This time of year, critics and bloggers everywhere take some time to examine some of film’s best performances that were not nominated for an Oscar. The annual “snub” columns are always popular and get a great social buzz. We decided to take a different look back and mention the performances that the Academy got right during the 2000s
As I was thinking of the great performances over the last seventeen years, I realized I had seen more of these films than I had originally thought. I really believed I would have a hard time picking ten, I thought I could find more deserving performances that didn’t get nominated. I didn’t want to pick any winners, I thought that would cheapen my selections, although see my honorable mention, I did have one I wanted to include. Most of my list of actors have won Oscars for other roles. I would advise seeing these films if you haven’t.
- Willem Dafoe – Shadow of the Vampire (2000) Dafoe was great as the real-life Max Schrek and for once he didn’t play pretty.
- Marisa Tomei – In the Bedroom (2001) Tomei gets crushed for her Oscar win for My Cousin Vinny but just erase the name of that film and add this one, she can act.
- Nicholas Cage – Adaptation (2002) If I told you Nic Cage would play twins in a film there is no way you would think he would be as good as he is here.
- Kate Winslet – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2002) One of my favorite actresses in one of my favorite films.
- Natalie Portman – Closer (2004) I put this performance as her best work along with Garden State and that includes the overrated Black Swan if she acted anywhere close to this in the prequels I may like them.
- Paul Giamatti – Cinderella Man (2005) This guy is either on another planet like in this film or he has a bad Russian accent in a metal rhino costume.
- Amy Adams – Junebug (2005) Should have been nominated for Arrival and maybe that Muppet Movie because she is great in literally everything.
- Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Bad guy but tremendous performance in a completely underrated and forgotten film.
- Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit (2010) She is now a pop star but she made an annoying character even more annoying than a pop star.
- Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Not a fan, but Cooper will not be better than this unless he does a Rocket Racoon solo film.
Honorable Mention: Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose (2007) I know Cotillard won for this performance but I had to mention it because often films like this get overlooked. I saw this film and had no clue who she was nor who Edith Piaf was and she transformed the character. She was mesmerizing and easily one of my favorite Oscar-nominated performances in the last 17 years.
MG: Is 2002 the last time Cage was good in anything? We should really do a whole post examining his body of work and the exact point things went off the rails. All the acting was superb in Silver Linings Playbook, although I don’t agree with some of the subsequent recognition Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence received in other films. Winslet was great in the past 2 decades, even if she probably got overnominated at times.
In an ideal world, I would love to see much of the Oscar-nominated films before the annual ceremony at the end of Feb/early March. The fact that a major portion of the nominations goes to films released at the end of December doesn’t help that goal. The reality is that I’m lucky if I’ve seen a third of the best film and acting nominations, although I try to catch-up later. So many times you see the same names year after year, like they are part of a club, vs. truly the best performances. However, I have been excited to see actors get nominated, especially when it’s somebody new or someone not already on the Oscar go-to list. So I’d like to call out some of the times I thought the Academy got it right.
- John C. Reilly – Chicago (2002) I love when hard-working character actors finally get their due, especially one that doesn’t have typical Hollywood looks.
- Don Cheadle – Hotel Rwanda (2004) Cheadle is such a dynamic actor. Wish he would do more good dramas and less as Iron Man’s sidekick.
- Charlize Theron – North Country (2005) Theron will go all-in for certain roles, like in this disturbing real-life sexual harassment story years before #MeToo.
- Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone (2007) Nice to see a character that isn’t a clear-cut protagonist or true villain, though very unlikeable, get nominated.
- Viggo Mortenson – Eastern Promises (2007) For all the nominations showered on Lord of the Rings, he couldn’t get one for actor? That trilogy is not the same without him (see the 3 Hobbit films). Also should have got a nom for A History Of Violence.
- Amy Adams – The Fighter (2010) Christian Bale got the glory for this film, but Adams perfectly captured eastern MA blue collar but still made it her own.
- Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids (2011) A rare recognition of the skill and work that goes into making truly good comedy on film.
- Alan Arkin – Argo (2012) Perhaps this was a “career nom”, but I loved the ensemble cast in this film and Arkin is as good as anyone to represent it. And he was funny.
- Tom Hardy – The Revenant (2015) You didn’t need to understand Hardy’s gruff mumbling, as his eyes conveyed far more in this dark role.
- Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge (2016) Garfield somehow managed to be convincingly humble and hugely heroic in a performance that brought me to tears.
Honorable Mention: Clive Owen – Closer (2004) When Owen got nominated in 2004, it seemed like he made it into “the club”. He’d been getting critical praise for various indie picks, and he seemed to have the looks, intelligence, and acting chops to make it as the next Tom Hanks – a quality actor with range that could also sell tickets for mainstream films. He went on to the critically acclaimed Children of Men, but then his career seemed to drop out of sight – doing genre movies like Shoot Em Up and various films no one has seen. He raised his profile recently with the series The Knick, but it’s time for a Clive Owen comeback.
DJ: Yeah where has Clive Owen gone I thought he was going to be the British replacement for Nic Cage? Closer is fantastic with four solid performances. I agree with your Melissa McCarthy angle about comedy especially woman in comedy but she has been just as funny in other pictures and nothing, I think Bridesmaids box office helped her. Maybe the only one on your list I was “this close” to picking was Alan Arkin. He had been good for years including The In-Laws and Glengarry Glen Ross and finally got an Oscar in 2007 for Little Miss Sunshine.