Excluding those with a righteous ideology, receiving the award known as an “Oscar” from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would be considered the apex of recognition for anyone involved in the film industry. Unfortunately though, pure talent is not always the deciding factor when the coveted statues are handed out annually. Like all things run by inherently flawed beings, the system is subject to imperfect logic, influenced by both emotions and politics.
Like most aspects of the industry, the brightest spotlight shines on the awards handed out to actors, who some will admit have dreamed their entire life of the opportunity to stand in front of millions of people and be acknowledged as paramount in their craft. If equated to the world of pro sports, winning an “Oscar” is like a Super Bowl or World Series championship and a “Hall of Fame” induction rolled into one award. In sports, the admiration and praise of winning a championship has a short shelf life once the following season begins, but if bestowed with an Academy Award, the cache can last a lifetime and forever transform the narrative of an actor’s legacy.
In another parallel with pro athletes, occasionally greatness can be highly transparent in the early stages of an actor’s career. However also like a top pick in a pro sports draft, sometimes that greatness is merely a mirage. There’s no doubt that in the impeccable view of hindsight, “Oscars” have been distributed to those whose performances have aged in reverse of a fine wine. Conversely, there are also many fine thespians who are overlooked year after year as they compound consistently brilliant performances, only to be finally acknowledged in their twilight years for a role that is seldom up to par from when they were at the height of their powers.
The following is a list of 10 actors, 5 who are aire apparents to placing at least one small gold statue with the same name as Muppet who lives in a garbage can on their mantels, and 5 others who are equally deserved of the honor but will probably have to practice the mantra of “a Golden Globe or SAG Award is just as significant an achievement,” until they actually believe it.
5 Actors Who Have a Future Date with Oscar:
1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
If anyone would had told you back in 1996 that the long-haired kid from “3rd Rock from the Sun” would go on to be one of the most talented and revered young actors of his generation, you probably would not have taken them very seriously. It’s seldom that television actors are able to make a “Clooney” sized jump from the small to big screens and even more so for child actors, but Gordon-Levitt was able to make the most of his best chance to do so in the 2009 comedy “(500) Days of Summer,” and then had the godsend of good fortune to catch the eye of director Christopher Nolan.
Now Gordon-Levitt is being rumored to take over the mantle of the “Bat” and just came off of a year where he displayed his best theatrical performance to date in “Looper,” a film that has been egregiously snubbed by A.M.P.A.S. this season. But Gordon-Levitt has youth on his side and surely has his best work ahead of him. As long as he keeps mixing in roles like Adam in “50/50” with the sci-fi genre for which he is now so well known, Gordon-Levitt should have no problem attracting the “Academy’s” attention for years to come.
2. Chloe Grace Moretz
Far too often incredible child actors blaze onto the Hollywood scene only to top out just around when their voice starts to drop a few octaves. Although she’s had a very successful career, most would agree that from a stance of pure acting ability, Kirsten Dunst’s has not been able to surpass a performance she delivered at the age of 14 in “Interview with the Vampire.” Haley Joel Osment now only sees dead end scripts and Dakota Fanning is on the verge of being replaced by her younger and more talented sister Elle.
However this is not the road for which Chloe Grace Moretz will travel. This is one of the most talented young female actors to arrive in over a decade. Most audiences were shell-shocked by her first memorable appearance as the foul-mouthed and ultra-violent pint-sized superhero Hit-Girl in 2010’s “Kick-Ass.” She then proved she could easily handle drama and horror in the same performance as Abby, a chilling role of a forever-child vampire in “Let Me In.” Moretz then completed the acting trifecta by displaying her comedy timing with a recurring character on “30 Rock” and the recently released parody “Movie 43.”
The only thing that can keep Moretz separated from at least one Academy Award in her career is her mediocre ability to pick top projects. At the age of 16 she should have already canned a few more memorable dramatic roles, and as amazing as the character of Hit-Girl is, it’s never going to win her an “Oscar” no matter how many sequels are written.
Like Moretz, Jennifer Lawrence is in the top 1% of young female actors that are quickly becoming household names. But unlike Moretz, Lawrence has actually been acting for fewer years even though she 7 years Moretz’s senior. Also, the time spent on this list may be extremely short-lived as Lawrence has a very legitimate shot at bringing home the pinnacle of acting achievements in only a few short weeks. Nominated as recently as 2011 for an “Oscar” in the lead role of “Winter’s Bone,” Lawrence is again nominated in the same category this year for “Silver Linings Playbook.”
And these are only the beginning of the stock pile of nominations that Lawrence has coming in her career, as she seems to have the Meryl Streep-like ability to morph from soft to strong characters so convincingly that you sometimes forget they were portrayed by the same person.
4. Ryan Gosling
He’s been all but crowned the new prince of Hollywood, as Ryan Gosling had an amazing 2011 with “Drive,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “The Ides of March.” Even though he was completely snubbed for a nomination for “Ides,” and he was actually nominated but lost back in 2007 for “Half Nelson,” Gosling has not even begun to make his mark in film history. He has that uncanny ability of showing a multitude of range with about 2 facial expressions, which the “Academy” just eats up, and either he or his “people” are fantastic at choosing scripts, always selecting challenging and original characters that after you watch Gosling’s portrayal, it’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling it off at the same caliber.
5. James Franco
He really should not be on this list at all, it was an act of pure idiocracy that he was overlooked for his portrayal of Aron Ralston in the true-life story “127 Hours,” instead A.M.P.A.S. awarded the 2011 “Oscar” to Colin Firth for the very overrated “The King’s Speech.” Aron Ralston was a role that should’ve been Franco’s “Starry Night,” and probably still will be at the end of his career. However, it’s his project selection that gives him overwhelming odds to be nominated at least a few more times in his tenure.
Franco likes to seek out the small, independent film that relies heavily on pure writing talent since the budget is usually too small for special effects and big name actors. He also makes a lot of these films well below what a name of his caliber would usually collect on a big studio picture. Franco prides himself on being a true artist, and even though he’ll show up in the blockbusters to pay the bills and loves doing wacky comedies that are most funny to people with a temporarily skewed attitude adjustment, he always goes back and knocks out at least 3 or 4 more dramas that no one will probably ever see. Just the kind that gets nominated for Academy Awards.
5 Actors Who Are Used to Getting Stood-Up by Oscar
1. Edward Norton
Nominated twice for an “Oscar” in his now 20 year career as a Hollywood actor, Edward Norton hit the ground running in his film debut as a murder suspect who uses a conjured-up alter ego to avoid a conviction in 1996’s “Primal Fear.” Nominated for “Best Supporting Actor” for that role, it was supposed to be the first of many for Norton, and it was only 2 years later that he was up for the grand prize of “Best Actor” in 1999 for “American History X.” However since then, Norton has not been nominated for any “Oscars” in nearly 15 years as he seemed to show the best of his abilities in his first few roles. Not that his best is anything to scoff at. Most actors would give away a decade of their careers just to posses Norton’s talents for a single year. He is still one of the top talents in Hollywood and can pull in an audience based solely on his involvement in a film. Most likely he’s a victim of his own success, as he was so seasoned in his first few roles, there was little room for him to grow and he quickly fell into the “taken for granted” category.
He is very good at selecting roles so there’s always the chance he may stumble upon something that allows him to show the “Academy” something they’ve never seen before from him, but since he’s already played good guys, bad guys, the good guy who didn’t know he was the bad guy, mentally ill, faking mentally ill, a rehabilitated Nazi, a master crook, a master magician, a purple rhinoceros and a green Hulk . . . it’s going to have to be something way outside the box to catch the jaded eyes of the voters.
2. Tom Cruise
One of the most underrated pure actors in film history, Tom Cruise’s massive success is probably partly to blame for his barren “Oscar” shelf. Ranked in the top 5 of the most profitable actors of all time, Cruise’s films gross an average of $97 million per flick. Earlier in his career Cruise was actually nominated on three separate occasions for “Oscars,” but since 2000 his exclusivity toward the big summer blockbuster combined with his off-the-screen antics pretty much pigeon holed Cruise in the “he is what he is” column. Unfortunate though, because in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder” Cruise shocked everyone in a role that many audiences were oblivious to his involvement until the closing credits. Cruise was able to pull from a side of himself that even his biggest fans never knew existed with the portrayal of belligerent movie studio executive Les Grossman. Cruise played the character with such excellence that it even overshadowed Robert Downey Jr.’s “Oscar” nomination for a role in the same film.
Cruise’s best chance for an Academy Award now ironically lies with one of the factors that have kept the nomination away for so long. If he can simply keep bringing in massive audiences year after year, there is no doubt that he will someday stand at the podium to receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award” after a 20 minute montage of his life’s work extends the runtime of the 100th Academy Awards past the 5 hour mark, shattering the all-time record.
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
Like Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio has also been nominated for Academy Awards three separate times in his career. Unfortunately also like Cruise, DiCaprio has been passed over all three times as well. I’m not sure what more DiCaprio can do at this point. He’s a phenomenal talent that has made the extremely rare transition in the public eye as a young overrated actor with a great PR machine to an underrated veteran capable of portraying a spectrum of characters that seemingly has no start or end point in sight.
After a few years of what is now Easter egg type YouTube footage of DiCaprio on ‘90’s TV series like “Growing Pains” and “Roseanne,” he, just like Edward Norton, captured an “Oscar” nomination right out of the gate for 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Inexplicably he lost out to Jaime Fox in 2005 when DiCaprio was nominated in the “Best Actor” category for his portrayal of Howard Hughes in the biopic “The Aviator.” And he scored his third nomination in 2007 for “Blood Diamond,” while what most would consider his second best performance in 2006’s “The Departed” was altogether ignored by the “Academy.”
The disrespect from A.M.P.A.S. toward Leo continues even into this year, with another snub as a “Best Supporting Actor” for “Django Unchained,” while he watches his co-star, screenwriter, director and the picture itself walk away with nominations. If DiCaprio can’t even draw out a nomination when he jumps way outside his comfort zone and takes on the role of an unredeemable villain, there may not be many bullets left in the chamber to bring the “Academy” to its senses.
4. Johnny Depp
Is it possible that Mr. Depp is too artistic, too eccentric, too much of a recluse even for A.M.P.A.S.? Johnny Depp has met every stereotypical standard in the “Academy’s” playbook to ensure himself an “Oscar,” yet he still waits. And again, just like his very popular friends sitting beside him on the proverbial “bench,” he too has been nominated three times over his career. The most egregious oversight coming in the very weak film year of 2004 when the time was absolutely perfect for an outstanding comedic character portrayal to capture an “Oscar.” And if Captain Jack Sparrow, one of the most ingeniously architected and executed characters in the history of film, cannot bring home the gold bacon, then the accusations of the “Academy” having a prejudice toward comedy might actually have some credence.
5. Robert Downey Jr.
I’m sure if you asked him, Robert Downey Jr. would be the first to say he’s lucky just to still be active in the industry at all. Back in the early ‘90’s there were no young actors as highly praised as Downey with the summit of his early career coming in the form of an “Oscar” nomination for his biopic role in 1992’s “Chaplin.” Unfortunately for Downey it seemed that he shared just as much if not more turmoil in his private life as the famed silent picture star.
Downey seemed to be on the right track for a comeback in the early 2000’s with a recurring character on the hit TV show “Ally McBeal,” but once again he allowed his private life to become public and instead of being a caveat to his career, drugs, alcohol and legal troubles started to convert into his resume.
The low point of Downey’s once unlimited potential must had been when he was regulated to a bit part as Telephone Jack in the financial flop and universally panned 2007’s “Lucky You.” But the saying that “it’s always darkest just before the dawn,” definitely applies to Downey as just one year later, director Jon Favreau took a chance on the one and only person he wanted to play Tony Stark. Since then Downey has finally found out how to balance his life and has been on an unstoppable and hall of fame caliber comeback, rivaled perhaps only by John Travolta’s in the mid ‘90s. Downey was even able to return to “Oscar” worthy status for a comedic, yet controversial role in the “Best Supporting Actor” category when he was nominated for the part of Kirk Lazarus in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder.”
If Downey does eventually win an “Oscar” it will not be from a place of purpose on his part. He’s having way too much fun doing big money, commercial vehicles and you can only play the “Australian actor playing a black American soldier pretending to be a real soldier” card once in a lifetime.