Some of these went on to be nominated for other roles, a couple would even win Oscars, but that makes these 5 no less relevant or important. As always please chip in with your own in the comments.
Mark Ruffalo for You Can Count on Me (2000) – – – Robin Write @Filmotomy
Kenneth Lonergan’s brilliantly subtle You Can Count on Me is a movie I suspect slipped through many of your nets. You need to correct this very soon. What can’t be altered unfortunately is that Mark Ruffalo failed to make the Best Supporting Actor list come Oscars 2000. This has kind of become the story of his film life to some degree, an actor in my mind extremely talented and versatile, but rarely recognized with awards groups. His You Can Count on Me co-star Laura Linney was a nominee for Best Actress, so the Academy had certainly seen the movie, and liked it. Ruffalo’s role as Linney’s younger brother Terry is an assured and compelling performance. His character is hardly a trouble-causer or danger to society, but has a habit of depending on his big sister Sammy when his life again goes tits up. Ruffalo brings that idle charm and likability to this regardless of his tear-away reputation, but also delivers the screenplay’s wonderfully engaging dialogue to perfection. He gives Terry a real urgent longing to be better, and a somehow alluring philosophy to how life can be lived and the things we do. Ruffalo has churned out some fine work over the years, this particular turn really stands out as one of his finest.
Mickey Rourke for Barfly (1987) – – – Al Robinson @AlRob_MN
20-some years before Mickey Rourke was nominated for The Wrestler, he gave another Oscar worthy performance that was passed over. In Barfly, Rourke plays real life poet and author Charles Bukowski, who was also well known for his drinking and fighting. Rourke doesn’t do an imitation, but more, creates his own character of Henry though his interpretation of what Bukowski wrote in his novels. Henry is dirty and crude as well as always cracking insensitive jokes and making bodily noises. Henry is not a likable character, but yet you can’t help but root for him to succeed as he continuously fails. There are 3 main reasons I think Rourke is so great. The first reason is because whenever he’s on screen, I can’t take my eyes off of him. He plays Henry so unpredictable and spontaneous that I find myself guessing what he’s going to do next. The second reason is because Henry lives the kind of “screw what everybody else thinks, I’m gonna be me” lifestyle that makes me want to be more like that. He plays Henry so confident that he even has these little smiles that hint at what he’s thinking. The third and final reason is that Rourke plays Henry in a physical way as he walks slightly hunched over like an ape, and mixes it with a great style of line delivery. I recommend you see the film if you get a chance, you won’t regret it.
Julie Christie for Dr. Zhivago (1965) – – – Robin Write @Filmotomy
You might be surprised to hear that the great and lovely Julie Christie has only managed to bag Oscar nominations 4 times – and that spans 42 years. Wowsers. Other than the actual winning of the award itself, one major significance of her Best Actress Oscar for 1965’s Darling was that she was not shortlisted for her illuminating role as Lara in Doctor Zhivago the very same year. David Lean’s epic had an extraordinary year at the Oscars, winning 5 of its 10 nominations, not including Picture and Best Director – but nothing even a mention for Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin or Rod Steiger. Tom Courtenay, Christie’s co-star in the also ignored and excellent Billy Liar, was the film’s only acting nomination. In a movie so vast, vivid, and expansive in so many ways, Christie simply glows here, a presence so enchanting you can’t take your eyes from her. Technically you sometimes have little choice though, Lean relies heavily on acting through the sheer lingering gaze on the characters’ faces. As far as Julie Christie goes, this works in everyone’s favor – her eyes glisten, her visage is timeless, she manages to convey piercing, lasting emotion, all through her face. Her talent certainly warrants the strong passion I have for her presence in Doctor Zhivago.
Mieko Harada for Ran (1985) – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
Akira Kurosawa’s semi-adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear features several intense performers from a terrific ensemble – Tatsuya Nakadai is brilliant as the increasingly fragile warlord at the story’s center, but better still is Mieko Harada as the subtly sadistic Lady Kaede. She’s one of cinema’s finest scheming bitches, a woman who uses her gender and position to manipulate the men whose own manipulations would determine her fate, and who uses her intellect and cunning to ensure maximum power and influence in a rapidly-shifting political landscape. As the story’s key figures squabble and squirm, Ran finds its heroes and villains in the supporting roles, though Harada’s impervious poise and enigmatic expression render her the central character in any and all of her scenes. It’s a performance of a most refined talent, as Harada conveys an incredible amount with incredibly little apparent effort. Stunning, chilling work, crafting an indelible character that ranks among the very finest film performances in history.
Eddie Redmayne for Les Miserables (2012) – – – Clarence Moye @chmoye
It won’t be a popular choice, but I’m sticking with my gut on Eddie Redmayne’s outstanding musical performance in Tom Hooper’s much-maligned Les Miserables. I’m not going to debate the merits or demerits of the film here. Instead, I offer up Redmayne’s performance as Marius as trickier and less gimmicky than his Oscar-winning role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He was actually very good in the latter film, but he was buried under heavy glasses and (over)relying on Hawking’s physical limitations to build the character. In Les Miserables, he had no such tools at his disposal, and I would argue the job was significantly more difficult. He had to convey the youthful and blissful ignorance of a man falling in love, more importantly of a man SINGING about falling in love. And he connected with the material in a way that most actors in the film did not. His best moment in the film is the third act number “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” which he largely sings a cappella with the camera thrust directly into his face, and the results are astounding. In this number, he internalizes the lyrics and brings the character of Marius into a flesh-and-bone world rather than an archetype of musical theater. He channels the humanity and grief of losing one’s friends to war so well that he strips away the somewhat artificial trappings of theatrical performances, the same way that Anne Hathaway did in her early number – garnering her an Oscar WIN. I have no idea why Redmayne wasn’t nominated – perhaps people really hated the film and couldn’t make it to the end to see his performance. Perhaps he wasn’t a big enough name. Whatever the reason, his performance in Les Miserables indirectly helped pave the way for his Oscar-winning role in Everything. Like most actors, he didn’t win the Oscar for the most deserving role. Oscar is always playing catch-up that way.