Amir here, to bring you our newest Team Top Ten. You may remember we tackled the best directors of the new century in our first episode and each first Tuesday of the month Nathaniel and all the contributors will vote on a new list. This time it’s all about two things I’m sure you all love as much as we do:
...Actresses & Oscar.
This is a list of the greatest performances that lost the Best Actress award. We’ve looked at the pool of 337 performances that were nominated for an Oscar in that category but failed to win and we ranked them in the order of our individual preference, irrespective of the actresses that won in any given year.
It was quite a heavy task, as you can imagine. How would you go about choosing only ten among so many stellar turns? 80 different performances managed to get at least one vote from our contributors. Actresses who have had multiple unsuccessful nominations were generally the victims of an internal spread of votes. Meryl Streep is the most glaring example, of course. Four of her performances garnered votes, but none was popular enough to make the cut. Katharine Hepburn’s performances were similarly divisive, though one of them stood head and shoulders above the rest as you will see below. There were surprising inclusions and even more surprising exclusions but the main takeaway was consensus over performances that have found their place in the critical canon. Only 6 ladies from this new century made the top 30, which is reason to rejoice, in my opinion -- old treasures aren’t forgotten just yet.
Nathaniel will share runners-up and some juicy trivia and stats because this experiment really deserves a lot more than a list of ten names. For now, however, here are the actresses Team Experience deems the greatest Oscar losers of all time:
THE 10 GREATEST BEST-ACTRESS-LOSING PERFORMANCES
are after the jump...
10. Holly Hunter (Broadcast News, 1987)
Lost to Cher in Moonstruck
"The leads in so many romantic comedies blend together into a blandly likable blur. Not so with Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. She takes the trope of the hardworking professional woman who is great at her job but unlucky in love, and imbues her with a crackling specificity. Far from sanding down her rough edges, Hunter embraces them, from her crying jags, to her stubbornness, to her clumsy grabs at love, to that southern accent she makes no attempt to disguise. Hunter’s Jane Craig topped my ballot because she is the gold standard against which I measure all other romantic comedy performances."
- Michael C.
09. Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story, 1940)
Lost to Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle
"It is probably inaccurate to call The Philadelphia Story a star vehicle, and yet Katharine Hepburn’s turn as Tracy Lords might make you think otherwise. She channels all the perceived characteristics of herself, and familiar characteristics of old characters – the supercilious glare, the self consciousness beautifulness, the goddess like quality combated by her tangible realness –into creating this maddening, beguiling, delightful, spoiled woman. Consequently, even when the film and its characters seems to be plotting against her interest, Katharine/Tracy coaxes it, not very gently, into submitting to her. This may be an ensemble film and Hepburn may not even have top billing – but the way Tracy Samantha Lords endures in your mind for a lifetime afterward is proof one of the brightest star turns by an actor."
- Andrew K.
08. Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven, 2002)
Lost to Nicole Kidman in The Hours
"Cathy Whitaker, is a woman who is living in purgatory: so trapped in her roles as devoted wife and mother, that she can only see heaven as something unattainable. Moore's performance however is miraculous, she takes one of the most parodied styles of acting - the 1950s melodrama - and through endless layers of fear, restrained passion and endless compassion, turns it into something sublime."
- Jose Solis
07. Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard, 1950)
Lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday
"The thing about Gloria Swanson's performance is that you remember it. I last saw Sunset Boulevard several years ago, and indeed my favorite thing about the movie is not her performance, but that when you think about the film, you see her. She is indelible in one's mind, iconic, terrifying, and tragic. She is repulsive, but you can't turn away, and you'll never forget."
- Deborah Lipp
06. Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence, 1974)
Lost to Elle Burstyn in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
"Gena Rowlands' Mabel Longhetti is a woman whose mental demons are realised physically, raging and crying and spitting in reaction to the actions and people who send her spiralling around in her own headspace. The way Rowlands extends the script into her movement is almost exhausting. It's an ingeniously visceral performance that is acutely attuned to a woman who recognises her demons but cannot bare to admit them, and is constantly in a fierce battle with both herself and those around her. When Mabel says to her children that she hopes they never grow up, you know it's because she wishes she never had, because she doesn't know how to behave in a world with a stopper on emotion, and Rowlands' pure energy, whether excitably waiting for the school bus or viciously ranting against her husband, shades that longing with an unsurpassable melancholy."
- David Upton
... and now the top five, though it should be noted that Gena Rowlands at #6 was in a virtual tie with the next two ladies (Ballots were weighted to reflect high placements and appearance on multiple lists)
05. Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, 1996)
Lost to Frances McDormand in Fargo
"I suppose that there are more obscure performances nominated for the Best Actress Oscar than Emily Watson's as the special and religious Bess McNeil in Breaking the Waves, but there are none with more pressing mysteries. How could an actress start over and exude such innocence? How could someone embark on the most operatic descents in movie history and not make it seem exploitative? We'll never know, but when we watch Bess we take on her philosophy - we stop asking, we start believing."
04. Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity, 1944)
JUST CELEBRATED IN "HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT"
Lost to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight
"The greatest femme fatale in the history of the species, not least because Stanwyck isn’t in the remotely interested in playing the simplistic, misogynistic figure familiar from so many later noirs. Her Phyllis Dietrichson isn’t just an ice-blooded fiend (though she’s never not that); she makes sure to let us in on the nerves, the almost girlish anticipation, and the mixture of satisfaction and paranoia that shows how this killer is first of all a person, with motivations and impulses that are uncomfortably recognizable despite her warped inhumanity."
- Tim Brayton
3. Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004)
THE ONLY PERFORMANCE OF THE PAST TEN YEARS TO MAKE THE LIST
Lost to Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby
"By the time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released, Kate Winslet had already gained a reputation as an emotionally fearless actress and the go-to when the role required a corset. So, when she appeared in Michel Gondry's head-tripping, heart-stirring, modern-day masterpiece, shed of the period garb, her hair, a series of crayola-hued concoctions, and full of a new, spontaneous energy, it was a Kate we had never seen before. But, even if we hadn't been aware of her work previously, Winslet's Clementine Kruczynski would still be an astonishing achievement. In what could have easily turned into a manic pixie dream girl, Winslet fully fleshes her out –finding the flaws and insecurities behind the quirks. Impulsive, combative, and irrational at times, Winslet never shies away from making her a real, complex–even unlikable–woman. But, despite her faults, we come to realize this "f***ed-up girl, just trying to find her own piece of mind" is someone we'd never erase from our memory."
- "Abstew" Andrew Stewart
... The top two were clear and decisive winners of this poll, far ahead of the pack. Praise be to the 1950s and that decades glorious actressing.
02. Bette Davis as Margo Channing (All About Eve, 1950)
Lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday
"How many roles as famous as those like Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve were originally cast with different actors? Davis did such an outstanding, iconic turn as aging Broadway star Channing that it’s hard to imagine Claudette Colbert in the role as originally planned. It’s hard to imagine why I’m even having to write this passage. Alas, that’s what comes from being a participant in what is surely one of the most famous actress line-ups of all time. Losing votes to equally iconic Gloria Swanson as well as her own co-star, Anne Baxter, meant that Judy Holliday walked away with the statue. Davis lost the Golden Globe, too, but at least she won a prize from the hoi polloi of the Cannes Film Festival!"
- Glenn Dunks
01. Judy Garland (A Star Is Born, 1954)
JUST CELEBRATED IN "HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT"
Lost to Grace Kelly in Country Girl
"What Garland ultimately presents is an astonishing synthesis of Gene Kelly's indefatigable physical energy and Bette Davis's dramatic intensity, including in moments where her acting stands wholly apart from musical performance. You have to have real mettle to survive the unexpectedly vicious tirade that a studio publicist unleashes on her when Vicki won't attend an Academy benefit in the final minutes of the film, for patently obvious reasons. Garland survives it, and then bellows back with her own redoubtable gust of jealous self-defense, even as the character's nerves are obviously, completely frayed."
- From Nick Davis's essay on Garland's performance
Did your all-time favorite make the list? Would you have handed Oscars to all ten of these women?
RELATED: Part Two #11-25 from out lists, the "just-missed" ladies that gathered a lot of support