When compiling this list of the actors I want to see get some love come this holiday season, I had some criteria. First, no frontrunners or nominations everyone already knows are going to happen. Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain don’t need my help because they’re winning almost every precursor award in sight. (As Gaby Dunn put it, “Everyone’s on Jessica Chastain’s dick right now.”) Second, you have to be a legitimate contender for an award — to be tracking, like, at all. So, as much as I think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt SHOULD be getting attention for Looper, he’s been completely ignored in the Oscar conversation. This is because Looper is sci-fi, which is a stupid reason. Lastly, you can’t have won a million times — or more than once. Yes, Meryl Streep was fantastic in Hope Springs but she JUST WON. She doesn’t need it. Oscars are just fancy doorstops to her these days.
Without further ado, this is my Oscar Dark Horse wishlist, in no particular order. In the comments section, let me know who I missed. Who is bound to get overlooked this year? Who do you want to see win all dem awards? And if your answer is Adam Sandler for That’s My Boy, be gone with you. You’re not welcome here.
1. Nicole Kidman for Best Supporting Actress (The Paperboy)
Because the Gods are kind, Nicole Kidman magically got nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award and a Golden Globe for this role, which is fantastic for a number of reasons. Reason #1: Playing a damaged Southern belle, Kidman gives what might be her best performance — totally committing to the crazy movie she’s acting in. I’m a huge Amy Adams fan, but I could easily bump her or Helen Hunt (my mortal enemy) to see her honored for it. Reason #2: In the film’s most, um, infamous moment, Nicole Kidman heals Zac Efron’s jellyfish sting by peeing on him. So, if she got nominated for an Oscar, Nicole Kidman could win an award for peeing on Zac Efron. THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN.
2. Matthew McConaughey for Best Supporting Actor (Magic Mike)
Matthew McConaghuey was amazing in a lot of shit this year, as it seems that Matty just woke up one day and decided to finally act in his movies. In addition to Channing Tatum skullfucking 2012, this truly was the Year of McConaughey, giving great performances in Killer Joe, Bernie and Magic Mike, which he will follow up with next year by acting in The Dallas Buyers’ Club and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Although I’d love to see him nominated for his great performance in Killer Joe, that’s the NC-17 movie where he makes a woman fellate him via chicken leg. (It’s even more horrifying than it sounds.)
So, let’s go with his career rejuvenating turn in Magic Mike instead, which is this year’s answer to Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. Heed this: If McConaughey gets nominated for MM, he could very well win.
3. Ezra Miller for Best Supporting Actor (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Miller has already picked up a couple trophies from critics’ groups and is a dark horse contender for a nod. The problem is that he’s contending in a crowded race, in which frontrunners like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tommy Lee Jones have bigger parts and showier roles in prestige films. Miller (and his equally fine costars Emma Watson and Logan Lerman) would have to get nominated for a “teen movie,” which is a lot harder than getting nominated for Lincoln. (If only Ezra Miller had played Mary Todd Lincoln, he might have had more of a shot.)
So, it might not happen, but the mothertrucker deserves it. Ezra Miller is heartbreakingly good in Perks, acerbic, courageous, uproarious and sad — often all in the same scene. After last year’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Miller is proving himself an actor with range, and if nothing else, he’s shown he’s got a real future in the movies.
4. Ann Dowd for Best Supporting Actress (Compliance)
Dowd picked up a nod from the National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actress, making her nomination ever so slightly more likely. The problem is that this year’s Supporting Actress race is a shit show, with bigger names like Sally Field, Amy Adams, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Hunt, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter and Jennifer Ehle all competing for slots. Ann Dowd is also over 40 in a notoriously sexist voting body, which can’t help, and doesn’t have the Helen Mirren bod to play the sex appeal card. Meaning she’ll have to get in on the strength of her performance alone, which truly is one of the year’s best, playing a rule-following middle-manager who allows her co-worker to be sexually abused.
However, over 40 character actresses like Melissa Leo and Jacki Weaver have gotten nominations (and wins) in the past couple years, and Weaver is contending again for Silver Linings’ Playbook. Let’s hope the fates are as kind to Dowd.
5. Rachel Weisz for Best Actress (The Deep Blue Sea)
Rachel Weisz surprised everyone by winning the first award of the Oscar season, snatching the New York Film Critics’ Circle award for Best Actress. Then she went and followed it up with a mention at the Globes. The Deep Blue Sea (while a minor masterpiece) is a depressing slog of a movie that almost no one saw and didn’t have the benefit of an awards-season-friendly release date. The Deep Blue Sea came out in March and debuted at the Toronto Film Festival all the way back in 2011. Not the best way to build buzz.
However, the reliably luminous Weisz is flawless in it, playing a character more emotionally vulnerable than we’re using to seeing from her. She usually plays badasses and bitches (he says with love), but like Amy Adams’ chilling turn in The Master, playing against type as a needy depressive further proves what a great actress she is. She didn’t get dat Oscar for nothing.
6. Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor (Skyfall)
Despite popping up in many of the critics’ nominations, pundits keep saying this will never happen — because it’s a Bond movie. Why not? Heath Ledger won for The Dark Knight, and Johnny Depp could have been nominated multiple times for Pirates of the Caribbean, if any of the sequels had been any good. The Oscars love great antagonists (see: Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, Kathy Bates in Misery), and his Silva is both one of the great Bond villains and the great big screen villains in general — the best since Bardem’s Oscar-winning Anton Chigurh.
For me, if there’s anything that will count against Bardem, it’s the parallels between Silva and Chigurh (weird haircut, pronounced vocal patterns, unique walk). But if George Clooney can get nominated for playing variations on his own persona, why not?
7. Naomi Watts for Best Actress (The Impossible)
I haven’t gotten to see this yet — because it hasn’t opened in theatres — so I won’t wax lyrical about the role itself. However, I’m preemptively rooting for this for a number of reasons. Reason #1: I’m obsessed with Naomi Watts. Reason #2: She never gets the credit she deserves, and almost always gets snubbed. Reason #3: She should have won for Mulholland Drive. Reason #4: The early reviews have all been raves and many compared it to 127 Hours, a film I loved. Reason #5: I adored The Orphanage, which was J.A. Bayona’s last movie and one of the best horror films in recent memory. Reason #5: It has Ewan McGregor in it, so I might get to see his penis again. Done.
Seriously though, why the fuck wasn’t Naomi Watts nominated for King Kong? You try falling in love with a giant CGI ape — one that you can’t even see because you have to act at a green screen. That shit is hard.
8. Greta Gerwig for Best Actress (Damsels in Distress)
Gerwig was supposed to be in contention this year for Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to Greenberg (also starring Gerwig), which mysteriously hasn’t been released after winning raves at Toronto. Many compared her performance to Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, and Gerwig shows much of the same exuberance in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress. Gerwig kills it in the role, handling Stillman’s hyper-literate, arch script with ease, perfectly fitting into Stillman’s prep universe. She won’t get nominated in a million years (because the movie’s too lightweight and bizarre for Oscar’s liking), but her Violet was easily one of the year’s most memorable creations. If starting your own dance craze doesn’t get you nominated these days, I don’t know what does.
9. Andy Serkis for Best Supporting Actor (The Hobbit)
Like most of America, I haven’t seen The Hobbit yet, but based on the trailers and reviews, Serkis looks to be playing the same Gollum we all know and love. For me, the routine snubbing of Andy Serkis is a crime against humanity, as his Gollum is one of the most immersive performances in the history of cinema. For those who think it’s just voice acting, I implore you to watch the behind-the-scenes footage of Serkis acting as Gollum. It’s highly enlightening.
Also, yes, I have watched all of the LOTR special features. My name is Nico, and I am a nerd.
10. Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress (The Dark Knight Rises)
Whether you like her or not, Anne Hathaway WILL win Best Supporting Actress this year, but in my opinion, it’ll be for the wrong movie. I was one of those people who hated The Dark Knight Rises with a passion unknown outside of Spanish soap operas (come at me, internet), but Nolan’s confused ode to the 1% didn’t stop me from utterly adoring Anne Hathaway in it. Her Catwoman was funny, sexy, smart, cunning and everything I could have possibly hoped for. For me, the confrontation between Catwoman and Bruce Wayne while dancing was the absolute centerpiece of the film.
To me, it says something about the success of a performance that it makes someone stick around for two and a half hours of something they hated. Now, if only it had been called Catwoman and done away with that Bane person, THAT would have been a great movie.
11. Dwight Henry for Best Supporting Actor (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Preteen acting phenom Quvenzhane Wallis (who plays Hushpuppy in the film) is rightly sucking up all the awards oxygen on this beyotch — and rightly so. She gives what is, beyond a doubt, the most astounding child performance in the history of film. If she gets left off the ballot, I’m leaving a horse head in Seth MacFarlane’s bed. However, I’d also love to see a little sugar be lent to Dwight Henry, a non-actor and New Orleans native hired just for the film. Henry’s an incredible find. You can tell he’s never acted before, and instead of being a handicap (see: Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights), it helps give this one-of-a-kind film the emotional immediacy the subject deserves.
12. Leslie Mann for Best Supporting Actress (This Is 40)
Because this isn’t in the theatres yet, I haven’t gotten to see it. However, I felt that Mann was grossly overlooked for her performance in Knocked Up (despite picking up some critics’ prizes). In This Is 40, she reprises the same character, so the Oscars will have a chance to snub her again. Despite being a lead in the film, there’s no way Mann could get nominated in Actress this year (and they hate comic performances in that category, anyway). But with the right campaigning, she could sneak into the Supporting race — in a perfect world where everyone can get married, unicorns can vote, Helen Hunt is dead and Naomi Watts has a million Oscars. File this one as my Hail Mary of an Oscar wish.
Special Mention: Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress (The Hunger Games)
I would have also liked to see Jennifer Lawrence get some awards love for kicking ass in the year’s third biggest movie but a) the first half of that movie is basically Winter’s Bone, which she already got nominated for and b) she’s on that Silver Linings’ Playbook train and might win for it. Either way, I’m rooting for her.
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