Monday, December 09, 2002

And now for something entirely frivolous

Entertainment Weekly has a list of what they think are the 100 best film performances of all time that did not even get nominated for Oscars.

It seems to be possible to divide them up into a number of categories.

Firstly, there is the fact that Oscars don't tend to get awarded to actors in comedies. (Bill Murray in Groundhog Day , Rosalind Russell for His Girl Friday , Gene Kelly for Singin' in the Rain , Sean Penn for Fast Times at Ridgemont High , Peter Sellers for The Pink Panther (and might I add he also deserved to win for both Dr Strangelove and Being There ), Alec Guinness for Kind Hearts and Coronets (one of the most egregious omissions I can think of), Molly Ringwald, for Sixteen Candles (don't laugh: watch the movie. She is really good in it. Look at this, and also Pretty in Pink and be surprised she never became the adult star she could have been. This is perhaps because she was supposedly "difficult" to work with).

Secondly, we have cases where the performance was great but the movie was considered too frivolous. (Anthony Perkins in Psycho , Robert Shaw in Jaws , Boris Karloff in Frankenstein , Alan Rickman in Die Hard (although is he hilarious or what?), Sean Connery for From Russia with Love plus virtually all the listed actors in other Hitchcock films, which weren't reclassified from "entertainment" to "art" until later. It is striking just how many actors from Hitchcock films are on the list, though).

Thirdly, we have actors whose work was somewhat inexplicably overlooked compared to someone playing opposite them in the same movie, although their work is as good or better than the person who got all the accolades. (Sidney Poitier for In the Heat of the Night , Denzel Washington, for Philadelphia (Denzel acts Tom Hanks off the screen in this one), Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (although Rex Harrison certainly deserved his Oscar), Morgan Freeman for Glory (proving that if you are Denzel Washington, you win some and you lose some. That said would the academy please give Morgan Freeman an Oscar for something. He is one of the five best actors in the movies)).

Fourthly, we have early films from great actors who were doing great work right from the start, but didn't get credit for it from the academy at the time. ( Samuel L. Jackson for Jungle Fever , Robert De Niro for Mean Streets , Sean Penn for Fast Times at Ridgemont High (plus it's a comic performance in a teen movie, but he has never been better), Kate Winslet for Heavenly Creatures (her first movie, and a blinder of a performance, plus the first widely recognised movie from everyone's favourite insane bearded New Zealander), Laurence Fishburne for Boyz in the Hood ).

Fifthly, we have movies which flopped at the time, but which were later acknowledged to be classics, and had great performances in them. (Jimmy Stewart for Vertigo (Wonderful, wonderful performance. Wonderful, wonderful film. Stewart's other great performance for Hitchcock (Rear Window) didn't get nominated either). Orson Welles for Touch of Evil (Charlton Heston is sensational in this film, too)).

Plus there are a few cases where the films are too obscure, or a little too weird for the nomination. (I could list these, but I need to go to bed).

It's interesting though that the academy is pretty consistent in its reasons for overlooking performances. The reasons have been much the same for 80 years.

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