My Oscarologist pal Tariq Khan has another Top 10 list and poll for us! This one spans his list of worst cases of stars being nominated for the wrong film within the same category. Read his list below, then please pipe in with your choice. Note that the list has 11 option instead of 10. I'm adding one that Tariq skipped, but I feel is a prime example of this phenom. Just last year I believe Leo DiCaprio could have won best actor if he'd been nominated for "The Departed" instead of "Blood Diamond." Read on! And vote in Tariq's earlier polls: Who got the least Oscar votes? (CLICK HERE) Worst Oscar snubs due to category confusion? (CLICK HERE) Oscar's most gracious loser? (CLICK HERE) Oscar's sorest loser? (CLICK HERE) Text below: Tariq's words.
It's a familiar problem for many a performer (and their publicists). They have a year in which they have not just one, but two performances which could be considered Oscar-worthy. And to make matters worse, their work in both films clearly falls into the same category (leading or supporting). Under academy rules, an actor or actress can only be nominated for one performance in the same category per year, even if they have enough votes for two separate nominations.
In the end, many of these Oscar hopefuls have earned citations based less on the quality of the work and more on factors such as the timing of one film's release, the box office success of one of the films, or one film's position in the overall Oscar derby.
Below are what I consider the top ten cases (since 1990) of actors or actresses earning Oscar nominations for the wrong film.
1.) Catherine Keener, Best Supporting Actress nominee of 2005 for "Capote" — Don't get me wrong. I have been a HUGE fan of Keener since seeing her in mid-90's indie films like "Living in Oblivion" and "Walking and Talking." There was nothing wrong with her portrayal of Harper Lee in "Capote." She did everything she could with Dan Futterman's fine script and Bennett Miller's incisive direction, and she was certainly the moral center of a very complicated film. But the character had very little arc to it, and was quite passive most of the time. Meanwhile, the talented Keener appeared in FOUR movies in 2005, and if Oscar voters had viewed all of them (as I did), I think they would have nominated for her role in "The Ballad of Jack and Rose." She nearly stole the film from her on-screen boyfriend Daniel Day-Lewis (no small feat), and was able to show much more dramatic range than she did in "Capote." I don't want to give too much away for those of you haven't seen "Ballad," but Keener has a scene involving a snake in which she's simply dynamite. If she had been recognized for this film, there's a real chance that she could have pulled off a Marcia Gay Harden-like upset victory.
2.) Susan Sarandon, Best Actress nominee of 1994 for "The Client" — As I've said before, 1994 was an incredibly weak year for actresses. Sarandon was a safe choice to help fill out the category, but for "The Client?" The film was melodramatic and formulaic, and Sarandon adequate but uninspiring. (Not her fault. I think she did what she could with the script based on the John Grisham novel.) However, Sarandon also starred in a little film called "Safe Passage" that same year, in which she played a mother with seven children. I don't think she could have beaten Jessica Lange, who won for "Blue Sky" that year, but she would have had a better chance had she been nominated for "Safe Passage." Interestingly enough, someone at CNN must have agreed with me. Shortly after the nominations were announced, the cable network flashed a full screen displaying the names of the best actress nominees, with "Safe Passage" next to Sarandon's name instead of "The Client." Being the good Oscar citizen that I am, I did call them to politely let them know.
3.) Nicole Kidman, Best Actress nominee of 2001 for "Moulin Rouge" — OK Tom O. I remember that you and I had a very serious conversation about Kidman's Oscar chances that year. You said she would be nominated for "Moulin Rouge." I said she would be chosen for "The Others." You said that she could win for "Moulin Rouge." I said that she couldn't. I guess that we were both right and wrong. My thinking was that "Moulin Rouge" showcased Kidman more as a master performer than a master thespian. As showy as her part was, it probably seemed too superficial to win a lead Oscar. Plus, her performance was somewhat overshadowed by all the song and spectacle of the film. In "The Others," Kidman's work had much more working in her favor: it was a serious role, she appeared in almost every scene, she portrayed a hysterical and overprotective mother (something always popular with Oscar voters), it was a period piece, and her character was English. Throw in "The Others" nearly $100 million U.S. box office take and the bonus points Kidman would have earned for "Moulin Rouge," and I think you might have had an Oscar winner.
4. Emma Thompson, Best Actress nominee of 1995 for "Sense and Sensibility" — Those sensible Oscar voters nominated the always sublime Thompson for the best picture nominee. But if they had truly used their Oscar senses, they would have selected her for her far more challenging role in "Carrington." Thompson's character was quite restrained in "Sense and Sensibility," and her dialogue and screentime somewhat limited. Opposite Jonathan Pryce in "Carrington," however, Thompson exhibited the same fierceness and emotional complexity that helped her to win for "Howard's End" three years earlier.
5.) Jack Nicholson, Best Actor nominee of 1997 for "As Good As It Gets" — I think that we all enjoyed "As Good As It Gets," but know that this isn't as good as Nicholson usually gets. He appeared with the sensational Judy Davis in a small film called "Blood and Wine" earlier that year — and demonstrated the same acting chops that won him his first best actor prize for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." I'll admit that he could never have won for "Blood and Wine," but do believe that it was a much stronger performance than the more lightweight "As Good As It Gets."
6.) John C. Reilly, Best Supporting Actor nominee of 2002 for "Chicago" — Reilly rode the "Chicago" wave to a nomination, but he didn't have too much to do in the film. (His character's one song was "Mr. Cellophane." Quite telling.) Reilly also appeared in "Gangs of New York" and "The Hours" in the same year - but I consider his best work of 2002 to have been done playing Jennifer Aniston's neglected and somewhat jealous husband in "The Good Girl." (A good actor he is, no question.)
7. Joaquin Phoenix, Best Supporting Actor nominee of 2000 for "Gladiator" — OK, so it won best picture. But was the acting in "Gladiator" really that impressive? Phoenix's work in "Quills" with Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet showed a much broader range than his scenes with Russell Crowe in "Gladiator." This is just another case of a best picture nominee carrying a supporting player to a nomination. (No offense to Phoenix - I just mean that voters should have recognized him for his more notable performance in "Quills.")
8.) Patricia Clarkson, Best Supporting Actress of 2003 for "Pieces of April" — She should have been nominated in this category for "Far From Heaven" the previous year, so I'm happy that she wasn't overlooked again. I will say that I fould her role as a grieving mother in "The Station Agent" more powerful than her role as a dying mother in "Pieces of April." Her scenes in "Station" were longer and the character more layered than in "Pieces," where she was part of a larger ensemble. I know that some might argue that she was a lead in "The Station Agent," but I think only the marvelous Peter Dinklage earned leading status in the film. Either way, Clarkson didn't have a chance against the eventual winner Renee Zellweger in "Cold Mountain," but do believe that she is destined to win a piece of Oscar one day.
9.) Harvey Keitel, Best Supporting Actor of 1991 for "Bugsy" — He played a memorable character in "Bugsy," but showed more complexity in his symapthetic turn as the investigator in "Thelma and Louise." His competition with fellow "Bugsy" actor Ben Kingsley in the same category probably cost him any chance of winning, so a nod for "Thelma" might have served him better. Of course, having a male win an acting prize for the film when female stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon lost might have caused some voters to drive off a cliff.
10.) Cate Blanchett, Best Supporting Actress nominee of 2004 for "The Aviator" - I'll admit that I'm not so sure about this one, but thought that it would be fun to raise the issue. Blanchett's portrayal of Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator" was without a doubt extremely impressive. I myself just found her dual roles in "Coffee and Cigarettes" even more fascinating. To be fair, she does appear in only one scene. And one of the characters she's playing is herself. But watching her play herself opposite her portrayal of a fictional cousin was just uncanny. And as she was playing herself, you couldn't help but be reminded that this is one actress who is never just playing herself in movie after movie. She did win the Oscar for "The Aviator," so I'm sure that neither she or her fictional cousin are complaining.