Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences generally selects those deserving each year to be nominated for the most prestigious of all awards given out to the best on celluloid (and you know I don’t mean Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost”... yuck!), the have forgotten MANY! I know, I know, tons of you movie fanatics are now saying “they can’t pick more than ﬁve in each category”. True, but why in world would anyone give noms to ridiculous unworthy recipients (eg.- Rex Harrison in “Cleopatra”, Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl”, Bette Midler in “For the Boys”, or Ralph Fiennes in “The English Patient”) over more deserving actors? I guess it’s all a matter of taste, or in certain instances cheap drugs.
So I decided to get it off my chest and come up with the 50 greatest performances , in order, that AMPAS had the nerve to leave off the list. Here they are:
1. Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, 1971) - The omission of this performance by the Academy can be summarized by one word: insanity. What else could it be? The actor’s portrayal of the lunatic Alex DeLarge is nothing short of miraculous. His no holds barred energy mixed with gentle humanity is something that can never be forgotten. Stanley Kubrick’s ﬁlm, recognized as one of the greatest of all-time by both critics and movie fans alike, is carried by the brilliance of its lead actor...regardless of the failure of acknowledgment by those so ignorant to exclude Mr. McDowell from Oscar notoriety.
2. Humphrey Bogart (The Maltese Falcon, 1941) - Bogie as Sam Spade is not a nominee? Huh? I am still ﬂabbergasted by the notion that one of the world’s greatest actors, playing one of the greatest characters to perfection in one of the greatest ﬁlm noir movies ever put on on celluloid was not included as one of the 5 nominees in 1941, a year where Walter Huston and Cary Grant were nominated with subpar performances. Shame on you Academy!
3. Burt Lancaster (Sweet Smell of Success, 1957) - The ruthlessness of columnist J.J. Hunsecker is pure evil... and Lancaster delivers the wallop this ﬁlm needs ﬂawlessly. The writing in this ﬁlm is amongst the greatest ever penned for the screen and this acting legend swallows ever word and spits them out with reckless abandon. In my mind he should have won the Oscar that year and not just nominated.
4. Robert De Niro (The King of Comedy, 1983) - Re-watching De Niro’s performance as Rupert Pupkin, the obsessed celebrity wannabe, it amazes me that this legend can transform himself into any character he wants to the way only few actors can. This overlooked gem of a ﬁlm is a tour-de force for Mr. De Niro. His performance, in all its glory, allows the audience to sympathize with him and not his kidnapped victim. He is truly mesmerizing in this under-appreciated movie. Of course it helps that his partner in crime, Martin Scorsese is the director.
5. Gary Oldman (The Contender, 2000) - I love this ﬁlm! I was thrilled when the Academy honoured both Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges with Oscar nominations, but I was equally disappointed when they forgot the performance which in my view stole each scene he was in. Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the ﬁctional ultra-conservative Republican Shelly Runyon was so realistic that I thought I was watching a typically sleezy GOP Senator in today’s American Congress. All kidding aside, Oldman is one of those actors that the Academy continues to forget to respect when the nominees are voted for ... and this time they REALLY screwed up!!
6. James Cagney (White Heat, 1949) - My favourite gangster of all-time was also pushed aside by those imbeciles who chose the Best Actor noms in 1949. How can anyone not love psychopath Cody Jarrett in this mob classic. Only Cagney could be so sinister as the violent leader of a gang. Unfortunately the Academy didn’t think he was worthy of being, as Jarrett yells, on “Top of the World”. What idiots!
7. Nicole Kidman (To Die For, 1995) - I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand more times: Nicole Kidman’s performance in To Die For was the best performance by a female not just be nominated for, but not to WIN the Oscar! 1995 was a great year for women in movies (Susan Sarandon ended up winning for Dead Man Walking), but it was, in my mind, Kidman’s Suzanne Stone that blew away all other competitors. Her portrayal as an aspiring TV personality was so balanced between ruthless logic and sheer insanity, that I continue to marvel at her brilliance with every repeat viewing. I felt that her victory for The Hours in 2002, although very good, was attainable as the fools forgot to give Kidman her due recognition for this ﬁlm and for The Others (2001). The Academy always tries to clean up the mess they leave behind from past blunders.
8. Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, 1990) - This ﬁlm, by far Tim Burton’s best, was the launching pad for Johnny Depp’s versatile acting career. This bizarre role is so charmingly played with such elegance and honesty, you immediately fall in love with Edward regardless of his appearance. The team of Depp and Burton make this ﬁlm one of those true gems of the past 25 years that need to be revisited and shared with future generations. Unfortunately the Academy, being oblivious to intelligence, “cut” Depp’s performance from the Top 5 of 1990.
9. Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men, 1957) - This ﬁlm is the ultimate ensemble picture. Sidney Lumet’s directorial debut is his best with a stellar cast carrying this picture to perfection. But it is Henry Fonda, as Juror #8, who is the backbone of this American classic. His performance is so understated that you forget that he is that legendary actor we have grown to love in so many of his roles. He is genuine, rational, compassionate, and ultimately believable as the ﬁlm’s lead. I am assuming the voters decided that this ﬁlm was a group effort, and Fonda was just a great piece in this amazing puzzle from the late 50s. In regards to Mr. Fonda, they were absolutely wrong!
10. Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004) - The ﬁlm proved that Jim Carrey is not just a rubber faced loon disguised as an actor. Yes, he also showed his acting chops with “The Truman Show” and “Man on the Moon”, however it is here playing Joel Barish, a sweet lovestruck man trying to get back the love of his ex-girlfriend before the memory of her is erased post surgery, where this actor achieves acting greatness. Carrey and Kate Winslet star in this odd yet brilliant ﬁlm of love and the power it holds. Long after Jim Carrey is gone, he will forever be remembered as an over-the-top no-holds-barred slapstick comedian. It’s too bad that the Academy didn’t want to add brilliant dramatic performance for this ﬁlm to his resume.
11. Michael Fassbender (Shame, 2011)
12. Linda Fiorentino (The Last Seduction, 1994)
13. Julianne Moore (Safe, 1995)
14. Reese Witherspoon (Election, 1999)
15. Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, 1998)
16. Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby, 1938)
17. Robert Mitchum (The Night of the Hunter, 1955)
18. Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo, 1958)
19. Gene Hackman (The Conversation, 1974)
20. Robert Shaw (Jaws, 1975)
21. Viggo Mortenson (A History of Violence, 2005)
22. Steve McQueen (The Great Escape, 1963)
23. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed, 2006)
24. Steve Martin (The Jerk, 1979)
25. Brad Pitt (Fight Club, 1999)
26. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50, 2011)
27. Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, 1986)
28. John Wayne (The Searchers, 1956)
29. Peter Lorre (M, 1931)
30. Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain, 1952)
31. Paul Giamatti (Sideways, 2004)
32. Diane Lane (Unfaithful, 2002)
33. Eric Bana (Chopper, 2000)
34. Alan Arkin (Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, 2001)
35. Sam Rockwell (Moon, 2009)
36. Guy Pearce (Memento, 2000)
37. Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds, 2009)
38. Gary Oldman (Sid & Nancy, 1986)
39. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, 2011)
40. John Torturro (Quiz Show, 1994)
41. Christian Bale (American Psycho, 2000)
42. Kevin Kline (Dave, 1993)
43. Uma Thurman (Kill Bill, Part 1/2, 2003/4)
44. Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me, 2000)
45. Forrest Whitaker (Bird, 1988)
46. Sean Penn (Carlito’s Way, 1993)
47. Alec Guinness (Kind Hearts and Coronets, 1949)
48. Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet, 1986)
49. Steve McQueen (Papillon, 1973)
50. Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, 1982)