In 2019 we saw Adam Sandler take on the role of diamond district dealer Howard Ratner in the crime thriller Uncut Gems, a role that got him a bit of momentum in the Oscar conversation. Alas, Sandler did not receive a nomination. In fact by the end, it never really seemed like Sandler had a legit shot at scoring a one, which seems very unfair to me. The man was amazing in this movie and it’s a great shame that he wasn’t awarded the recognition for his fantastic performance.
In fact, it’s often that a lot of comedic actors are ignored by the Academy. Perhaps the Academy doesn’t take these actors seriously? Or maybe these performances get lost in all the typical Oscar type roles?
With that in mind I thought to myself, what other types of roles have tested stereotypical funny men on the screen, receiving a tick of approval by audiences and critics? And ultimately, what other brilliant comedic forces have unjustly been ignored by the Oscars? Ladies and gentlemen, this list will tell you exactly who they are.
1. Jim Carrey – The Truman Show (1998)
Jim Carrey is perhaps one of the most loved and popular comedic actors of all time. There isn’t much I can say that you don’t already know about Carrey. In 1999, after starring in a string of comedies from Dumb and Dumber all the way to Liar Liar, Carrey changed tracks with The Truman Show. The movie follows Truman Burbank, a man who lives in a simulated television show revolving around his life, who slowly begins to realise his entrapment in this incredible social experiment.
Carrey’s performance was met with universal acclaim, opening his career up into a new direction, a direction I’m sure that not even he himself could see coming. Many were shocked Carrey didn’t receive an Oscar nomination, especially after winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. A lot of people actually thought he’d go on to win the Oscar. Peter Weir was nominated for Best Director and Ed Harris was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, yet no love for our old buddy Jimbo.
Although Carrey was completely and utterly snubbed by the Academy, his performance in The Truman Show is nothing short of astonishing. It made the world realise the full extent of his talents and left us craving more. Carrey uses his charisma to make Truman a polite, friendly and endearing character, whilst tapping into his absurd antics as he finds himself deeper in deception.
Ever Since The Truman Show, Carrey has given some worthy Academy Award performances in films like Man on the Moon or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now that Carrey is returning more to the spotlight in recent years, perhaps he can give us a performance that can finally snag him a nomination. Sonic perhaps?(I jest.)
There’s something about watching an actor challenge themselves, stepping into a role that they normally wouldn’t, that fascinates me. And when it works it’s a delight to watch. A lot of these actors normally don’t get the appreciation they deserve, but seeing them shine in roles like these ones are very satisfying.
2. Adam Sandler – Punch Drunk Love (2002)
The only reason we are doing this list is because of Adam Sandler, so the polite thing to do is put him on this esteemed list, but not for his amazing performance in Uncut Gems. Instead, it’s for his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love. A performance that saw him gather up much critical acclaim and Oscar buzz, he was seen from an entirely new perspective, playing a more grounded and deeply flawed character.
Punch Drunk Love is a romantic comedy about a lonely man who finds love. You can see the pain and crippling anxiety in Sandler’s performance as he becomes a stronger man due to the presence of love in his life.
This film is a character study and for its 95 minute duration, you find yourself fascinated with Adam Sandler’s portrayal of Barry Egan, how he reacts to his life, his absolute terror and agonising resentment towards who he is. It’s hard to watch, but as Barry becomes stronger you too become inspired by his courage. It’s definitely not your typical Adam Sandler film, especially not at the time of its release. It was a role that people would have been wary of him doing, but boy does he absolutely nail it.
Sandler was nominated for a Golden Globe but didn’t get the nomination at the Oscars. It was a year that saw Nicolas Cage and Jack Nicholson nominated for their works in Adaptation and About Schmidt, films that had that similar dark comedic feel. Look, I’m sure the Sand Man will crack his way into the Oscar loop one of these days. If he keeps putting out performances like he has in Punch Drunk Love and Uncut Gems, he is bound to snag a nomination in the not so distant future.
3. Steve Carrell – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
These days audiences should be familiar with Steve Carrell’s more dramatic work. I don’t feel like people feel it’s out of the ordinary for Steve Carrell to be in a drama. Ever since leaving The Office, his performances in The Way Way Back, Beautiful Boy and Vice have opened up Carrell’s career to a broader audience, gaining a much more prominent status as a leading dramatic actor.
Unlike others on this list, Carrell has actually been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in Foxcatcher, a role where he completely transformed himself. However, let’s go back to a time where Carrell was widely known for the 40-year old Virgin and The Office, a time where he was known as the big-nosed, news reader in Bruce Almighty.
Little Miss Sunshine was definitely a quick turn for Carrell, whose career as a comedic star had just taken off. But perhaps playing a gay professor who fails at an attempt to kill himself might just be too good of a role to pass up. Carell shows us Frank’s pain through humour and his interactions with the likes of Alan Arkin and Paul Dano offer some of the most charming moments in cinema.
The film is about dreams and inspiration, and Carrell commits to working as one of the lost souls in this dysfunctional family, who must band together in order to help a childhood dream prevail.
Carrell missed out on an Academy Award nomination but was able to get a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award. His co-stars Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin were nominated in supporting roles at the Oscars, with Arkin managing a win. Perhaps Carrell got lost in an amazing ensemble piece, who all deserved Oscar nominations themselves. It’s a shame as it was really a truly amazing and sweet performance.
4. Will Ferrell – Everything Must Go (2010)
Now unless you’re watching some of his great presenting moments at the Oscars on YouTube, Will Ferrell and the Academy Awards don’t often go together. We all know him for films like Blades of Glory, Step-Brothers and Elf, so there’s never been much of an indication that Will Ferrell would be eager to step into a more dramatic role. Yes, there was Stranger than Fiction but it is a film he did not long after that, Everything Must Go, that brings out a side of Ferrell we usually don’t get to see.
Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, a salesman who is fired from his job of 16 years after an incident relating to his alcoholism. His day only grows worse when he comes home to discover his wife has left him and locked him out of the house. With nowhere left to go, Nick lives on his lawn and begins to have a yard sale where he aims to sell all of his belongings.
Everything Must Go is a pretty straight forward drama, hitting all the beats you’d expect it to and providing some very clear symbolism for its audience. The draw is Ferrell, who has always had a strong presence on screen, but here he holds his ground on a new level, one we’ve never seen before, showing us that he has some serious dramatic acting talent. He never oversells the performance, delivering a contained, well balanced blend of comedy and drama. He’s a man who has lost so much and feels he must lose more so than he can truly hit the bottom, it’s really interesting and compelling to see Ferrell tap into this.
The performance never garnered much Oscar buzz, but seeing Ferrell take himself into unfamiliar territory and really making the most of it is some really exciting stuff. Everything Must Go is worth checking out just for him. I’m also excited to see Ferrell in the upcoming film Downhill, which just made its premiere at Sundance. It is a remake of the foreign film Force Majeure, which takes on some not-so-light subject matters. Perhaps it will offer another outstanding dramatic performance from Ferrell.
5. Jack Black – Bernie (2011)
These days Jack Black usually gets his kicks by dropping an occasional gaming video on YouTube. But let me take you back to a time when Mr. Black delivered one of the most underrated performances of his career.
Not often cast against type, Black hasn’t had many chances to step outside of his comfort zone and offer something really unique to audiences. One of the first cases of him going against type was when he was in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, where to his credit gave a really solid performance. But 6 years after that, Black reunited with his School of Rock director Richard Linklater for Bernie.
Black portrays Bernie Tiede, an assistant mortician and widely beloved figure in his community. Bernie welcomes with open arms the recently widowed Marjorie Nugent, played by Shirley MacLaine. The two become inseparable friends due to Bernie’s willingness to look out for her, however, as the relationship goes on, Marjorie’s cruel and selfish nature ends up breaking Bernie as he snaps and kills Marjorie.
Bernie plays with a very tricky subject matter and Black goes to some dark places at times. However, that same energetic, playfulness that Black often delivers is still present. Black’s charisma and charm is what effectively gets audiences to sympathise with Tiede. Even though he committed a very horrible act, we do root for Bernie to get away with it. That is no easy task to achieve. Black should be commended on his ability to channel the sweet and sensitive side of Tiede, while giving us glimpses of the dark and dangerous man that took over. He gives an authentic and unbiased performance that really explores why a good man did such a bad thing.
Black was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. He did get a bit of Oscar conversation, with people like Roger Ebert and Shirley MacLaine being big advocates of Black receiving a nomination, but alas, it amounted to nothing.
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