So the film industry finally had one constant issue put to rest last Sunday when Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his sublime performance in The Revenant. However, DiCaprio’s win does not mean all is right in the film industry right now, as there are many other performers who have put in amazing bodies of work and had solid and consistent filmographies, but have yet to take home the most prized award in the film industry. I am not entirely sure there will ever be a narrative that builds up around a single performer quite like it did with DiCaprio, but the following five people are examples of those that would be entirely deserving of the massive campaign to have them at the podium accepting an Academy Award.
#5 – Annette Bening
When Julianne Moore won her overdue Academy Award last year, it struck out another one of Hollywood’s most unawarded actresses. Much like Moore, Annette Bening has been brilliant on so many occasions, and despite the idea that Hollywood is concerned with the younger actresses, Bening has constantly been a formidable force of nature with acting, and she remains one of the very best actresses working today.
Previous Nominations: Bening has been nominated for four Academy Awards, the first being for Best Supporting Actress in 1991 for The Grifters, then Best Actress in 1999 for American Beauty, then Best Actress in 2004 for Being Julia, and finally Best Actress in 2010 for The Kids Are All Right. The latter two won Bening a pair of Golden Globes.
Most Deserving Performance: Bening has put out some amazing performances, but I do think her careful and natural performance in American Beauty was something to behold. Her subtle but effective performance of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was shocking and brutal, and she would have won in any other year. I do think her performance in Mother and Child was also beautiful and very deserving.
The Future: Bening has some great films coming out this year. She has a small role in her husband Warren Beatty’s film about Howard Hughes. She also has two performances that can do very well – the indie drama 20th Century Women, and the Anton Chekov adaptation The Seagull. The latter two, with the right buzz, could actually lead Bening to the podium, because they are both masterful acting showcases, and Bening has never been one to shy away from giving dedicated performances. I am confident that Bening will have an Academy Award for herself within the next few years.
#4 – Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes is one of the finest actors working today. Not only is he classically trained and perfectly capable of giving moving, brilliant dramatic performances in everything from William Shakespeare to a Holocaust drama, he has also shown his lighter side, with amazing comedic performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hail Caesar!, and his work as a franchise villain as the chilling Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.
Previous Nominations: Fiennes has received two Academy Award nominations, Best Supporting Actor for Schindler’s List in 1993 and Best Actor in The English Patient in 1996.
Most Deserving Performance: I think Fiennes would have been a truly deserving winner for Schindler’s List, but I do believe his best performance to be that of Gustave H. in the delightful and truly wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel. Unfortunately, he was not nominated at the Academy Awards, which is a shame because he would have been a brilliant winner
The Future: Fiennes has four films out this year – Hail Caesar!, where he is hilarious but only has two scenes (which he does brilliantly), and A Bigger Splash. I have yet to see A Bigger Splash, but word on the street is that Fiennes is brilliant in it. He is also starring as Eadweard Muybridge in the Gary Oldman-directed film Flying Horses. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be a film that will receive much notice in regards to awards. He also has voice work in Kubo and the Two-Strings and in The Lego Batman Movie, neither of which I suspect will give Fiennes an Academy Award. Fiennes could walk away with the award next year if A Bigger Splash is played right. However, I am thinking that Fiennes’ award-winning performance is yet to be announced.
#3 – Sigourney Weaver
One actress that can truly stand toe-to-toe with her male counterparts and always win is Sigourney Weaver, one of the greatest action performers to ever work. Complex and brilliant, she brings layers to every performance. She is popular as a cinematic icon and as a popular figure, and she has turned in decades of fantastic work over the years. Unfortunately, her career has taken somewhat of a slump, but if anyone can rise up again, its Weaver.
Previous Nominations: Weaver has received three nominations – two in 1988 alone, where she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Working Girl and Best Actress for Gorillas in the Mist. She was also nominated in 1986 for her iconic performance as Ellen Ripley in Aliens.
Most Deserving Performance: Her performances in Aliens and Working Girl were amazing. However, it was her performance in a film that she was not even nominated for that should have won Weaver an Academy Award – the sublime The Ice Storm, where her performance as the frustrated housewife transcended many performances of that year.
The Future: Weaver has been solidly staying in her forte as the science fiction icon she is, starring in the next three sequels to Avatar, and reprising her role as Ripley in the Alien reboot. I am not sure her performance in the dark and moody A Monster Calls will win her any awards, but I am very sure with the right role, even a science fiction role, she could ride the wave of acclaim to a win. However, her future projects don’t seem to be flowing this way, so perhaps we will just have to wait and see what Weaver does next.
#2 – Edward Norton
I think of Edward Norton as being one of the contemporaries of Leonardo DiCaprio, as they both achieved their rise to fame at around the same time. However, while Leonardo DiCaprio was becoming the superstar we know today in films such as Titanic and Romeo + Juliet, Norton was tackling some hardcore philosophical and social cinema with films such as Fight Club and American History X. Norton has had an amazingly strange career path, and I do think he is one of the most talented actors working today, and someone that honestly does rival DiCaprio in the acting department.
Previous Nominations: Norton has been nominated for three Academy Awards. In 1996 for Best Supporting Actor for Primal Fear, in 1998 for Best Actor for American History X and in 2014 for Best Supporting Actor for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Most Deserving Performance: There are quite a few performances where Norton was by far the best of his category – in both 1996 and 2014, he was the best in his category by far, and while I would have preferred Ian McKellen win Best Actor in 1998, considering the eventual winner is probably the worst performance to ever win this award, I would have been very happy with Norton to have won there. Honestly, his best performance was that of the egocentric Mike Shiner in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and while I am joyful that J.K. Simmons is now an Academy Award-winner, it would have been wonderful to see Norton win for one of the best performances of the year.
The Future: Norton has a reputation for being very difficult, so I don’t imagine he is being begged to be in many films. However, he is still a talented actor – and so far, his next projects aren’t inspiring much faith in his chances. He is lending his voice to the newest Wes Anderson animated film (a director who brings the best out of Norton), and has a supporting role in the Will Smith-vehicle Collateral Beauty. However, I think his career will hit a new low with his performance as a bagel in the bizarre Sausage Party. I do think Norton could come very close to a win very soon with the right role and the right narrative.
#1 – Joaquin Phoenix
The actor I can definitely say rivals Leonardo DiCaprio in talent – his true contemporary. Joaquin Phoenix is simply sublime as an actor, and I think he is probably the best actor of his generation other than DiCaprio. He is quite possibly my favorite actor working today, and I think he is effortlessly talented and marvelous in every film. A unique and intense actor, Phoenix is quite simply on another level altogether.
Previous Nominations: Phoenix has been nominated three times – for Best Supporting Actor for Gladiator in 2000, Best Actor for Walk the Line in 2005 and Best Actor for The Master in 2012.
Most Deserving Performance: Almost every performance Phoenix has done has been deserving of an Academy Award. He was the best in his category in 2000, and in 2012. He should have won both times. I think both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger gave him stiff competition in 2005. His performances in Her and Inherent Vice were masterful and brilliant, and although it has yet to be seen, Irrational Man seems to be another unique performance. I ultimately think Phoenix was deserving of a win for both The Master and Her, two sublime performances, with preference going to the former, as I would award Leonardo DiCaprio for career-best work in The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013.
The Future: Not the most prolific actor, Phoenix only has one project in development – the war drama Far Bright Star, where he plays a cavalryman sent to lead the hunt for Pancho Villa. I am not quite sure if Joaquin can actually win an Academy Award – he is truly very divisive. But I do think he should definitely win one, and I am sure the biggest narrative will form around him, because he is truly a magnificent actor.