on! The man is brilliant! He should have easily WON the Oscar in 1986 for his performance in Sid and Nancy. Other great performances include Prick Up Your Ears (1987), JFK (1991), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), True Romance (1993), The Professional (1994), The Contender (2000), Hannibal (2001), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003), Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). How is it that Gary Oldman has never been nominated for an Oscar. It just doesn’t make sense!

2. Edward G. Robinson
Edward G. Robinson is one of the most iconic actors in film history, and yet no matter what he did, he could never receive an Oscar nomination. I could go on about any number of performances, but instead I’ll highlight six. In Little Caesar (1931), he played one of the prototypical gangsters. In the Woman in the Window (1944), he is one of the best “dupes” in film noir history. In Double Indemnity (1944), he was a detective unraveling a tangled web. In Scarlett Street (1995), he is a man torn apart by guilt over a murder he commits. In Key Largo (1948), he is another ruthless gangster, holding people hostage. In House of Strangers (1950), he is the hard driving father who cares more about money then his sons well being. In each of these films, Robinson delivers a believable, Oscar caliber performance, and in each one – and countless others – he was ignored. I cannot figure out how they never gave him at least a nomination. It’s even sadder that he died just a short while before he was to receive an Honorary Oscar.

1. Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jennifer Jason Leigh is great in practically every performance she has every given. As far back as Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), where she played a student struggling with a decision of whether or not to get an abortion, she has been wonderful. In Last Exit to Brooklyn (1990), she plays a prostitute, who is eventually gang raped, and has no one seem to care. In Short Cuts (1993), she played a phone sex worker with a lot more of a chaotic life then her clients would want to know. In Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), she was the center of a vast web of intellectuals. In The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), she did a killer Katherine Hepburn imitation. In Dolores Clairborne (1995), she was the daughter trying to figure out what happened. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about performances in The Big Picture (1989), Miami Blues (1990), Rush (1991), Georgia (1995), Kansas City (1996), eXistenZ (1999), The Anniversary Party (2001), Road to Perdition (2002), Palindromes (2004), Margot at the Wedding (2007) and Syndecdcohe, New York (2008). Here is an actress who is absolutely fearless, and will do just about anything on screen. She is one of my personal favorites of all time – I light up when she comes on screen – and yet she always seems to be on the outside looking in. For shame.

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