Monday, July 27, 2015

Sins of Omission: Actors Snubbed by the Academy

We all know that the Academy Awards are more political than a presidential race, but we keep watching every year, and that's why when we fill out ballots (that is if we're really into it) we have a separate ballot for whom we secretly hope will win that we know will not because they're not in good standing with the committee, because the competition is too fierce, or they dropped too many F-bombs. Whatever the case may be, perhaps George C. Scott got it right when he straight up refused to show up to pick up his golden idol for his bravura performance in Patton and when it was mailed to him he mailed it back. 'It ain't nothing but a meat parade' he said. And it's sad but true that for the most part, actors especially are not given awards based on the actual merit of their performance, but for circumstance. Here's a list of some of the most grievous sins of omission in Oscar history. There are way too many for me to cover the entire spectrum so let's just focus on the acting categories...for now. By the way, this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are countless others, these are just the first ones that come to mind. In no particular order...

Anna Magnani got her start as an icon of Italian Neo-Realism, and made her transition into American films with the help of her #1 fan; Tennessee Williams who adapted his play The Rose Tattoo to film specifically for her. And to impress Tennessee Williams is no small accomplishment. But going back to Italian neo-realism, one has to really be something beyond method and dig into the depths of their soul so roughly that there’s nothing to do but suffer and cry through your performance so that your audience can fully understand your struggle. 

Gena Rowlands could be the greatest actress of all time second only to Meryl Streep. I would go as far as to say she’s perhaps even better, and with her director being her genius husband John Cassavetes, he worked her like a horse in a mine so that she could turn out the most heartbreaking and nuanced performances that touch on the female condition without beating you over the head with her plight. She embodied every part she played, and some were so down right complicated and layered that a ‘regular’ actress would be doomed to mess up. She is so intelligent as an actress that she knows exactly how to peel open all of those complex layers and get to the heart of her character. 

Leonardo DiCaprio was first nominated at 19 for his role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, since then he’s turned in some amazing performances, and some not so much performances; (We all remember The Beach) Oh you don’t? It’s because no one saw it, but as good as Matthew McConaughey’s performance was in Dallas Buyer’s Club, I think we can all agree that DiCaprio’s ballsy, spared no expense take on Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street should have given him unquestionable rights to that golden statue. 

Joaquin Phoenix seems to be the one that’s always robbed because of politics. The Academy just doesn’t like him no matter how brilliant he can be on screen, and I’m not just talking about his Johnny Cash. Working with Gus Van Sant throughout his youth definitely gave him the right training, and even in his teens, his performances were intelligent, thought provoking, and full of swagger. This culminated with his masterful performance in (excuse the pun) The Master, but he was upstaged by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the same film. Even though no one won for that film that year. Another oversight. 

Judy Garland won some kind of fake Oscar for ‘Most Promising Juvenile Performer’ or something like that which has since been omitted (thank god), but seriously? Judy? No Oscar? I object! Not only is she a screen legend, and an icon not only of cinema but of culture itself, it seems almost criminal that this unbelievably talented shooting star never got her golden statue. 

Naomi Watts is an actress that has time, but in my opinion has already proved herself worthy of a golden statue. She was introduced to us with one hell of a bang in Mulholland Drive, and has been going strong ever since. The problem with her is that her performances, no matter how en pointe, are just not Oscar fodder. Her two nominations for The Impossible and 21 Grams are great examples of what this woman is capable of. She’s very much on her way, and she’s on the Meryl Streep track. I expect great things of her in the future, and hopefully the Academy will eventually recognize that too. 

Jake Gyllenhaal is very young and also has plenty of time, but to only have one nomination for Brokeback Mountain, and getting completely overlooked for his incomparable performance in Nightcrawler is just plain wrong. I’m sure he’ll garner a few in his career to come, but it still seems like a huge oversight. As brilliant as Heath Ledger was in the former mentioned film, I would argue that Gyllenhaal’s bare soul performance was perhaps even better. He shines in everything he undertakes. Hopefully this will get noticed very soon. 

Cary Grant was another that has that ‘thank you for your body of work’ Oscars, which is basically let’s give them one before they kick the bucket kind of awards. You’re probably thinking this is a mistake but look it up, even the iconic Cary Grant who was Hitchcock’s favorite collaborator has 0 under his belt. One of his wives once said she thought that he played the same role in every movie, and who cares? He played facets of Cary Grant; that deserves an Oscar in my opinion.

Montgomery Clift was perhaps the greatest actor of all time never to receive an Oscar, and he made no point in hiding how much he wanted one. He was ‘a serious actor’ if ever there was a more perfect example, and from his first film to his last, he turned out absolutely flawless performances. He was trained by the Lunts as a child on Broadway, then studied the method with Strassberg before employing his own personal acting coach, just like Marilyn Monroe had. But his self-destructive behavior sadly overshadowed his intense raw talent. All you have to do is watch his 6-minute role in Judgment at Nuremberg (his last film) to see the absolute raw talent of this man. 

Marilyn Monroe has 1 Golden Globe for Best Comedic Performance by a Woman in Some Like It Hot and that’s it. You might want to disagree with me here because she’s known for playing dumb blondes, but that’s only half of it. Marilyn, wanting desperately to be taken seriously as an actress, and already being established, did something totally unexpected and moved to New York to start over, mastering her craft under the watchful guidance of Lee Strassberg who later became her mentor. Watch her performances in Bus Stop and The Misfits; those are performances. They aren’t just Monroe on screen. 
Below...clips and trailers. 

No comments: