The Oscar Quest: My Oscar Nominations — Best Actor (1970-1989)

This is part of a series of articles where I’m putting forth my opinions about what I’d nominate in all of the Oscar Quest categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress). Normally I take the categories as they are, but I thought it would be fun to figure out what I’d vote for if I had a ballot each year. Keep in mind, this is only for NOMINATIONS and nothing else.

My only problem with this is that I knew if I did it, too many people, were they doing the same thing, would put on movies that just didn’t belong on an Oscar ballot. (I would too, in some cases. We just like what we like.) My problem was that people would take this exercise as an opportunity to really just go off the rails with stuff (which, if you read through all these articles, you’ll see me call people out for it, since I know exactly which films and which performances people would put on). So my way around this was by creating what I call a “Compromise List” — after I tell you what was actually nominated and what I’d put on my ballot, I’m making a list whereby I try to make everyone happy and keep it mostly close to what would be there, Academy-wise. You’ll see. My lists usually end up being better and not crazy.

The things to take into account with the performance categories — I can only nominate what I’ve seen. So me not seeing something will be a big reason why some stuff doesn’t appear. And, as always, I tell people not to bother me with one random person in one random category, since I have everything to think about. If you want to say something, wait until you’ve seen all the films/tried this yourself before you do it. And I don’t care about foreign performances, for the most part. There’s a long and complicated answer there, but — I don’t. And the big rule for anyone doing this — if someone won a category, YOU CAN’T LEAVE THEM OFF THE COMPROMISE LIST. Can’t do it.

Otherwise — here’s the next set of categories.

1989

Actual Nominees:

  • Kenneth Branagh, Henry V
  • Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot
  • Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy
  • Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot

I like it, so I’m keeping it. I’d consider taking off Robin Williams, but I don’t really have anyone to replace him with. And I feel like most people would consider taking off Freeman, but, remember — he had Lean on Me this year too. He definitely deserved something.

Compromise List:

  • Kenneth Branagh, Henry V
  • Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot
  • Morgan Freeman, Driving Miss Daisy
  • Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society

My Vote: Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot

1988

Actual Nominees:

  • Gene Hackman, Mississippi Burning
  • Tom Hanks, Big
  • Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man
  • Edward James Olmos, Stand and Deliver
  • Max von Sydow, Pelle the Conqueror

 

 

My Vote: Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man

I can’t make a list of my nominees yet, since I need to see the performances most people would switch on, which are Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers and Forest Whitaker in Bird. Also, Tom Hulce got a Globe nomination for Dominick and Eugene, so I might check that out too. Other than those three, the other person I’d consider is Tom Cruise for Rain Man, since, while he was a huge douchebag, I liked how he played the character. Other than that, for now, I have to leave it. I’ll update it when I see the other performances.

(P.S. Not a big fan of Willem Dafoe as Jesus. Just sayin’. Not my thing. Or Jeff Bridges in Tucker.)

Compromise List:

  • Gene Hackman, Mississippi Burning
  • Tom Hanks, Big
  • Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man
  • Edward James Olmos, Stand and Deliver
  • Max von Sydow, Pelle the Conqueror

My Vote: Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man

1987

Actual Nominees:

  • Michael Douglas, Wall Street
  • William Hurt, Broadcast News
  • Marcello Mastroianni, Dark Eyes
  • Jack Nicholson, Ironweed
  • Robin Williams, Good Morning, Vietnam

 

My Vote: Michael Douglas, Wall Street

This is another one where I don’t really have enough films logged to make changes. I don’t love the Mastroianni or Nicholson performances, so those are the ones I’d look to take off if I can. I thought about Kevin Kline for Cry Freedom, but Denzel is really the performance there. And I don’t think THe Last Emperor has any performances worth nominating (though they could have nominated O’Toole in Supporting on stature alone if they really wanted to).

The ones that (apparently) seem like the performances to nominate would be Chris Cooper in Matewan, Nick Nolte in Weeds (he got a Globe nomination. That’s all I know), and I was intrigued by Mickey Rourke, since he had both Angel Heart and Barfly this year (only the latter of which I’ve seen). He would never make a Compromise List, but personally, I wonder if I’d use the pair of performances (since I wasn’t too thrilled by the latter) to throw him on. I’m mostly grasping for straws. Not too much in the 80s in general. It was a pretty shitty decade for Oscar stuff. Oh, and Gary Oldman in Prick Up Your Ears is an intriguing option.

Compromise List:

  • Michael Douglas, Wall Street
  • William Hurt, Broadcast News
  • Marcello Mastroianni, Dark Eyes
  • Jack Nicholson, Ironweed
  • Robin Williams, Good Morning, Vietnam

My Vote: Michael Douglas, Wall Street

1986

Actual Nominees:

  • Dexter Gordon, Round Midnight
  • Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa
  • William Hurt, Children of a Lesser God
  • Paul Newman, The Color of Money
  • James Woods, Salvador

 

 

 

My Vote: Paul Newman, The Color of Money

Another one where I haven’t seen the performances most likely to be switched on (man, what the fuck was I doing with the 80s list?). The obvious ones (though again, only one of these would ever make a Compromise List) are Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast and Gary Oldman in Sid and Nancy. Otherwise — no to Sheen in Platoon. It would liven up the category, but the category mostly works as it is. I’m probably going to end up leaving it.

Oh, and to anyone who even mentions Blue Velvet, Aliens or The Fly to me in this category — fuck you.

Compromise List:

  • Dexter Gordon, Round Midnight
  • Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa
  • William Hurt, Children of a Lesser God
  • Paul Newman, The Color of Money
  • James Woods, Salvador

My Vote: Paul Newman, The Color of Money

1985

Actual Nominees:

  • Harrison Ford, Witness
  • James Garner, Murphy’s Romance
  • William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Jack Nicholson, Prizzi’s Honor
  • Jon Voight, Runaway Train

 

 

 

My Vote: William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman

No idea what to do with this one. 1985 doesn’t really have any leads that can take over this category. Danny Glover is more Supporting in The Color Purple, and hell no to anyone in Ran. Really all I have is Raul Julia in Spider Woman and maybe Gene Hackman in Twice in a Lifetime. Which shows how little there seems to be. So — I’ll probably just leave it, since, even if the films/performances aren’t appealing to me, all the actors are cool/deserving. So that’s nice.

Compromise List:

  • Harrison Ford, Witness
  • James Garner, Murphy’s Romance
  • William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Jack Nicholson, Prizzi’s Honor
  • Jon Voight, Runaway Train

My Vote: William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman

1984

Actual Nominees:

  • F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus
  • Jeff Bridges, Starman
  • Albert Finney, Under the Volcano
  • Tom Hulce, Amadeus
  • Sam Waterston, The Killing Fields

 

 

 

My Vote: F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus

I got nothing for this year. What — Once Upon a Time in America? It’ll never make a compromise list. Just fucking leave it. The one nominee I want to take off you all probably love (Bridges). So fucking leave it. It’s 4/5 a great category.

Compromise List:

  • F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus
  • Jeff Bridges, Starman
  • Albert Finney, Under the Volcano
  • Tom Hulce, Amadeus
  • Sam Waterston, The Killing Fields

My Vote: F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus

 

1983

Actual Nominees:

  • Michael Caine, Educating Rita
  • Tom Conti, Reuben, Reuben
  • Tom Courtenay, The Dresser
  • Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies
  • Albert Finney, The Dresser

My Vote: Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies

Oh… wouldn’t we all love to put Scarface on here? I’m putting it on my ballot, because it gives the category a fucking pulse. Otherwise, we’re going to have to leave it alone. Maybe we can make an exception for one, but I’ll get to that in a second.

My Nominees:

  • Michael Caine, Educating Rita
  • Tom Courtenay, The Dresser
  • Robert De Niro, The King of Comedy
  • Albert Finney, The Dresser
  • Al Pacino, Scarface

My Vote: Robert De Niro, The King of Comedy

Look — Conti seemingly has no purpose being here, and The King of Comedy‘s reputation has gone way up over the years. So if the Academy looked back at this one, I think they might allow the mulligan. I’m changing it because — because I can.

Compromise List:

  • Michael Caine, Educating Rita
  • Tom Courtenay, The Dresser
  • Robert De Niro, The King of Comedy
  • Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies
  • Albert Finney, The Dresser

My Vote: Robert De Niro, The King of Comedy

1982

Actual Nominees:

  • Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie
  • Ben Kingsley, Gandhi
  • Jack Lemmon, Missing
  • Paul Newman, The Verdict
  • Peter O’Toole, My Favorite Year

 

 

 

My Vote: Paul Newman, The Verdict

Oh, I like this one. The only other performance I can see switching on is Albert Finney in Shoot the Moon. (Robin Williams doesn’t come close in Garp. Nor does Gere in Officer and a Gentleman.) Otherwise, let’s just leave it. It’s such a great category. There’s no weak performance.

Compromise List:

  • Dustin Hoffman, Tootsie
  • Ben Kingsley, Gandhi
  • Jack Lemmon, Missing
  • Paul Newman, The Verdict
  • Peter O’Toole, My Favorite Year

My Vote: Paul Newman, The Verdict

1981

Actual Nominees:

  • Warren Beatty, Reds
  • Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond
  • Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City
  • Dudley Moore, Arthur
  • Paul Newman, Absence of Malice

 

 

 

My Vote: Dudley Moore, Arthur

As of right now, the only performance I liked enough to put it on my list (over Paul Newman) is Steve Martin in Pennies from Heaven. Otherwise, I like the list and I’m leaving it. This year is mostly filled with “honorable mentions,” but nothing is gonna make it onto that list.

Compromise List:

  • Warren Beatty, Reds
  • Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond
  • Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City
  • Dudley Moore, Arthur
  • Paul Newman, Absence of Malice

My Vote: Dudley Moore, Arthur

1980

Actual Nominees:

  • Robert De Niro, Raging Bull
  • Robert Duvall, The Great Santini
  • John Hurt, The Elephant Man
  • Jack Lemmon, Tribute
  • Peter O’Toole, The Stunt Man

My Vote: Robert De Niro, Raging Bull

 

 

 

Just gonna make the one change on the Compromise List because, even though we all love Jack Lemmon — someone else was better.

(Also, yes, I probably think about nominating Nicholson for The Shining on my ballot, but there’s no way he makes it on a Compromise List, so I’m not even going to bother.)

Compromise List:

  • Robert De Niro, Raging Bull
  • Robert Duvall, The Great Santini
  • John Hurt, The Elephant Man
  • Peter O’Toole, The Stunt Man
  • Donald Sutherland, Ordinary People

My Vote: Robert De Niro, Raging Bull

 

 

1979

Actual Nominees:

  • Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Jack Lemmon, The China Syndrome
  • Roy Scheider, All That Jazz
  • Peter Sellers, Being There
  • Al Pacino, …And Justice for All

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer

I’m not even going to fucking touch this category. It’s absolutely perfect.

Compromise List:

  • Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Jack Lemmon, The China Syndrome
  • Roy Scheider, All That Jazz
  • Peter Sellers, Being There
  • Al Pacino, …And Justice for All

My Vote: Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer

1978

Actual Nominees:

  • Warren Beatty, Heaven Can Wait
  • Gary Busey, The Buddy Holly Story
  • Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter
  • Laurence Olivier, The Boys from Brazil
  • Jon Voight, Coming Home

 

 

My Vote: Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter

Gary Busey’s nomination is a joke. Buddy Holly died at 23. Gary Busey played him at 35. What the fuck? I see two possible swap performances (neither of which is Richard Gere. I know what some people are thinking). One is Brad Davis in Midnight Express, which is probably better than Busey, and the other…

My Nominees:

  • Warren Beatty, Heaven Can Wait
  • Gary Busey, The Buddy Holly Story
  • Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter
  • Anthony Hopkins, Magic
  • Laurence Olivier, The Boys from Brazil
  • Jon Voight, Coming Home

My Vote: Anthony Hopkins, Magic

Watch Magic and see how fucking good Anthony Hopkins is in that. Put Brad Davis on a Compromise List all you want — I’m putting Hopkins just so more people see that movie and see how goddamn underrated it is. (He got nominated for a Globe too, Hopkins, so I’m not that far off-base.)

Compromise List:

  • Warren Beatty, Heaven Can Wait
  • Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter
  • Anthony Hopkins, Magic
  • Laurence Olivier, The Boys from Brazil
  • Jon Voight, Coming Home

My Vote: Anthony Hopkins, Magic

1977

Actual Nominees:

  • Woody Allen, Annie Hall
  • Richard Burton, Equus
  • Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl
  • Marcello Mastroianni, A Special Day
  • John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever

 

 

My Vote: Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl

I don’t know what I switch on. I have three performances written down, so they must have been nominated for a Globe/BAFTA. Since I don’t see anything else to put on. Richard Dreyfuss seems to have had all the great performances for this year. I really don’t have anything. (And fuck you, people saying Eraserhead.)

Oh, P.S. the three performances are Pacino in Bobby Deerfield, Gregory Peck in MacArthur, and Henry Winkler in Heroes. Never seen any of them so I have no idea whether or not they’re worth considering.

Compromise List:

  • Woody Allen, Annie Hall
  • Richard Burton, Equus
  • Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl
  • Marcello Mastroianni, A Special Day
  • John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever

My Vote: Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl

1976

Actual Nominees:

  • Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver
  • Peter Finch, Network
  • Giancarlo Giannini, Seven Beauties
  • William Holden, Network
  • Sylvester Stallone, Rocky

 

 

 

 

My Vote: William Holden, Network

I have absolutely no changes to make to this. The only person you can take off is Giancarlo Giannini, and if you see the performance, he’s actually a lot better than pretty much anything else you could nominate. So I’m leaving it. This category is perfect.

Compromise List:

  • Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver
  • Peter Finch, Network
  • Giancarlo Giannini, Seven Beauties
  • William Holden, Network
  • Sylvester Stallone, Rocky

My Vote: I’ve come way round on this one…Peter Finch, Network

1975

Actual Nominees:

  • Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys
  • Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon
  • Maximilian Schell, The Man in the Glass Booth
  • James Whitmore, Give ‘em Hell, Harry!

My Vote: Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

I make one change on my list (though I’m leaving the Compromise List the same), which is to nominate Ryan O’Neal for Barry Lyndon. A very underrated performance. Otherwise — great list. Whitmore’s performance is actually a filmed stage play, but it’s so unique (and it’s James Whitmore) that I don’t even care. Not even a little bit. It only happened once, and I like the little outlier of a nomination that it is.

Compromise List:

  • Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys
  • Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon
  • Maximilian Schell, The Man in the Glass Booth
  • James Whitmore, Give ‘em Hell, Harry!

My Vote: Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

1974

Actual Nominees:

  • Art Carney, Harry and Tonto
  • Albert Finney, Murder on the Orient Express
  • Dustin Hoffman, Lenny
  • Jack Nicholson, Chinatown
  • Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II

 

 

 

My Vote: Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II

Oh, I’ve got changes here.

My Nominees:

  • Peter Falk, A Woman Under the Influence
  • Gene Hackman, The Conversation
  • Dustin Hoffman, Lenny
  • Jack Nicholson, Chinatown
  • Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II

My Vote: Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II

And since I can’t take off Carney, I have to take off Finney. He was good, but — watch his performance against Peter Falk’s. You tell me who was better. (And it is Falk’s. Hackman was good, but you can’t nominate that performance, as much as we’d like to. You’d have to take off Carney, which can’t happen.)

Compromise List:

  • Art Carney, Murder on the Orient Express
  • Peter Falk, A Woman Under the Influence
  • Dustin Hoffman, Lenny
  • Jack Nicholson, Chinatown
  • Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II

My Vote: Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II

1973

Actual Nominees:

  • Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris
  • Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger
  • Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail
  • Al Pacino, Serpico
  • Robert Redford, The Sting

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger

Okay — only one performance I can really take off on my list. Since I’m not the biggest Last Tango fan. And while Redford didn’t really do anything of note in The Sting — I love The Sting. So if it’s there, I’m leaving it. (Apologies to Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon and George Segal in A Touch of Class.)

My Nominees:

 

  • Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger
  • Steve McQueen, Papillon
  • Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail
  • Al Pacino, Serpico
  • Robert Redford, The Sting

My Vote: Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger

McQueen was fucking great in Papillon. If you guys’ll let me, I’d totally put him on the Compromise List. Otherwise, we’re leaving it.

Compromise List:

  • Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris
  • Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger
  • Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail
  • Al Pacino, Serpico
  • Robert Redford, The Sting

My Vote: Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger

1972

Actual Nominees:

  • Marlon Brando, The Godfather
  • Michael Caine, Sleuth
  • Laurence Olivier, Sleuth
  • Peter O’Toole, The Ruling Class
  • Paul Winfield, Sounder

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Marlon Brando, The Godfather

Only one change for me.

My Nominees:

  • Marlon Brando, The Godfather
  • Michael Caine, Sleuth
  • Walter Matthau, Pete ‘n’ Tillie
  • Laurence Olivier, Sleuth
  • Peter O’Toole, The Ruling Class

My Vote: Marlon Brando, The Godfather

 

It’s terrific. Why change it? I love Matthau, and totally think he should be there, but I don’t want to deprive a black actor of an Oscar nomination unless I have to. And I don’t have to.

Compromise List:

  • Marlon Brando, The Godfather
  • Michael Caine, Sleuth
  • Laurence Olivier, Sleuth
  • Peter O’Toole, The Ruling Class
  • Paul Winfield, Sounder

My Vote: Marlon Brando, The Godfather

1971

Actual Nominees:

  • Gene Hackman, The French Connection
  • Peter Finch, Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Walter Matthau, Kotch
  • George C. Scott, The Hospital
  • Topol, Fiddler on the Roof

 

 

 

 

 

My Vote: Gene Hackman, The French Connection

Oh, I’ve got some changes. Scott was good, but I wouldn’t have nominated him. Matthau — no idea why he’s there. And I hate Sunday Bloody Sunday.

My Nominees:

  • Gene Hackman, The French Connection
  • Jack Nicholson, Carnal Knowledge
  • George C. Scott, The Hospital
  • Topol, Fiddler on the Roof
  • Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

My Vote: Gene Hackman, The French Connection

My apologies to Malcolm McDowell, but I really don’t see why that performance was worth nominating. You can go ahead, but — I just don’t see it.

As for a Compromise — fuck if I know. Let’s just leave it, because I don’t fucking know.

Compromise List:

  • Gene Hackman, The French Connection
  • Peter Finch, Sunday Bloody Sunday
  • Walter Matthau, Kotch
  • George C. Scott, The Hospital
  • Topol, Fiddler on the Roof

My Vote: Gene Hackman, The French Connection

1970

Actual Nominees:

  • Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang for My Father
  • James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope
  • Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces
  • Ryan O’Neal, Love Story
  • George C. Scott, Patton

 

 

 

My Vote: George C. Scott, Patton

I got nothing here. It was a pretty bad year. I’m leaving it.

Compromise List:

  • Melvyn Douglas, I Never Sang for My Father
  • James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope
  • Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces
  • Ryan O’Neal, Love Story
  • George C. Scott, Patton

My Vote: George C. Scott, Patton

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One response

  1. Randy Harris

    You don’t even seem like you try much. Giving Hopkins the win for Magic just for people to see it? Ughh…. Hopkins was good, Not great.

    January 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

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