Emergency: We’re less than two weeks from the Oscars, and I still have an entire Academy history to lament. Let’s give props to the ten actors who’ve deserved an Academy Award most, yet have found themselves empty-handed. I’ve ranked them according to how much I’ve wept rethinking each slight.
10. Alec Baldwin
Yes, I’m trying to fix the gaping hole in my heart where 30 Rock once lived, but I also bring up the name of Jack Donaghy’s maker for a pertinent reason — he is a dynamite screen presence. If his chilling “Always be closing” monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross weren’t scary and bad-ass enough, he’s proved himself capable AND cuddly in Working Girl, The Aviator, The Departed, and The Cooler, where he notched his first and only Oscar nomination. Surely the man who racked up six straight Emmy nominations for lovingly patronizing Liz Lemon should win one damn Oscar for bringing the heat onscreen.
9. Amy Adams
Now hear this: Amy Adams has amassed four Oscar nominations in a very short period of time, which means she deserves a full hogshead of respect. Personally, I found her performance to be the only awesome thing about The Fighter, and I would’ve given her the trophy over Melissa Leo — no matter what I was asked to “Consider.” Adams also delighted us with nominated performances in Doubt and The Master (not to mention a killer breakout role in Junebug), but the bottom line is she’s given us utter versatility and warranted every ounce of adulation that’s come her way. I forgive her for that endlessly chirpy blogger voice in Julie and Julia.
8. Patricia Clarkson
Six Feet Under superfans salivate at the sight of this still-somehow-underrated actress, even though she did earn a single Oscar nomination for her work in the Katie Holmes starrer Pieces of April. She was simply unforgettable in the essential 2000s jams Far From Heaven and The Station Agent. What will it take for this natural actress to become an Oscar frontrunner? I’m thinking a Bonnie Raitt biopic.
7. Gary Oldman
Sid and Nancy is as bracing and emotional a biopic as I’ve ever seen, and since 1987, Gary Oldman has garnered heaps of sympathy for never picking up a nomination for his role as the iconically emaciated, perhaps stabby Sid Vicious. He’s worked tirelessly in everything from Leon: The Professional and Murder in the First to the recent string of Batman films, and he finally won a nomination or his work in the criminally dull Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy. Dear Academy: Let’s clear this one up in the next five years. Thank you.
6. Annette Bening
I can’t even pick my favorite Annette Bening role. Is it the shifty, slinky criminal of The Grifters? The jaw-droppingly miserable Carolyn Burnham of American Beauty? The exasperated lesbian mother Nic of The Kids Are All Right? Hell, I’d nominate Barbara Land of Mars Attacks too! Annette Bening is perhaps our most dependably watchable movie star, since she is utterly believable and usually fun in just about anything. She’s got the kind of X-factor that tames and sedates Warren Beatty. Lethal stuff.
5. Sigourney Weaver
We live on some godforsaken planet where Sigourney Weaver doesn’t have an Oscar. As Ellen Ripley in the Alien series, she set the standard for ass-kicking female protagonists, and I’m certain that Lara Croft and Lisbeth Salander would tremble beneath her glorious six-foot stature. In Working Girl, she worked the hell out of a vermilion blazer and Melanie Griffith’s patience. In Gorillas in the Mist, she showed us the telegenic and fascinating qualities of Dian Fossey. And I effing loved her in Copycat, Ghostbusters, and even Heartbreakers. As Meryl Streep’s onetime colleague at Yale, she deserves an Oscar just for putting up with 35 years of the world’s incessant (but warranted) Meryl deification.
4. Julianne Moore
Ever since she threw a pants-less fit in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts and eyed Madonna during a bathroom scene in Body of Evidence (!), Julianne Moore has been a rightful critical darling. Far From Heaven? I shudder and die. Boogie Nights? I crumble. Magnolia? That movie is too long and self-indulgent, but I still adore her in it. For a four-time Oscar nominee, Ms. Moore is remarkably under-heralded as a silver screen legend. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to try on a ridiculous Boston accent and hit on Jack Donaghy, am I right?
3. Ralph Fiennes
I missed the whole phenomenon of The English Patient, and even without that bit of Oscar bait glory, I can say that Ralph Fiennes’ Oscar-less existence bugs me on a terribly personal level. 1. He is a distinct fox and always has been. 2. His way of conveying poetic regret and moral conundrums is second to none, particularly in Quiz Show and the recent (and so, so worthwhile) Coriolanus. 3. He is chilling as hell, and if you think Tommy Lee Jones earned his Oscar over Fiennes in Schindler’s List, we’ll never be friends. He’s brilliant, and there hasn’t been nearly enough official adulation about the matter.
2. Judy Davis
As Bryan Safi once told me, Judy Davis is the only person who can pull off brown lipstick. That doesn’t mean she deserves an Oscar, but a provocative thought, right? Anyway. She has played some of the most exciting real and fictional roles of the past 30 years, including Adela Quested in A Passage to India, George Sand in Impromptu, Sally in Husbands and Wives, and Lillian Hellman in the HBO jam Dash & Lilly. “Quirky” is an understatement. She is a peculiar and electric actress whose every instinct seems cunning. I hope she has a portfolio of all her greatest moments lovingly labeled “My brilliant career.”
1. Glenn Close
Part of being a grownup is realizing that Glenn Close has never starred in a movie worthy of her immense talents, with the possible exception of Dangerous Liaisons. To date, her greatest role is Patty Hewes in Damages, because it exhibits her command, intelligence, and coolness — as well as her snapdragon impulses. The Big Chill is an aimless curio, The World According to Garp is senselessly weird, and Fatal Attraction’s fatal flaw is its offensive “mentally ill women = the Boogeyman” moral. Meanwhile, Glenn herself is as sharp and prized as a Stradivarius: She’s a one-of-a-kind treasure with magically staccato powers. I am pale and glum as Albert Nobbs thinking of the fact that she’s not wielding 5-8 Oscars like Roman candles right now.
Your turn. Who deserves the hardware most?