The Academy Awards may present a select few with their prestigious Oscars but what happens when there are two performances in the same year both worthy of the gong? We take a look at the top 10 performances that should have won an oscar…
10. Ralph Fiennes – Coriolanus
WHY: It’s never easy to perform Shakespeare, let alone direct it as well. Fiennes’s unrivalled reimagining of the Bard’s lesser-known tragedy finds a new home for Shakespeare on the silver screen. The International villain brings the Shakespearean style of performance to cinema and capitalizes on the benefits of promoting Shakespeare in the 21st Century. It’s a risk tackling Shakes’, but by not dropping consonance or blurring the original language, Fiennes makes his directorial debut more accessible to a modern audience.
Original dialogue can be mundane, especially to a youthful audience unwilling to grapple with original language. However, Fiennes’s vocal delivery is always pumped with emotion as he gets up close and personal with the camera. Shakespeare’s lines cut and thrust, sounding more melody than mystery. There is certain magnetism to our protagonist as he passionately takes his audience to a remarkably fearsome place – a chilling and powerhouse performance in every sense of the word.
9. Christian Bale – The Machinist
WHY: By the time The Fighter was released, it finally dawned on the Academy that it was about time the method actor won one of those things! Although his performance as The Fighter’s Dickie was commendable, it by no means surpasses Bale’s previous efforts in films such as American Psycho and The Machinist. The star was criticised for his unnecessary commitment to losing weight for the insomniac he was to play, with the director stating “we would have been happy to just put him [Bale] in baggy clothes”. But, credit where credit’s due, if living off a can of tuna and an apple per day for over a year isn’t enough to get you the award, we don’t really know what can.
8. Colin Farrell – In Bruges
WHY: Let’s face it. Hollywood just doesn’t like Farrell. With a history of addiction stuck to the heartthrob like a shadow, it seems the underappreciated actor will never be acknowledged by the Academy. His heartfelt performance in Martin McDonagh’s nom’d In Bruges was sincerely captivating. After big-budget films like Alexander and Miami Vice crumbled under critical scrutiny, this black comedy reminded us why we put Farrell in front of the camera. The Irish charmer brought an exceptional profundity to his role as a man struggling with his recent past. In Bruges saw a turning point in Farrell’s career, as it triggered a string of serious and successful roles.
7. Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
WHY: Considering Depp was performing out of his comfort zone, trading the straight-up eccentric for a more musical variation, Depp’s vigorous and profound performance as the famous Demon Barber should have seen the star result in more than just a nomination. The Pirates of the Caribbean star renders his act with charisma and is utterly convincing in his vengeful distaste for life. Tim Burton knows how to bring out the best in Depp and with a career oscillating between every character archetype possible, Sweeney Todd confirmed that Depp could do it all.
6. Jack Nicholson – The Shinning
WHY: The list of truly terrifying movie characters is short: Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, De Niro’s Max Cady, Waltz’ Hans Landa and Fiennes’ Amon Gerth, each winning, or at least seeing their portrayer nominated with an Oscar… So where’s Nicholson’s? His famously sadistic rendition of Jack Torrance sends a chill down even the most hardened of spines. With Stanley Kubrick’s horror marking its territory in film history, it’s nothing but strange that the instant classic was to be ignored by the Academy. “Here’s Johnny” – We’ve all been there! With his gritty dialogue being prominent in modern day culture, helplessly lending itself to everyday impersonation, Jack Nicholson has left his dent in the filmic universe, with his disturbing characterisation paralleled only by the very few greats.
5. Al Pacino – Scarface
WHY: With so many outstanding performances, it is both a mystery and a tragedy that Al Pacino has only one Oscar. Although Pacino confesses to a certain level of over-acting, it is his erratic and ballsy performance that makes his role as Tony Montana so iconic. Setting the gold standard for the rags to riches archetype, Pacino’s uncompromising rendition of a man who is larger than life was met with a mixed reception. Throwing the Academy a lifeline, it seems that Pacino’s success, as Brian de Palma’s classical villain, is perhaps victim to hindsight.
4. Ralph Fiennes – The English Patient
WHY: Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, The English Patient refused its protagonist, Mr. Fiennes, his first Oscar. Ralph’s touching performance as the severely burnt Count Laszio De Almåsy commands our empathy, as he lies limp on a shabby bed, taking us on a fragmented yet insightful journey into his beautiful but tarnished memory. As a man who is usually so fixated on being the bad guy, it was nice to see an act filled with such sensitivity and subtlety. Fiennes tantalizes, as his performance fuses a unique blend of courage and creativity. One of Ralph’s most admirable movies, The English Patient should have seen the number ten beside its list of Academy Awards!
3. Michael Caine – Alfie
WHY: Sir Michael Caine has graced us Anglophiles with an endless streak of unrivalled performances: The Italian Job, Educating Rita and Get Carter. But the masterpiece that belittles even those is Lewis Gilbert’s Alfie. Caine’s first feature where his name appeared above the title only saw a nomination for best actor. The Caine-classic, born off the back of the British new wave, went on to undeniably leave a dent in the timeline of great British movies.
Michael Caine’s visionary rendition of an adulterous gentlemen rebelling against a rigid class structure whilst looking after number one, spoke to an international audience. It demonstrated a break with the past, or more specifically, with the ‘angry young man’ stereotype of the 50’s and 60’s. Our favorite cockney, with his clever asides to the camera, brings a very suave and debonair outlook to his role. As a recognized pretender of the bourgeoisie, Michael Caine’s Alfie represented a new breed of working class and revolutionized cinema.
2. John Travolta – Face/Off
WHY: John Travolta is another superb leading actor without a shiny ornament to his name. Despite groundbreaking performances in Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction and Face/Off, Travolta just cannot seem to gain the recognition he deserves. Face/Off saw the harmonious pairing of Travolta and Nicolas Cage take to the screen like a moth to a flame. The action-thriller had become an instant classic and is very much revered today. Not only did Travolta pull off his own character, the grieving and vengeful dad, Sean Archer, but also mastered Cage’s erratic Castor Troy. In this iconic two-man show, Travolta convincingly straddled two very diverse embodiments at length, which leaves no room for his Oscar winning co-star to generate a comeback.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – Shutter Island
WHY: No stranger to working with Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio as the highly intelligent, highly decorated army veteran, Edward Daniels adds the ultimate credit to his CV. DiCaprio beautifully renders his role to questionable madness – quite suitably. His rich and engrossing performance bleeds passion and remains in character throughout. His ability to beckon emotion at will is what makes this act so magical and deserving. Leo’s enactment amplifies the psychological profundity of The Beach and fuses it with the uncontainable desire of Romeo and Juliet. With such hunger in his performance, it seems that the child-star has waited a lifetime for a role like this.