O OSCAR, WHERE ART THOU?

Somebody pinch me. Every now and then I need a little reality check to convince myself that I really do live in a world where Hillary Swank has two Oscars while so many far more celebrated–and, let’s face it, more accomplished–actors have none. Sorry, her performance as the unbelievably saintly title character in Clint Eastwood’s unbelievably manipulative Million Dollar Baby (above, bottom) was competent enough, but that it trumped Annette Bening’s masterful interpretation of a vain, aging stage beauty in Being Julia (above, top) is one of Oscar’s great gaffes.

Lest you think I stubbornly refuse to give Hillary her due, I will admit that Oscar probably got it right during Round 1 of the Hillary Vs. Annette showdown in 2000. As much as I enjoyed Annette in American Beauty, I was no great fan of the movie, and if one remembers just one thing about it, it probably wouldn’t be Annette’s performance. Hillary’s triumph for playing a transsexual in Boys Don’t Cry not only kicked off the ’00s trend of actresses glamming down to seduce Oscar, but it was, like Marlee Matlin’s 1987 Children of a Lesser God win and, earlier this year, Marion Cotillard’s for La Vie En Rose, one of those once-a-decade phenomenons where a relative newcomer levels her more seasoned Best Actress competition.

And it was a knockout performance. But Hillary’s Round 2 win in 2005 was completely unnecessary. Especially because it means that Annette continues to be Oscar-less. (And the trailer for her next film, a remake of The Women, does not look promising.) At least among female thespians with nominations and no wins, she’s in excellent company: Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Julianne Moore, Joan Allen, Marsha Mason… And the list goes on.

But what of those actors who’ve never even enjoyed the honor of being nominated? And as at least one nominee says every year, it’s an honor just to be nominated. I mentioned Richard Gere in a previous post. Like Annette, he’s in good company.

Ashley Judd Oscar has unjustly overlooked her on at least three occasions: Ruby In Paradise, Normal Life and Bug. I predict her fortunes will change with her role as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the upcoming Helen (trailer). You heard it here first!

Danny Glover Unfortunately for The Color Purple star, his ’80s heyday came well before Oscar started regularly giving props to black actors.

Dennis Quaid He’s been in his share of stinkers, but if his repressed homosexual husband in Far From Heaven (right) couldn’t get Oscar’s attention, it’s hard to imagine that anything will.

Donald Sutherland He’s played opposite so many actresses in nominated or winning roles, from Jane Fonda in Klute to Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People (in which he was the only principal cast member to be snubbed by Oscar) to Keira Knightly in Pride & Predjudice. So where’s his nomination? My prediction: Eventually (and he’s 73, so it better be soon), he’ll get his one lifetime acheivement nod in the supporting actor category for a glorified cameo a la Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild.

Isabelle Huppert Oscar has been pretty good to French leading ladies, from winners Simone Signoret, Juliette Binoche and Marion Cotillard to two-time nominees Leslie Caron and Isabelle Adjani to one-time nominees Catherine Deneuve and Anouk Aiméé. Sadly, Jeanne Moreau is well past her prime, but one can only hope that Oscar will eventually notice Julie Delpy and especially 14-time Cesar nominee (a record!) Isabelle Huppert, who should have been cited for 1991’s Madame Bovary.

Jamie Lee Curtis I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: She deserved a nod for nailing teen spirit as Lindsay Lohan trapped in Jamie Lee’s body–or was it Jamie Lee Curtis trapped with Lindsay’s personality?–in Freaky Friday (left). Now that she’s more or less “retired” from being a full-time actor, Oscar has probably missed his chance.

Jennifer Jason Leigh In my opinion, she’s the most criminally overlooked actress on this list. In a perfect world, she’d have at least three nominations, for Georgia, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and Washington Square, and possibly two more, for Single White Female and Dolores Claiborne.

John Cusack For anyone who thinks all he can do are romantic comedies and popcorn flicks, I’ve got two words: The Grifters. Enough said.

Martin Sheen If BUtterfield 8 star Elizabeth Taylor won in 1961 for nearly succumbing to pneumonia offscreen, Martin at least deserved an honorable mention for nearly succumbing to a heart attack while filming Apocalypse Now (left). At least Emmy has made up for Oscar’s oversights.

Michael Gambon One of Britain’s most respected actors (and Annette Bening’s ghostly mentor in Being Julia), he seems to work now more than ever. I still remember the first time ever I saw his face in the mid-’90s on London’s West End opposite his future Gosford Park costar Eileen Atkins, another overdue Brit, in a production of The Unexpected Man. I think that like Donald Sutherland, he’ll eventually get his due, but, like Donald Sutherland, it better be sooner rather than later. At 67, he’s not getting any younger.

And honorable mentions must go to…

  • Alan Rickman
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Jeff Daniels
  • Michelle Yeoh
  • Peter Sarsgaard

Oscar, what you waiting for?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “O OSCAR, WHERE ART THOU?

  1. Kate Winslet definitely deserves an Oscar. What’s your take on Reese winning for Walk the Line?

  2. Interesting question. I think Reese won for the wrong movie. Beyond the fact that her role in Walk the Line was pretty much supporting, anyone who knows country music knows that she was NOT playing June Carter Cash, who, first of all, was no fashionista. She did, however, do a great job playing a fictional character. I think hers was a belated win for Election.

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