Some memorable oversights (among nominated actors, post-1970):
*Al Pacino, “Serpico,” 1973. A fascinating performance: weird, subtle and fully realized. Love Jack Lemmon, but Pacino was better.
*Al Pacino, “The Godfather, Part II”; Jack Nicholson, “Chinatown,” 1974. The winner, Art Carney, for the underrated gem “Harry & Tonto,” was deserving, but Pacino and Nicholson were standouts in two of the better movies of the century.
*Peter Sellers, “Being There,” 1979. If I need to explain this one, you must be new to the Malcontent.
*Paul Newman, “The Verdict”; Dustin Hoffman, “Tootsie,” 1982. Ben Kingsley is a great actor, and a convincing Gandhi, but Newman gave the performance of his career. Hoffman was an unconvincing woman, but that was the point.
*Gene Hackman, “Mississippi Burning,” 1988. A flawed movie, but Hackman was brilliant (and his Southern accent was Duvall-ian, as opposed to Costner-esque). If only his character was autistic (see Hoffman, Dustin, “Rain Man”).
*Denzel Washington, “Malcom X”; Clint Eastwood, “Unforgiven,” 1992. Al Pacino won for “Scent of a Woman,” and an insufferable ham was born.
*Anthony Hopkins, “The Remains of the Day,” 1993. A truly heartbreaking performance — the best of Hopkins’ career. If only his character had AIDS (see Hanks, Tom, “Philadelphia”).
*Morgan Freeman, “The Shawshank Redemption”; John Travolta, “Pulp Fiction”; Paul Newman, “Nobody’s Fool,” 1994. If only their characters were idiot savants (see Hanks, Tom, “Forrest Gump”).
*Billy Bob Thornton, “Sling Blade,” 1996. If only his character had … okay, so he did play slow, but he did it wonderfully. Geoffrey Rush was fine in “Shine,” but Karl Childers was iconic.
*Robert Duvall, “The Apostle,” 1997. Nicholson won for playing a variation of himself in “As Good as It Gets.” I can’t think of a more authentic performance than Duvall’s conflicted preacher. This may be the worst snub of all.
*Nick Nolte, “Affliction,” 1998. He was robbed by the Italian Robin Williams, Roberto Benigni. All the nominees that year — including Tom Hanks in “Saving Private Ryan” — were more deserving.
*Bill Murray, “Lost in Translation,” 2003. Let me repeat: No more movies about working-class Bostonians. “Mystic River” was a rare misstep by Clint Eastwood, and all I remember about Sean Penn’s performance is a lot of weeping and seething and gnashing of teeth.
*Heath Ledger, “Brokeback Mountain,” 2005. Philip Seymour Hoffman was very good as Capote, but I didn’t much care for the movie. Was it expert mimicry, or brilliant acting? In the eye of the beholder, I guess.