RE-POST – Originally Published September 2015.
There are a hundred and one reasons why an actor or actress may miss out on a nomination. We’ve been debating these very choices for many years. Here are 5 more to add to that.
Emily Blunt for The Devil Wears Prada (2004) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
You don’t require to be a glutton for bitchiness or be an avid follower of the fashion world to find something in The Devil Wears Prada that is for you. What magnetized me more than anything else was not the dominating presence of Meryl Streep or the ever-increasing-talent of Anne Hathaway, but rather the radiant, defiant, brilliant Emily Blunt. In the shadow of the “devil” Miranda, and part of the exclusive assistants club, Emily puts up and shuts up, unless it is to inflict her cold shoulder and cavalier views on others. This is how she wants to succeed, Paris Fashion Week-wise. She is fast-talking and no-nonsense – there’s a whiff of a Miranda in the making. Anywhere else we may well be forced to dislike the character, but Blunt has that sarcastic, hard look down to the letter, and somehow makes the character Emily glow through her passion and eventual vulnerabilities. Underneath the red hair and green eye-shadow warpaint, Blunt just about keeps the girl’s warmth hidden somewhat, but the talent here is letting us see just enough of her good grace to drag us closer. I was rooting for Emily’s success and redemption over any one else for the most part, and longed for her to return to the screen when she was absent. In the Supporting Actress category with Oscar that year I go against the grain with Jennifer Hudson in the forgettable Dreamgirls – just not for me at all. And though I could not argue with the Babel femmes (Blanchett was nominated for Notes on a Scandal) I have little doubt that Blunt was not only sinfully missing from the list, but would have made a very worthy winner. Easily welcome to join the company of former winning performances of equal demeanor, Olympia Dukakis, Mercedes Ruehl, or Dianne Wiest, to name just three. Perhaps here Meryl Streep’s stature over-shadowed Emily Blunt (though both could have made the cut) – dare I say, it ought to have been the other way around.
Nicole Kidman for To Die For (1995) – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
In the wickedly funny black comedy, To Die For, Gus Van Sant directed Nicole Kidman to what, for my money, is her best screen performance. Her Suzanne Stone, weather-girl/cub reporter extraordinaire, has dreams of glory that she means to attain, even if she has to have her husband murdered to do it. Kidman is a playful, driven, sexy and uproariously delusional seductress – with a mean eye for fashion, I must add – as she recruits a kid from the local high school (Joaquin Phoenix, also amazingly good) and his buddy, Casey Affleck, to do away with the old ball-‘n-chain, played by Matt Dillon. Adorned with Buck Henry’s screenplay, Van Sant’s direction and an array of strong supporting performances, not the least of whom is co-Oscar robbee Illeana Douglas, Kidman should have been in the lead pack of Best Actress nominees that year, right next to Susan Sarandon and Emma Thompson, but it was a strong year for actresses and Oscar went with what was familiar. It’s a shame, really, that one of the best comedies of the 90s was ignored, and Kidman’s performance is the reason I revisit this gem on a regular basis. The last scene alone is worth multiple viewings. A very dark joy to behold.
Steve Buscemi for Reservoir Dogs (1992) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
An indie, violent breakthrough film like Quentin Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs can hardly be expected to become a contender during awards season. Well, why the eff not? As performances go, the likes of Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth brought their A-game to this – the former had been doing that for decades already some would strongly argue. That said, and I suspect I am not alone here, Steve Buscemi’s incredulous, assertive Mr Pink is the stand-out performance here. Perhaps attributed with the snippier dialogue and true morals of the crime caper, Buscemi delivers with a gritty persuasion and an ample amount of cool. The versatile actor would go on and snatch many of the great supporting roles in cinema over the next decade or so, but his effortless brilliance sadly was unable to translate into that which the Academy deemed worthy. Not even Ghost World. With Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino gathered the hefty majority of the praise for its energy and adrenaline, but even he is not so self-aware to have not given huge acknowledgement to the ferocious display by Buscemi – without him this would simply not have packed as big a punch.
Leonardo DiCaprio for Titanic (1998) – – – Al Robinson @AlRob_MN
Leonardo DiCaprio was not nominated for Best Lead Actor at the 1998 Academy Awards, but he should have been (given the film’s record 14 nominations too). We don’t meet Jack Dawson until 24 minutes into Titanic, but after that he’s in almost every pivotal scene. DiCaprio was so great in Titanic that I think of him first, even before Kate Winslet, or the ship itself. He’s so iconic in the film with Jack’s romance with Rose – and that hair and smile. It was because of DiCaprio that so many teenagers went back to see it over and over again. It made Leo a mega-star and made Titanic the highest grossing film of all-time at that point with earnings of over $600m. DiCaprio was so naturalistic in his portrayal of Jack Dawson, the vagabond teenager, and he made the character so memorable. I think it stands up against the likes of Clark Gable’s performance as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. DiCaprio never overdid a line, and he always found the right tone for every key scene. In 1997, Leonardo DiCaprio truly was the “King of the World”.
Thelma Ritter for Rear Window (1954) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a grand motion picture for so many different reasons – Thelma Ritter is certainly one of them. Her Stella, the home nurse to wheel-chair bound Jeffries (James Stewart), has a definite view on the world’s state of affairs, she speaks her mind, even if it means talking over Jeffries. She very much involves herself, like Lisa (Grace Kelly), in the intriguing events of the story. This further implies the physical and theoretical advice-and-action that Stella provides to the verbally critical, and temporarily immobile, Jeffries. Stella doesn’t mince her words, she wisecracks her influential outlook and opinions, not quite shoving them down your throat – but you are listening. Ritter’s natural comic delivery is not necessarily derived from humor itself, but the infliction of wisdom and common sense. Easily one of her finest characters and performances for me in Stella, Ritter plays a huge part in Hitchock’s masterpiece, as important as any other character, and as integral to Rear Window as the location and suspense. This would have deservedly marked a historic fifth Oscar nomination in a row for Ritter, after All About Eve, The Mating Season, Song in My Heart, and Pickup on South Street – why on Earth dear Academy would you stop there?