At the end of a great career should there be an actor, director or producer who has not won an Oscar for their achievements, the Academy votes them a Lifetime Achievement Award, an Honorary Oscar. Among the non-winners in the competitive categories to receive this award have been Charles Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter O’Toole, Spike Lee, Barbra Stanwyck, Blake Edwards, and Henry Fonda (who won the following year). So if the Academy feels guilt that they have never awarded Gary Oldman an Oscar, rather than give him one for a performance that is lesser than others in the year, vote him a Lifetime Achievement Award. Why cheat a genuine Best Actor quality performance for a silly sentimental award? That happened in 1992 when Al Pacino’s over the top ranting and Hoo Hawing in Scent of a Woman (1992) was voted superior to Denzel Washington’s astonishing Malcom X (1992).
Oldman is at this writing the frontrunner for the Oscar as Best Actor for his showy turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. It is neither the best performance by an actor this year or the best of Oldman’s career, a performance that reminded me of the hammy work of Laurence Olivier. He has not won a single mag or film critics Society award for the performance. Hiding under loads of prosthetics and bulk, Oldman never convinced me he was Churchill, not in the manner other actors have done. And like many critics, I do not find myself spewing out superlatives in praise of his performance, it was good, but nothing more, certainly not Oscar worthy.
For the record I have always hated the sentimental wins. Bogart in The African Queen (1951) besting the astounding Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Jack Lemmon wins Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), Art Carney for Harry and Tonto (1974), George Burns wins Best Supporting Actor for the Sunshine Boys (1975), Melvyn Douglas wins for Being There (1979), Henry Fonda, Best Actor in On Golden Pond (1981), Geraldine Page wins Best Actress in A Trip to Bountiful (1985), Pacino in Scent of a Woman (1992), James Coburn wins for Affliction (1998), Michael Caine wins a second for supporting actor in The Cider House Rules (1999), and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (2009) have all bested superior performances to win Oscar…does that seem at all fair? And frankly some of the greatest performances in film history have lost to Honor sentimental choices!
Oldman is on the path to glory to win Best Actor, whether I agree or not. But still I want to list down 10 reasons why he does not deserve the Oscar.
1. James Franco in The Disaster Artist – This was the best performance I saw this year, Franco’s hilarious but spot on performance as mysterious filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. Speaking in a curious European accent, his long black hair and bizarre dress giving the look of a vampire, Wiseau had great ambition and a deep bank account, but no talent at all. His film The Room (2002) is regarded by many as the worst film ever made, which it just might be. Franco inhabits the role in every way, becoming Wiseau before our eyes. An astonishing performance from a gifted young artist who continues to show greater depth.
2. James McAvoy in Split – released nearly a year ago, this extraordinary performance is still celebrated and discussed. If anyone deserves to be nominated it is McAvoy who convincingly portrays seven of his twenty three personalities in this fine thriller from Director M. Night Shymalan. With the turn of his head, a change in his eyes, the slightest change in body language, he becomes another character within the same character. His dance as Hedwig, the nine year old boy is fierce and brash, alarming, dangerous in its raw fury as is the entire performance.