Two days ago Brigade’s Rob Scheer asked his Facebook followers to vote for the least deserving Oscar-nominated performance of the last 15 years. Scheer failed to note that two of the following nominated performances resulted in wins, but I’ve clarified that:
(a) Alan Arkin, Argo; (b) Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine (won); (c) Christian Bale, The Big Short; (d) Ruby Dee, American Gangster; (e) Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland; (f) Jonah Hill, Moneyball; (g) Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones; (h) Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook; (i) Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain (won).
I don’t know what “deserving” means in this context. Academy Award nominations are almost always handed out for reasons that are half political and half emotional, and rarely on merit alone. That said, the three least deserving among this group were Bale’s, Tucci’s and Zellweger’s.
All I remember clearly about Bale’s Big Short character, based on the real-life Michael Burry, was how completely insulated he was in the realm of his own genius (which the film kept pushing in your face), and what an anti-social dweeb he was. I hated looking at Bale’s bare feet.
I was amazed that people found Tucci’s creepy murderer the least bit fascinating, much less award-worthy. I was far more satisfied and pleased by his sure-to-be-nominated performance as Jack L. Warner in Feud: Bette and Joan.
Zellweger’s Ruby Thewes was basically a yeehaw thing — deep-country accent, bold behavior, blunt opinions.
Remember that Hill wasn’t just nominated for Moneyball but also for The Wolf of Wall Street, and that he was brilliant on both occasions. Arkin’s wiseacre grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine and his sardonic Hollywood guy in Argo were both fine. I believed almost nothing about Depp’s performance as J.M. Barrie — it seemed to be all about (a) mannered, rarified behavior and (b) faux-sensitive expressions. Jacki Weaver was genuine and whole in SLP.
If you ask me the most over-praised, over-nominated (though not by the Academy), over-awarded performance of the 21st Century was Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s white-trash psycho in Nocturnal Animals.