The red carpets are ready to roll for the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday, 26th February, in which the cream of filmmaking’s crop will be taking their seats at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the prestigious occasion.
One of the biggest talking points this, and indeed every awards season, is those who have been omitted from the nominations, or those who fail to walk away with a coveted Oscar on the evening. Ahead of Sunday’s ceremony, we thought it was apt to reflect on the hugely talented actors and actresses who are yet to rightfully claim one of these beloved statuettes; ranging from those who’ve unbelievably never had a single nomination, to those who’ve come so close, only to fall at the final hurdle.
As far as we’re concerned, this brilliant bunch really do deserve Academy Awards success, and here’s why…
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16. Paul Dano
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
Take a quick scroll through Paul Dano’s illustrious filmography, and it seems almost impossible that the dexterous performer have never once received an Academy Award nomination. Fantastic in his range, and ambitious in his selections, Dano has offered fine work in titles such as Youth (2015), Ruby Sparks (2012), and most recently, avant-garde buddy comedy Swiss Army Man with Daniel Radcliffe in 2016. However he undoubtedly deserved shots at Oscar glory for his insidiously layered performance as a child abductor in Denis Villeneuve’s visceral Prisoners back in 2013, and for his uniquely complex work as a young Brian Wilson in Beach Boys biopic, Love and Mercy (2014). He’ll be seen next alongside Cate Blanchett, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Okja later this year.
15. Saoirse Ronan
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 2 (Atonement, Brooklyn)
At just 23 years of age, the fact that the mightily talented Saoirse Ronan has two Academy Award nominations to her name speaks volumes of her capabilities. Her nomination for her miraculous work in John Crowley’s enthralling and profoundly brilliant Brooklyn (2015) however, should have been a win. With a rich assortment of directors peppering her portfolio – from Wes Anderson, to Joe Wright; from Neil Jordan, to Ryan Gosling (yeah, seriously…) – and some five forthcoming films in production, including the hugely audacious Loving Vincent, the world’s first painted motion picture, Ronan is showing zero signs of Oscar deflation. We wholeheartedly expect to hear the American-Irish beauty’s name read out during a future nominations announcement, with wide bets placed on 2017’s The Seagull, which co-stars Annette Bening, and Elisabeth Moss.
14. Bill Murray
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 1 (Lost in Translation)
Yes, you read that correctly. Bill Murray – one of the greatest treasures of American film – has only ever been nominated for an Academy Award once, to which he lost to Sean Penn which only adds further insult to injury. With a career spanning over 40 years, laden with incredible performances in iconic pictures such as Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), Stripes (1981), Groundhog Day (1993), and Broken Flowers (2005) to name but a few, Murray deserved an Oscar win so long ago that it borders on parody. His nomination for Sofia Coppola’s observational masterpiece Lost in Translation (2003) should have been a confirmed victory from the get-go, and it should have walked away with the Best Picture win too; not some forgettable Peter Jackson fantasy sequel. To this day, Murray remains a primary player in the industry, frequenting the works of Wes Anderson in particular, to which he’ll lend his infamous vocal to the director’s latest animation, Isle of Dogs (2018).
13. Allison Janney
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
Initially famed for her remarkable small screen work in shows such as The West Wing, the great Allison Janney has carved a ambitious career on the silver screen, too. In fact, with titles including American Beauty (1999), Juno (2007), The Help (2011), and The Way Way Back (2013) all in her résumé, it is baffling to think she hasn’t been recognised by the Academy on a single occasion. Famed for her fearless wit – often attached to sharply curated matriarchal personas – Janney is one of the industry’s most recognisable comediennes, but is also fluent in drama, as per her early work, and roles in the likes of Liberal Arts (2012), and The Girl on the Train (2016). Whilst we think it’s unlikely Janney will serve up a forthcoming performance that’ll garner her first Oscar nomination, stranger things have most certainly happened. Perhaps the forthcoming ice skating biopic I, Tonya in 2018 with Margot Robbie can break the habit…
12. Steve Buscemi
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
The legendary screen chameleon that is Steve Buscemi frequents Academy Award-nomianted and winning pictures – from Pulp Fiction (1994), to Fargo (1996), via Armageddon (1998), and Monsters, Inc. (2001) – but has yet to confirm himself as an nominee. Despite being famed for his electric work in crime drama, with his HBO series Boardwalk Empire providing a monumental example, Buscemi is as adept when tackling wry comedy, and darkly-drawn satire. There is little doubt that his fantastic role in 2001’s Ghost World was worthy of awards attention, but perhaps the film was just a little too obscure for Academy voters. Either way, it is entirely maddening to think the ever-talented actor, writer, and director is without a single Oscar nod, and here’s hoping this traditional quickly seizes. He has a number of projects in the works, but we’re most excited for The Death of Stalin – directed by Veep‘s Armando Iannucci – which co-stars Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, and Rupert Friend.
11. Emily Blunt
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
One of the biggest recent mysteries is how Emily Blunt’s staggeringly layered performance in Sicario (2015) failed to attain an Academy Award nomination. This is made all the stranger when you realise the fantastically talented actress is yet to land a nod for any of her previous work, and with grand performances in titles such as The Young Victoria (2009), Your Sister’s Sister (2011), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), you can’t help but head-scratch. Blunt’s biggest weapon in her arsenal is her dexterity across genre; she can be the hard-edged action heroine as excellently as the vulnerable, lonesome damsel. Although the film itself wasn’t particularly impressive, her textured central role in last year’s The Girl on the Train was easily worthy of awards nominations; for starters, she nails drunk acting, which is seriously difficult to authenticate, plus her interplay dialogue with the surrounding co-stars made for a stirringly complex – and ofter unreliable – protagonist. Still, she’ll be playing Mary Poppins soon, and that’ll surely charm the voters…
10. Mark Wahlberg
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 1 (The Departed)
The great Bostonian heavyweight Mark Wahlberg is one of the few actors working in studio filmmaking who represents physical performance. In that, his presence in frame, and his form convey as equal emotion and potency as his prose. Technically, Wahlberg has two Oscar nominations, but only a single nod for performance (the other, a producer credit), and this is due to his work forever being overcrowded by showier actors, such as Christian Bale in The Fighter (2010), or Russell Crowe in Broken City (2013). However his recent work with director Peter Berg is bringing out the very best in his physicality, and he wholeheartedly deserved Academy Award nominations for both Deepwater Horizon (2016), and the sublime Patriots Day (2017); one of the finest American police procedurals in recent memory. If there was ever any justice, he’d of been recognised for his blisteringly confrontational role in Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain (2013), too. We somehow don’t think his next project will be on voters lists however, as he’ll be reunited with the Autobots for Transformers: The Last Knight this summer.
09. Scarlett Johansson
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
Just look at some of the filmmakers who’ve directed the ever-great Scarlett Johansson: Christopher Nolan, Sofia Coppola, Luc Besson, Spike Jonze, Cameron Crowe, Jonathan Glazer, Woody Allen, the Coen Brothers. The ravishing screen beauty has worked with some of the finest auteurs in operation today, yet she has still failed to attain even a single Academy Award nomination. With staggering performances across practically every genre, Johansson is one of the most established and versatile figures in the mainstream, but she also delivers incredibly realised work in slighter titles too, particularly Under the Skin (2013, the first true masterpiece of the 2010s), and earlier in her career with the darkly steamy drama Match Point (2005). Johansson has deserved awards recognition for years now, across plentiful films, not least those mentioned, and indeed 2003’s sublime Lost in Translation, but we are confident that in the near future, her nomination value will alter. Next up she’ll be diving into action as The Major in highly-anticipated Manga adaptation, Ghost in the Shell, which opens in March.
08. Gael García Bernal
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
How on earth was Gael García Bernal’s astonishing performance in Chilean maestro Pablo Larraín’s No (2012) not nominated for an Academy Award? Equally, how on earth was the fantastic Mexican performer without recognition for his ferociously captivating work in Jon Stewart’s Rosewater back in 2014? A long-running argument between film critics and Academy voters is the lack of international talent represented at the Oscars, particularly in the major categories. A few have succeeded, such as Marion Cotillard, but rarely are “foreign” (as in, actors who don’t favour American-English as their first language…) actors recognised for their fantastic contributions. Bernal is one of the most reliable figures working across multiple markets, and indeed multiple formats. Right now his Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle is amongst the most acclaimed on air, which landed him a rightful Golden Globe win last year. His next big move on the silver screen will be for Jonás Cuarón – son of Alfonso – with his Zorro remake, rumoured for a 2018 release.
07. Isabelle Huppert
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 1 (Elle)
2017 marks the year in which Isabelle Huppert, most likely the finest actress on the planet, landed her first Academy Award nomination, for her impeccably fiery work in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (2016). Considering the complex and captivating Parisian – who never shies away from a challenging role – has starred in more than 100 feature films, that fact that she has but a single nod to her name is quite frankly sickening. Look at films like Madame Bovary (1991), The Piano Teacher (2001), The Sea Wall (2008), White Material (2009), Amour (2012); the list is just endless. Huppert’s ability to cloak herself in character is remarkable; she wears her character with such dignity and potency that despite the fact she’s appeared in more movies than any actor could dream of, you never see the performer. She is the rarest of screen talents, and it’s high-time awards voters outside of Europe started paying their respects. She wholeheartedly deserves to win on Sunday for Elle, but the category looks locked in with Emma Stone and La La Land. Huppert has seven (yes, seven) films scheduled for release this year, including Michael Haneke’s Happy End.
06. Joaquin Phoenix
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 3 (Gladiator, Walk the Line, The Master)
The Academy clearly understand the challenging brilliance of Joaquin Phoenix, who has been Oscar-nomianted on three prior occasions. Interestingly however, his greatest works have failed to garner any attention from voters. Look at his toweringly intimate and vulnerable performance in Spike Jonze’s Her (2013); a screen turn which requires every inch of his capabilities and emotion, and a film which demands him to burden nearly the entire weight upon his slender frame. It is a masterclass of humanity, and completely deserved recognition. Equally, his staggeringly cutting role in James Gray’s Two Lovers (2008) – which if you haven’t seen, seek it out – was worthy of Academy Awards success, for the manner in which he beautifully and brutally underpins internal damage, and all-consuming depression. Phoenix has offered many-a-tremendous performance across his illustrious career, with further highlights including We Own The Night (2009), The Immigrant (2013), and Irrational Man (2015), and we are certain he’ll find his name attached to a future nominations bill soon enough. He has a busy 2018, with Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, and John C. Reilly being the most-anticipated.
05. Amy Adams
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 5 (Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, American Hustle)
Here’s the stone-cold truth: Amy Adams has no right to be on this list, because she categorically should have been granted an Academy Award years ago. They say she is the “Leonardo DiCaprio of female performance”, which sadly couldn’t be more apt. Across a simply unprecedented career – populated by sensational film, after sensational film – the ravishing, hypnotic Adams has delivered stunning work for the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell, Tim Burton, John Patrick Shanley, and Spike Jonze, forever offering textured and magnetic characters. The injustice this year however, is just wrong on so many incomprehensible levels. She totally deserved Oscar nominations for both Denis Villueneve’s Arrival (2016) and Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals (2016) – two supremely different, yet utterly spellbinding roles, which ask her of everything. She delivers grace and beauty as meticulously as steely, frosting venom, and supports those around her tenfold. Now we are certain the Academy realises their huge mistakes, and will be looking to reset the balance in the nearest future, so despite five previous nominations (all of which were excellent enough to warrant victory), her sixth will likely be the ticket to success. We cannot wait to see her in the upcoming mini-series of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects later this year.
04. Guy Pearce
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 0
Seriously, you can check this for yourself, but Guy Pearce – the ever-talented, ever-impressing, ever-surprising Guy Pearce – has never been nominated for an Academy Award. Not once. How is this even possible? With outstanding performances in L.A. Confidential (1997) Memento (2000), The Proposition (2005), Factory Girl (2006), and The Hurt Locker (2008), it is simply baffling that he has never landed on the voters bill. Perhaps the most glaring omission in recent years however is for his rugged, ruthless, and utterly spectacular work in David Michôd’s The Rover from 2014. What a tremendous and muscular film that is, and what an impeccable calibre Pearce is firing on throughout. He is the type of actor who can seamlessly slink into any role, and better any project. A master of accents and physicality, he’d make a fabulous James Bond, although we highly doubt he is anywhere near the casting radar for that one. With many talking about his controversial role in festival scandal Brimstone – due out in the coming months – we can’t see that turning into his first Oscar nod, but perhaps a golden future lies ahead for Pearce; whatever happens, he is a winner in the eyes of every cinephile world over.
03. Rooney Mara
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 2 (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Carol)
Not only is the bewitching and beautiful Rooney Mara one of the best actresses at work today, she’s also amongst the most admirable. The young performer could have easily opted for the simpler route in studio filmmaking – superheroes, franchises, sequels, and the like – but instead she respects the art of cinema, and secures projects with screen poets such as Terrence Malick, Todd Haynes, David Lowery, and Jim Sheridan. Mara has been nominated for two Academy Awards thus far, both of which she deserved to win, in particular for her startlingly heartbreaking performance in Carol (2015, one of the finest new American films in recent memory). She also totally deserved nods for her subtle yet vital supporting role in David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010), and her scathingly layered work in Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects back in 2013. With her delicate touch, and nuanced selection process, Mara has rendered herself into one of the most fascinating stars of the era, and that trend is set to continue with an almighty 2017 planned. Titles including critically-acclaimed Una, The Discovery, and A Ghost Story are incoming, in addition to the woozy music-scene romance Song to Song, with Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, and Michael Fassbender, which’ll open the SXSW Film Festival next month.
02. Jake Gyllenhaal
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 1 (Brokeback Mountain)
When you think of the greatest modern acting, you think of Jake Gyllenhaal. He tests himself with every project, adding more and more to his performance palette with each passing role. The fact that the Californian king has only garnered a single Academy Award nomination, which was over a decade ago, is beyond baffling; rather insulting. Just look at titles such as Zodiac (2007) – how was he not nominated for David Fincher’s masterpiece? – and Brothers (2009); a soberingly honest performance which beautifully underpinned the complexities of PTSD. Then there’s his fantastic work in End of Watch (2012), Prisoners (2013), Nightcrawler (2014), Southpaw (2015 – in which he performed 2,000 press-ups per day to assist his body transformation), and of course last year’s utterly exceptional Nocturnal Animals (which deserved success alongside the aforementioned Amy Adams). But if there was ever a Gyllenhaal performance which completely deserved awards attention, it was his beguilingly brilliant duel work in Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, which was also shot and released in 2013. A complex web of mystery, deceit, symbolism, and identity, it remains one of the most outstandingly puzzling pictures, and confirmed its star’s unbelievable abilities. Gyllenhaal is a master, and we are certain his Oscar time will come sooner rather than later. Look out for him later this year in Daniel Espinosa’s Life, David Gordon Green’s Stronger, and Joon Ho Bong’s Okja.
01. Annette Bening
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: 4 (The Grifters, American Beauty, Being Julia, The Kids Are All Right)
There have been many-a-crime committed throughout the Academy Awards’ prolonged history; injustices littered absolutely everywhere, but among the most painful are those committed against Annette Bening: one of the most extraordinarily ordinary actresses to ever grace studio cinema. She was robbed of a rightful win back in 2000 by Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry (a good film, but not even a patch on Sam Mendes’ masterful American Beauty), and again in 2005 by the SAME ACTRESS for Million Dollar Baby. And she even lost to Whoopi Goldberg more than 20 years ago. Seriously, the star of Snow Buddies, Pinocchio 3000, and Sister Act has an Academy Award, but one of the most generational talents does not. In total, Bening has been nominated for four Oscars, which totally should be five at a mere minimum, after her immaculate and stirring central performance in Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women (2017, which has been one of the most brutal victims of this campaign, earning just a single nomination). The legendary actress – an icon of her craft – has never shied away from challenging characters, but is as equally reliable when offering comedic support, with films like Running with Scissors (2006), and Ruby Sparks (2012) serving as key examples. The future holds good things for Bening, who’ll take to the small screen for the second season of American Crime Story, and she’ll join fellow listed actress Saoirse Ronan in The Seagull later this year.