It shouldn't bother me as much as it does. After all, the brilliant work of these people speaks for itself. A rational person shouldn't need the Academy to validate one's admiration of these artists by bestowing on them the title of Academy-Award-winner. But the Oscars are hardly rational themselves, and they certainly bring out the irrational in me. Here, in my irrational opinion, are the ten (or more) people, still working at the top of their game, who need an Oscar IMMEDIATELY.
10. James Newton Howard (8 nominations)
Hardworking composer James Newton Howard squeaks into the list with eight unrewarded nods (most of them the lone nomination for a critically under-performing film), but only just, because I don't personally feel he should actually have won for any of them. Still, at eight nods and counting, you wanna see the guy win. Probably the biggest injustice against the man is not his 0.00 win percentage, but the flat-out snub for his most awards-worthy effort to date, his collaboration with Hans Zimmer on The Dark Knight.
9. Ridley Scott (3 nominations)
The director of such classics as Alien and Blade Runner needs an Oscar a.s.a.p. while he still has the capacity to make a good movie. I say this with some urgency, because his work has been slipping in recent years, bottoming out with last year's dismal Robin Hood. I can't help but feel he still has another Thelma and Louise left in him. He should have won for his Best Picture winning epic Gladiator, but Traffic helmer Steven Soderbergh (and double nominee for Best Director) somehow escaped a vote split to snatch the prize away – although one could argue it was Gladiator that snatched the Best Picture prize away from Traffic.
8. Julianne Moore (4 nominations)
She is an actress who seems to be perpetually at the top of her game, eternally in her prime, and always in the awards conversation, even when quality performances don't lead to nominations (A Single Man and The Kids Are All Right to cite some recent examples). Many firmly believe that Kim Basinger's Oscar for L.A. Confidential should by right be Julianne's for Boogie Nights (I was rooting for Gloria Stuart at the time). She had two nominations in 2002, but lost her Supporting bid for The Hours to Catherine Zeta Jones and lost her Leading bid for Far from Heaven to her Hours costar Nicole Kidman, who herself was overdue.
7. Glenn Close (5 nominations)
Were it not for this year's upcoming Albert Nobbs to fuel my hopes, I might have wondered if Glenn Close would ever be in the Oscar discussion again. The Academy had an enormous infatuation with her in the 80s, handing her five nominations in seven years, but nothing since. Either of her back-to-back Lead Actress nominations – 1987 and 1988 for Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons respectively – would have made very deserving wins (I'm a particular fan of her work in the former). Alas, Oscar did not capitalize in their window of opportunity, and they haven't had a proper chance to reward her since. Maybe that'll change this year...
6. Mike Leigh (7 nominations)
Despite being one of the finest British directors working today, Mike Leigh strikes me as the sort whose brilliant films will never have quite the crossover appeal they need to net him an Oscar. But it's not as though the Academy hasn't had their chances. The writers branch can always be counted on to do their part, having nominated five of his last seven screenplays, and the directors branch have seen fit to nominate him for a couple of those films too, but they just don't get enough exposure to bring him a win. Let's hope he gets a better chance soon. Even at 68 years of age his pictures continue to show an ever-diversifying artistic maturity, but he's not getting any younger.
5. Thomas Newman (10 nominations)
The Academy must assume that his father Alfred Newman's nine career Oscars (not to mention his cousin Randy Newman's two) are more than enough for one family, because they continually overlook Thomas' distinct and textured scores. I was bugged to see his score for Finding Nemo (the finest of the decade in my opinion) swept aside in favour of awarding Howard Shore a second Oscar for The Lord of the Rings series. I was equally vexed by the inevitability of seeing him lose both music categories to Oscar first-timer A.R. Rahman, whose admittedly flavourful tunes for Slumdog Millionaire were not nearly as deserving as Newman's contribution to WALL-E.
4. Peter Weir (6 nominations)
He's up there with Mike Leigh in terms of years on this planet, but unlike Leigh, Weir's been slowing down his cinematic output significantly, only directing two films in the last twelve years. While that fortunately hasn't translated into a lowering of quality, it does make me nervous that he won't ever collect that little gold man which he should already have won twice by now (The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society are both in my top ten favourites of all time). I had much higher hopes than I should have had for the awards potential of The Way Back before I had seen it. Will he ever make another Academy pleaser like Master and Commander? Will he ever make another one at all?
3. Kevin O'Connell (20 nominations), Greg P. Russell (14 nominations)
I'm cheating a bit on this one, but I couldn't in good conscience mention Kevin O'Connell without including his former sound mixing partner Greg P. Russell (I could also include 11-time nominee Rick Kline by that logic), who has likewise suffered alongside him during his unenviable record-holding drought. As I scroll down the list of O'Connell's nominated efforts, the problem becomes obvious: very few of those films are any good. Academy members don't like to give their vote to a movie they dislike unless they absolutely have to, whether or not it deserves it. The situation was epitomized when his and Russell's insanely complex mix for the insanely awful Tranformers lost to The Bourne Ultimatum.
2. Ed Harris (4 nominations)
This man might be my favourite actor in the business. There have been at least three years in which he gave, what I considered to be, the best supporting performance of the year. He often sells authentic emotion by underselling it, going for deep internalization rather than overt scene stealing. Perhaps that's why he hasn't won yet. Oscar loves a scenery chewer. After receiving four nominations between 1996 and 2003, his awards prospects have cooled off. He'll probably need a big meaty role that requires a deviation from his understated style before the Academy feels like tossing him a “career achievement” win.
1. Roger Deakins (9 nominations)
I already sounded off on Roger Deakins' Oscarlessness back when his bid for True Grit ended in disaster earlier this year. I realize that the Academy as a whole isn't all that interested in the craftspeople behind their technical prizes, and for them to overlook a deserving legend once or twice is at least understandable if disappointing. But when a true master of cinema's artistic form like Deakins gets up to nine nominations and they still haven't given him his Oscar, that's just plain disgraceful. He should have at least three by now, let alone one. I personally found The Shawshank Redemption, O Brother, Where Art Thou, and especially The Assassination of Jesse James to be the best of their classes. Roger Deakins gets my vote as the single most overdue individual for an Oscar. He won't work forever. Get him one, now!
(PS: I can hear the Peter O'Toole fans boiling tar and plucking feathers already, but since he's more than semiretired with his best years behind him, I think it's safe to say the Academy's already missed the boat.)