So we reach the penultimate 5 of actors and actresses who were not nomination for an Oscar, and feel they should have. You’ve come this far, you may as well crack on til the end now.
Jessica Chastain for A Most Violent Year (2014) – – – Robin Write @Filmotomy
Warning: some serious, unashamed, completely warranted flattery coming up. Oscar nominated in 2011 for a wonderfully quirky and sympathetic turn in The Help, this may or may not have hindered Jessica Chastain’s chances at also being mentioned for a stellar work in films like Take Shelter and The Tree of Life that year. Not many actresses can claim to have a multitude of solid award-worthy performances in a single year. Wait, Jessica Chastain can, in 2014 this time. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and Miss Julie were promoted with such promise but disperse into the industry mist – Chastain is cracking in both. And what of Interstellar, a general miss for me, but Chastain was by far the greatest entity of the picture (and campaigned accordingly). Wow, what a year. Wait, there’s more. Her best work of the year, and likely one of the finest acting displays in years was her portrayal of Anna Morales, wife of not-quite-gangster Abel (an also terrific Oscar Isaac). It’s an utterly confident, tenacious, illuminating turn, once again, relentlessly enchanting Chastain makes acting seem easier than the art of breathing. Which brings me to one of my prominent sore points from last awards season, and is still a freshly open wound with me. I’m shaking my head as I write this, reminded of that strong whiff of disappointment and disbelief. Someone needed to give the brilliant Patricia Arquette a run for her money, and for my dollar it was Chastain who ought to have won gold. But you have to be nominated first, right…
Marilyn Monroe for Bus Stop (1956) – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
Yes, that Marilyn Monroe. In her best role as Cherie in the film adaptation of William Inge’s froth of a play loaded with Fifties sensibilities, Bus Stop. There’s no argument that Monroe was more icon than actress, but sometimes one has to acknowledge that a role has been perfectly matched with an actor. Cherie is a bit of a bubblehead whose dreams exceed her talent. Not only does the role fit Monroe like a glove, she manages to have some genuinely sweet moments punctuated with some expert comic timing – she makes the character a sort of meringue, airy and sweet with a slight crust of self-determination. Bus Stop was Monroe’s 23rd film; she had proved herself as an established phenomenon in the industry so it would have been fitting that the Academy acknowledge this fact by honoring what is a very endearing performance with an Oscar nod. By the way, her rendition of “Old Black Magic” is signature Marilyn Monroe. One for the ages.
Hana Brejchová for Loves of Blonde (1965) – – – Robin Write @Filmotomy
When revisiting Milos Forman’s Loves of a Blonde from 1965, where a girl is drawn to a travelling musician, I was reminded (blissfully) of Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida. In fact, Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza would have been perfect examples of Oscar non-nominees had I not bigged them up for the best part of that year already. Loves of a Blonde is a very important and influential pin in the Czech New Wave map of that time. The blonde in love is dreamy, naive, pretty Andula (Hana Brejchová), a lonely factory teenage girl on the brink of adulthood, and carrying all the vulnerability and optimism required. She acts through body and emotion as her Andula, given lingering moments of appropriate nudity, pours out her heart and soul. It’s a subtle performance, engaging and familiar, even with long scenes with very little dialogue. Brejchová is the perfect foil for Forman’s satirical, bittersweet style, his comedy and realism neither dilutes the former or trivializes the latter. She may remind you of similar youthful poise of Brigitte Bardot or Nastassja Kinski, as she captivates you in every frame she appears. The Academy were a little bit in love themselves as Loves of a Blond was nominated for Foreign Language Film, sadly Brejchová did not make the Best Actress cut – with that natural charm and prowess, she would have made my list without any doubt.
Christopher Walken / Dennis Hopper for True Romance (1992) – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
Tony Scott’s True Romance is an engaging crime drama that boasts two things – a sharp script by pre-fame Quentin Tarantino, and a virtual roster of fine character actors to deliver it. If ever the Academy had reason to introduce a prize for Best Ensemble, this film would have been a good place to start. For this particular exercise – great performances that Oscar forgot – I nominate the tandem effort of Walken and Hopper which takes place in the confines of a double-wide lit by shafts of light that foretell one of the film’s many climaxes. Walken slithers his way from mock congeniality to cold executioner while Hopper bluffs and dodges as the expression on his face transforms from resistance to resignation, arriving at explosive defiance when he realizes all his cards have been played so he may as well make it count. Younger cast members like Slater, Arquette, Oldman, Pitt and Kilmer all deliver, but, the two veterans, Hopper and Walken, both seasoned by careers chocked full characters on-the-edge, walk away with the film with this single scene. The synchronization and interplay is electric.
Bibi Andersson for Persona (1966) – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
A most vibrant performance from Bibi Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s influential psychodrama Persona. Bergman’s rich, verbose text may provide Andersson – whose experience in the great filmmaker’s works had often been restricted to supporting roles – with fantastic character material, but to assess the challenge that she faced in interpreting this role as such would be to dismiss the difficulty of what she was required to do. There’s the fact that Andersson only had one co-star for most of the film, a mute costar in Liv Ullmann’s psychologically scarred actor. There’s the rightly infamous scene where Andersson recounts cinema’s most memorable unseen sexual encounter, a mesmerizing example of brilliantly evocative writing and brilliantly perceptive acting. She’s sensitive yet ferocious, considerate yet self-serving, bold yet vulnerable. It’s a testament to Andersson’s excellent work in Persona that it still towers above most other performances, not only from Bergman’s canon, but from all of cinema.