7. Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino
Each line is growled, gruff, and painfully delivered by Clint Eastwood in what some critics cited as his tour de force. The role is one that Eastwood was born to play. Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices, like many men of his generation, even with all the new developments in the Michigan neighborhood he has lived in all of his life.
He cannot get along with anyone at all. Being a Korean War veteran, he is less than thrilled by the arrival of his Hmong neighbors. His 1972 Gran Torino is attempted to be stolen and he singles out one of the would be thieves as the young teenage child of his new neighbors. Soon Walt finds himself becoming a part of their life, while also trying to instill some values in the young boy.
Eastwood plays this grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy old man as well as any character he has ever played. The film itself is not on the level with the performance, so perhaps that is why the academy chose to ignore a performance that perfectly summarized a career of playing tough guys.
6. Michael Fassbender in Hunger
Hunger stars Michael Fassbender before he was Magneto. Here Fassbender is Irish Republican activist Bobby Sands, who led the 1981 prison hunger strike in the Maze prison.
Steve McQueen’s film dramatizes the true events leading up to the untimely death of Sands. Bobby Sands believed in the IRA’s cause and he was imprisoned for it. Fassbender displays the righteousness of a dying man who is fighting the only way he can for his cause. The best scene involves Sands debating the morality of the hunger strike with a visiting priest (Liam Cunningham).
Fassbender, much as he did in “Fish Tank”, shows that he is destined for stardom here. It is a powerhouse performance and a role that few actors today could play, none as effectively probably as Fassbender does here.
5. Christian Bale in American Psycho
Christian Bale is known to the general movie going audience exclusively for three things: going deep into each role he inhabits, Batman, and for his tirade on the set of the abysmal Terminator: Salivation. He should be remembered for more than that though.
Mary Harron brings Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name to life onscreen. None of this would be possible without the crazed turn of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman. Bateman is a well-educated, good looking, and wealthy man who lives the life that many businessmen dream of attaining.
This is the Reagan’s America. Where money is king and those who acquire it live a lavish lifestyle. Bateman however, has one little problem, he is prone to psychotic episodes that involve the killing of his “friends”, colleagues, and prostitutes.
Bale descends into madness here as he goes deeper than many artists could go as the despicably fun Bateman as he experiments with fear and violence. Wall Street has never been so much fun.
4. Kurt Russell in Dark Blue
Kurt Russell has spent years playing the average good guy who we could relate to on some level in most of his films. Here he plays Eldon Perry, a well decorated, but corrupt cop in Los Angeles. If it wasn’t enough to have set in the Los Angeles Police Department, it takes place in April 1992. April 1992 was when the four white officers who had beaten black motorist Rodney King within an inch of his life were acquitted for the crime against the man. What ensued was the famous L.A. riots of ’92.
This is the perfect backdrop to explore the deception, backdoor dealing, lying, murder, and cover ups of the dishonest police officers who are supposedly there to protect us. Eldon Perry epitomizes what it means to be a cop in the Los Angeles police department. He is a God in their eyes. He is also a chauvinistic pig who has disregarded everything that made him internally want to be a cop.
This is the darkest, meanest, slimiest character Russell has ever played. And he does so to perfection. Here he captures every feeling and reaction perfectly. The performance in itself is of King Kong proportions. Russell has never been better.
3. Bruno Ganz in Downfall
In April of 1945, Germany stands at the brink of defeat with the Soviet Armies closing in from the west and south. In Berlin, capital of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler announces victory for Germany will be achieved. Everyman will stand and fight until the last man is standing.
Downfall is a harrowing exploration of the final days of Hitler as his hopes of the Third Reich are falling to pieces. With his advisors, generals, and other defecting all around him, Hitler begins to fall further into madness.
Bruno Ganz’s Adolf Hitler should be studied and dissected for years to come. Here is one of the most masterfully terrifying performances of all time with Ganz embodying the soulless monster that hovered over Europe during the late thirties and into the mid 1940’s. The academy recognized the film, but not the masterful technician that delivered a powerhouse performance within the confines of the recreated bunker that held him.
2. Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Jim Carrey is known as the rubber faced comedian who will do anything for a laugh. After delivering three fine, but overlooked performances in the scathing look at reality TV with The Truman Show, then as the late comedic auteur Andy Kaufman Man on the Moon, and finally, in Frank Darabont’s love letter to Frank Capra, playing a role that would have fit James Stewart perfectly in The Majestic, Carrey found himself still unable to be accepted as a capable dramatic actor.
While most fans found themselves torn between which incarnations to love, the critics lauded all these performances, in particular The Truman Show, still none of it was enough to garner an Oscar nomination.
Carrey then threw himself into what some may call the best performance of his career in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Carrey plays the maniacally depressive Joel.
In this world people can visit Lacuna Corporation in order to have the memories of something painful in their life completely removed. Joel is there to remove the memories of his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). During the process however, Joel decides he doesn’t want to forget her and a battle ensues within his own mind. Most of the film takes place in Joel’s brain and Carrey is at his enigmatic best here. How did the academy overlook this performance?
1. Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums
Probably the most underappreciated performer in the latter part of his career. Hackman has always improved anything that he has ever been a part of. So to see him together with the terrific ensemble that Wes Anderson put together for his third film, The Royal Tenenbaums, only elevated the already high caliber of play onscreen. Anderson’s world walks that fine line between comedy and tragedy.
Gene Hackman stars as Royal Tenenbaum the patriarch of the family who has been basically in and out of the lives of his three children since they were born. Looking for a way back into their lives, he decides to tell them he is dying with cancer. Upon hearing the news, everyone, including his estranged ex-wife began to care for Royal.
Hackman delivers a performance that makes you connect and feel something for a guy who is not worth the empathy on the surface. Below that is a damaged, sad, and lonely man who knows the mistakes he has made. Even if he does not want to admit them. With all the terrific characters he has played over the years when it is all said and done, people will look back on this one with deep affections. This may just be his finest performance.
Author Bio: Matt’s love affair with films began when he was a young boy. He use to visit his local video store on a regular basis consuming as many titles as possible. Films are his greatest passion. He is a manager for a large grocery retail chain. Lifetime cinephile who hopes to one day open and operate his own independent theater.