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The 10 Best Actresses Who’ve Never Won an Oscar

17 November 2017 | Features, People Lists | by Allan Khumalo

5. Naomi Watts

21 Grams

Naomi Watts is another actress who’s shockingly never won an Oscar. After moving to the United States, she spent years struggling to get her big break. It’s fitting that her breakthrough role was in David Lynch’s masterpiece “Mulholland Drive,” playing a disillusioned actress trying to do exactly the same.

How she wasn’t even nominated for what’s arguably her best and most iconic performance is baffling. It’s the type of role that actors would kill for. An honest showcase for talent and dynamic range that personifies every actor’s hopes and dreams, fears and worst nightmares. And Watts naturally pulled it off and then some.

Her first nomination would come in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “21 Grams,” where she plays a character facing a heartbreaking tragedy and descends into a rabbit hole of addiction and revenge. The second nomination came for her work in “The Impossible,” where she plays a mother and wife separated from her family during the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

These two roles feature her natural talent of playing grief-stricken characters whose weeping and crying have you feeling for the characters instead of feeling annoyed or emotionally manipulated.

Of the ones that didn’t get nominated, there’s David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” where she played a midwife who goes into the world of trafficking and Russian gangsters. In the same year, she appeared in Michael Haneke’s English version/remake of “Funny Games,” playing a wife whose family is held hostage by sociopathic teenagers. These two performances stand as some of her most intense works and prove the talent she is.

 

4. Annette Bening

Being Julia

It’s surprising and sad that Annette Bening has yet to win an Oscar for her consistently on-point performances. With almost 30 years in the business, Bening is one of the most gifted actresses of her generation. She has the natural ability to elevate even the worst films with her presence. She’s been nominated far less than she deserves (four times) and won far less than she should have.

Many will point to her “American Beauty” loss being the most shocking. As fun as it was to watch Kevin Spacey go through a midlife crisis, Bening’s performance was the funniest and most terrifying. The 1990 film “The Grifters” earned her the first nomination of her career and her scene-chewing performance in “Being Julia” as a theatre actress got her the third. “The Kids Are All Right” yielded nomination number four as the more serious parent in a story of a lesbian couple raising two children who go looking for their surrogate father.

The ones for which she didn’t receive a nomination were the 1991 crime-drama “Bugsy” based on mobster Bugsy Siegel and his relationship with Virginia Hill; the uneven “Running with Scissors” which was watchable because of Bening’s performance; and last year’s “20th Century Women,” where she stole the show yet again.

This year she’s set to appear in true life-based “Film Stars Die in Liverpool,” which could get her nomination number five for playing Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame. As mentioned before, the Best Actress race has already heated up and it’ll be interesting to see if she’s nominated or left out like she was with last year’s “20th Century Women.”

 

3. Jessica Chastain

In just nine short years, Jessica Chastain has risen to become one of the best actresses in the game today. Booming with a natural and effortless talent that comes with a certain aura, where her presence is felt without her character having to say a single word, Chastain is always engaging to watch, with complex subtleties that reveal more about her characters than any flashback or exposition could ever do.

To date, she’s received two Oscar nominations. In “The Help,” she plays a naive aspiring socialite, which became her breakthrough role and earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. For “Zero Dark Thirty” she got her second nomination for Best Actress, where she plays a “fictionalized character” who helped capture Osama bin Laden.

As great as Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” was, Chastain’s performance should’ve won the Oscar in what’s one of the greatest performances of the 21st century. She carries the two-and-a-half hour film by herself, which becomes as thrilling as the search for Bin Laden.

Chastain has also given other Oscar-worthy performances that failed to get recognition in “Take Shelter,” “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” “Miss Sloane” and “The Tree of Life,” where her performance was just as powerful as Brad Pitt’s, even though she plays a silent wife.

She looks set to earn her third nomination for Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming directing debut “Molly’s Game,” in an Oscar race for Best Actress that’s already reached a boiling point. The best part of her already impressive career is that she’s just getting started and will likely see more nominations and a hopeful win in the years to come.

 

2. Glenn Close

Fatal Attraction

Aside from teaching married men the consequences of infidelity in “Fatal Attraction,” Glenn Close has given countless memorable performances. With an acting career spanning more than 40 years both in film and theatre, Close is one of the finest actresses of her generation, with a wide array of versatile performances that will stand the test of time.

Close has more Oscar nominations without a single win than any other living actor or actress. With six nominations to date, she scored her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her film debut “The World According to Garp” in 1982. Kicking off her film career with a bang, her second and third films “The Big Chill” and “The Natural” would earn her nominations number two and three.

While these films are nothing to particularly rave about, the performances (especially those of Close) are what elevated them to greater heights. Her most iconic and famous performance came from the aforementioned “Fatal Attraction,” which earned her nomination number four.

Playing a woman with whom Michael Douglas’ character has an affair, who then goes full psycho when he calls off their relationship, endangering his family, Close went for broke in a performance that spawned countless imitations but has stood the test of time as one of the craziest and scariest female characters.

She would continue playing another villainous character in “Dangerous Liaisons,” a year later earning nomination number five. Going toe to toe with John Malkovich with their rich performances and back-and-forth dialogue will leave you in awe.

Proving that she’s lost none of her talents, the 2011 film “Albert Nobbs” would again show her versatility, earning her nomination number six. Playing a male butler who’s actually a female, Close completely immerses herself in the role and is totally convincing in a film that has an interesting premise but fails to engage beyond the characters and performances.

Still going strong at age 70, Close shows no signs of slowing down. Whether she gets nominated for Oscar number seven (and actually wins) is anybody’s guess, what’s certain is that she’s past due for a Lifetime Achievement Oscar for her countless contributions to cinema.

 

1. Amy Adams

Over the years, Amy Adams has become one of the hardest working and critically acclaimed actresses today. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad performance from the red-haired master class. It never ceases to amaze the versatility of characters and performances in her filmography that make all of her new films bubble with anticipation with the mere association of her name. What’s more impressive is how down to earth, likable and relatable she is, making rooting for her all the easier.

Known recently as the female Leonardo DiCaprio of the Oscars before DiCaprio finally won the Oscar, Adams has been nominated for a whopping five Oscars to date. Ironically, her breakout role came in the DiCaprio led Spielberg film “Catch Me if You Can,” where she captured not only the heart of DiCaprio’s character but the audience’s as well.

She received her first nomination a few years later in “Junebug” as an overly positive and hopeless romantic character that almost became her typecast. But Adams does her homework on each role she plays, making sure they never become that, even if she’s played similar characters.

Her second nomination came with “Doubt,” where she stood toe to toe against the heavyweight talents of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis. She played a similar naive character (this time around a nun) whose good intentions open a whirlwind of trouble.

“The Fighter” saw her break type, playing a strong-willed character who’s sexy but rough around the edges. She lost the Oscar to co-star Melissa Leo. Nomination number four came from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” where she gave a strong but subtle and suggestive performance that hints that her character is the real master, no matter how other characters refer to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character.

Then there was “American Hustle” where she teamed up again with David O. Russell and his frequent collaborators of actors to give a complex and intriguing performance.

There are, of course, other exquisite performances the actress has given that failed to garner nominations, with “Arrival” and “Enchanted” coming to mind.

There’s no doubt that Adams will eventually win that Oscar (just like DiCaprio eventually did), but one thing’s for sure – if anyone will ever rival (or come close) to Meryl Streep’s insane record of 20 Oscar nominations, it’ll probably be Adams at the rate she’s going.

 

 

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