Top Five… Forgotten Oscar Nominations

They say history only remembers the winners, so why should Oscar history be any different? Here we countdown the Oscar noms that have completely slipped our tiny, fragile, little minds. These aren’t forgettable performances or movies – far from it – just the ones that make us go, ‘Wow, he/she/it was nominated for an Oscar for that?’

5. Robert De Niro, nominated for Best Actor for Cape Fear

Let’s start with a biggie. Considering he’s pretty much regarded by anyone who’s ever watched a few films as one of the greatest actors in history, it seems bizarre that De Niro only has a puny six nominations. Even with some of his shoddier output in the past 20 years, it’s still remarkable that he hasn’t had an Oscar nom since 1992. That means he wasn’t nominated for films like Heat, Casino, This Boy’s Life and Cop Land. But what surprised us was that his last nomination was for his scary-as-shit portrayal of Max Cady in Martin Scorsese’s scintillating remake of Cape Fear. I love Cape Fear and De Niro is fantastic in it, but when I watch it I never think, ‘wow, this bit where Bobby bites a chunk out of that chick’s cheek is really Oscar-worthy’. So, in that sense, this performance is a forgotten Oscar nom for me. Ironically, he was beaten that year by an even bigger cheek-munching villain: Hannibal Theodore* Lecter.

*Hannibal Lecter’s middle name may not be Theodore.

4.  Julia Roberts, nominated for Best Actress for Pretty Woman

How times have changed. Not a chance in hell would you get nominated for Best Actress for a role like this now. But that’s exactly what happened back in 1991 to Julia Roberts. Officially the cleanest, nicest, hottest hooker in cinema history (just pipping Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places), Vivian Ward melted Richard Gere’s rich client’s heart and all our hearts too. If we were girls. Roberts had already shown her acting chops in the likes of Mystic Pizza and Steel Magnolias (anyone who says a bad word about Steel Magnolias gets a punch in the arm. It rocks the frickin’ shit.), so maybe the Academy decided to reward her for her A-list-making performance here.

3. Four Weddings And A Funeral, nominated for Best Picture

I love Four Weddings And A Funeral. Hugh Grant gives one of the funniest, sweetest performances of the 90s. Comedy this good is very hard to do. It never gets rewarded. Heck, I even like Andie MacDowell in it. I think her dough eyedness actually adds to the finished film, stupid line about ‘rain’ and all. Much in the same way as her charm – if not her acting – made Green Card one of the best romantic comedies ever made. But boy, even I had forgotten Four Weddings had been up for Best Picture. With Pulp Fiction! And The Shawshank Redemption! It probably would have been a worthier winner than Forrest Gump, which I do like despite the flak it takes, but hardly enough to name it the best film of 1994. Bugger, bugger, bugger…

2. Pat Morita, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Karate Kid

Damn, 1984 was a great year for movies. This was a time when the films that topped the box office were ones you genuinely wanted to see. Beverly Hills Cop. Romancing The Stone. Ghostbusters. Gremlins. Temple Of Doom. Splash. And of course… The Karate Kid, so good it’s still being referenced in a film like The Social Network. But when I was about three feet tall and practicing my crane kick, I didn’t even know what an Oscar was. A good 27 years later, it was a genuine shock to me to realise that Mr Miyagi was up for Best Supporting Actor. As it turned out, the late Morita could have no complaints at losing out to Haing S Ngor (who was murdered in 1996 outside his home) for his stunning work in The Killing Fields. However, Morita’s creation of a character that has endured all these years should not be ignored. The Karate Kid is not a movie you associate with Oscars – indeed, Morita represented the film’s only Academy nomination – but it’s good to realise that a film like this, which played a big part in many people’s early film-watching experience, can get honoured.

1. Billy Bob Thornton, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for A Simple Plan

If it was Friday night, and I was sitting through another late night showing of A Simple Plan (this movie is never on not late at night) with someone, and that someone said to me, ‘You know, Billy Bob was nominated for an Oscar for this’, I would definitely bet money on them being wrong. Until I found out that it’s true, of course.  I do like it when pivotal roles in great movies like this that are slightly under the Academy radar are rewarded, but that doesn’t make it any less of a surprise when it actually happens. In the mid to late 90s, Thornton was on an Oscar roll. After double noms for Sling Blade in Best Adapted Screenplay (he won) and Best Actor (he lost, to Geoffrey Rush in Shine) at the ceremony held in 1997, he went on to be shortlisted two years later for Best Supporting Actor for A Simple Plan, a clever, devilish little film from Sam Raimi. Although also up for Best Adapted Screenplay, the movie wasn’t exactly Oscar bait, making Thornton’s nomination all the more forgettable to me, highly deserved though it is. With a bit of luck he might even have won the thing. Although up against Rush again, for Shakespeare In Love, it was James Coburn who took home one of those ‘It’s about time we gave you an Oscar’ Oscars for the little-seen Affliction. Ed Harris probably had good cause to feel a bit aggrieved too – he was up for his great performance in The Truman Show. Thornton hasn’t sniffed Oscar since – not for Monster’s Ball, not for The Man Who Wasn’t There – although a Golden Globe nod for Bad Santa really ought to have translated into Academy recognition, but come on, who would have believed that?



8 Responses to “Top Five… Forgotten Oscar Nominations”

  1. Same 1991 Oscars as Pretty Woman: The Godfather Part III up for Best Picture and Andy Garcia for Best Supporting actor. No-one would believe Part III was nominated for a total of 7 Oscars. It won none of them. I mean it’s not an awful film, but compared to the first 2…

    My favourite list of nominations from the 1991 Oscars is for Sound:
    Dances With Wolves, Days of Thunder, Dick Tracy, The Hunt for Red October, Total Recall


  2. Pat Morita was nominated for Best Supporting Actor! Blimey. As much as I love The Karate Kid I can’t forgive Morita, like so many other “Daniel’s” out there, for inspiring the constant “Daniel Son…Daniel Son…Daniel Son” from my prepubescent peers! I now waterboard anyone who utters the praise to gain my attention in adult life! 🙂

    Fantastic number 1 – A Simple Plan is so underrated (or perhaps under-seen) – great film.

  3. haha… poor Dan. did they dress up in skeleton costumes and chase you round the school too?

  4. Chocolat is the one Best Picture everybody forgets about, and probably with good reason cause in all honesty it wasn’t that great to be among the others. Also, A Simple Plan is a great film, that shows Billy Bob in top form. Good List!

  5. It’s hard to picture Billy Bob Thorton winning awards.

  6. De Niro in Cape Fear is possibly my favorite performance of his, as I found him to be so creepy and scary that it stuck with me for days!

  7. Did you read that excellent Variety piece on how the King’s Speech is the Karate Kid with a posh accent?

  8. Great post! Had to look up A Simple Plan though.
    Agree with you on DeNiro, but you know if Bridges does something similar a couple of years from now, something unexpected, he’d still get the nom propably as he’s the Academys golden child now. (Not complaining though I adore him)

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