Oscar winners are named based on the votes of the Academy. It’s these choices and decisions that determine who will go down as nominees and winners in Oscar history books. Often, the choices and the decisions of the Academy do not necessarily reflect the choices, decisions, and opinions of the fans. The popularity of an actor or filmmaker or their success at the box office doesn’t guarantee Oscar gold or even a nomination.
In terms of being nominated, sometimes actors and other artists of film are completely overlooked. When it comes to winning…Well, sometimes you can be nominated but not win; even when popular opinion says otherwise. Here are some of the biggest Oscar disappointments in recent years.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Ever since his performance in Titanic was snubbed for a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1998, it seems that this uber talented actor is cursed. It is an unarguable fact that he is one of the greatest actors of our time. In fact, I see him being selected for a Cecil B. DeMille Award in the future. His contributions to film are staggering to say the least, and his range and scope are astounding and diverse. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, Blood Diamond, The Beach, Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, Body of Lies, The Departed, Inception! By far this is a body of work that needs to be recognized, but can you believe he only has 3 Oscar nominations? I mean, what more does the Academy want from him? Is there no role in there worthy of an Oscar? In the years where he was nominated, were the other actors nominated in the same category more deserving to win than him? It’s beginning to feel like he’s always a bridesmaid but never a bride. I know I’m not alone in saying DiCaprio needs to win an Oscar, not just be nominated for one.
Cate Blanchett: Ever since this actress graced the screen in Elizabeth I have thought she was definitely of Oscar caliber. She was nominated in 1999 for her role in the historic biopic about England’s most glorious queen, and if you have ever seen her as Elizabeth I, you would agree she is the sovereign reincarnated. I have never seen another actor, besides Will Smith, embody an historical figure so completely. For all intents and purposes, she was Elizabeth. Instead Gwenyth Paltrow won for her role in Shakespeare in Love. Now I won’t argue that Paltrow gave a stellar performance as the star crossed Viola, but was she more deserving of the golden statuette than Blanchett that year? Maybe. If you consider all that Shakespearean-prose-spouting of great technical difficulty, I guess Paltrow had the trickier performance. However, to this day, I can’t help but be reminded of high school when everyone lived in fear of the 16th century playwright’s prose. Did the Academy consider reciting Shakespeare of requiring greater skill?
Will Smith: Here is another actor that became their subject in the movie Ali. I clearly remember Will Smith outlining his regime for his metamorphosis into becoming the boxing legend. It seems that this role marked the year when everyone really started talking about actors and the lengths they will go to become a role. Yes, I remember Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Cast Away, but Will Smith trained hard. He trained 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, for nine months. He ran 3 to 5 miles a day at 6 a.m. during those 6 days a week. He also had 2 and a half hours of boxing training those days. He trained like a boxer. Now that’s commitment. Everyone was impressed with Smith’s performance, even the real Ali himself. Can you get a better endorsement than that? Yet it was Denzel Washington as Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day that took Oscar home that night.
Christopher Nolan: Well, I had to mention him since his name is on everyone’s minds. There is no denying that Nolan is one of the freshest and most genius of brainchild creators to come out of Hollywood in a while. Whenever his name is attached to a project, there is a tumult of fevered excitement that fills the very air. Everyone just knows if Christopher Nolan’s name is attached to it, it is going to be good. Last year’s Inception was no exception to that rule. Inception was a film that blew everyone’s mind. It was a trending topic worldwide on Twitter for weeks on end, and I have a feeling it is just a glimpse as to the delights we have to expect from this phenom filmmaker. Does it mean he’s worthy of a Best Director Oscar nod though? Obviously not this year.
Some other actors of note that have been nominated but never won an Oscar are Tom Cruise with 3 nominations, Brad Pitt with 2 noms, and Johnny Depp with 3. Some other directors who have been nominated but never won are George Lucas with 2 nominations, Ridley Scott with 3, and Robert Altman who was nominated 5 times. (Oddly, I’m reminded of Susan Lucci who after all her years on TV never won a Daytime Emmy until 1999. She was nominated a staggering 18 times before she finally won!)
In my mind, these are people who should have either been nominated for an Oscar, or should have won an Oscar if they were nominated. Unfortunately, like any other path to greatness, the road to Oscar is paved with disappointment. And disappointingly for some, the Oscars is not a popularity contest — or so they tell me. If it was, it is very likely that some of the outcomes would have been decidedly different.