The Academy Awards are a useful tool in honoring achievements within the film industry, but they are far from the definitive body that determines greatness in cinema. While many of the films and performances that they recognize are powerful and deserve the boost, there are also films and performances that slip by without recognition. A great performance will be remembered regardless of recognition, but film fans justifiably want the best in a cinematic year to be rewarded.
The Academy Awards often fall into familiar trends, and many of the performances that were snubbed include those in science fiction, fantasy, horror, or comedy films. Hopefully, as the Academy expands its membership and genre films continue to win over new fans, the Oscars will begin to recognize films outside of their traditional wheelhouse.
Longevity is the sign of a great performance, and enough time has passed to recognize that these great performances were overlooked by the Academy Awards. Here are the top ten female snubbed Oscar performances of the 2010s.
10. Alfre Woodard – Best Actress, Clemency
Clemency is a devastating film that looks at the life of Bernadine Williams, a prison warden who is forced to make many difficult decisions during her tenure. As a case involving a man professing to be innocent grows closer, Williams begins to reflect on the nature of her profession and question the effects it has had on her. Alfre Woodard is incredibly powerful in the role, as her character is forced to show restraint in many challenging moments.
There are no moments of normalcy for her character, as even interactions with her husband Jonathan (Wendell Pierce) are impossible because he couldn’t possibly understand the realities of her job. The film’s steady, quiet nature shines a light on the way this system operates, and Woodard’s professionalism only enhances the realism of the story.
9. Amy Adams – Best Actress, Arrival
Amy Adams has surprisingly gained six Oscar nominations without any wins, but ironically her best role to date was the one she was snubbed for. In Arrival, Adams stars as Louise Banks, a linguist who becomes involved in the U.S. Government’s attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial beings. Adams has a command on the character’s knowledge of language, but it is the emotional revelations that the character has that make the film so moving.
Banks is a character who is wrestling with tragedy, and seeing her confront said tragedy when her perspective on time is shifted makes for a fascinating emotional journey. It’s a heady film with potentially confusing concepts of time and space, but Adams’s motivations are never lost in the shuffle.
8. Shuzhen Zhao – Best Supporting Actress, The Farewell
The Farewell was an extremely personal film for writer/director Lulu Wang, who based much of the story on her relationship with her grandmother, played by Shuzhen Zhao. Zhao embodies the spirit of a wise elder who is filled with life up until her passing moment, and the relationship she has with Awkwafina is just delightful to watch. The film never strays into melodrama because these performances are so profound.
The thematic heft of The Farewell revolves around the debate about traditionalism and differences between the east and west, and although these conversations are entertaining to witness, they only work because of the consequences they have on Zhao’s character. It’s a lovely performance that gives the film its heart, and it’s a shame it was not recognized.
7. Greta Gerwig – Best Actress, Frances Ha
The Academy rarely acknowledges outright comedies, and it’s even rarer that they acknowledge new comedic voices that leap onto the screen. Greta Gerwig may have ended up gaining nominations for her work as the writer and director of Lady Bird and Little Women, but she was already an established talent thanks to her incredible performance in Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Embodying an idiosyncratic free spirit, Gerwig is able to make the loose narrative structure of the film fit her character perfectly.
Frances Ha risks being grating with its long winding conversations and lack of forward momentum, but Gerwig is so infectiously entertaining that it’s impossible to become bored. Frances is a character that takes joy in even the smallest moments (as evidenced by the iconic sequence of her dancing to “Modern Love”), and Gerwig’s performance encourages the audience to do the same. While it’s nice Gerwig was eventually nominated for her talent as a writer/director, it’s a shame her performances were never recognized.
6. Charlize Theron – Best Actress, Tully
Jason Reitman’s Tully is a film that takes tremendous risks; using some nontraditional narrative choices to showcase the realities of motherhood and middle age, the film comes to some surprising conclusions about how people view their youth. A film this bold requires a commanding performance at its center, and Charlize Theron delivers some of her greatest work to date. She is absolutely incredible in her performance as Marlo, a mother who is instilled with a new sense of life thanks to her kids’ nanny Tully (Mackenize Davis).
Theron and Reitman had previously collaborated on the highly underrated Young Adult, and both films revolve around the perils of looking at the past with rose tinted glasses. If Young Adult is about a character who wrecks the world around her, then Tully is about someone who is lost within her responsibilities and begins to lose her sense of individuality. Theron proves once again that she can transform herself into any character, and was unfortunately snubbed for her performance.