Acting Snubs in the Leading Categories (2000-2012)


We all know they happen, those performances that are somehow ignored by the Academy voters, often in favor of lesser work. In fact it has been happening since almost the very beginning, but in these days if intense campaigning, we are much more aware of who gets snubbed and who gets the nod. What shocks me about the acting branch is that actors do the nominating and one would assume that actors would appreciate a great performance, right? Well, maybe. For whatever reason some of the finest performances of the last twelve years have been ignored by the Academy, left out to be appreciated and celebrated in articles such as this. History will bear out the fact their work was outstanding, but they will not carry the tag Academy Award nominee. I think the snubs that shock me most are those that have taken home critics awards because one would believe they are at least on the radar of the Academy, but no, they obviously are not.
So here we go, the snubs in the categories of Best Actor and Best Actress, year by year. Watch for a follow up on the supporting categories within the week.

Michael Douglas gave the finest performance of his career in Wonder Boys as a pot smoking, beloved professor struggling to write his next book after a huge success the first time out. Douglas won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Actor, but come Oscar time was not among the final five, and considering the award was won by a lesser performance from Russell Crowe in Gladiator, it seems Douglas was indeed robbed.
Over in the Best Actress category a career might have been very different had a nomination been awarded to The X Files’ Gillian Anderson for her haunting and heartbreaking performance as the tragic Lilly in The House of Mirth. Displaying a range normally associated with Annette Bening, Anderson was simply magnificent in the role and finished runner up in the balloting for the New York Film Critics Circle Award as Best Actress. How different her career might have been with a nomination. Anderson was simply brilliant in the film, and deserved that nomination.

How did the National Society of Film Critics and the Hollywood Foreign Press award Gene Hackman their Best Actor prize for The Royal Tenenbaums, but the Academy missed him for a nomination? How does that happen that an acclaimed Academy Award winner is missed entirely in a year that he gave the year’s best performance?
Right behind Hackman was another icon, the great Jack Nicholson in The Pledge for director Sean Penn. As a retired cop who makes a promise that will lead him into madness, Nicholson gave one of his best performances.
Audrey Tautou’s lovely performance in Amelie was the sparkplug of that delightfully daffy movie and I was mystified she was overlooked because her gamine performance was perfection.

Was it that he had won twice and been nominated for others that impacted Tom Hanks chances in Road to Perdition (2002), one of his very best performances, and certainly the darkest role of his career? Hanks and the film were brilliant, but the Academy did not seem to notice, which must have stung.
Despite some of the best reviews of his career Robin Williams did not make the cut for his psychotic camera clerk in One Hour Photo. As Sy, a disturbed man who fixates on what he considers the perfect family and stalks them, Williams was chilling.
For her work in the bizarre independent film Secretary actress Maggie Gyllenhaal earned great reviews and should have had herself an Oscar nod.

Let’s start with the ladies because there are three who should have made the final five, with all due respect to those who did. If Bill Murray was deserving for Lost in Translation (2003) so was his co-star Scarlett Johansson who gave a lovely, luminous performance. We understand what Murray’s character sees in her; we understand why he wants to be with her, and why she comes to mean so much to him.
Evan Rachel Wood dominated Thirteen with a fierce and raging performance as a troubled teen in turmoil, acting out in the worst possible way to attract the attentions of the so called “in” crowd. Watching her descent into criminal activity is heartbreaking because we see what she was at the film’s beginning and mourn the loss of that girl.
And finally Jennifer Connelly, who stood by and watched her co-stars nominated in House of Sand and Fog while she was ignored. She is outstanding as a desperate alcoholic who loses her house in a series of paper work errors and confusion, and her own ignorance. It is a bold and brave performance from this exceptionally gifted actress.
For the men, Tom Cruise gave one of his best performances in The Last Samurai, a sprawling adventure film that sees Cruise, a western hero who saw the hell of Little Big Horn sailing to Japan where he encounters the samurai warriors and finds he is at home and at peace with them. It’s a great performance from Cruise who hurls himself into the role with blind abandon and creates one of his most intriguing characters.

Paul Giamatti? Where was Paul Giamatti when the nominations for Best Actor were announced, and just how the hell did the Academy voters miss him and nominated two of his co-stars from Sideways? The heart and soul of the finest American comedy since Tootsie (1982) won a slew of critics’ awards but oddly was not among the final five for the Oscar, which frankly, he should have won, with all apologies to Jamie Foxx in Ray.
Liam Neeson took home the Los Angeles film Critics Award for Best Actor and some of the best reviews of his career as ground breaking sex therapist Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey, only to see his co-star Laura Linney nominated (rightly so). Neeson should have been there.
Kevin Bacon gave a brave, troubling performance as a recently released pedophile trying to get back into society in The Woodsman, knowing he is hated and despised by everyone he encounters, including his own family. Bacon pulls no punches in the performance which might have scared Oscar voters away, being far too real for them. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Though she won for Erin Brockovich (2000) and announced while accepting the award she might never get another chance at the Oscar, Julia Roberts gave an exceptional performance in Closer, as a woman trying to decide who she should be with, hurting both of them in the process.
And in the bravest an actress gave in 2004, Nicole Kidman was breathtaking in Birth as a woman who encounters what might be the reincarnation of her dead husband in a ten year old boy, who knows everything about her. Kidman was remarkable in the film, showing exceptional range and real soul.

He gave humanity to Adolf Hitler, something I never thought any actor would do, yet Bruno Ganz did so in the German film Downfall (2005). For that alone, Ganz should have been among the nominees for Best Actor.
With him Viggo Mortensen deserved a nod for his powerful performance as the ex-mobster turned small town businessman and family man in A History of Violence.
The only trouble with The Upside of Anger and Joan Allen’s mesmerizing performance was that the film was released so early in 2005 and come voting time had been forgotten. Allen was superb; funny, wounded, hurt and troubled, a mother protecting her children and struggling with the loss of her husband, who is closer than she realizes.

Maggie Gyllenhaal again, this time for Sherrybaby, a film and performance Meryl Streep appreciated and acknowledge at the Golden Globes. As the recently released convict, struggling with the abuse she has endured at the hands of her father, Gyllenhaal was tragic and yet strong, willing to do anything to protect her child.
Though not as widely acclaimed as it might have been to land in the Oscar race, Kirsten Dunst was terrific in Marie Antoinette, while Beyonce Knowles was equally fine in Dreamgirls, both nomination worthy.
Though Leonardo di Caprio was nominated for Best Actor, I have never felt it was for the right film. Up for his mercenary in Blood Diamond, a fine performance it did not come close to his stunning work in The Departed as the paranoid, terrified on the edge undercover cop far too close to mobster Jack Nicholson.
Clive Owen did Oscar worthy work in Children of Men, but I felt the film was released too late in the year and far too under the radar to see a good campaign mounted for the actor and others in the film.

One of the very best movie years EVER, 2007 is a challenge to criticize the nominees because the Academy did a great job in nominating the right actors, but in fairness to the performances NOT nominated, there were a few that should have been there.
Emile Hirsch was nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for Best Actor for his astounding performance in Into the Wild and incredibly was not nominated for Best Actor. How? How did that happen??
Snubbed as well was Brad Pitt as Jesse James in the sublime The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, in which Pitt created the finest incarnation of the outlaw ever put on film. The performance might be the best of his career.
Though Canadian, and not really campaigned strongly, Gordon Pinsent drew the attention of no less than Daniel Day-Lewis who celebrated his performance the night he picked up his own Best Actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle in Sarah Polley’s Away from Her. Where would Julie Christie be without Pinsent in this powerful, haunting love story?
And Amy Adams in Enchanted was just perfect, coming to vivid life as a cartoon character made flesh. Watch how she moves, how she speaks and the perfect animation in her face throughout this wonderful film and performance.

Both Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet deserved nominations for leading actor and actress for their perfect performances in Revolutionary Road. Winslet would win Best Actress for her lesser work in The Reader, but should have won for this…period. One of the rare times the Golden Globes got it right over Oscar.
Michelle Williams, fast becoming one of the finest actresses in movies might have earned a nod for Wendy and Lucy, an odd little love story about a girl and her dog.
And yes, Clint. Should he have been nominated for Gran Torino? I leave it to you. Maybe, maybe not, but if for sentimental reasons then a resounding no.

Where was Viggo Mortensen for The Road, which was easily the best performance I saw in 2009? Screening the film at TIFF for the first time, Mortensen staggered me with his quietly forceful work in the film reminding us of what a resourceful, superb actor he is.
Ben Foster might have been up for Best Actor in The Messenger as an injured marine who earns the job of telling loved ones about their loss. Unusually heartbreaking the film packs an enormous wallop, and Foster is simply stunning.
The great Tilda Swinton was superb in Julia as a hellcat who ends up with a kid she does not wish to be with in tow, running from trouble. Again radically different for Swinton she proves again her depth and range.

A tough year because the Academy got a lot of things right. Certainly Robert Duvall should have made the cut for Get Low, and George Clooney was terrific as the hitman on the run in The American. Oddly I quite liked Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris which earned good reviews, but was under seen despite offering Carrey what I believe to be his most challenging role which he met with his finest work.
Paul Giamatti won the Golden Globe (Comedy/ Musical) for his biting performance in Barney’s Version, a Canadian film which offered the actor a role that spanned forty years ending with him in the throes of Alzheimer’s. He was simply marvelous in the film, but again, under seen.
Anne Hathaway was very strong in Love and Other Drugs, but if an actress should have felt robbed it was Diane Lane was superb in Secretariat, elevating the film into a higher realm with the sheer force of her honest and very fine performance.

You have to wonder how the Academy missed Tilda Swinton again, this time for her paralyzing brilliant turn in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which Streep or not, should have won Swinton the Oscar for Best Actress. Quietly terrified for much of the film, incredibly of her sociopath and finally psychotic son Kevin, Swinton is a study in terror, knowing she is living with a monster.
In the Best Actor category I thought it inconceivable that Michael Fassbender was ignored for his searing work in Shame, which reminded me and so many others of Brando in Last Tango in Paris (1973) with its raw carnality. Fassbender was superb in the film. Though it might not be popular today so I quite liked Mel Gibson in The Beaver, and had he not had the troubles he has been having I am not sure how the Academy would have been able to ignore his brave work in that film. What could have been ridiculous was instead shattering. And shoot me but I liked Leonardo di Caprio in J. Edgar, and wonder where his nomination was.

Speaking of snubs, check out the Winners of the Awards Circuit Community Awards – Best of the Decade (2000-2009), which was voted on earlier this year.  Here at the Awards Circuit, you have a voice too.

Best Picture
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Runner Up – The Dark Knight (2008)

Best Directing
Peter Jackson – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Runner Up – Martin Scorsese – The Departed (2006)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood (2007)

Runner Up – Heath Ledger – Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Charlize Theron – Monster (2003)

Runner Up – Kate Winslet – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (2008)

Runner Up – Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (2009)

Runner Up – Kate Hudson – Almost Famous (2000)

Best Original Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Runner Up – Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Runner Up – Charlie Kaufman & Donald Kaufman – Adaptation (2002)

Best Cast Ensemble
The Cast of: Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Runner Up – (TIE) – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and The Hours (2002)

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezski – Children of Men (2006)

Runner Up – Roger Deakins – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Best Achievement in Film Editing
Dody Dorn – Memento (2001)

Runner Up – Lee Smith – The Dark Knight (2008)

Best Original Score
Clint Mansell – Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Runner Up – Howard Shore – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Avatar (2009)

Runner Up – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Best Animated Feature
Wall-E (2008)

Runner Up – Finding Nemo (2003)

Best Foreign Language Film
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Runner Up – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

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