Lupita Nyong'o from the movie Us, one of many overlooked films in 2019

Why Were There So Many Overlooked Performances This Oscar Season?

Even with a great year for film, many fan favorites didn't make the cut for the Academy Awards.
February 24, 2020
6 mins read

2019 seemed to be a good year for movie lovers; most of that was because of the outstanding acting that was brought out in a lot of them. So could this be why there were also a good amount of overlooked performances? With another award season coming to an end, critics and moviegoers alike are shedding some light on those who might not have earned the praise some were expecting them to receive.

And although there were those that at least were given honorable mentions in the form of nominations (Leonardo DiCaprio for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and Scarlett Johansson in both “Marriage Story” and “Jojo Rabbit” as examples), there are those who were not considered at all.

Veteran actors like Robert De Niro had a good year in 2019 with roles that made a huge impact on the films they starred in, while newcomers like Florence Pugh wowed audiences with how intense they can be in their craft. Then there are those like Lupita Nyong’o who were completely forgotten about despite giving performances that stuck with viewers even after the movie was over. So why might they have not garnered the recognition their performances were predicted to get?

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Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” tells the story of the complicated relationships among real-life hitman Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro), labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and mob boss Russel Buffalino (Joe Pesci). De Niro does an excellent job in his role as the titular Irishman due to the chemistry with both of his co-stars while also adding layers to Sheeran that can be seen with each scene he’s in, even significantly contributing to the tension and heartbreak that is showcased around the third and final act of the movie.

Both Pesci and Pacino were nominated for an Academy Award for their supporting roles, which might tie in to why De Niro himself was the one that had been overlooked despite having the lead role. Pacino especially, stole almost every scene he was in with his passionate portrayal of Hoffa, right next to De Niro’s more aloof portrayal of a man who preferred to let his actions do most of the talking. However, downplayed as it may be, even when compared to others who stood out more in the film, it is still a powerful portrayal that few would be able to emulate — definitely one of many overlooked performances last year.

It is no surprise that Lupita Nyong’o is phenomenal at what she does as an actress; one can just look at her previous heart-wrenching role in “12 Years a Slave” as a prime example. The 2019 horror movie “Us” brought audiences not just one, but two stellar performances. Nyong’o played both the seemingly normal Adelaide Wilson and her more vicious doppelganger, Red, managing to flesh out both of them by making them complex and compelling while somehow relatable. Viewers can simply look at her spine-chilling performance in one scene where the character of Red gives a monologue in the form of a twisted fairytale that explains a bit about what their kind have been through.

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The different skills she acquired for these characters helped tether the rest of the elements that made Jordan Peele’s movie what it was: a smart thriller with themes revolving around the darkness that could be lurking in each of us.

Florence Pugh is an English actress who is making quite the name for herself, even catching Oscar buzz for her supporting role in the latest adaptation of “Little Women.” Though people should not forget about her equally impressive breakout role in Ari Aster’s folk horror flick “Midsommar”: Pugh plays Dani, a young, grieving woman that visits a Swedish cult with her boyfriend and a group of friends.

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The uncomfortable tone and situations of the film gave the actress the opportunity to show off her range since there were a huge array of difficult emotions her character feels throughout it all. Her overlooked performance could be due to the same reason actress Toni Collette’s captivating performance in 2018’s “Hereditary” (also directed by Aster) was snubbed by the Oscars — it was in a film that was too odd to meet Academy Awards standards.

This is a shame considering that Pugh had done an amazing job with her task of channeling overwhelming thoughts and feelings enabled by personal tragedies, being in a toxic relationship and the rest of the traumatic events her character reluctantly becomes a part of.

There are other 2019 overlooked performances (we would be here all day, though, if we discussed each and every one of them), but as mentioned, it could be because last year was a terrific one for movies.

The year brought audiences the end of beloved movie franchises (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Avengers: Endgame”), movies that brought along with them relevant themes (“Joker” and “Parasite”), and just overall surprises from both well-known and lesser-known members of Hollywood (Joaquin Phoenix is the best example of this with his brutally real  performance in “Joker,” earning him the well-deserved Academy Award for best actor).

So, in the end, let’s at least express some appreciation to a few of the overlooked performances that carried similar elements and talents, but just did not make the cut for this award season.

S. T. Perez, Texas A&M University, San Antonio

Writer Profile

S.T. Perez

Texas A&M University – San Antonio
English With Concentration on Teacher Certification

I enjoy music, old movies, and am trying to read some of the classics while finishing school. Writing has always been my passion; I will do what I can to let my ideas be known!

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