Another influx of Brits coming up. Including one we don’t often see on screen as the actor, but rather the creature he portrays – which ought to be a talking point about how the Academy intend to honor such performances.
Gary Oldman for Sid and Nancy (1986) – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag
Being a “bad boy”, whether it’s onscreen or off, can work against you when the membership of a club like AMPAS is looking to elect prom royalty they feel are worthy to represent them in the Oscar history book. This has been Gary Oldman’s problem for most of his entire 30+ years of mostly indelible screen performances. Particularly in his early career, Oldman selected some truly in-your-face characters, but it was probably his portrayal of Sex Pistols punk rocker Sid Vicious that should be designated as the performance Oscar wrongfully turned its back on. No holds-barred direction by Alex Cox and unsparing cinematography by Roger Deakins frame Gary Oldman’s seminal performance, one launched an outstanding and continuing acting career. Now considered one of the finest screen portrayals of all time, a very changed and conservative Oldman recently dismissed his work in Sid and Nancy, perhaps because of his own personal path that started simultaneously. What the rest of us have onscreen, though, is an acting gem that was as good as – and mostly, better – than any of the other five included in Oscar’s year end honors.
Tom Courtenay for Billy Liar (1963) – – – Robin Write @Filmotomy
“A man could lose himself in London… Lose himself… Lose himself… LOSE HIMSELF IN THE LONDON!” – a comic rant from Tom Courtenay you’ll recognize if you’ve seen the film Billy Liar, but also if you’re a fan (like I am) of the band Saint Etienne who sampled that at the start of their track “You’re in a Bad Way”. In the dawn of a new wave of British cinema (they were all at it in the 1960s) only BAFTA really took notice of the delightful Billy Liar. Though director John Schlesinger was not nominated, the film nabbed 6 nods, including a Best Actor mention for the charismatic Courtenay. His Billy Fisher is desperate to flee his grim-up-north Yorkshire life and head off to London. Although Billy seems to be surrounded by somewhat inconsiderate folk, including his own parents, his own low morals in the treatment of others means he too is not perfect. His big problem is balancing being engaged to both Barbara and Rita, until old flame Liz (Julie Christie) floats back into his life. Billy’s day-to-day routine has to incorporate covering the cracks of his lies, embellishing his imagination or making a dart for it. This is not slapstick or farce though, we recognize the sensibility in confident lies and the blatant downfall of reality. Courtenay delivers with genuine humor, charm and an air of mischief, still making Billy a poignant, sympathetic presence.
Katharine Hepburn / Cary Grant for Bringing Up Baby (1938) – – – Tim J. Krieg @FiveStarFlicks
Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are two of Hollywood’s most iconic figures. In 1938 they teamed up for Howard Hawks’ hilarious screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby. Back in 2012 I watched this classic under the stars at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in L.A. with 4,000 other movie buffs. Nearly 75 years after its release, it still had the audience (many of whom who weren’t even born until a half-century after its release) rolling with laughter. The reason it has outlasted most films from that era is the sheer exuberance and charisma of the two leads. Katharine Hepburn already had two Oscar nominations and one win (for Morning Glory) under her belt, on the way to twelve nominations and a record four wins over her illustrious career. Cary Grant meanwhile was never as celebrated for his acting prowess as Hepburn, and though by 1938 he already had over two-dozen screen appearances to his credit, he had failed to garner a single Oscar nomination. You might say that it’s no surprise that Hepburn and Grant were passed over because Baby was a screwy romantic comedy, but you have to remember that only four years prior Frank Capra, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert each took home Oscars for It Happened One Night, the first film in history to win all the top prizes (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), and it was a screwball comedy! The fact that Hepburn and Grant were overlooked is a shame, but at least we can take solace that the winners that year were a pair of titans, Spencer Tracy for Boys Town, and Bette Davis for Jezebel.
Vanessa Redgrave for Coriolanus (2011) – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen
The Oscar seemed set for Vanessa Redgrave. She’d been forgiven for her remarks at the 1978 ceremony, remarks for which no forgiveness ought to have been required. She’d come close in 1993 with Howards End. Frankly, I’d have Vanessa Redgrave walk off with a fresh Oscar every year, but it truly seemed like the time was right when she utterly enlivened Ralph Fiennes’ slightly stodgy update of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Volumnia is one of the Bard’s most under-appreciated roles, but boy does Redgrave appreciate it – relishing her many juicy scenes, particularly an incredible face-to-face with her son in which Redgrave demonstrates the full dramatic possibilities when a great actor is entrusted with a great play. It’s astounding stuff, the likes of which one never even conceives of when imagining such possibilities, so intense is its power. Poor handling of Coriolanus‘ awards campaign left Redgrave stranded when it came to major awards four years ago, though success with many of the smaller awards that she was nominated for confirms the brilliance of her work here – those who saw it knew she deserved it. A compensatory Oscar is due, AMPAS. Not just one, but about 21 let’s be real. We all know she deserves it now.
Andy Serkis for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – – – Robin Write @Filmotomy
Andy Serkis was listed as a cast member that was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for all 3 The Lord of the Rings films by the Screen Actors Guild. Why then is he not recognized individually for his performance-capture, computer-aided, consistently brilliant work? Not just those films, but his excellent contribution in King Kong and the Apes franchise too. As Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers there was a strong push by the film’s makers to garner some award attention for Serkis. This was thoroughly deserved, and in a normal world his undeniable talent would have made the cut without any pushing at all. I am not going to get technical, I know there were many behind the scenes that helped bring Gollum to life on the screen, but Serkis’ mesmerizing delivery and performance shone through, making the creature-formerly-known-as-Sméagol come to life before your eyes. The scene encompassing Gollums’ conflicting personalities is breathtaking. Actors have worn masks, prosthetics, make-up, and been nominated for Oscars without question. Serkis was not just some corpse, an entity to fill the spaces and join the dots, this guy acted. Acted his socks off. You know this as you read my words, you’ve seen the footage of Serkis suited up and playing Gollum before the visual effects and cherry on top were later added. A remarkable achievement on any level of acting, Serkis continued to be the man to go to as he played King Kong and Caesar with similar awesomeness. The cinema world ought to continue to embrace the ground-breaking work from those that create, and Serkis provides breakthrough in various fields. Like many of the film industries blind spots and minorities, are the Academy just not ready to change their own history yet? Wise up.