86 Best Director Omissions

Best Director Omissions 2

Once again, having surveyed all those honored by the Academy for excellence in directing, I’m ready to offer my own humble assessments of the field. But as I did last year, I’m pausing before casting my personal votes to consider the vast terrain of filmmaking outside the 214 filmmakers and 426 films in this column of Oscar history. The Directors Branch has frequently made inspired decisions, nominating the likes of Gillo Pontecorvo and Terrence Malick as well as Frank Capra and Woody Allen. I’m not a big fan of the word “snub,” though I concede its convenience as shorthand. Oscar nominations are a compliment to those who receive them and by no means an insult to those who don’t. Nonetheless, there’s only so much room in the finals each year, and the directors that cram into those five spots invariably squeeze out other admirable visions. I don’t begrudge the Academy voters their choices; I can see the merits in nearly every nominated effort, whether or not it’s my cup of tea. Still I guarantee that if I had the power, somebody would be making way for one of these personal heroes.

As with last year’s Best Actress Omissions, I’ve restricted myself to the period covered by the Academy Awards (1927 to present) and only one film per filmmaker. Even with those strictures, though, I found it difficult as always to whittle the list down to just 86, or an average of one candidate per year in the Oscar race. Many of these are among my absolute favorite films of all time, though I also considered some of the films I consider to be the most impressive directorial visions ever realized. The list ranges from rare misses by Oscar favorites (Wilder, Kazan) to those who never would have had a prayer at a nomination (Paley, Cocteau) except through the divine intervention I’m suggesting. They also wound up falling quite evenly among the decades and across a wide spectrum of production—unlike last time, feature animation and documentary are fair game.

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85 Best Actress Omissions

25 Best Actress Snubs

Before I finally close the frontier of the Academy Award for Best Actress, I wanted to quickly acknowledge that, despite the many magnificent performances that it includes, there are many that lie beyond its reach.  I don’t like the word “snub” that much, but I’m willing to use the term for the sake of expediency to describe an array of performances that were omitted by the Academy, for reasons either understandable (Wei Wei in Spring in a Small Town) or confounding (Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby).  Just limiting myself to one performance her actress, I easily came up with 85 of my favorite or most-admired performances, one for each year of the Academy Awards (on average, not one per year).  Of course this list is flawed in its own right, reflecting my own viewing biases and not tackling, for example, the thorny issue of what three 1948 actresses I might consider bumping in my own Oscar Fantasy League.  It even excludes wonderful performances by Rumi Hiiragi and Edie Bouvier Beale by keeping in place the same barriers that the Academy erects to keep out voice acting and documentary.  And God knows who I’m forgetting.  But such is the nature of all lists; the hope being that they can then shine the limelight on those passionately loved inclusions.  Anyway, here’s the list of my biggest Oscar omissions:

Pola Negri Hotel Imperial 1927
Maria Falconetti The Passion of Joan of Arc 1928
Eleanor Boardman The Crowd 1928
Lillian Gish The Wind 1928
Marion Davies Show People 1928
Miriam Hopkins Design for Living 1933
Ginger Rogers Top Hat 1935
Jean Harlow Libeled Lady 1936
Paulette Goddard Modern Times 1936
Ruth Chatterton Dodsworth 1936
Katharine Hepburn Holiday 1938
Judy Garland The Wizard of Oz 1939
Claudette Colbert Midnight 1939
Rosalind Russell His Girl Friday 1940
Barbara Stanwyck The Lady Eve 1941
Dorothy Comingore Citizen Kane 1941
Carole Lombard To Be or Not to Be 1942
Gene Tierney Laura 1944
Wendy Hiller I Know Where I’m Going! 1945
Bette Davis The Corn Is Green 1945
Ann Savage Detour 1945
Ingrid Bergman Notorious 1946
Moira Shearer The Red Shoes 1948
Marlene Dietrich A Foreign Affair 1948
Wei Wei Spring in a Small Town 1948
Machiko Kyô Rashômon 1950
Elizabeth Taylor A Place in the Sun 1951
Debbie Reynolds Singin’ in the Rain 1952
Danielle Darrieux Madame de… 1953
Kinuyo Tanaka Ugetsu 1953
Gloria Grahame The Big Heat 1953
Eva Dahlbeck Smiles of a Summer Night 1955
Véra Clouzot Diabolique 1955
Simone Signoret Diabolique 1955
Giulietta Masina Night of Cabiria 1957
Isuzu Yamada Throne of Blood 1957
Jean Seberg Breathless 1960
Corinne Marchand Cleo from 5 to 7 1961
Harriet Andersson Through a Glass Darkly 1962
Anna Karina Vivre sa vie 1962
Constance Towers The Naked Kiss 1964
Bibi Andersson Persona 1966
Cheng Pei-Pei Come Drink with Me 1966
Audrey Hepburn Two for the Road 1967
Mia Farrow Rosemary’s Baby 1968
Liv Ullmann Shame 1968
Ruth Gordon Harold and Maude 1971
Diane Keaton Sleeper 1973
Shelley Duvall 3 Women 1977
Sissy Spacek 3 Women 1977
Hanna Schygulla The Marriage of Maria Braun 1979
Darling Légitimus Sugar Cane Alley 1983
Jamie Lee Curtis A Fish Called Wanda 1988
Gong Li Raise the Red Lantern 1991
Irène Jacob The Double Life of Veronique 1991
Juliette Binoche Three Colors: Blue 1993
Julianne Moore Safe 1995
Kathy Bates Dolores Claiborne 1995
Pam Grier Jackie Brown 1997
Emma Thompson Primary Colors 1998
Franka Potente Run Lola Run 1998
Cecilia Roth All About My Mother 1999
Reese Witherspoon Election 1999
Cameron Diaz Being John Malkovich 1999
Maggie Cheung In the Mood for Love 2000
Maribel Verdú Y tu mamá también 2001
Naomi Watts Mulholland Dr. 2001
Laura Harring Mulholland Dr. 2001
Scarlett Johannson Lost in Translation 2003
Patricia Clarkson The Station Agent 2003
Isabella Rossellini The Saddest Music in the World 2003
Uma Thurman Kill Bill, Vol. 2 2004
Zhang Ziyi House of Flying Dagers 2004
Julie Delpy Before Sunset 2004
Kate Winslet Revolutionary Road 2008
Laura Dern Inland Empire 2006
Belén Rueda The Orphanage 2007
Anamaria Marinca 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 2007
Yolande Moreau Séraphine 2008
Lina Leandersson Let the Right One In 2008
Michelle Williams Wendy & Lucy 2008
Mélanie Laurent Inglourious Basterds 2009
Leslie Manville Another Year 2010
Tilda Swinton We Need to Talk about Kevin 2011
Jo Min-Su Pieta 2012