Jess Ennis counts down some controversial decisions.

Written by Redbrick Film
Last updated

Generally speaking, I’m usually in agreement with the nominees for the ‘Best Actor’ Academy Award – I don’t always like the film, the supporting cast, or even the leading lady (see: everything about Lincoln), but most of the time I fully support the male choices. There are, however, moments when I shout at the television coverage and proceed to annoy everyone for the next three days with my indignant list of reasons why the other nominees should have won. Having narrowed this extensive (and rather passionately written) list down, I can present my top three most foolish ‘Best Actor’ snubs of the last ten years.

hotel-rwanda-2004-21-gPredominantly, the 2004 Academy Awards seemed to value the true story. Johnny Depp earned a nomination for playing J.M. Barrie, and the universally loved Jamie Foxx won the Oscar for his (yes, impressive) portrayal of Ray Charles; however, Mr Cheadle gave, to me, the outstanding performance within his category.

If you haven’t already seen Hotel Rwanda (shame on you!), I urge you to do so as soon as possible – the main reason of many being Don Cheadle’s powerhouse performance as Paul Rusesabagina, the man who turned his hotel into a refugee site during the Rwandan Genocide. Cheadle is in full command of his talents: every scene is compelling, emotional, and he gives – in the words of The New York Times’ Stephen Holden – a “magnificent, understated portrayal”. He’s right. Nothing is ever oversold to the audience; there is a distinct lack of melodrama that some actors might have brought to such an inspirational role, and Cheadle instead chooses to bring the part vividly to life simply through the humanity with which he portrays Rusesabagina.

okulary-the-phoenix-walk-joaquin-lineIt could be argued that my three CD compilation of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits provides this next entry with some element of bias, but I could also just point you in the direction of Phoenix’s performance as the legendary singer in the multi award-winning film, and allow you to recognise for yourself why he deserved to beat Philip Seymour Hoffman to the ‘Best Actor’ title.

Despite Phoenix’s somewhat tumultuous relationship with acting (and indeed, the Academy Awards), his performance in Walk the Line should not be played down – he, like Cheadle, appreciates the art of subtlety on camera, and gives one of the most beautifully low-key and captivating biopic portrayals to date. He conveys everything with a tilt of the head, a shift in the eyes, and a change in posture, perfectly capturing the essence of Cash and translating it elegantly onto screen. Phoenix’s musical performance in the film also cannot go unmentioned; his vocal impersonation of Johnny Cash was so good that before filming, Reese Witherspoon – who fantastically played June Carter, to critical acclaim – was credited as saying that she had to “step it up a notch” in order to match his talents. And if Reese Witherspoon says he’s good, it can probably be taken as the truth.


Acknowledging for a second that he won the Oscar in 2010 for The King’s Speech (and deservedly so), I present with my top choice the argument that Colin Firth should be a two time Academy Award winner. My evidence: A Single Man. It’s a masterpiece. A Tom Ford-directed, Abel Korzeniowski-musically accompanied masterpiece. And of course, Firth is at the forefront of that.
Based upon Christopher Isherwood’s novel of the same name, A Single Man superbly tells the story of British professor and expatriate George Falconer’s last day alive following the death of his lover (featuring an amazing performance from Matthew Goode). Colin Firth gives one of the most remarkable character portrayals of his career, with every word spoken delivering a heart-breaking undertone that scores the entire movie; he’s enthralling without ever really having to raise his voice or betray too much emotion, and it’s this poise that contributes to his affecting depiction of a man whose life is falling apart. Firth’s physical manifestation of character is also wonderful – he moves deliberately, precisely, and with the airs of a perfectionist, something delicately noted with the final arrangement of his desk; the impression is given that he could have delivered a piece just as spellbinding without ever having to speak. Time Out deemed him as “excellent and moving”, something completely evident when watching the film (hint). With achingly resonant narration, stunning interactions with Julianne Moore as his oldest friend, and a look of grief that never truly leaves his eyes, Firth makes sure that his performance is one of the most impressive in modern cinema.

Jess Ennis