The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards shiny gold trophies for the best performances in film in a given year. The winners of these awards are usually picked from a group of five nominees, who are picked from among the casts of any of the thousands of movies submitted for consideration. It's a huge job. So, while sometimes the Oscar-winner is a sure thing, it's no surprise that it's tougher some years than others. And while credit is due in making those hard decisions, there are times when one might watch a movie that has an incredible, award-worthy performance, and it doesn't even get a nomination. At that point, one has to wonder what the Academy is thinking. Whether this happens every year or it just feels that way, the inevitable truth is that there have been many times where Oscar-worthy performances just didn't get recognized.
1 Scarlett Johansson - Best Supporting Actress, Her (2013)
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There really should be a voice acting Oscar. Did you see Her? Because if you did, you know how good Scarlett Johansson is in it. She is never seen in human form throughout the film, because instead, the romantic partner of our main character is, in fact, the operating system for his computer. Does it sound weird? It is. You know what else it is? Beautiful. Graceful. Transfixing. Her has a lot to say about the state of modern relationships, and much of that is said through Johansson's magnificent voice work. From her very first line, she emanates pathos, and her character is almost instantly endearing. Yes, she had a good (and Oscar-winning) script to work with, but it's a special kind of performance that can have you absolutely riveted without ever having a face or body to put the voice to. If you can make it through her whole performance without feeling something, you're a zombie.
2 Jim Carrey - Best Actor, The Truman Show(1998), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(2004)
Some actors get nominated four or five times and it never quite seems to work out (Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams come to mind), but some actors get snubbed multiple times without even being given a chance. Jim Carrey is the latter. It's fun to turn on The Truman Show with someone who's never seen it, because they usually don't expect to see Jim Carrey move them in an existential masterpiece far ahead of its time. And as far as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind goes, Carrey and Kate Winslet bring Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman's masterpiece to life, with Carrey turning in the most human work of his career in a performance that will make your heart ache. The difference between the two is that Winslet was nominated. Carrey, on the other hand, walked out empty for the second time. The Academy doesn't deserve another dramatic turn by Carrey, but boy does the world need it.
3 Michael Keaton - Best Actor, The Founder(2016)
It's absolutely shocking that Michael Keaton wasn't even nominated for this movie. The reason may be because Keaton, as he so often does, makes this whole acting thing look easy. He doesn't even seem to be putting forth any effort, but the results speak for themselves. Whatever your feelings for Keaton are at the end of his turn as McDonald's "founder" Ray Croc, odds are they'll be passionate. You may think he's absolutely terrific in it. You may have a hard time liking his performance because of how slimy he plays it. Maybe you'll feel both. But a performance that elicits passionate reactions is a good one, and that's the kind that Keaton consistently gives us. And he makes it look easy.
4 Andy Griffith - Best Actor, A Face in the Crowd(1957)
Most people wouldn't picture Andy Griffith playing a sociopath, but it may be hard to go back to Mayberry after A Face in the Crowd. Griffith plays Lonesome Rhodes, an ex-con who finds his star on the rise after being discovered by an attractive reporter. Man, is Griffith good in this. The way he uses his charm to manipulate people is amazing because there are times when the audience may feel it working on them. You may find that you have to remind yourself not to fall for his winning lines and sympathetic, expressive face. He's totally convincing in this movie, and it's a sight to behold.
5 Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl - Best Actor/Supporting Actor, Rush (2013)
Rush is such a severely underrated movie, and Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl are so good in it that it's impossible to pick between one of them. Hemsworth and Brühl play prolific Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, respectively, in a film that chronicles their epic rivalry and pseudo-friendship over the decades. Hemsworth's layered turn as Hunt demonstrates very clearly that, up until Thor: Ragnarok, his talents were being wasted on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He plays Hunt with effortless charm, selling him as both a smug bastard and a slightly tortured soul with a good heart, and the two never seem at odds. He feels very real. Brühl is his perfect foil, an introverted, quiet type whose determination is fierce and relentless. As we see him struggle through his ups and downs, our hearts soar and ache right alongside the people who love him. Rush would have been a fine film without these two, but with them, it is something special.
6 Dafne Keen - Best Supporting Actress, Logan(2016)
Logan was a critically acclaimed film, one that even got nominated for its excellent writing. Several of the performances were also heralded, including those of franchise veterans Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. But one that seriously deserved more mention was Dafne Keen's performance as Laura, AKA X-23. Keen is a force of nature as she slashes, stabs and screams her way through the film's visceral action scenes. But when she's not opening veins and beheading fools, she gives us many painful reminders that she is, in fact, a child; a child who's been built for killing when she's not ready for it emotionally. We see the toll it takes on her as she says, very simply, "I've hurt people too." She demonstrates the tragic effects of exposing a child to violence at so young an age, and it is thrilling to watch.
7 Sidney Poitier - Best Actor, In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Okay. This one is legitimately infuriating. If you've seen In the Heat of the Night, you know just how good Sidney Poitier is in it. He's monumental. He's as good in this movie as Gregory Peck is in To Kill A Mockingbird. He delivered one of the most iconic lines in the history of film: "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" Indeed, that moment, in the midst of a racially charged narrative decades ahead of its time, resonates still today. He played a righteous, passionate detective with gravitas and boldness, and deserved Best Actor for it. But here's the kicker. Not only was Poitier snubbed of a nomination, but the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1968 was given to Rod Steiger... a white guy... for this very same movie. The Best Actor trophy for this gripping tale of racism in the deep South was given to a white guy. Now, if you've seen In the Heat of the Night, you know that Steiger is just fine in it, maybe even worthy of a Supporting Actor trophy. But this movie belonged to Poitier, and the fact that he wasn't even acknowledged at theshows just how far we had (and still have) to go.
8 Andy Serkis - Best Actor, the Planet of the Apesreboot trilogy (2011-2017) - Best Supporting Actor, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) or Return of the King 2003) - Best Supporting Actor, King Kong (2005)
What's it gonna take? What's it gonna take for one of our most talented living actors to finally get an Oscar? The man has played a totally convincing ape no less than FOUR TIMES, played one of the most iconic CG characters ever in Lord of the Rings, and was instrumental in the development of performance capture, a process that has redefined how we make movies. There are many who argue that performance capture isn't acting or is somehow a less legitimate form of acting. I would encourage those among us who believe that to watch this piece by WIRED about the history of performance capture. If you're still not convinced, watch this promotional bit for War for the Planet of the Apes and make an argument, in full confidence, that Serkis' process is somehow less legitimate than "real acting." Serkis isn't just in the business of capturing movement. He shapes and builds characters. He imbues them with passion and does everything he can to make sure there's never a false moment. Now, pardon this candor, but if every critic of the technique simply shut up and watched, they'd see what acting is made of, and they would find it easy to agree that Andy Serkis needs to be given an Oscar already. Here's to hope for him and for all overlooked performers.