5. Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix’s relationship with awards is a tricky one. He famously proclaimed that the Academy Awards are “bullshit”, but then did a bit of backpedaling and stated that he believes the Oscars do offer an important platform for filmmakers. It seems he’s just not that interested in the accolades he receives himself… and he’s been receiving lots of them.
Phoenix has already accrued 3 Academy Award nominations (‘Gladiator’ – 2001, ‘Walk The Line’ – 2006 and ‘The Master’ – 2013), yet has never won. Some have attributed this to his unwillingness to ‘play the game’ and actively campaign for a win during Oscars season. However, Mo’Nique proved that some performances are so powerful, they are recognised regardless.
Looking back at his stellar filmography and taking into account the recent praise he received for his role in Lynne Ramsay’s ‘You Were Never Really Here’, an Oscar is definitely in the stars for him, as long as he stays clear from any Casey Affleck-directed mockumentaries.
4. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal is one of those actors that people are surprised to hear has never won an Academy Award. Perhaps even more surprising, he’s only ever been nominated for one, for his role in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (dir. Ang Lee, 2005).
2013 saw the release of both ‘Prisoners’ and ‘Enemy’, both directed by Denis Villeneuve. His harrowing performances in both thrillers brought him great notices from critics and established him as one of the most capable actors in the genre. His momentum continued with the release of ‘Nightcrawler’ (dir. Dan Gilroy, 2014), in which he gives a tour-de-force performance that many critics deemed a “career-best”.
He is set to re-team with Dan Gilroy for his upcoming feature and if they repeat the success of ‘Nightcrawler’, the Academy might finally recognise his undeniable talent.
3. Jessica Chastain
2011 was without a doubt Jessica Chastain’s year. The term ‘breakthrough’ seems small when describing the year that Chastain stormed the screen with a trifecta of roles – ‘Take Shelter’ (dir. Jeff Nichols), ‘The Tree of Life’ (dir. Terrence Malick) and ‘The Help’ (dir. Tate Taylor) – any one of them being a strong contender for Oscar recognition (it was ‘The Help’ that ultimately brought her a nomination).
Chastain has never looked back since, continuing to garner critical acclaim with almost every role and establishing herself as one of the most promising actresses working at the moment. She landed a Best Actress nomination for ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 2012) and continued to put out consistently great work in movies such as ‘A Most Violent Year’ (dir. J. C. Chandor, 2014), ‘Miss Sloane’ (dir. John Madden, 2016) and ‘Molly’s Game’ (dir. Aaron Sorkin, 2017).
Having worked with some of the best directors in the business already and an advocate for strong female roles (she recently made forays into producing), Jessica Chastain is one of the most exciting working actresses and will undoubtedly get her time to shine on the Oscars stage at one point.
2. Michelle Williams
Similar to Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams also got her breakthrough with Ang Lee’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’. While she was already well-known due to her role in the popular TV series ‘Dawson’s Creek’, it was playing Heath Ledger’s wife in the tragic romance that brought her notices for her film work and led to her first Oscar nomination.
For ‘Blue Valentine’, unlike her co-star Ryan Gosling, she was actually nominated for her work in the film which follows the couple as they fall in and out of love. She followed up with two more nominations, one for Best Actress for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in ‘My Week With Marilyn’ (dir. Simon Curtis, 2011) and one for Best Supporting Actress for her powerful turn as Casey Affleck’s grief-stricken ex-wife in ‘Manchester By The Sea’ (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2016).
Williams has the ability of completely inhabiting a role so that everything about her character feels natural and nothing feels at all forced, no matter how difficult the material and she is able to elevate any script. Her turns in Sarah Polley’s ‘Take This Waltz’ (2011) and Ridley Scott’s ‘All The Money In The World’ (2017) have also got critics singing her praises.
She was close to getting the Oscar for portraying a legend of the screen and she is currently signed on to play Janis Joplin in a biopic directed by Sean Durkin (‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’) which might finally see her winning.
1. Amy Adams
Perennial nominee Amy Adams is one of the most nominated actresses to have never won the elusive statuette. She consistently gives masterful performances and has been routinely praised by the directors who have worked with her, Paul Thomas Anderson stated that “there’s nothing she can’t do”.
Anderson directed her in 2012’s ‘The Master’ which saw her acting alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman and got the entire trio nominated at the Academy Awards. Her other Best Supporting Actress nods were for ‘Junebug’ (dir. Phil Morrison, 2005), ‘Doubt’ (dir. John Patrick Stanley, 2008) and ‘The Fighter’ (dir. David O. Russell, 2010).
Her next collaboration with Russell, ‘American Hustle’ (2013) brought Adams her first nomination in the Best Actress field. Although she was ultimately left off the final ballot, she was also deemed a strong contender for the Best Actress award at the 89th Academy Awards, as she had two strong films to contend with, ‘Arrival’ (dir. Denis Villeneuve) and ‘Nocturnal Animals’ (dir. Tom Ford).
At this point, it’s not a question of ‘if’ Amy Adams will ever win an Oscar, but ‘when’.