Oscar History

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Team Experience: Great Losers, Actor Edition (Pt 2)

ICYMI we polled all contributors and came up with a list of The Greatest Losing Best Actor Nominees. As ever I must thank Handsome Joe Canada (aka Amir Soltani) for organizing these Team endeavors. If you really wanna dive in (and why wouldn't you?) you should also check out Michael, David and JA's individual lists here, here, and here.

My own list was topped by Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie who came in at #7 in the finals. It was a joy to be asked to think about that star turn again for the write up, though once I was happily ensconced in reminder clips it was hard to pull away; Tootsie is a longtime resident of the Rewatchable Hall of Fame!  A full 70% of my personal choices made the communal top ten, which is the most overlap I've ever had with a Team list. My missing heroes were Paul Newman in Hud (1963, previously discussed), Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking (1995) and Roy Scheider in All That Jazz (1979, previously discussed).

Did these men almost make our group list? Find out who did after the jump...

12 Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (2008)
When performances as miraculous as Rourke's "Randy the Ram" given by one-shot-at-the-gold greats like Rourke lose, it's always a heartbreaker. Even if they're losing to someone totally worthy like Sean Penn in Milk. We had a tie at number ten but Rourke was almost close enough to pounce and flatten them.

13 Richard Burton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Liz wasn't the only one upset that Sir Richard never won gold. He was the most frequently cited complaint in the comments about missing our top ten.

14 Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca (1942)
15 James Mason, A Star is Born (1954)
16 Clark Gable, Gone With the Wind (1939)
Frankly my dear, I don't personally give a damn that Bogie or Gable missed the lists. Being an immortal in the two arguably most beloved movies of all time is reward enough in those particular instances (though my fellow votes saw it differently). But James Mason. Damn, that man does not get enough credit today. You may recall that his co-star, the star he helped birth (in the film) won the Best Actress Losing poll by a considerable margin.

17 Roy Scheider, All That Jazz (1979)
18 Denzel Washington, Malcolm X (1992)
Scheider is a personal favorite of mine, both the film and this towering lead performance, sly and supple and sensational. This is by far the best work Scheider ever did and he boldly captured all of Bob Fosse, while being directed by Bob Fosse! Denzel was also immense in his biopic. It's so strange that Oscar regularly defaults to biopics for its winners but then in the years when someone really transcends mimicry and delivers just a towering performance, full stop,  they check someone else's name on the ballot.
19 [TIE] Jack Lemmon, The Apartment and  James Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life 
Two of the greatest screen actors who ever lived. And in addition to that, isn't it marvelous how long their creativity as an actor lasted? Both had stellar performances while young and kept doing fine work for decades on end.

Joaquin Phoenix's The Master was the most recent performance to win votes

21 Paul Newman, Hud (1963)
22 Joaquin Phoenix, The Master (2012) 
23 Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (2003)
24 [3 way tie]  James Dean, East of Eden (1955)
     Al Pacino, The Godfather Part 2 (1974)

     Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking (1995)


Lonely Passions
Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather Part II (1974) had a number one vote but made no other lists. Four other performances by the likes of Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), Paul Newman (The Hustler), Jack Nicholson (Five Easy Pieces), and Charles Laughton (Mutiny on the Bounty) made someone's top three and no one else's lists.

Shared Passion
Obviously anyone who made the top ten did so with more than one person shouting superlatives their way. Only three performances garnered more than one #1 placement: Ledger (Brokeback) topped 2 lists, finished at #7;Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon) topped 2 lists, finished at #2) and Brando (Streetcar) topped 3 lists, but on several more and never lower than 6th place, finished at #1) 

Vote Splitters
Paul Newman had the most performances cited with four (in the order they placed: Hud #21, The Hustler #32, The Verdict #50, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof #59) with the runner up over-achievers being Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie #5, The Graduate #27, Midnight Cowboy #50) and Jimmy Stewart (Mr Smith #4, It's a Wonderful Life #19 and Anatomy of a Murder#40)

The Canon
In the actress counterpart to this list, there were two performances from the Aughts, one from the Nineties and one from the Eighties. By contrast, the best actor final ten contained only two performances from the past 33 years (Ledger & Hoffman). Expanding to the top twenty, the female list contains a further four performances, while the male list only adds two. Does this mean our perception of male performances is more attuned to the canonical consensus? Can we blame The Film Experience’s actressexual tendencies or do you think the same poll elsewhere would yield similar results?  

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Reader Comments (12)

Sorry but what is ICYMI?

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I put my own ballot up too. I'm glad to see James Mason wasn't too far out, but he really is the equal of Garland in my eyes and I was very sad and slightly surprised not to see him in the top ten.

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I still wished it was Richard Burton for The Spy Who Came in From the Cold because it would have removed one of the more embarrassing Best Actor wins ever: Lee Marvin in Cat's Ballou.

And let's not even start with the Malcolm X mess. Somehow, Scent of a Woman not only got Best Actor but it had the Best Director (!) and Best Picture (!!!!!!) nods that Malcolm X did not have. Denzel was left floating in the water by the Academy. Felt like they were just sticking their noses up at Spike Lee who had been adamant and vocal on making sure that if not him, at least a black director would do the movie and not a long-time Academy favorite Norman Jewison, who had been tied to a film about Malcolm X for years.

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

David -

Nice to see I wasn't alone with Nicholson in Chinatown (Although I very nearly went with Nicholson in The Last Detail)

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

In Case You Missed It, Mark...

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

No love for Marcello Mastroianni?

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Albert Finney in Under the Volcano.

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Totally OT but where is the BSA smackdown? Haha just been really looking forward to it since you announced it

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMorganisaqt

God was Bogart great in Casablance! Can't help but seeing a little bit of Rick in half of the top ten!

December 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

Yes! Mickey Rourke! What a damn performance.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Has anyone mentioned Robert Duvall in "The Apostle"? He was my pick for that year over Nicholson. I remember Ebert saying it was just outside his Top 10 all-time performances of either gender.

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I like it.

October 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha

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