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James Franco, Joaquin Phoenix: Oscar Omissions 2014

February 21, 2014 09:55 IST

James Franco, Joaquin Phoenix: Oscar Omissions 2014

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Raja Sen in Mumbai

James Franco and Julie Delpy are some of the actors, who deserved to be nominated for the 2014 Oscars but lost out.

It’s award season, and with the Oscars just a few days away, we’ve already looked at the nominees in the top categories -- Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress -- and their likely odds.

But, as is always the case with Oscars and opinions, several of the greatest don’t even get nominated.

In the first of a two-part series about those who truly deserved to be nominated, here’s my take on a dozen actors the Academy missed out on this year.

James Franco, Spring Breakers

It’s not a conventionally Oscar kinda movie...  Scratch that, it’s not a conventional movie by any standards, a Harmony Korine oddity that leans on a dub-step soundtrack and bikini-filled montages more than it does plot or narrative.

But feel as you do about the film itself -- I’m not sure yet if it’s brilliant or grotesque or both -- it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by Franco’s outlandish performance as a passionate gun-fellating gangster with a penchant for the piano. It’s a wildly original performance, a thing of monstrous beauty.

This one should have been in the run for Best Supporting Actor.

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Image: James Franco in Spring Breakers


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Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said

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Louis-Dreyfus has always been a solid actress with impeccable comic chops, but as she shows in the television hit Veep, she’s more than able to carry quieter, more vulnerable beats.

In Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, the actress plays a masseuse who gets into a relationship and can’t help herself from sabotaging it.

It’s an understated, remarkably balanced performance and one that should certainly have earned the multiple-Emmy winning television icon a Best Actress nomination.


Image: James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said


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Robert Redford, All Is Lost

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Director JC Chandor’s unique All Is Lost is a nearly-dialogueless film with one actor in a boat.

It’s a staggeringly ambitious idea -- with a script a mere three dozen pages long -- and it only works because the man in the boat is a bonafide legend who pushes himself harder than he has ever had to.

Redford gives us something very special, a tour de force that is deeply internalised, a performance that is melancholy and magnificent.

Not giving this a Best Actor nomination is a crime.


Image: Robert Redford in All Is Lost


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Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis

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The Coen Brothers have a knack for picking off-kilter protagonists, but there is something intrinsically noble about the innate fallibility of the titular Mr Davis, as shaped by the actor Oscar Isaac.

A handsome and talented man who wears those assets clumsily and squanders them enough to render himself unlikeable, watching his Llewyn stumble is like watching an animated trainwreck in slow-motion: it’s exquisite, doomed and morbidly fascinating. He should have been a Best Actor frontrunner.


Image: Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis


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Julie Delpy, Before Midnight

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Brave, emotionally naked and massively evocative, Delpy’s performance in the third of Richard Linklater’s amazing series of films is among the most honest thing you’re likely to have seen at the movies last year.

Her Celine is sharp, incisive, clever, funny, whimsical and too damned real.

It’s the kind of performance that makes you believe in -- and simultaneously despair for -- the very idea of marriage. If this isn’t Best Actress material the Academy must be spelling ‘actress’ wrong.


Image: Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight


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Matthew McConaughey, The Wolf Of Wall Street

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McConaughey’s the forerunner for the Best Actor prize for his stupendous commitment to the Dallas Buyers Club, sure, but I say his brief but incandescent performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street is vital enough to deserve its own Best Supporting Actor nomination.

A scumbag in scamp’s clothing, he’s a well-tailored crook with an unforgettable chest-thumping credo that corrupts the leading man and kicks off the whole sordid debacle.


Image: Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf Of Wall Street


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Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha

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There are few performances that belong so completely to the moment that they become emblematic of a time and place in the world, and in Noam Baumbach’s excellent Frances Ha, Gerwig bottles up the lightning-bolt whimsy of New York circa Right Now unlike anything else in popular culture.

It’s a fun, freewheeling, beautiful fizzy-drink of a performance and Gerwig masterfully draws the line between loveable and cloying. She’s irresistible -- except to those picking out Best Actress nominees, clearly.


Image: Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha


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Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips

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So restrained is two-time Best Actor winner Tom Hanks throughout nearly all of the entirety of Paul Greengrass’ edge-of-the-seat new film that you’d be forgiven for thinking he doesn’t do much.

Except this is a masterstroke, for while Hanks has indeed valiantly been playing his cards close to the chest (and compensating for the broadstrokes surrounding his kidnapped character), he completely goes for broke in the last minutes of the film, giving us perhaps the most emotionally overwhelming scenes of the year.

He should have at least been a contender for Best Actor.


Image: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips


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Scarlett Johannson, Her

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This one’s been debated across the length and breadth of the Internet, since Johannson doesn’t appear on screen at all in Spike Jonze’s sublime Her, and has been snubbed by other award juries since they don’t reward just voice-work in the acting categories.

There is, of course, nothing at all ‘just’ about that line of thought, because Johannson gives us a career-best performance in the film.

She’s enthusiastic, she’s earnest, she’s clever, she’s committed, she’s too good to be true.

In short, she’s worth falling in love with. Even if she’s just a voice. She’s certainly better than at least three of the five this year.


Image: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters


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Joaquin Phoenix, Her

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Spike Jonze’s fantastic Her -- in my book the best film among all this year’s nominees -- is a film about a man and (his attempts to evade, find, heal from and bound into) love.

Joaquin Phoenix, wearing trousers right under his ribs and hiding both nondescript frown and goofy grin behind a bushy moustache, makes his Theodore Twombly a character whose heartbreak affects us all.

He’s simple, smart, silly and complicated in a way we can all relate to -- and not.

And he makes love to a woman who isn’t there.

He’s amazing, and should have been a favourite to win Best Actor, not just a nominee.


Image: Joaquin Phoenix, Her


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John Goodman, Inside Llewyn Davis

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There’s some kind of magic that happens when John Goodman lurches into a Coen brothers film, shaking things up in a way nobody else can ever quite manage.

He doesn’t have a long appearance in their latest bleak-but-beautiful film, but -- in the role of an obnoxious drug-addled jazz musician -- he takes the film to a whole other level, simply by interrupting the narrative and providing many of his own.

Goodman’s a gem, and in a fair world, he’d be up for Best Supporting Actor.


Image: John Goodman in Inside Llewyn Davis


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Emma Thompson, Saving Mr Banks

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Saving Mr Banks -- a Disney production about a Disney production, and the first film to feature an actor playing Walt Disney -- is heavily skewed against realism and accuracy, and turns its characters into cookie-cutter stereotypes.

But rising above the material -- flying over it with an umbrella, as I said in my review -- is Emma Thompson, who makes her Mrs Travers strict but sympathetic, a schoolmarm but never heartless.

She’s a beauty, and ought to have been up for Best Actress.


Image: Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks


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