Thursday, July 9, 2020

Oscars Breakdown: Best Actor

The only issue with watching every movie that has won an Oscar for acting, Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay is that by the time I’m ready to actually write about the category, I’m burnt the hell out. I apologize for the delay with this post, and promise the remaining Oscar posts will come much sooner. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on Best Actor, and please share yours as well!

1927/1928 – Emil Jannings – The Last Command; The Way of All Fleshe
Nominees: Richard Barthelmess (The Noose; The Patent Leather Kid)
Thoughts: Very fitting that Emil Jannings, who was such an important figure in early film, win this first Best Actor prize.

1928/1929 – Warner Baxter – In Old Arizona
Nominees: George Bancroft (Thunderbolt), Chester Morris (Alibi), Paul Muni (The Valiant), Lewis Stone (The Patriot)
Thoughts: Baxter does a fine job as The Cisco Kid, no issue here at all.

1929/1930 – George Arliss – Disraeli
Nominees: George Arliss (The Green Goddess), Wallace Beery (The Big House), Maurice Chevalier (The Big Pond; The Love Parade), Roland Colman (Bulldog Drummond; Condemned), Lawrence Tibbett (The Rogue Song)
Fun Fact: This was silent star George Arliss’ first speaking part. He previously played the part of Benjamin Disraeli in a 1921 silent film.

1930/1931 – Lionel Barrymore – A Free Soul
Nominees: Jackie Cooper (Skippy), Richard Dix (Cimarron), Fredric March (The Royal Family of Broadway), Adolphe Menjou (The Front Page)
Fun Fact: Barrymore was the first person to receive multiple Oscar nominations in different categories, having been nominated for Best Director (Madame X) two years earlier.

1931/1932 – Wallace Berry – The Champ &
Fredric March – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Nominees: Alfred Lunt (The Guardsman)
Thoughts: Yep, Best Actor once had a tie as well, and it’s understandable why. Both Berry and March are great in their respective roles. If forced to choose, Berry wins out for me.

1932/1933 – Charles Laughton – The Private Life of Henry VIII
Nominees: Leslie Howard (Berkeley Square), Paul Muni (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang)
Thoughts: It’s crazy that Laughton’s only win was so early in his career, but regardless, Charles Laughton should absolutely have an Oscar.

1934 – Clark Gable – It Happened One Night
Nominees: Frank Morgan Moore (The Affairs of Cellini), William Powell (The Thin Man)
Thoughts: No arguments from me, love that this award helped It Happened One Night become the first movie to win the Big Five Oscars.

1935 – Victor McLaglen – The Informer
Nominees: Clark Gable (Mutiny of the Bounty), Charles Laughton (Mutiny of the Bounty), Paul Muni (Black Fury), Franchot Tone (Mutiny on the Bounty)
Thoughts: Despite such a strong showing from Mutiny of the Bounty, McLaglen deserved to win this. He’s great in The Informer.
Fun Fact: Mutiny of the Bounty remains the only film to earn three Best Actor Oscar nominations.

1936 – Paul Muni – The Story of Louis Pasteur
Nominees: Gary Cooper (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), Walter Huston (Dodsworth), William Powell (My Man Godfrey), Spencer Tracy (San Francisco)
Thoughts: It’s great that Paul Muni has an Oscar, but I think he was better elsewhere. Cooper would get my vote here. Though it would’ve been nuts if Tracy won.

1937 – Spencer Tracy – Captain Courageous
Nominees: Charles Boyer (Conquest), Fredric March (A Star Is Born), Robert Montgomery (Night Must Fall), Paul Muni (The Life of Emile Zola)
Thoughts: After Captain Courageous was released, Tracy was effusive in his praise of his child co-star, Freddie Bartholomew. The film isn’t Tracy’s best work, but his chemistry with Bartholomew is the highlight of the movie.

1938 – Spencer Tracy– Boys Town
Nominees: Charles Boyer (Algiers), James Cagney (Angels with Dirty Faces), Robert Donat (The Citadel), Leslie Howard (Pygmalion)
Thoughts: Tracy is so alive in Boys Town, it’s a much fuller performance that Captain Courageous. Fair win.
Fun Fact: Tracy is one of two actors to win Best Actor two years in a row, followed by Tom Hanks 56 years later.

1939 – Robert Donat – Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Nominees: Clark Gable (Gone with the Wind), Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights), Mickey Rooney (Babes in Arms), James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
Thoughts: Donat is fine in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, but it’s still crazy that he beat out such notable competition. Gable and Stewart losing are big shocks.

1940 – James Stewart – The Philadelphia Story
Nominees: Charlie Chaplin (The Great Dictator), Henry Fonda (The Grapes of Wrath), Raymond Massey (Abe Lincoln in Illinois), Laurence Olivier (Rebecca)
Thoughts: Jimmy Stewart always had tough Oscar years, so I’m glad he won early here. That’s some iconic competition though.
Fun Fact: Charlie Chaplin was the first person to direct himself to a Best Actor nomination.

1941 – Gary Cooper – Sergeant York
Nominees: Cary Grant (Penny Serenade), Walter Huston (The Devil and Daniel Webster), Robert Montgomery (Here Comes Mr. Jordan), Orson Welles (Citizen Kane)
Thoughts: Cooper is great in Sergeant York, but since he has two Best Actor trophies total, I’d give this to Welles.

1942 – James Cagney – Yankee Doodle Dandy
Nominees: Ronald Colman (Random Harvest), Gary Cooper (The Pride of the Yankees), Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver), Monty Woolley (The Pied Piper)
Thoughts: It’s always important to remember that James Cagney didn’t win his Oscar for one of his violent, explosive characters, but rather for his lovely song-and-dance performance in Yankee Doodle Dandy. This is a great Oscar win.

1943 – Paul Lukas – Watch on the Rhine
Nominees: Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca), Gary Cooper (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Walter Pidgeon (Madame Curie), Mickey Rooney (The Human Comedy)
Thoughts: Lukas gives a humane and commanding performance in Watch on the Rhine, but he ain’t no Rick Blaine. I really wish Bogart would have won here, freeing up 1951.

1944 – Bing Crosby – Going My Way
Nominees: Charles Boyer (Gaslight), Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way), Cary Grant (None but the Lonely Heart), Alexander Knox (Wilson)
Fun Fact: This is the only time one actor was nominated in two categories for the same performance. Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for playing Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way. He won Supporting Actor.

1945 – Ray Milland – The Lost Weekend
Nominees: Bing Crosby (The Bells of St. Mary’s), Gene Kelly (Anchors Aweigh), Gregory Peck (The Keys of the Kingdom), Cornel Wilde (A Song to Remember)
Thoughts: I'm a broken record about The Lost Weekend, but this is one of the best movies ever made about addiction, and I still can’t believe it was made in 1945. Milland’s win is one of my favorite Best Actor wins.

1946 – Fredric March – The Best Years of Our Lives
Nominees: Laurence Olivier (Henry V), Larry Parks (The Jolson Story), Gregory Peck (The Yearling), James Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life)
Fun Fact: Stewart seems like the popular and obvious choice, but March is perfect in The Best Years of Our Lives.

1947 – Ronald Colman – A Double Life
Nominees: John Garfield (Body and Soul), Gregory Peck (Gentleman’s Agreement), William Powell (Life and Father), Michael Redgrave (Mourning Becomes Electra)
Thoughts: A Double Life is about a stage actor (Ronald Colman) who becomes so obsessed researching his part in Othello, that he drives himself insane. Love this movie, love Colman in it.

1948 – Laurence Olivier – Hamlet
Nominees: Lew Ayres (Johnny Belinda), Montgomery Clift (The Search), Dan Dailey (When My Baby Smiles at Me), Clifton Webb (Sitting Pretty)
Thoughts: Monty Clift obsession alert. Montgomery Clift is brand new in The Search. He’s alive in a way no American actor had been before. He was kind, reserved, honest, real. It’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, so it gets my vote. Followed by Ayres.

1949 – Broderick Crawford – All the King’s Men
Nominees: Kirk Douglas (Champion), Gregory Peck (Twelve O’Clock High), Richard Todd (The Hasty Heart), John Wayne (Sands of Iwo Jima)
Thoughts: Strong showing here, glad that Crawford’s Willie Stark won out.

1950 – José Ferrer – Cyrano de Bergerac
Nominees: Louis Calhern (The Magnificent Yankee), William Holden (Sunset Boulevard), James Stewart (Harvey), Spencer Tracy (Father of the Bride)
Thoughts: José Ferrer (father of Miguel, RIP) is game as Cyrano de Bergerac, but this is William Holden’s award. And the fact that Holden took on the role so late (Monty Clift dropped out at the last minute) makes me appreciate his work so much more.

1951 – Humphrey Bogart – The African Queen
Nominees: Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire), Montgomery Clift (A Place in the Sun), Arthur Kennedy (Bright Victory), Fredric March (Death of a Salesman)
Thoughts: This is a tough beat. My two favorite male screen acting performances of all time are Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun, and Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Bang bang, right in a row. Bogart’s award was a career win, and though it feels right for Bogie to have an Oscar, it shouldn’t have been for this performance.

1952 – Gary Cooper – High Noon
Nominees: Marlon Brando (Viva Zapata!), Kirk Douglas (The Bad and the Beautiful), José Ferrer (Moulin Rouge), Alec Guinness (The Lavender Hill Mob)
Thoughts: This is a tough one. It’s a damn near even split between Douglas and Cooper for me, with Douglas just winning out.

1953 – William Holden – Stalag 17
Nominees: Marlon Brando (Julius Caesar), Richard Burton (The Robe), Montgomery Clift (From Here to Eternity), Burt Lancaster (From Here to Eternity)
Thoughts: Holden was outspoken in the fact that he didn’t think he deserved this award. He felt that Clift or Lancaster should’ve gotten it, and I agree (about Clift). I love Holden, but he’d rank fifth here for me.
Fun Fact: Perhaps sensing that this win wasn’t fully deserved, Holden’s Oscar speech consisted of him simply saying “Thank you.”

1954 – Marlon Brando – On the Waterfront
Nominees: Humphrey Bogart (The Caine Mutiny), Bing Crosby (The Country Girl), James Mason (A Star Is Born), Dan O’Herlihy (Robinson Crusoe)
Thoughts: This is a no-brainer win. However, please don’t sleep on Crosby in The Country Girl. It’s by far his best performance, and if the film came out the year before or the year after, Crosby could’ve very easily won Best Actor.

1955 – Ernest Borgnine – Marty
Nominees: James Cagney (Love Me or Leave Me), James Dean (East of Eden), Frank Sinatra (The Man with the Golden Arm), Spencer Tracy (Bad Day at Black Rock)
Thoughts: Dean’s work was iconic and Sinatra give it his all in Golden Arm, but you can’t deny Marty. It’s just the best.

1956 – Yul Brynner – The King and I
Nominees: James Dean (Giant), Kirk Douglas (Lust for Life), Rock Hudson (Giant), Laurence Olivier (Richard III)
Thoughts: Yul Brynner is a fine actor, but this award hasn’t aged well. It was common at the time for white actors to play Chinese characters (as was the case here), but it doesn’t hold up. Plus, Dean and Hudson are both immeasurably better.

1957 – Alec Guinness – The Bridge on the River Kwai
Nominees: Marlon Brando (Sayonara), Anthony Franciosa (A Hatful of Rain), Charles Laughton (Witness for the Prosecution), Anthony Quinn (Wild Is the Wind)
Thoughts: Laughton is so great, but this justly went to Guinness. I rewatched River Kwai last year and was thrilled by how well it held up.

1958 – David Niven – Separate Tables
Nominees: Tony Curtis (The Defiant Ones), Paul Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Sidney Poitier (The Defiant Ones), Spencer Tracy (The Old Man and the Sea)
Thoughts: There’s a lot to unpack here actually. David Niven was a legendary performer, and it’s odd that this was his only Oscar nomination. And while I’m glad Niven has an Oscar, he really isn’t in Separate Tables much (but he is really good in it). This was also Tony Curtis’ only nomination, but I’m not sure he deserves to win. Newman or Poitier would’ve received my vote.
Fun Fact: Niven only appears in Separate Tables for roughly 25 minutes worth of scenes. I timed it. Because I am insane.

1959 – Charlton Heston – Ben-Hur
Nominees: Laurence Harvey (Room at the Top), Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot), Paul Muni (The Last Angry Man), James Stewart (Anatomy of a Murder)
Thoughts: Of course, nothing was going to stop Ben-Hur, but Lemmon, Harvey, and Stewart would’ve gotten my vote over Heston.

1960 – Burt Lancaster – Elmer Gantry
Nominees: Trevor Howard (Sons and Lovers), Jack Lemmon (The Apartment), Laurence Olivier (The Entertainer), Spencer Tracy (Inherit the Wind)
Thoughts: I’m a huge Lancaster fan, but as we see in the Best Actor category a lot, Lancaster won for the wrong movie. Lemmon is the standout here.

1961 – Maximilian Schell – Judgment at Nuremberg
Nominees: Charles Boyer (Fanny), Paul Newman (The Hustler), Spencer Tracy (Judgment at Nuremberg), Stuart Whitman (The Mark)
Thoughts: It’s always hard to take an Oscar away from Paul Newman, but Schell deserved this. A tricky role in an important movie.
Fun Fact: Schell is reportedly the lowest-billed performer to win Best Actor. He received fifth billing, behind Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, and Marlene Dietrich.

1962 – Gregory Peck – To Kill a Mockingbird
Nominees: Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz), Jack Lemmon (Days of Wine and Roses), Marcello Mastroianni (Divorce Italian Style), Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia)
Thoughts: Sorry folks, this is my favorite Jack Lemmon performance, so he wins out for me, followed by Lancaster, and O’Toole.

1963 – Sidney Poitier – Lilies of the Field
Nominees: Albert Finney (Tom Jones), Richard Harris (This Sporting Life), Rex Harrison (Cleopatra), Paul Newman (Hud)
Thoughts: Sidney Poitier should absolutely have an Oscar, I just wish he would’ve received some awards attention for his career-best work in A Raisin in the Sun two years earlier. (Newman is my favorite performance here.)
Fun Fact: Sidney Poitier became the first black actor to win Best Actor.

1964 – Rex Harrison – My Fair Lady
Nominees: Richard Burton (Becket), Peter O’Toole (Becket), Anthony Quinn (Zorba the Greek), Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove)
Thoughts: There are four decent performances here, and then there are three amazing performances by one actor. This should have been Sellers’ Oscar, bar none.

1965 – Lee Marvin – Cat Ballou
Nominees: Richard Burton (The Spy Who Came In from the Cold), Laurence Olivier (Othello), Rod Steiger (The Pawnbroker), Oskar Werner (Ship of Fools)
Thoughts: There are expressions on Steiger’s face in The Pawnbroker that I have never been able to get out of my head. Nothing against Lee Marvin, who I love, but Steiger wins out here.

1966 – Paul Scofield – A Man for All Seasons
Nominees: Alan Arkin (The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming), Richard Burton (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Michael Caine (Alfie), Steve McQueen (The Sand Pebbles)
Thoughts: Richard Burton doesn’t have an Oscar, and that is absurd. Of his seven nominations, this should have been his clear win.

1967 – Rod Steiger – In the Heat of the Night
Nominees: Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde), Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate), Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke), Spencer Tracy (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner)
Thoughts: Stacked category. These are all grade-A performances, but my top-to-bottom ranking: Newman, Huffman, Beatty, Steiger, Tracy.

1968 – Cliff Robertson – Charly
Nominees: Alan Arkin (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter), Alan Bates (The Fixer), Ron Moody (Oliver!), Peter O’Toole (The Lion in Winter)
Thoughts: Charly is a very late-‘60s movie (i.e, randomly psychedelic, tonally confused), and it’s odd to me that Robertson won. Peter O’Toole never won an Oscar, and he was never more deserving than he was here.
Fun Fact: According to Oscar lore, Robertson went to great lengths to secure votes for his performance by tirelessly promoting his work. That is common practice now but was rare back then.

1969 – John Wayne – True Grit
Nominees: Richard Burton (Anne of the Thousand Days), Dustin Hoffman (Midnight Cowboy), Peter O’Toole (Goodbye, Mr. Chips), Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy)
Thoughts: Career win. This is Hoffman or Voight’s. I wouldn’t have even nominated Wayne, especially over Newman and/or Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

1970 – George C. Scott – Patton
Nominees: Melvyn Douglas (I Never Sang for My Father), James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope), Jack Nicholson (Five Easy Pieces), Ryan O’Neal (Love Story)
Thoughts: I saw Patton when I was really young, and for years, I thought George C. Scott actually was Patton. Iconic work.
Fun Fact: George C. Scott detested awards and was the first actor to publicly reject his Oscar win.

1971 – Gene Hackman – The French Connection
Nominees: Peter Finch (Sunday Bloody Sunday), Walter Matthau (Kotch), George C. Scott (The Hospital), Topol (Fiddler on the Roof)
Thoughts: Scott is a completely different actor in The Hospital than he is in Patton, and it’s great to watch. But yes, obviously this is Hackman’s all day.

1972 – Marlon Brando – The Godfather
Nominees: Michael Caine (Sleuth), Laurence Olivier (Sleuth), Peter O’Toole (The Ruling Class), Paul Winfield (Sounder)
Thoughts: Imagine if he didn’t win.

1973 – Jack Lemmon – Save the Tiger
Nominees: Marlon Brando (Last Tango in Paris), Jack Nicholson (The Last Detail), Al Pacino (Serpico), Robert Redford (The Sting)
Thoughts: This is that rare Oscar that a veteran performer won for the work itself, and not their entire filmography. Lemmon is fantastic in Save the Tiger, and I’m glad he won. Now, is he better than the other four? Maybe not (I’d vote for Brando), but it was deserved all the same.
Fun Fact: Lemmon was the first actor to win Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

1974 – Art Carney – Harry and Tonto
Nominees: Albert Finney (Murder on the Orient Express), Dustin Hoffman (Lenny), Jack Nicholson (Chinatown), Al Pacino (The Godfather: Part II)
Thoughts: Art Carney’s win is, frankly, one of the most baffling in Oscar history, considering he was up against Nicholson and Pacino, who both may have never been better. This is the definition of a career win.

1975 – Jack Nicholson – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Nominees: Walter Matthau (The Sunshine Boys), Al Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon), Maximilian Schell (The Man in the Glass Booth), James Whitmore (Give ‘em Hell, Harry!)
Thoughts: Dog Day is my favorite Pacino, but I can’t rob Cuckoo’s Nest of its Big Five Oscar wins. My god, the ‘70s were so good.

1976 – Peter Finch – Network
Nominees: Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver), Giancarlo Giannini (Seven Beauties), William Holden (Network), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky)
Thoughts: Finch, I love you! But it’s Robert De Niro. Also, no Dustin Hoffman nomination for Marathon Man (or All the President’s Men) is really odd.

1977 – Richard Dreyfuss – The Goodbye Girl
Nominees: Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Richard Burton (Equus), Marcello Mastroianni (A Special Day), John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever)
Thoughts: Dreyfuss is great in The Goodbye Girl, but I would’ve voted for Travolta here. That performance was too raw to win the Oscar, but I’m thrilled he was nominated.

1978 – Jon Voight – Coming Home
Nominees: Warren Beatty (Heaven Can Wait). Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story), Robert De Niro (The Deer Hunter), Laurence Olivier (The Boys from Brazil)
Thoughts: De Niro and Voight both played men coming home from the Vietnam War, and while Voight is heartbreaking, I’ve always been more drawn to the torture of De Niro’s character. (Also, props to Busey for the early Oscar nom!)

1979 – Dustin Hoffman – Kramer vs. Kramer
Nominees: Jack Lemmon (The China Syndrome), Al Pacino (…And Justice for All.), Roy Scheider (All That Jazz), Peter Sellers (Being There)
Thoughts: After three Best Actor loses, it was pretty hard for the Academy to keep denying Hoffman. This is a fair win, but I really think Scheider or Sellers should’ve taken this.

1980 – Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
Nominees: Robert Duvall (The Great Santini), John Hurt (The Elephant Man), Jack Lemmon (Tribute), Peter O’Toole (The Stunt Man)
Thoughts: It can’t not be De Niro here. (But Hurt, I see you.)

1981 – Henry Fonda – On Golden Pond
Nominees: Warren Beatty (Reds), Burt Lancaster (Atlantic City), Dudley Moore (Arthur), Paul Newman (Absence of Malice)
Thoughts: Henry Fonda needed an Oscar, and this was his last chance.
Fun Fact: At 76 years old, Henry Fonda is the oldest performer to win the Best Actor Oscar.

1982 – Ben Kingsley – Gandhi
Nominees: Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie), Jack Lemmon (Missing), Paul Newman (The Verdict), Peter O’Toole (My Favorite Year)
Thoughts: I adore Ben Kingsley, but awarding performances like this is largely based on the goodwill the actual subject has in voters’ hearts. I mean, how can you vote against Gandhi (even if Newman is more deserving)?

1983 – Robert Duvall – Tender Mercies
Nominees: Michael Caine (Educating Rita), Tom Conti (Reuben, Reuben), Tom Courtenay (The Dresser), Albert Finney (The Dresser)
Thoughts: Somewhat quiet year, but great that Duvall has a Best Actor Oscar.

1984 – F. Murray Abraham – Amadeus
Nominees: Jeff Bridges (Starman), Albert Finney (Under the Volcano), Tom Hulce (Amadeus), Sam Waterston (The Killing Fields)
Thoughts: It was a big deal when Abraham’s villainous turn beat out Hulce’s whimsical take on Mozart, but the right call was made.

1985 – William Hurt – Kiss of the Spider Woman
Nominees: Harrison Ford (Witness), James Garner (Murphy’s Romance), Jack Nicholson (Prizzi’s Honor), Jon Voight (Runaway Train)
Thoughts: Not too many actors start a great run with an Oscar, but Hurt deserved to do that here, even among such strong competition.
Fun Fact: Voight’s nomination for Runaway Train is one of the most bizarre performances to receive a Best Actor nomination. That’s just my opinion, but that movie is insane.

1986 – Paul Newman – The Color of Money
Nominees: Dexter Gordon (Round Midnight), Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa), William Hurt (Children of a Lesser God), James Woods (Salvador)
Thoughts: This award gets criticized as a career win, and while it certainly isn’t Newman’s best work, I honestly wouldn’t vote for anyone over him here. Even if I added Gene Hackman for Hoosiers, Newman would still win out.

1987 – Michael Douglas – Wall Street
Nominees: William Hurt (Broadcast News), Marcello Mastroianni (Dark Eyes), Jack Nicholson (Ironweed), Robin Williams (Good Morning, Vietnam)
Thoughts: What an audacious win, I love that the Academy did this. Evil and menace aren’t awarded but the Academy often, but it feels right that Douglas’ iconic incarnation of Gordon Gekko was awarded so highly.

1988 – Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
Nominees: Gene Hackman (Mississippi Burning), Tom Hanks (Big), Edward James Olmos (Stand and Deliver), Max von Sydow (Pelle the Conqueror)
Thoughts: This is the type of performance that is baiting Oscar to award it. No argument from me; I still just love that Hanks was nominated.

1989 – Daniel Day-Lewis – My Left Foot
Nominees: Kenneth Branagh (Henry V), Tom Cruise (Born on the Fourth of July), Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy), Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society)
Thoughts: I love to talk about this award, because context is important. This Best Actor prize was Tom Cruise’s. It was a lock. He had paid his dues, and his career had been leading up to this point. Playing a real-life alcoholic wounded Veteran checks a lot of boxes for the Academy. To say the place was shocked when Jodie Foster read Daniel Day-Lewis’ name is an understatement. DDL was the least known of the five actors, and he did something so rare: He actually won an Oscar against more popular competition for a role that completely deserved to win. No politics, no bullshit. Just the work.

1990 – Jeremy Irons – Reversal of Fortune
Nominees: Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), Robert De Niro (Awakenings), Gérard Depardieu (Cyrano de Bergerac), Richard Harris (The Field)
Thoughts: The Academy was on a nice evil character streak in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s. Well-deserved award in a little seen film. Great that Jeremy Irons has an Oscar.

1991 – Anthony Hopkins – The Silence of the Lambs
Nominees: Warren Beatty (Bugsy), Robert De Niro (Cape Fear), Nick Nolte (The Prince of Tides), Robin Williams (The Fisher King)
Thoughts: The only thing I’ll add to this very well-deserved win is that Anthony Hopkins was not “Anthony Hopkins” when he played Hannibal Lecter. He was somewhat unknown in America, which made this performance that much better.
Fun Fact: Hopkins is featured in roughly 30 scene minutes in The Silence of the Lambs, but he is physically on screen for only about 16 minutes.

1992 – Al Pacino – Scent of a Woman
Nominees: Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin), Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven), Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), Denzel Washington (Malcolm X)
Thoughts: I love Al Pacino, and Al Pacino needs an Oscar. But there are two major problems here: Pacino won entirely too late and for the wrong movie. But more importantly, Pacino’s career win robbed Denzel Washington of one of the most deserving Best Actor prizes I can think of.

1993 – Tom Hanks – Philadelphia
Nominees: Daniel Day-Lewis (In the Name of the Father), Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Go to Do with It), Anthony Hopkins (The Remains of the Day), Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List)
Thoughts: I think Hanks is career-best in Philadelphia, and I love this win, even among some of the fiercest competition I’ve seen in this category. (Please watch Fishburne in What’s Love Go to Do with It.)
Fun Fact: Apparently, Jonathan Demme first offered the part of Andy Becket in Philadelphia to Daniel Day-Lewis, who had to turn the role down because he was committed to In the Name of the Father. Demme cast Hanks, and Hanks beat out DDL for the Oscar.

1994 – Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump
Nominees: Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Nigel Newman (The Madness of King George), Paul Newman (Nobody’s Fool), John Travolta (Pulp Fiction)
Thoughts: The Oscar politics of this win are very heartwarming (Tom Hanks is the second person ever to win two Best Actor Oscars in a row), but it’s Vincent Vega for me. All day.

1995 – Nicholas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas
Nominees: Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland’s Opus), Anthony Hopkins (Nixon), Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking) Massimo Troisi (Il Postino: The Postman)
Thoughts: One of my favorite Best Actor wins, as Cage’s performance in this film is the most unflinching portrayal of alcoholism that I’ve ever seen. God that movie is a fuckin’ bruise. Also, this may have been a bit much, but no Tom Hanks love for Apollo 13?

1996 – Geoffrey Rush – Shine
Nominees: Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire), Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt), Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade)
Thoughts: This is tough to say, because Rush is such a talented actor, but he’d be my fifth pick here. I’d vote Thornton, Cruise, Harrelson, Fiennes, and then Rush.

1997 – Jack Nicholson – As Good as It Gets
Nominees: Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting), Robert Duvall (The Apostle), Peter Fonda (Ulee’s Gold), Dustin Hoffman (Wag the Dog)
Thoughts: I love Jack in As Good as It Gets, always have. I may honestly prefer Damon or Duvall here, but I’m fine with this win. It’s Jack, you know?
Fun Fact: Only seven films have won both Best Actor and Best Actress, and As Good as It Gets was the last film to do so.

1998 – Roberto Benigni – Life is Beautiful
Nominees: Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters), Nick Nolte (Affliction), Edward Norton (American History X)
Thoughts: Never understood it, still don’t today, sorry. Nolte and Norton gave career-best performances, and McKellen and Hanks played their parts wonderfully. This was a hype win that hasn’t stood up well for me.

1999 – Kevin Spacey – American Beauty
Nominees: Russell Crowe (The Insider), Richard Farnsworth (The Straight Story), Sean Penn (Sweet and Lowdown), Denzel Washington (The Hurricane)
Thoughts: It’s tough to comment on this performance now for obvious reasons, but in truth, I would have voted for Spacey in 1999. Today, Crowe or Washington would get my vote.
Fun Fact: At 79 years old, Richard Farnsworth is the oldest Best Actor nominee in Oscar history.

2000 – Russell Crowe – Gladiator
Nominees: Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls), Tom Hanks (Cast Away) Ed Harris (Pollock), Geoffrey Rush (Quills)
Thoughts: Damn do I wish Crowe would’ve won in 1999, because that could’ve freed this up for Hanks. That would’ve made Hanks the first Oscar with three Best Actor Oscars, and clearly the Academy wasn’t ready to go there yet.

2001 – Denzel Washington – Training Day
Nominees: Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), Sean Penn (I Am Sam), Will Smith (Ali), Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom)
Thoughts: No argument from me, though if Denzel won in 1992, my vote would’ve been for Smith here, no bullshit.

2002 – Adrien Brody – The Pianist
Nominees: Nicholas Cage (Adaptation), Michael Caine (The Quiet American), Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York), Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt)
Thoughts: One of the all-time great Oscar wins, and arguably my favorite Oscar moment ever. I’ve written about this win a lot on my blog, but this was Day-Lewis and Nicholson in one of the tightest Best Actor races ever. No one saw Brody’s win coming, most of all him. I love everything about this win.

2003 – Sean Penn – Mystic River
Nominees: Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog), Jude Law (Cold Mountain), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation)
Thoughts: People remain deeply split between Murray and Penn here. Tough call, but Penn still gets my vote.

2004 – Jamie Foxx – Ray
Nominees: Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)
Thoughts: Foxx really didn’t have much competition; and I personally remember pulling for his win a lot during this Oscar season. I wish people talked about Cheadle’s work in Hotel Rwanda more, but Foxx’s win is fair.

2005 – Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
Nominees: Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Thoughts: Jesus, this is tough now. I always wanted Heath Ledger to win this, because I genuinely think his work in Brokeback Mountain is as good as screen acting gets. But that isn’t to take away from Hoffman’s work at all. I just wish they both could’ve won this prize in their lifetimes.
Fun Fact: With this nomination, Joaquin Phoenix and River Phoenix became the only brothers to ever be nominated for Oscars.

2006 – Forest Whitaker – The Last Kind of Scotland
Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond), Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson), Peter O’Toole (Venus), Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness)
Thoughts: Whitaker’s performance is a supporting one, but his win was an absolute lock. No complaint from me, but Gosling better win one someday.
Fun Fact: This is far from fun, but Peter O’Toole was nominated for Best Actor eight times, and is therefore the most nominated actor without a single Best Actor win.

2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Nominees: George Clooney (Michael Clayton), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah), Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)
Thoughts: It’s so great when one of my favorite film performances of all time wins the highest prize. This performance was so good that Clooney himself admitted that no other Best Actor nominee was in the running for this.

2008 – Sean Penn – Milk
Nominees: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Thoughts: That goodwill I mentioned about Ben Kingsley as Gandhi can be applied here as well. Voters brought the benevolence of the real Harvey Milk to their ballots, and I think that’s what pushed Penn over Mickey Rourke. I love Sean Penn, but this was Mickey Rourke’s Oscar.

2009 – Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart
Nominees: George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Thoughts: The Dude abides, but this was a perfectly package career win performance. Bridges should have an Oscar, but Clooney, Firth, and Renner would’ve gotten my vote here.

2010 – Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
Nominees: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), James Franco (127 Hours)
Thoughts: I never got on The King’s Speech train. I actually wish Firth won the year before and Bridges won here. But overall, my favorite performance on this list is Bardem’s.

2011 – Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Nominees: Demián Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Thoughts: It’s Pitt all the way for me here. That damn movie, and Pitt’s work in it, hold up better than I could have anticipated. I liked Moneyball in 2011, but I fucking love that movie now.

2012 – Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Nominees: Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Denzel Washington (Flight)
Thoughts: And here it is, the master is officially crowned. With this win, Daniel Day-Lewis became the first man in Oscar history to win three Best Actor prizes. It had to happen eventually, and there’s no better way it could have. One of my favorite Oscar wins.
Fun Fact: I keep wondering when or if someone will tie DDL. There are four living actors with two Best Actor Oscars: Jack Nicholson (who’s now retired), Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, and Sean Penn. Wonder if Hanks has one left in him?

2013 – Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Nominees: Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Thoughts: DiCaprio and Ejiofor split my vote here; I would’ve voted for Ejiofor at the time, but probably DiCaprio now.

2014 – Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Nominees: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Thoughts: Nope. Nope, nope, nope. I did not understand this win then, I do not understand it now, and I will not understand it tomorrow. This was Michael Keaton’s Oscar. Period.

2015 – Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
Thoughts: Damn near all of pop culture was supporting the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio needed an Oscar. And I do not see this performance as a career win at all. Yes, DiCaprio pushed himself to extremes that would naturally be challenging for anyone, but he absolutely deserved this.

2016 – Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Nominees: Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)
Thoughts: As the Oscars got closer, this award became more neck-and-neck between Affleck and Washington. I’m glad Affleck one, because he captured emotional torment in a way few actors can.

2017 – Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Nominees: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel Esq.)
Thoughts: I’m never going to complain about Gary Oldman having an Oscar, and the Acedmay never would have given DDL a fourth Oscar, but DDL’s work in Phantom Thread is one of my favorite screen performances. He so easily wins for me here.

2018 – Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Nominees: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)
Thoughts: Ha.

2019 – Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)
Thoughts: I’m so curious to see how this win ages. I can’t remember the last time such a controversial film was awarded so highly. And there was Phoenix, begrudgingly along for the ride. Wonder what the hell he did with his statue.

More Oscar Breakdowns
Best Supporting Actress (coming soon)
Best Supporting Actor (coming soon)
Best Original Screenplay (coming soon)
Best Adapted Screenplay (coming soon)


  1. Great post, as always !
    I gotta disagree with you about Benigni's win, I'm absolutely in love with this film and his performance, but to each their own. Looking forward the next one !

    1. Thanks so much! And hey, we all like what we like, I'm glad you connect with that movie and Benigni's work in it!

  2. OK,


    Clark Gable, Fredrich March (for The Best Years of Our Lives), and Ray Milland are the right choices while Gable for Gone with the Wind, Orson Welles, and Humphrey Bogart should've won in their respective years.


    Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Ernest Borgnine, and Alec Guinness are the right choices while William Holden should've won for Sunset Boulevard, Montgomery Clift for A Place in the Sun, Burt Lancaster or Clift for From Here to Eternity, Rock Hudson for Giant, and Jack Lemmon for Some Like It Hot should've won in their years.


    I think Sidney Poitier is the only one I can think of is the one guy truly deserving of the Oscar in that decade. Jack Lemmon should've won for The Apartment, Peter O'Toole for both Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter, Paul Newman for both The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke, Peter Sellers for Dr. Strangelove, and Dustin Hoffman for Midnight Cowboy.


    George C. Scott, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and Jack Nicholson are the right choices while I would've given Nicholson another Oscar for The Last Detail, Al Pacino for The Godfather Pt. II, Robert de Niro for both Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter, Marcello Mastroianni for A Special Day, and Roy Scheider for All That Jazz.


    Robert de Niro, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Douglas, and Daniel Day-Lewis are the right choices while Warren Beatty for Reds, Jack Lemmon for Missing, Michael Caine for Educating Rita, Harrison Ford for Witness, James Woods for Salvador, and Tom Hanks for Big are my actual picks. How come Raul Julia wasn't nominated for Best Actor for Kiss of the Spider Woman? He had the better performance.


    Jeremy Irons, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hanks (for Philadelphia) are the right choices while Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Sean Penn for both Dead Man Walking and Sweet & Lowdown, Woody Harrelson, Peter Fonda, and Nick Nolte should've won in their respective years.


    Denzel Washington, Adrien Brody, Jamie Foxx, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Daniel Day-Lewis are the right choices while Javier Bardem, Bill Murray (fuck you Sean Penn!), Ryan Gosling, Mickey Rourke (suck my dick Sean Penn you cocksucker!), and Colin Firth should've won in their respective years.


    Leonardo diCaprio and Casey Affleck are the right winners (my dad was happy for Leo as he was one of his favorites) while Jesse Eisenberg, George Clooney, Joaquin Phoenix, Leo (for The Wolf of Wall Street (my dad laughed his ass off for that film), Michael Keaton, Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread, Willem Dafoe, and Adam Driver should've won in their respective years. My dad HATES Eddie Redmayne. He was so angry that Michael Keaton lost and when he saw Redmayne, he was like... "who the fuck is this little pansy?" He called him some of the most offensive things out there (and he was right) while he really, really, really took a major shit on his nomination for The Danish Girl. Once again, he was right.

    1. I still can't get over it - that Oscar was Keaton's! Even when I think about that as objectively as possible, I don't know how Redmayne gets more votes. But oh well, just makes me hold out for another potential Keaton Oscar win.

      And great picks all around as usual!

  3. Damn. This is quite a project you've given yourself here. I haven't been on here in a while so i'm looking forward to reading them all. I guess i'll start with this most recent one and work my way down. Now i have not watched nearly as many of these movies as you have but i got a few thoughts on some of these.

    - The earliest Best Actor performance i have seen is Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur so i definitely have a lot of earlier movie to catch up on. I have not watched any of the other ones nominated that year either so i don't have anything to compare it to, but i remember liking his performance.

    - 1992. I love Pacino, but i definitely agree that Denzel deserved to win over Pacino that year. Scent of a Woman felt like such a forgettable "Oscar bait" movie and Pacino's performance was a bit much, even for him. It was definitely a career win.

    - 1994. Travolta should have won this. I really enjoy Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, but Travolta re-ignited his career with Pulp Fiction for a reason.

    - 2004. I'm still surprised Tom Cruise didn't even get nominated for Collateral. He was unrecognizable in that movie. Such a cold character.

    - 2005. It's so sad looking back at this year. Two of this generations best actors gone way too soon. I'm glad both Hoffman and Ledger got at least one award each, even if Ledger got his posthumously.

    - 2007. Surprisingly enough this is actually the first year i have seen every single performance nominated. What a year this was. I love all the performances nominated, but yeah, nothing comes close to DDL in There Will be Blood. The performance of the decade.

    - 2008. Am i crazy for actually thinking Jean-Claude Van Damme deserved a nomination this year for JCVD? That monologue he gives near the end was heartbreaking. But yeah, Rourke deserved to win. I guess he had burnt too many bridges in Hollywood by that point to ever win.

    - 2011. Does anyone even remember The Artist anymore? I remember it was such a big deal when it came out, but no one ever talks about it anymore.

    - 2014. How? How the hell did Redmayne win this over Keaton? It's laughable.

    - 2018. Why did they give the award to a Saturday Night Live parody?

    - 2019. A friend of mine pointed out that in 1989 an Oscar winner played The Joker, in 2008 The Joker won an Oscar, in 2016 an Oscar winner played The Joker and in 2019 The Joker won the Oscar. So i guess the next person to play The Joker will have already won an Oscar.

    Man, this was a fun read. Gonna keep coming back to read the rest as well. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks so much buddy!

      1992 - Yep fully agree. That's such a tough win, because it's hard to argue against Pacino having an Oscar, but Denzel is so clearly better.

      2008 - A JCVD nom would have been great! I love him in that movie. But yeah, Rourke all the way.

      2011 - I suspected that The Artist was an Oscar novelty that would come and go. Nothing agains the movie, but there were far better films made that year.

      2014 & 2018 - Woof.

  4. I love when you do these posts! Going down the list:

    It Happened One Night is on my 2021 Blind Spot list (yes, already started thinking about that lol)

    I loved Maximilian Schell's win. He was amazing in Judgement at Nuremberg.

    I just saw The Graduate for the first time, and it blows my mind a bit that that movie is from the 60's. It feels like something made in the 80's to me. Maybe it was ahead of its time?

    Brando in The Godfather ugh...perfection. *chef's kiss*

    I haven't seen Harry and Tonto but anyone winning over Pacino in Godfather Part 2 is suspect.

    Denzel not winning for Malcolm X is a tragedy.

    I liked Benigni in Life is Beautiful a lot, but Norton should've won.

    I love American Beauty so much...damn it, Spacey. Why are you a real life creep too?

    The Last King of Scotland is one of my favorite movies but I never understood why they chose to put Whitaker in lead. BAFTA even had McAvoy in supporting which was crazy. Why? Whitaker would've won in either category.

    DiCaprio should've won for The Wolf of Wall Street

    Phoenix's win for Joker was garbage and Adam Driver was robbed and I think I'll really just die mad about that.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on them!

      The Graduate was WAY ahead of its time. Shockingly so. American audiences had never seen content like that in a mainstream American film. Complete game changer that took decades to be fully realized.

      The Last King of Scotland is Oscar politics at its finest. The studio knew Whitaker would win in either category, so they pushed him for the "bigger" award. Same deal with Winslet for The Reader in '08 - supporting performance wins lead Oscar.

  5. This is such a massive undertaking. Kudos to you.

    I agree with the vast majority of your comments. However, reading through it all just reminds me how much I hate Academy politics. The whole idea of it being someone's turn, or not, to win an award that is clearly supposed to be the best of a given year bugs the hell out of me. Whether or not a person gave the best performance of the previous 12 months should be the only criteria. If you do that, then it's your turn, not because you did a lot of stuff in prior years that didn't win. So now, we're in this pattern of figuring out which of the nominees had the best career up to that point and give it to that person, or worse, give it to the person from the studio that bribed you the best campaign.

    1. Thanks Dell! Yep, 100% agree with all of this. It really should be about the single performance, but it rarely ever is. Time really is the best factor for all this. There are so many films and performances that are awarded that simply don't hold up, especially when you remove the context of all the BS Oscar politics.

  6. Echoing Dell's comments, the pattern I keep seeing here is career wins vs. year wins. Pacino should have had it in the bag for GFII but Art Carney was given the career win. Denzel should have had it in the bag for Malcolm X but Pacino got the career oscar for Scent of A Woman.

    Some of my picks:
    I'm completely with you on Milland. Wilder's films were ahead of their time.

    Monty Clift in A Place In the Sun

    I really love Tracy In Bad Day At Black Rock. Haven't seen Marty. And as you said, Dean's work in Eden is iconic.

    Lemmon should have won back to back for Some Like It Hot and The Apartment. As much as I love his work in Days of Wine and Roses and Glengarry Glen Ross, these two movies are my favorite works.

    Anything other than Peter Sellers for Dr. Strangelove is obviously wrong. Comedic roles don't get nearly as much recognition as dramatic ones.

    Burton for Woolf. The whole movie is a clinic in acting but Taylor and Burton really shine the most.

    '67 is tough. Either Newman or Hoffman should have won.

    Hoffman for Midnight Cowboy hands down. In a career filled with great performances, this is my favorite.

    Pacino for Godfather II or Nicholson for Chinatown. There really is no other logical choice here.

    Dog Day has my favorite Pacino performance and Cuckoo's Nest has my favorite Nicholson performance. 1975 was such an incredible year.

    oh man. Network is incredible but DeNiro as Travis Bickle is iconic. It's a toss up between the two for me.

    Roy Scheider's performance in All That Jazz is flawless. As you said, either Scheider of Sellers' Chauncy Gardener should have taken this one home.

    Newman in The Verdict should have been a shoe-in.

    1. (cont)
      Tom Cruise's portrayal of Ron Kovic ranks among the best work of his career. I love DDL just as much as the next guy but this year, the award was Tom's.

      Oh man. Hopkins in Lambs was correct here but it's also going up against my favorite work from Williams in The Fisher King. Another great year for film.

      Denzel Washington in Malcolm X. No contest.

      Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

      Anyone who thinks of The Wicker Man remake when they bring up Nic Cage, I point them toward Raising Arizona and Leaving Las Vegas as proof of his range and talent.

      Edward Norton as Derek Vineyard in American History X. He has yet to top that performance.

      Russell Crowe for The Insider is so much better than his work in Gladiator. It's my favorite work from Mann.

      I gotta go with Washington again here. Just watch his "King Kong ain't got shit" scene. The ability to express anger, paranoia, and fear in the span of minutes is awe inspiring.

      Ah man. I hate him as a person but Penn gets my vote for Mystic River.

      Daniel Plainview might be my favorite male performance of the 00's.

      I remember being gut punched when Mickey lost the oscar to Penn. Talk about a career comeback performance.

      Gotta got with Phoenix for The Master. Such an unpredictable performance. To see him go from that to his performance in Her and then to Doc Sportello in Vice is proof why he is one of our greatest performers.

      DiCaprio in Wall Street gets my vote here.

      I am still pissed Michael Keaton didn't win for Birdman. Another win that helps cement another stereotype of the Oscars: play disabled and you win.

      DiCaprio wins for The Revenant. This I agree with.

      Casey Affleck. Another actor who I dislike as a person but couldn't see any other nominee top his performance that year.

      Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out or DDL for Phantom Thread. Oldman's win was a clear example of a career win.

      2018 should have been Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born

    2. I love this! We have so many picks in common, that’s so cool to see. Examining the ripple effects of the “career win” is really something. Carney wins in ’74 and it trickles on down. But thanks so much for reading the post and taking the time to write this comment!

  7. Hot take, but Phoenix didn't deserve his Oscar win. I think a lot of viewers were swayed by his method actor-ness, and that colored their view on his performance. For some reason, a lot of movie goers put a lot of weight into the idea of method acting, particularly that it shows how serious and dedicated the actor was. I suspect that's partly why someone like Redmayne could win, presumably because people thought it was brave of him to...wear a dress on screen? Plus, comic book fans in particular love seeing "serious" takes on their favourite comic books.

    Not only did he not deserve the win, I'd even go so far as to argue his performance wasn't even good. Honestly, it mostly felt like he was playing himself on screen, and it's kind of a shallow performance at that. I can think of just one moment where I felt he was giving a compelling performance, and that was damn near the end of the movie. Beyond that, what did he really do besides sulking and occasionally doing that goofy laugh of his for those 2 hours?

    The problem is, too many performances are seen to be the front runner way too early,sometimes before the film is even released, and so the idea is more or less cemented in the voter's minds. This has been especially true in recent years where one performance is a lock very early in the season.

    1. I appreciate this take. Makes me even more curious to see how that win will age. And I completely agree that certain actors have won Oscars because voters have a very distorted sense of what is "brave" for an actor to do.