One of the most common delusions of fans is "one day [my favorite actor] will be nominated for an Oscar!" The reality is that statistics are against it. Even actors with massive careers (Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock, Richard Gere, Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey) might go without...even when they manage to get close by either
_____a) snagging Oscar bait roles or
_____b) finding regular precursor attention @ the Golden Globes.
This year we might see long time shutouts like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tilda Swinton in the mix, but you never know. For today's top ten I'm focusing on names that are even bigger headscratchers. These ten stars --well, I can never quite wrap my head around their absence from Oscar's history book. I've excluded foreign language actors since it's always believable that they'll be snubbed -- sorry Isabelle Huppert. Everyone knows you rule but Oscar is a slow reader and you have cooties (i.e. subtitles)
Movie Stars That Oscar Refuses To Love
10 Christian Bale. He's done everything: wowing as a child star, headlining hits, Oscarbait gimmicks like weight loss and accents. Part of the golden resistance is the kind of movies he's made: too challenging (American Psycho) or small (The Machinist). Given the way his critical and audience cred grows each year, Oscar is starting to look dense.
09 Jeff Daniels. It might be a stretch to call him a "star" but he is nearly as reliable as that other Jeff (Bridges) who also makes superb acting look easy. The other Jeff has four nominations to his name despite the perceived effortlessness. Daniels is always good but he was plain ol' magnificent in The Squid and the Whale (FB Award) and The Purple Rose of Cairo (review) two very difficult and different roles. Yet, Oscar won't acknowledge him. Do they have something against Michiganders.
08 Myrna Loy She's best remembered for her classic stylish "Nora Charles" role in the Thin Man series but in the early days of Oscar they weren't so afraid of comediennes (Carole Lombard, Irene Dunne and others were nominated) so what gives? Even when she worked the ensemble dramas late in her career (Lonelyhearts, Airport 75, From the Terrace) it was always a co-star who was noticed instead. She was denied one of those 'you're really old and we forgot all about you!' sympathy nods that Oscar watchers are so familiar with. They apologized with an honorary Oscar two years before her death.
07 Kim Novak This star shone brightly in the 50s but AMPAS wore blinders. Her biggest Oscar success was undoubtedly Picnic (1955) but she was not among its many nominees. She is one of a long line of actresses who suffered from the 'too beautiful to be taken seriously' fate. Novak didn't do any de-glamming to win kudos, she tested studio patience with an affair with Sammy Davis Jr and --most importantly for the discussion here -- she had the misfortune of giving her greatest performance in Vertigo (58) a movie which was way ahead of its time. It's maddening that her double your pleasure star turn, an entirely bewitching act, was passed over. The snub is even more painful knowing that Deborah Kerr's worst performance (Separate Tables) was in the mix.
06 Dennis Quaid. That disarming grin never fails to charm. The only known defense against it is a membership within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That'll make you impervious. Quaid has tried against-type critical hoopla (Far From Heaven -FB award), biopic mugging (Great Balls of Fire), comebacks (The Rookie) and working the ensemble in a Best Picture nominee (Traffic, The Right Stuff, Breaking Away) --all tactics which have put the red carpet under the feet of many lessser actors.
05 Marilyn Monroe Kim Novak's problem again: if you're viewed as a trophy you're too pretty to earn one. It took a long time for Monroe's reputation to rise from movie star to fine actor. But decades later her work in Bus Stop, The Misfits and a number of musical comedies more than holds up. Her face has been over merchandized but there's still fresh discovery to be had in watching her actual work. Monroe as an icon is overvalued but Monroe the actor? Still underappreciated if you ask me.
04 Christopher Plummer Plummer has been a revered workaholic actor since the 1950s. He was invited to join AMPAS recently and one imagines that's an apology of sorts. He's been featured in Best Picture winners (Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind) but even in a year when he won multiple precursor awards within a Best Picture nominee (The Insider) they politely looked away.
03 Steve Martin. This enduring star is currently testing critical patience with insipid family comedies, but that doesn't negate his overall career genius. It's easy to write this one off as "Oscar doesn't like comedy" but that doesn't entirely quell the dissatisfaction. His work in the romantic comedy Roxanne or his dramatic but funny spin in Grand Canyon is on par with your typical Robin Williams acting. And speaking of... that less original funny man has multiple Oscar nods and an actual trophy to show for his work. Injustice! Has he ever been as inspired as Steve Martin was in All of Me?
02 Donald Sutherland. Some stars become legendary through the force of their own charisma (think Julia Roberts) even if the bulk of their actual filmography is not much to envy. Other actors achieve immortality by being in so many great films that their work will be seen forever. Pairing Sutherland's Oscar loved films with the knowledge that he's always passed over is a jaw dropping exercize: MASH, Klute, Don't Look Now, Fellini's Casanova, Ordinary People, JFK, Six Degrees of Separation, Pride & Prejudice ...(whew)
01 Mia Farrow On rare occassions I feel guilty for writing about the movies as in... 'stop reading right now and watch THIS!' I know there are people reading who haven't seen Farrow's haunting work in Rosemary's Baby, her unrecognizable and funny scenery-chewing in Broadway Danny Rose (1984), her perfectly judged star-gazing in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) or her quicksilver moodshifts in Alice (1990) ...and that's just four (four!) great performances off the top of my head. Mia Farrow has led an oft controversial, confrontational and tabloid-friendly personal life ever since her early days of stardom on Frank Sinatra's arm. But here's the thing: Oscar voters should be setting aside prickly personal lives when judging the merits of performance.
Mia's glory days are gone but she was brilliant more than once and has the classic films to show for it. But no honors from the Academy. Making this sting even more: Woody Allen films, which make up about a third of Farrow's filmography, have won many acting nominations and trophies, but Mia was never along for that ride. AMPAS has absurdly mistreated her. She's more than earned an honorary Oscar, don't you think?
Who would you add or subtract from this list? Which omission makes you the most bonkers? [for related posts, chase the labels @ the bottom of zee post]