[Here's abstew to talk about a semi-annual Oscar tradition. Even if you disagree with the picks you surely recognize the curious problem. Will any of 2013's future nominees qualify for this list? -Editor]
When it comes to acting nominations, let's face it, not everyone can be Meryl Streep (17 nominations and counting). And with only 20 acting nominations to hand out each year, there's always going to be people left out. So many factors affect nominations: how well the actor is liked in the industry, whether they've been nominated (or won) before, how visible they've been promoting the movie, whether or not it's their "time". Sometimes the actual performance doesn't weigh in as heavily as it should.
Which is why the Academy gives something I like to call the "Oh, sorry we didn't nominate you for that great movie you were in a couple years ago, but let's call it even by nominating you for this instead" nomination. For many actors their body of work greatly out-weighs the single nomination. (For purposes of this list, I'm focusing only on actors who've received their nomination in the past 25 years or so but this has been happening since the beginning of (Oscar's) time.)
With so many greats yet to receive a nomination, perhaps we should be grateful that the following actors can precede their name with "Academy Award Nominee", but knowing how much better they are than this single nomination implies...
Single Nomination: Best Actress, Catherine Deneuve Indochine (1992)
Catherine Deneuve is arguably the most well-known actress of French cinema. She has appeared in over 100 movies including her breakthrough in the Oscar nominated Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Roman Polanski's Repulsion and, perhaps her most famous role, as a housewife turned prostitute in Buñuel's Belle du Jour. She is such an Icon that for many years she was used at the model of Marianne, the face of the French Republic. Her image gracing stamps and money. She even made Team Experience's list of Women that should receive an Honory Oscar. But her single nomination comes from an overly-long, Merchant/Ivory-lite epic from the early 90s - one of those polite prestige films that are handsomely made to win awards. Deneuve is beautiful to watch, as always, but the actress's aloofness never connects with the character. Lacking any grit or realness, she seems not to age as the film progresses over decades nor is able to dig deeper and get her hands dirty in ways she definitely has in riskier films. Still working steadily, there's still time to receive another nomination because it would be a shame to have this film be her only Oscar legacy.
Single Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, Lauren Bacall The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
After making her film debut in 1944's To Have and Have Not opposite her soon-to-be husband, Humphrey Bogart, Bacall had to wait over 50 years before she received her first and only nomination. In fact, the support to have her win that year and honor a living legend was so great that people seemed to forgot that she, and the movie in particular, were, not all that good. Saddled with the thankless role of Barbra Streisand's harpy of a mother, Bacall is required only to huskily deliver one-liners and belittle poor, put-upon Streisand in another of the star's vanity projects. The nomination and win would have really been to honor the actress's past work in those Bogie noir classics which also included The Big Sleep and Key Largo, her work as a comedienne in Designing Woman, her role in the Douglas Sirk weepie Written On the Wind, and her BAFTA nominated turn in the John Wayne film The Shootist. Luckily, the Academy came to their senses and the Oscar went to Juliette Binoche, whom expressed her surprise in winning over sure-thing Bacall in her acceptance speech. Bacall has since been honored with the Honorary Oscar in 2009. That's a much better way of honoring her legacy than a nomination for an underwhelming performance.
Single Nomination: Best Supporting Actor, John C. Reilly Chicago (2002)
Chicago was such a hit with Oscar in 2002, that they nominated it for (nearly) every award possible - thirteen nominations in total, with only the snub for never-nominated Richard Gere keeping the film from "most nominated picture ever" status. (The record is currently held by both All About Eve and Titanic with 14 nominations each). One of its nominations went to prolific character actor, John C. Reilly who had actually appeared in three of that year's five Best Pictures. Many felt that his nomination should have come from his work in the indie film The Good Girl as Jennifer Aniston's unappreciative husband rather than for his brief turn in this film as an unappreciated husband. The role is small, with only "Mr. Cellophane" (a catchy song that does nothing to advance the plot) to recommend it, and there's no real time for Reilly to develop a complete character. The nomination surely represents that year's work as a whole rather than for this single performance. Having established his reputation as a strong actor in such independent films as Hard Eight, The Anniversary Party, and his nomination-worthy performance in Magnolia, it's interesting to note that his sole nomination came from a splashy box-office hit. He's since focused more on comedic roles and seems to be more interested in becoming more of a Will Ferrell-type than the go-to everyman he used to play.
Single Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Clarkson Pieces of April (2003)
Patty Clarkson first hit awards season radars with her performance in 1998's High Art as the heroin-addict lover of a photographer played by Ally Sheedy. She earned an Independent Spirit nomination for the performance, but despite critics' pleas was left without an Oscar nomination (1998 was a pretty weak line-up in Supporting Actress, so it's sad she couldn't break in). A small part as a dying wife in the Best Picture nominated The Green Mile raised her profile further with Oscar voters. So by the time her turn as Julianne Moore's acid-tongued best "friend" in Far From Heaven came along in 2002, many thought she was guaranteed a nomination this time. The Academy thought otherwise and she was no match for the Chicago love-fest (Queen Latifah, really?!?). So the next year when she appeared in no less than 4 well-received films (Dogville, All the Real Girls, The Station Agent, and Pieces of Katie Holmes April), enough was enough - Patty was getting a damn Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, it was for the worst of the bunch, playing Katie Holmes' mother dying of cancer. She may be dying, but she's still sassy! Smoking joints, telling her children what she really thinks about them, and listening to rap - you half expect a laugh track to follow her antics. The nomination should have come from her heartbreaking work in The Station Agent. Despite great turns in more films (particularly in the little-seen, Cairo Time), Clarkson has yet to gain any further Oscar buzz. And now it seems she's settled into respectability. Everyone loves it when she pops up in a film, but her "time" has passed.
Single Nomination: Best Supporting Actor, Paul Giamatti Cinderella Man (2005)
It's easy to forget that Giamatti actually was nominated at all. The uproar of how he was snubbed two years in a row (for American Splendour and the role that really got people riled up, Sideways) seems to overshadow the make-up nomination the Academy threw his way the year later. But, seriously does anyone really remember this film or him in it? (I have no trouble recalling his great work in those other two films). Giamatti has since won a surprise Golden Globe in 2010 for Barney's Version and appeared in one of the most well-liked films of 2011, Win Win. But, like Clarkson, his time of being "overdue" seems to have passed and he's settled into his role as the great character actor. He has a long, steady career ahead of him still.
Single Nomination: Best Supporting Actor, Stanley Tucci The Lovely Bones (2009)
Some performances on this list are worse than others, but, without a doubt, the absolute worst is Tucci's subtle-as-a-sledgehammer turn as a child killer in Peter Jackson's ill-advised adaption of Alice Sebold's novel. I mean, just look at him. If any child went missing, would there be any doubt that the creepy looking guy in the neighborhood did it? And the way Tucci plays him, all nervous tics and murderous gazes, there's not even anything remotely interesting to latch on to. And then, instead of being found guilty of murder, he meets his demise...from an icicle falling. Ugh. Tucci, who first gained notice for his work starring, writing, and directing 1996's Big Night, really gained awards buzz in supporting roles opposite Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and Julie and Julia. Usually a delightful addition to any film he's in, it's just too bad those effortless turns aren't the one's forever attached to his name, now. The only nomination this performance should've received was a Razzie.
Single Nomination: Best Supporting Actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal Crazy Heart (2009)
I have to start of by saying that I am not generally a fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal. I find her to be a little off-putting and generally too earnest, but I recognize her talent. I also recognize that she's much better than this underwritten, girlfriend role allows. Her music-journalist that has been hurt in the past just doesn't make sense. Never for a second do you believe that she would be interested in Jeff Bridges' character which makes everything that follows seem false. Gyllenhaal never rises above the material either, seemingly hitting the beats without much thought behind them. If she hadn't been so great in her Golden Globe nominated performances in Secretary and Sherrybaby or her Independent Spirit Nominated work in Happy Endings, this nomination would never have happened. But, because she'd already proved her worth, the Academy felt the need to honor her. It's a shame that her more complex, edgier work wasn't honored and a stock character was.
Single Nomination: Best Actor, Gary Oldman Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
My most controversial pick: It's hard to believe that the man who once brought so much energy and excitement to playing Sid Vicious in 1986's Sid and Nancy would eventually be honored by Oscar with such a cold (alright, boring) performance. A respected actor for over 25 years, this is an "overdue" nomination if there ever was one. Leading up to the nominations, everyone mentioned how shocking it was that GARY OLDMAN had never been nominated. No nominations for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, JFK, Immortal Beloved, nor his SAG nominated performance in The Contender. And, of course, not for his villainous turns and work in genre pictures (as great as he was in Bram Stoker's Dracula or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, they're too out-there for Oscar's taste). Instead his sole nomination comes for a performance so subdued and calculated that he's upstaged by co-stars (most notably: Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Benedict Cumberbatch).
Is it an honor just to be nominated or do you wish things had turned out differently for these players? Who else did I miss? Will any of this year's upcoming nominees qualify for this list?