CAUTION: There may be some spoilers for the films listed below.
Paul Giamatti for Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Ralph
Let's face it, the entire film itself should have been nominated for more awards, but we'll focus on the acting here. Nobody can doubt that Paul Giamatti is an incredibly talented actor. While he does not always take the most admirable of roles, he always manages to redeem himself with the next role he takes on. Giamatti brings something truly special to the role of Ralph, Mrs. Travers’ (Emma Thompson) California limo driver. It’s a more low key and emotional role for him here, and brings a believable, humanistic approach to what could have been an otherwise forgettable character, especially in the scene outside of the studio where and he and Mrs. Travers are sitting down on the grass and talking. He really is one of the ones responsible for changing Mrs. Travers’ personality and outlook on life, and that is due to both his and her performance. While he easily could have been up for the fellow supporting nomination competition, he may have not been in the film enough to warrant the more attention he deserved.
Emma Thompson for Best Actress in a Leading Role - Saving Mr. Banks (2013): P.L. Travers
Okay, so this one may not exactly be "uncommonly thought of," but it didn't stay in Oscar viewers' minds as long as it should have when the actual nominations were announced. This one is interesting, because Thompson was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, and interestingly, it was for a drama. This is certainly what Saving Mr. Banks is, but usually the actresses nominated for a Golden Globe drama dominate those nominated for a Golden Globe comedy/musical, if not take all of them (there are a few exceptions i.e. Emma Stone for La La Land (2016)). Emma Thompson's performance here may be one of her best if not the best ever. She portrays a sad, irritatingly impossible woman, but manages to capture a heartwarming, endearing quality that makes the audience care for her and understand her frustrated position. She steals every scene she is in, unless Tom Hanks is around, to which each simultaneously give the other a run for their money. Emma Thompson would have had tough competition at the Oscars with Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench, Amy Adams, and Meryl Streep, all of whom it could be argued are five of the best actresses of our time, but then, so is Emma Thompson. She may not have won, but she deserved a nomination of recognition for a heartbreaking and an audience self-reflective role.
Tom Hanks for Best Actor in a Leading/Supporting Role - Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Walt Disney
Like Emma Thompson, this is not really an "uncommonly thought of" Oscar snub, but the fact that Tom Hanks did not receive a nomination sort of was swept under the rug after those who were actually nominated were announced: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, etc. But then again, he is Tom Hanks. After his title role in last year's Sully (2016) did not receive a nomination either, it could be that Hanks is becoming more of a Meryl Streep type, in that he sometimes would get nominated, just for the sake of being nominated. It is hard to argue however that every performance from both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks is not almost always oustanding and deeply believable. It could be that Tom Hanks is starting to be taken for granted. It is difficult in the case of Saving Mr. Banks to what category Hanks would be assigned. Although one thinks of Walt Disney as having a large role, he is not in the film as much as one might think. And is it a "leading" role if Emma Thompson is really the leading role? Regardless, Tom Hanks should not be taken for granted, and his performance of Walt Disney may not have been exactly spot on according to some critics, but the embodiment and spirit of Walt Disney, I think, was perfectly captured. When Walt flies to London to see Mrs. Travers at her home and tries one last time to convince her to get the rights to Mary Poppins (1964) near the end of the film, that scene alone garners a nomination.
Jim Carrey for Best Actor in a Leading Role - Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): The Grinch
Okay, folks, now hear me out. When you think of Academy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated actors and actresses of that caliber, you rarely if at all think of Jim Carrey. We all love the guy, but even the biggest fan can probably attest that he just doesn't fit up there with the likes of say, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, or Tom Cruise. But that's okay, because while Carrey has done some dramatic roles, and done some very well (like The Majestic (2001)), his thing is really comedy. In that regard, he has probably had more success in that genre. While I myself prefer Carrey in some more relaxed, dramatic performances, I still enjoy his crazy level of energy and humor. The one role of his that I cannot ever get out of my head is as the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He completely embodies the role and characteristics of the Grinch, yet, I cannot even tell it is him. And I think that is the biggest compliment. Sure, you could attribute a lot of that to the makeup department, which it indeed won an Academy Award for, but I still believe it was mostly in the performance. I'm not saying that I didn't recognize Jim Carrey's humor or persona emanating from that green felt costume, but it is always hard for me to find his face in that character. While the makeup is a big part of that, Jim Carrey has a perfect balance of a performance in this role. It's not too crazy, but just enough over-the-top to make us believe what kind of Dr. Seuss character this is, and yet he maintains a level of touching dramatic flair, especially towards the end when his small heart "grows three sizes that day." While Carrey would have had a hard time winning, an Oscar nomination is certainly warranted here. I think to this day it really is his best work.
Sara Lazzaro for Best Actress in a Leading/Supporting Role - The Young Messiah (2016): Mary
Not many people have seen The Young Messiah, which centers around Jesus Christ (Adam Greaves-Neal) as a boy of seven, leading up to the tense moment of him telling his parents at the temple, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" It is a shame more people have not seen this, because while the film may not be completely Biblically accurate, it not only is a moving story of Christ and how he might have acted in his youth, but offers the audience a worthwhile and meaningful message. The film itself does not have too many good ratings, and this is probably do to the fact that people viewed it as too much of a "preachy" film. But it really is far from that. There are many people who did not see this film who probably did not see it because it is one of those "Christian" or "religious" films, and while yes the film does fall into those two categories, it is not your typical, low-budget Christian film. It falls in the category, at least technically and performance-wise, of films like The Nativity Story (2006), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and Noah (2014), although it is much more family friendly than those last two listed. While Adam Greaves-Neal does a fairly good job of portraying Jesus as he might have been as a boy, and Sean Bean gets a chance to play a Roman villain searching for him, the standout here is Sara Lazzaro, who plays Jesus' mother, Mary. She is not a widely recognized actress as of yet, but she soon will be. Lazzaro is a beautiful Italian actress who is unbelievably talented, and unfortunately was probably not recognized in the Oscars due to her not yet wide acclaim (she does appear with Jude Law in The Young Pope (2016-)), as well as the genre of the film itself unfortunately falling into a hopeless grasp at winning some recognition or award (exceptions of this would be films like The Passion of the Christ or last year's Hacksaw Ridge (2016), but look at the name who directed those). She does not take away from Greaves-Neal's performance, nor take the story away from Jesus, but just offers a side performance that catches your eye everytime she is on screen. The film was also released quite early in the year, so anything and everything about it sadly gets buried by the multitude of Oscar contenders that hit theaters in the fall and in the winter. Again, she would have had stiff competition in this category, but her performance, especially in the final scene of this film, still makes it the best portrayal of Mary ever seen on screen. Well worth a watch.
Stay tuned for Part II next week.