Oscar Question

Welcome back to Six Spot!  Click the link if you want to read back issues of Six Spot, but if you’re new, the concept is easy: Who just missed an Oscar nomination?  Who was #6?  Who has the dubious position of being the Six Spot?  In case you missed last week’s article about the 2015 Best Actress race and the heated comments about Jacob Tremblay and Idris Elba (you read that right), check out last week’s article here.

I find the 2014 Best Actor race very interesting.  It was a race that had a multiple pre-determined outcome for so long, only to end with the most predictable yet head-scratching win that category had seen in some time.

The Nominees Were:

  • Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
  • Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
  • Michael Keaton– Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Contenders for the Six Spot:

  • David Oyelowo – Selma (Golden Globe + BFCA + amazing performance + Indie Spirits)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal– Nightcrawler (Golden Globe + BFCA + BAFTA + SAG + Indie Spirits)
  • Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel (Golden Globe + BAFTA + BFCA)
  • Joaquin Phoenix – Inherit Vice (Golden Globe)
  • Bill Murray – St. Vincent (Golden Globe)
  • Christoph Waltz – Big Eyes (Golden Globe)
  • Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year (NBR)
  • Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner (NYFCC + NSFC + Cannes Best Actor)
  • Tom Hardy – Locke (LAFCA)
  • John Lithgow – Love is Strange (Indie Spirits)
  • André Benjamin – Jimi: All Is by My Side (Indie Spirits)

Okay.  Let’s rewind.  Do you remember the pre-season in 2014 re: Best Actor?  In January 2014 it was recently pushed but still presumably good Steve Carell.  Then, post-Telluride, it was Michael Keaton.  Then, post-Toronto it was Benedict Cumberbatch in a Weinstein project that won the Audience Award!  Then David Oyelowo the moment people saw his movie.  Somehow, at the end of the day, Eddie Redmayne was the victor, miraculously pinning an underdog narrative heading into Phase two despite eventually nabbing the Golden Globe – Drama, the SAG, and the BAFTA en route to the Oscar.

But who was 6th?  Despite their impressive performances and nominations throughout the season, I doubt John Lithgow, Andre Benjamin, or Tom Hardy were that close to a nomination–films too small and little seen.  Secondly, while I don’t like getting into the habit of dismissing Comedy/Musical Globe nominees out of hand, I think dismissing Joaquin Phoenix, Christoph Waltz, and Bill Murray are pretty warranted.  Finally, though he was named Best Actor as his film swept the National Board of Review, I have a hard time imagining Oscar Isaac was #6.

That leaves very early-favorite-for-the-5th-slot and a trio of actors who amassed an impressive precursor catalog to not get an Oscar nomination.


Fresh off his Cannes Best Actor win, Timothy Spall was looking good for a Best Actor nomination.  In the post-festival pre-precursor stage of the season, he fit snuggly alongside Carell, Cumberbatch, Redmayne, and Keaton in a predictable Best Actor lineup.  But once the precursors announced in earnest, he was nowhere to be found, sans a handful of prestige critics groups.  Though Mr. Turner did wrestle 3 tech nods, I doubt Spall was the Six Spot.

Then there are the three major heavy hitters: David Oyelowo, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ralph Fiennes.  All three are amazing.  Two of these guys were in Best Picture nominees.  Two had BAFTA on their side.  One had SAG.  One had SAG Ensemble.  All had Globe.  Of the two in Best Picture nominees, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly outperformed Selma in every way measurable for both the precursor stage and in actual nominations.  Nightcrawler, on the other hand, went from “oh my gosh, I can’t believe its doing this” when it racked up nearly every precursor during Phase One, all in surprisingly fashion, to “Oh, well I guess it didn’t after all” when it got a single Oscar nod for Original Screenplay.

The true stat man within me wants to say it was Jake Gyllenhaal, mostly because it’s hard to bet against someone with BFCA, Globe, SAG, and BAFTA a/k/a a perfect score sheet heading into Oscar.  Those people (Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson) usually end up looking like the Six Spot.  But that’s always felt weird to me because of Nightcrawler‘s sudden crash and burn.

But then there’s Fiennes.  Ralph Fiennes could have been part of the Great Nineties Actor Getting Oscar Nods (Norton, Keaton, Arquette, etc.) in 2014 party that was happening, but somehow was left out.  It’s a comedic performance, which I imagine played heavily against him, especially when compared with juggernaut historical figures and plastic babies.  Also, Fiennes had the least amount of screen time of the major contenders with the exception of Carell.  Finally, his comedic performance was unfortunately overshadowed at every stage by Keaton, also comedic and also winning all the comedy acting prizes on the circuit.  But…Fiennes’ film got 9 nominations….

Finally, what about David Oyelowo?  He’s remarkable as Dr. King in Selma, and the fact he didn’t get a nomination is still mind-boggling today, not just from a quality perspective, but from a historical perspective.  But Selma only got two nominations…a worthy nod in Original Song and a patchwork, plurality of multi-branch efforts in Best Picture…yet no other individual categories.  Simple put, I think it’s pretty obvious that a lack of eyes on the film, rather than monotheistic racism, is the culprit in Selma‘s lack of in-category nominations.  I just seriously wonder if enough people saw Oyelowo’s performance in time.

The Six Spot for 2014 Best Actor was:


Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel


  1. I think it was Ralph Fiennes. I would like to believe Gyllenhaal was sixth, but Grand Budapest did perform better than Nightcrawler did.

  2. Gyllenhaal, Spall, Fiennes and Oyelowo should have been the top 4! Only Cumberbatch of the nominated 5 should’ve been there

  3. I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. I don’t think having an Academy beloved film plays into this as much as you think. Ralph Fiennes, while excellent, got into BAFTA because they love the British thespians, Golden Globes because of the separated field, and BFCA because of expanded field/lack of love for Foxcatcher. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, got in at all 4 precursors with little buzz (he was 100/1 at the start of December at Oscars, Globes, SAG, and Critics Choice, prior to nominations), and managed to get in without any other love for Nightcrawler at Globes and SAG. Just because they weren’t big fans of the film in other categories, doesn’t mean they didn’t vote for Jake. He was clearly 6th place, and was unlucky to miss out due to Cooper’s late surge. Fiennes was probably 7th, Oyelowo 8th. Just my two cents, great article, by the way.

  4. Though this is another tricky three horse race, I’m going to have to say Gyllenhaal was the Six Spot. I mean, he got in EVERYWHERE. The fact that he made it in for SAG over Fiennes and Oyelowo shows who the actor’s branch was prepared to get behind. Also, its worth noting that Nightcrawler was only really up for four awards on nomination morning; Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay. It’s not totally surprising that it missed Picture given how competitive the 6-10 slots were (as well as there only being 8 slots in the end), and Russo only really had BAFTA to back up the theory that she could break into Supporting Actress (which, granted is more than what it took for Laura Dern to break in.)

    So the fact that out of it’s four possible nominations, it was really rough to get into Picture and Supporting Actress, and since it actually did manage a not insignificant mention in Original Screenplay, I would say that its only grabbing one nomination isn’t indicative of any ill will from the Academy. Therefore, I don’t think there was any internal bias against the film or Gyllenhaal’s performance. And since he got literally every precursor he needed to, I think he was probably sixth’s on voter’s lists. That said, I could buy that it was Oyelowo or Fiennes in the end. These close races always make for great articles.

  5. I love this 6th spot feature. Keep it coming.

    I suspect you may be right here, I’m no Wes Anderson fan so purposefully avoided GBP but heard Fiennes was amazing here, something of a late act reinvention for him which he followed with A Bigger Splash. The Film Experience have it as the #1 performance of the decade so far.

    Otherwise I wish Cooper was replaced by Oyelowo or Jake, his nom pissed me off so much. I suppose the other 4 are immovable but Carell was a category fraud. If Oyelowo had made it people might have stfu about #oscarssowhite, that was a truly obscene snub for a black artist, even compared to what followed this year.


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