100 Performances Oscars Forgot – 9/20

RE-POST – Originally Published September 2015.

As that satisfying feeling washed over me editing this very piece, and was about to send it out into the world I noticed the theme of sheer misery running through the images chosen (the order of the 100 is pretty random) – don’t let that visual lack of joy put you off though. Here are 5 more exceptional choices the Academy did not make.

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Audrey Tautou for Amélie (2001) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

There is some weight in the whole Jean-Pierre Jeunet re-edit media tussle with Harvey Weinstein which apparently went some way to explain how Amélie won none of its 5 Oscar nominations – it was the sure-thing for Best Foreign Language Film. There have been far bigger losers in the Academy’s finicky history though, but I would argue that Amélie was a movie that perhaps warranted even more nominations than a mere 5. Picture? Director? Original Score? Why not? I put forward with heavy, adoring enthusiasm, Audrey Tautou, Amélie Poulain herself. I’m not going to be shy here about my personal passion for this wonderful movie, but Tautou is the beating heart of the picture. She is a nervous-wreck, a bright spark, crop-chopped, doe-eyed and love-struck – the Emma Woodhouse of a surreal, vibrant Paris. Tautou captures and balances all the emotion of a woman’s sadness, joy, worry, hope, in that one beautiful, quirky face. With the turn of a head or a roll of the eyes Amélie is both frank and spontaneous, you see and feel her sheer aim to please – eventually realizing it is her own heart that needs to be fulfilled. Given the sway toward drama come Oscar time it might be easy to understand that Amélie (a foreign language film I might add) was just too wacky and comic for voters’ tastes. I know that is nonsense given there was room for wacky Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!) and comic Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary) in the Best Actress line-up. No offense at all to the other nominees that year, but Tautou is charmingly immaculate here, bringing awe-inspiring levels of depth to Jeunet’s flamboyant and poignant world.

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James Dean for Rebel Without a Cause (1955) – – – Asif Khan @KHAN2705

James Dean’s Jim Stark screams “You’re tearing me apart!” at his parents, giving voice to the agonizing confusion and displacement felt by so many teenagers irrespective of the time and place. An iconic role for Dean who had just started working, his second film, but he would die tragically before it was released. Dean became a myth, a legend and a figure for so many to imitate and dream about. It wasn’t only his appearance in the film or the car that he drove, his jacket or his piercing eyes, but this purely physical performance as well. Quite explosive at times, while subdued and internal in others. He didn’t just play his part but really wore and carried it around like it was truly a part of him. Rebel Without a Cause itself a classic of the 50’s, but Dean’s performance was the best of his extremely short career. While nominated for the other two films, he was surprisingly shut out for this exhilarating portrayal. His superb co-stars, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood though were nominated. Director Nicholas Ray paints such a deeply felt and unshakable portrait of alienated and frustrated suburban American youth, generation gap and decaying morality. Opening to Stark lying drunk on a sidewalk and ending with a major incident that will soon be forgotten. A film admirable for its awareness of various dynamic elements, central to it all was the depiction of these youth helplessly searching for answers that even the adults don’t have. Dean’s exceptional performance as a youth, son, friend, impassioned person, compassionate figure and a doomed rebel is celebrated to this very day.

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Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) – – – Tobi Ogunyemi @spaceliontobi @SpaceLioncs

Could one ask for a better screen debut then this quietly devastating performance? If so, could it have been better than, or even close, to what Olsen serves up here in Sean Durkin’s immersive psychological drama? Playing Martha, a young woman who has escaped the sinister clutches of a sex cult held together by John Hawkes’ Patrick, Olsen imbues Martha with the distant damage that carries over from that experience when she escapes but also when she returns to the real world and stays in refuge with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). Olsen frames her character physically in a way that is moving at two opposite ends and tells so much of the overall story; one who is still too used, too comfortable, to the world she has left behind – the manipulation runs deep and she is aware of it – with all of its familiarities. But then there is the end that wants to be her own human again, to be around and connect with others in a ‘normal’ capacity. Olsen’s use of her face, a more than beautiful accessory she wields with such grace, tells that story with blank expressions, haunted looks and an exhausted weariness that Patrick and his clan will come after her at anytime, from anywhere. Perhaps a bit too new, and a bit too raw for mainstream tastes in conjecture to more established personas, one of the best performances of 2011 is just a prime example of what Olsen has in store later down the line in hopefully a long and valued career.

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Melora Walters for Magnolia (1999) – – – Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

You really could pick nearly anyone from P.T. Anderson’s interwoven character drama and make a decent case for a Supporting Actor / Actress nomination, alongside Tom Cruise. My case is for Mrs. Walters as the strung out daughter of game show host Jimmy Gator (Phillip Baker Hall) who wards off the advances of a cop (John C. Reilly). We first see her getting into a loud argument with her estranged father, whom she believes molested her as a child, and does a line of blow, blasting Aimee Mann’s “Momentum” while getting high. The lines about allowing fears to engulf and purposely being stuck in the same rut even when it’s eating the singer alive inside is the perfect representation of this bruised character: Claudia is stuck in this pattern of self-destruction, and yet, her own fears and self-loathing are keeping her going in a bizarre and dysfunctional way. It’s a sad and empathetic portrait of a day in the life of a woman caught in a revolving, recycled self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Eric Roberts for Star 80 (1983) – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag

That morning in 1984, following the frenzy that always accompanies the live Oscar nominations, I remember Diane Sawyer exclaiming on the CBS Morning Show, “Poor Eric Roberts!” Indeed. In his second lead role in a major film, Roberts had turned in what should have been a career-making performance as the despicable Paul Snider, the psychotic husband and murderer of Playboy bunny and ingénue actress, Dorothy Stratten. Unfortunately, in this year of Terms of Endearment and Flashdance mindsets, Oscar (and audiences) were turned-off by his balls-to-the-wall performance that went just about as deep as an actor is able to interpret Snider’s internal rage, insecurity and delusion. Star 80 was sadly Bob Fosse’s last film, and one should note that, in ten years, the great Fosse had directed his lead performer to an Oscar nomination / win. This time, however, director and actor flew too close to the sun. Roberts would eventually receive a supporting nod for Runaway Train a few years later – he would lose to Don Ameche, for god’s sake — but personal issues prevented him taking his career to the same heights attained by his little sister, Julia. One can only wonder if the lack of response to his soul-baring performance in Star 80 might have played a role in his meteoric rise and fall.

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