Saturday, January 10, 2015


Pundits and critics have complained long and loud about the shallowness of the potential female Oscar field this year. They couldn’t be more wrong. We all know that the Best Actor list is going to leave off a ton of worthy men when the Academy Award nominations are announced January 15. (Sorry, Miles Teller.) But it’s equally as shocking to realize just how many superb female performances won’t get nominated either. And that goes for the lead category as well as the supporting one.

Here are eight women whose performances have gotten raves and should by all rights be on the Oscar short list, but due to a number of factors, they will likely be passed over. 

Marion Cotillard in TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

Her performance in this affecting character study should have been a shoo-in for a nomination. But despite winning a lot of critics’ awards for this role, Cotillard is for someone reason considered a dark horse candidate this year. As a woman fighting to hang onto her job, she is raw, desperate and heartbreaking. Cotillard is one of our finest actresses and won a Best Actress Oscar in 2006 for LA VIE EN ROSE, but since then she was passed over for NINE and RUST AND BONE. And she likely will be this year too. So what is Oscar’s problem? Is it because her performance is in a foreign film?  Perhaps not enough members are willing to read subtitles. Their loss. And Cotillard's, potentially.

Essie Davis in THE BABADOOK

Horror seldom gets its due at awards season. Thus, Essie Davis will likely not hear her name called for her stunning performance in THE BABADOOK. Her work as a frazzled mother trying to deal with a problem child, a prophetic book, and a supernatural demon in her home, was one of the best of 2014. And her knockout contribution helped make this Australian horror movie something truly special. Her work in THE BABADOOK is emotionally harrowing and every bit as physically demanding as actors playing handicapped, but Davis doesn’t stand a chance this year. Ellen Burstyn got an Oscar nod in 1973 for her similar turn in THE EXORCIST, so why not Davis? Is she too much of an outsider? Sometimes there is no justice in the Oscar race.

Shailene Woodley in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Is she too young? Or too successful? Is this movie too much of a YA title for older voters? Why is this performance not getting more traction this awards season? For that matter, how did she not get a supporting actress nod for THE DESCENDANTS back in 2011? Woodley should have been a certainty then and now, but if prognosticators are right, she'll be left in the lurch. The Academy loves Jennifer Lawrence, so why not Woodley? Heck, she even played a dying character in this film and that’s usually catnip for the Academy. So what went wrong here?

And there are plenty of superb supporting performances that should be nominated this year too and are considered also-rans by most of the pundits at places like or Here are five that deserve better than that. 

Agata Kulesza in IDA

Kulesza has won a number of awards for her stellar work as a young nun’s aunt who harbors World War II secrets in Poland’s Best Foreign Language Film entry. Most notably, the LA Film Critics honored her and you’d think that would bode well for her in the Academy’s hometown. But it’s a long shot that she’ll be called Thursday morning because again, not enough voters seem to be willing to sit through movies with subtitles. But her work was one of the finest performances in 2014 and her likely oversight will be one of the most egregious this year if it happens. 


Some in Hollywood are predicting a strong showing for NIGHTCRAWLER, the sharp thriller about a tabloid TV cameraman willing to do anything to get lurid news footage. And Jake Gyllenhaal is expected to score a lead nomination. But Rene Russo, as his ruthless producer, should get a supporting nod as well yet she is considered a long shot. Russo was wonderful playing tough and tender in this complicated role and she's long overdue for Academy recognition. Still, it looks like this Hollywood vet will be waiting a little longer. 

Carmen Ejogo in SELMA

With all of the praise being heaped on SELMA, why is a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Ejogo considered to be so iffy?  Her portrayal of Coretta Scott King was strong, complex, and incredibly moving. And the role is a large one too. The bigger roles in the supporting category usually stand out. And Ejogo was every bit as compelling as Emma Stone in BIRDMAN and yet Stone's considered a lock and Ejogo is not. Maybe if SELMA opened earlier, and more people had seen it, that would not be the case. Still, Ejogo makes an incredible impact here and deserves Academy recognition.

Sarah Gadon in ENEMY

A supporting nomination for this up-and-coming Canadian actress doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell, but it should be on the list of five for 2014’s best anyway. The shoddy release of ENEMY doomed her chances, but nonetheless she gives a performance that is incredibly moving, tragic and deserves prizes. She plays Jake Gyllenhaal’s confused and cuckolded wife and her character is the moral center of the film. But nobody really saw her great achievement, so nada. Some day soon the Academy will know this bright star’s name. Just not this year.

Tilda Swinton in SNOWPIERCER

This was one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and yet the question remains on whether enough Oscar voters will have seen it to nominate it for anything. A well-liked actress like Tilda Swinton might have a shot in the supporting field, and her performance here is a hoot and a half. It's both funny and frightening, but she's considered anything but a lock this year. She was also terrific in her leading role in ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE and in her cameo from THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, so maybe having such a banner year will get her deserved recognition. 

Ultimately, this year's Oscar for Best Supporting Actress is probably going to go to Patricia Arquette for her wondrous performance in BOYHOOD. And she is the frontrunner by a country mile, and deservedly so. But the list of others here should be in competition with her even if the Academy will likely nominate a different slate of actresses.

As for Best Actress, the smart money says it's Julianne Moore's to lose for STILL ALICE, so any of the other actresses nominated Thursday are likely going to applauding her when her name is announced as the winner on February 28th. Still, there is formidable competition here that would make the category more of a horse race.

The Oscars have always been political, and a performance alone rarely wins without campaigning. The timing of things also needs to be spot on and the Academy needs to deem one due to clutch the gold. Further complicating matters are those films that have an advantage by opening later in the season when their impact is fresher on voters. 

It would be lovely of course if performance was the only thing that mattered but that isn't how things work with Hollywood's top prize. Still, this year there are eight great performances that simply aren't getting their due. And come Thursday, it looks like Oscar will continue the oversights. 

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