RE-POST – Originally Published September 2015.
Welcome to Part 7 of the 100 Performances Oscar Forgot. We like to believe they simply forgot as some these performances not honored with Academy Award nominations are bordering on criminal activity. Feel free to comment in the section below – it helps to get it off your chest.
Courtney Love for The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Amidst all the varying degrees to which Hole front-lady Courtney Love was (often negatively) viewed by the public and media eye, she was still touted for a long time as not only an Oscar nominee, but potential winner. Her free-spirited, but superbly accomplished turn in Milos Forman’s hard-hitting The People vs. Larry Flynt deserved every bit of positive praise it got. But the nomination never came. It has happened many times before, that musicians turn to acting and make the leap in exceptional and perhaps unexpected ways – but the recognition doesn’t always reach the Academy. Look how they swarmed around Evita the very same year but somehow failed to acknowledge Madonna – the movie’s true icon and driving force. Courtney Love as Flynt’s loyal but troubled love Althea is in full control of her talented actress persona – her identity as rock chick, as foul-mouthed junkie, feminist, grunge mom and wife – all left at the door thank you very much. Love’s presence on screen is achingly good, easily one of the more memorable actresses of the year. Oscar, seemingly confused by screen time once again, went with a mixed bag in Support: Lauren Bacall, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Joan Allen, Barbara Hershey and eventual winner Juliette Binoche – perhaps deserved given it was practically a lead role. In Lead two super-Brits Emily Watson and Brenda Blethyn joined (supporting) roles from Kristin Scott Thomas and winner Frances McDormand, as well as Diane Keaton bumping out co-star Meryl Streep (I know, right!?). Love ought to have been part of that crowd of women, pouring so much of herself onto the screen, given the same kind of frankness she showed publicly in the less than two years since Kurt Cobain took his own life. Perhaps in the end her character was just too close to her own lifestyle for comfort.
Isabelle Adjani for Possession (1981) – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
A seminal film of the psycho-sexual horror that’s a clear influence on recent titles such as Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 work Possession is best known for its bizarre octopus-monster sex, but best remembered (by me) for Isabelle Adjani’s unhinged lead performance. In a film that rejoices in the bloody mayhem it can indulge in within its drab, sterile Berlin locales, Adjani unleashes the full force of the madness of the mind in a dual role that displays a remarkable range of ability. Juxtaposed with her sympathetic turn as gentle schoolteacher Helen, her performance as deranged wife and mother Anna bears a monumental, memorable power, the result of such intense preparation that Adjani vowed never to play so disturbed a character again. She’s earned a career-long break, after all, given how much of that intensity shows through in this vivid, extreme performance. One of the most unsettling human depictions of mental instability in cinema, wholly unsubtle yet equally marvelous.
Shailene Woodley for The Descendants (2011) – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
As much as the Oscars bring plenty of pain and frustration, I hold my hands up and say they also garnish a near half-year of my annual existence. I’ve often openly attempted to predict not only the damn winners, but more privately I have been known to figure out which nomination clip the Academy would use. Or at least give it a go. When Shailene Woodley looked to be heading for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Alexander Payne’s near-perfect The Descendants I already knew they would use the moment some horrible news forces her to instinctively duck herself under the water of the swimming pool and show the raw suffering all by herself, on her own terms. Woodley’s Alexandra is certainly introduced as a kind of bratty, rebellious teenage girl, but long before the movie ends she is possibly the most straight-talking, mature member of her family – and the movie. Although a breakthrough of a performance, Woodley is so good here it is like you have been watching this talent for years. She devours her forthcoming, often provocative dialogue with ease, leading her character far beyond what you first assume of her – as Alexandra is forced to adapt to her new, sorrowful circumstances we, the audience, find our affections for the girl grow too.
Bill Murray for Rushmore (1998) – – – Tim J. Krieg @FiveStarFlicks
Bill Murray is an American comedy icon, whose early career included stints with the famed Second City improv group, The National Lampoon Radio Hour, and a starring role on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Murray transitioned to the big screen, starring or stealing scenes in a string of hits, including the beloved classics Caddyshack, Tootsie, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. He always had the sad, puppy dog eyes, but it wasn’t until 1998 when he first teamed up with director Wes Anderson on Rushmore that people really started to notice the guy had actual acting chops (Murray has featured in every Anderson film since). Though he wasn’t the films lead, and was making the Screen Actors Guild minimum salary on the project, Murray is the film’s rock. His broken down Herman Blume is the perfect foil to Jason Schwartzman’s outgoing Max Fischer. Every time Murray is on screen he brings a sense of longing and profound sadness, paired with his perfect comic timing. The performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Supporting Actor, and he won virtually every major critics award, taking home prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Society of Film Critics, and the Film Independent Spirit Awards. When it came to the Oscars though, he wasn’t even nominated! James Coburn won the Oscar instead that year for the now long forgotten Affliction. Though he was snubbed by the Oscars for Rushmore, the film earned him a lot of street cred, and a few years later he would finally be nominated for his great work starring opposite Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. It was about damn time.
Steve Martin for All of Me (1984) – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
OK, we all know that Oscar sniffs at comedy when it comes to the heavy-duty categories – the BIG FOUR: Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress. With the exception of the occasional bone tossed in comedy’s direction, generally there will be NO silliness when we get to the revered levels of the awards. Well, it was Steve Martin’s silliness that suddenly became complex and masterful in All of Me when his character, a lawyer named Roger Cobb, becomes imbued with the spirit of the dying Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin). What is remarkable (and won Martin both the LA Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics awards for Best Actor) is the frantic finesse he displays and he moves, sometimes in mid-sentence, between Roger and Edwina – all with hilarious results. You cannot prove to me that any of the five nominees for that year’s Best Actor Oscar displayed any amount of skill approaching that of Steve Martin in this very special role he was born to play. Dustin Hoffman faced a similar case of “comic dismissal’ a couple of years prior to this, but at least he had the honor of a nomination and a previous win. Steve Martin was robbed.