Yesterday I ran down a list of five female performers who I thought were better suited for Oscar glory than Sandra Bullock, for reasons involving talent (Sarah Polley, Catherine Keener) or because they’d give a better Oscar speech (Drew Barrymore, oh be quiet). Since there was no male equivalent of Sandra Bullock on the Oscar stage this past weekend, I thought today we could look, simply, at five male actors who have been, for too long, overlooked by the Academy.
5. Christian Bale: I could see why the Academy failed to reward Bale with even a nomination for his best known work in the two Batman movies or even his lackluster performance in Terminator 5. I didn’t find his performance ground-shaking in Public Enemies, either. But, if those higher profile roles had come along before his best performances and given him the recognition he has now, there’s no way that the Academy could’ve overlooked his performances in either The Machinist (a role for which he lost 62 pounds) or American Psycho. He was also overlooked for a brilliant performance in Warner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, another role in which he completely lost himself. Bale is one of the best character actors in Hollywood; he just happens to get leading man roles.
4. Gary Oldman: Oldman, actually, is one of those actors for which the Academy should invent an Oscar for body of work, where an actor has given consistently remarkable performances over his career but perhaps hasn’t given one stand-out one. Although, where Oldman is concerned, there are several roles worthy of at least some consideration, including solid turns in The Dark Knight, The Contender, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Sid and Nancy and what I personally considered his best role: Drexl Spivey in True Romance. He was pretty outstanding in Leon, too. As for Dracula? The less we talk about it, the better he fits on this list.
3. Johnny Depp: What? You say? Johnny Depp doesn’t already have an Oscar? Actually, no. He’s been nominated three times, for Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeney Todd, and Finding Neverland, though he was shut out all three years, with good reason. The sin here, however, was that he wasn’t recognized at all for his best three roles: Ed Wood, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I might even throw in some added recognition for outstanding performances in Edward Scissorhands and Donnie Brasco. Depp, like Bale, is one of those guys that the Academy came to recognize a decade too late, but like Martin Scorsese, my guess is that he’ll eventually get an Oscar for a role he didn’t deserve one for, as if to atone for past transgressions. Also, it’s a shame they don’t give Oscars for pretty.
2. Sam Rockwell: The fact that Sam Rockwell hasn’t even had the whiff of a Oscar nomination yet proves just how behind the times the Academy is. I could perhaps understand why the Academy overlooked his fantastic performance in Moon if it were an aberration. But Rockwell should’ve been on the Academy’s radar years ago, starting with his performance in Lawn Dogs and extending through performances in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Matchstick Men and more recently, in Snow Angels. (He had nice turns in Frost/Nixon and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, too). Cinephiles already know and love the man and a large part of the viewing public is familiar with him, but apparently, the Academy has no clue. His role in Iron Man 2 should, at the very least, raise awareness, so that the next time he turns in a performance like he did in Moon, the Academy won’t be able to ignore him.
1. John Malkovich: Criminal, isn’t it? He’s been nominated twice, both for supporting roles (In the Line of Fire and Places in the Heart), but it’s been so long since he’s gotten any Academy recognition that I doubt he’s even invited to the Oscar ceremony anymore. No props for his outstanding role in Shadow of a Vampire or The Killing Fields or Dangerous Liaisons, not to mention the one where he deftly played himself in Being John Malcovich. Seriously, this guy is one of the best actors of the last 30 years, and the best one without an Oscar statue sitting on his mantle. That situation needs to be rectified. Like, yesterday.