Truly great acting is seldom recognized in its own time—at least officially, with trophies and such. Performance Review takes a retrospective, highly opinionated look at past award-winners. Each entry focuses on a specific category in a given year, in several different awards ceremonies, in an effort to determine the year’s most criminally overlooked performance.
From Here To Eternity cemented Sinatra’s comeback. But looking back, his Oscar competition wasn’t particularly stiff.
Jessica Tandy added an Oscar to her long, storied career in 1989 with her turn in Driving Miss Daisy, a film that already looked out of touch in the same year that produced Do The Right Thing. But Tandy’s work remains strong, even as it overshadowed some other great performances.
The year Dreyfuss starred in The Goodbye Girl also saw him starring in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Meanwhile, other, better performances got less recognition.
With nominees that included Mercedes McCambridge and famed theater actress Ethel Barrymore, the competition offered a fascinating cross-section of what late-1940s Hollywood valued in roles for women, and what it overlooked.
The 2008 Best Supporting Actor race included Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker. He took the award posthumously, but unlike with some posthumous awards, his disturbing performance seems like one that likely would have won anyway.
Faye Dunaway fast-talked her way into an Oscar in a year that also featured edgy work from other quarters—including two actors portraying put-upon teens.
In 1986, Paul Newman won an Oscar that felt like an award for a lifetime of great work. In the process, he overshadowed a remarkable Bob Hoskins performance.
In 2010, Melissa Leo’s least-restrained performance earned her an award she’d deserved earlier, for better roles.
1979 turned into a death-match between Melvyn Douglas and Mickey Rooney. That meant some fine work from others got overlooked in the process.
Sarandon’s work as Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking is among her best, and deserves a Best Actress Oscar; but another, even more remarkable performance went unrecognized.
Jessica Lange was up for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress trophies in 1982. She took home what some viewed as a consolation prize, though it rewarded some of her best work.
Michael Caine took home a well-deserved Oscar in 1999. But that year’s Best Supporting Actor field included some magnificent work—some of which never even got nominated.
In a competitive year for Best Actor, the Academy went with what it knew: Jack. In the process, it overlooked some great work, including one of the decade’s best performances—one that didn’t even earn a nomination.
Few recent Oscar winners have provoked so many strong feelings as Renée Zellweger, whose hillsy turn in Cold Mountain delighted some and appalled others. Elsewhere in the supporting-actress world, 2003 was a year of breakout performances from both veterans and newcomers.
George Sanders’ immortal turn in All About Eve gave the film its cynical soul. But his wasn’t the only memorable supporting acting turn that year.
The 2012 Best Actress race pitted youth against experience, subtlety against flamboyance, and comedy against drama. Jennifer Lawrence won in a no-doubt-tough race that’s already worth revisiting.
The year’s Best Actor awards were plagued by miscategorization and last-minute rule changes, but that doesn’t detract from the impressive performances on display.
The Academy got it right when it awarded the 11-year-old actress a Best Supporting trophy in 1993—which is all the more extraordinary considering the many strong performances she went up against that year.
The Academy Awards often overlook comic performances. 1988 was an exception, but only up to a point: Kevin Kline got attention for A Fish Called Wanda, while an equally gifted peer got nothing for a breakout role.