R-J’s Terry Awards honor movies, performances ignored by Oscar

When Albert Brooks discovered he hadn’t received an Academy Award nomination for his standout, change-of-pace performance in "Drive," he paraphrased Oscar-winner Sally Field in this sardonic Twitter feed entry:

"And to the Academy: You don’t like me. You really don’t like me."

But don’t despair, Albert. There’s at least one awards program that really, really likes you: the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s 28th annual Terry Awards.

Named for "On the Waterfront’s" down-but-not-out dockworker Terry Malloy — the character who first uttered the immortal line "I coulda been a contender" — the Terrys honor those who coulda, and shoulda, been contenders at tonight’s 84th annual Academy Awards.

As always, "What were they thinking?" oversights abound, from the ever-popular "best picture nominee that directed itself" diss ("Moneyball" director Bennett Miller leads this year’s pack) to such screenplay snubs as "Beginners," "50/50" and "Win Win." Werner Herzog directed not one but two compelling documentaries — "Into the Abyss" and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" — yet neither made Oscar’s final five.

But at least they’re all in good company, as this honor roll will demonstrate.

Presenting more worthy members of the Terry Awards Class of 2012:

BEST PICTURE For the third consecutive year, the Academy acknowledges more than five movies in this category. As a result, movies that probably would have been Terry winners in previous years ("Midnight in Paris" and "Moneyball" spring to mind) are in the running for Oscar night’s big prize. Yet Academy members still managed to overlook some notable possibilities, from the restrained, yet riveting Cold War spyjinks of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" to the insightful charms of "Beginners," "50/50" and "Win Win," any or all of which would have been worthier contenders than the extremely obnoxious, inexplicably nominated "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."

BEST ACTOR

Today’s topic: What do you have to do to get an Oscar nomination around here? Today’s guests: Michael Fassbender and Ryan Goslling, both of whom had multiple showcases for their prodigious talents.

Fassbender demonstrated on-screen power playing characters as varied as the furious future Magneto in "X-Men: First Class," "Jane Eyre’s" stormy Mr. Rochester and "A Dangerous Method’s" pioneer psychiatrist Carl Jung. And, most notably, Fassbender bared both body and soul in "Shame," creating a haunting portrait of a self-destructive sex addict that ranks among the year’s most searing.

Gosling, meanwhile, showed off his comedic side in "Crazy Stupid Love," cementing his leading-man status as an idealistic campaign staffer in the political thriller "Ides of March" and especially as "Drive’s" ultracool lone rider, a stuntman by day and heelman by night who never loses his balance — or his way.

Plenty of other actors delivered award-worthy performances, from the fearless Michael Shannon as a husband and father plagued by apocalyptic visions in "Take Shelter" to the subtle, sardonic Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a regular guy battling cancer in "50/50." In "The Devil’s Double," Dominic Cooper scored a dual-role tour de force as Saddam Hussein’s son Uday and his lookalike body double. In our annual "What am I, chopped liver?" salute, "Beginners’ " Christopher Plummer wouldn’t be the favorite for a best supporting actor Oscar without Ewan McGregor’s equally poignant lead performance. And Terry Awards perennial Paul Giamatti scores yet another accolade as "Win Win’s" on-the-skids lawyer.

That’s more than five nominees, of course, but when it comes to the Terry Awards, the more the merrier.

BEST ACTRESS

Some years, the Academy has to stretch to find five worthy nominees. This year, that was hardly the case, which explains this especially notable Terry Awards lineup.

Leading the pack: "Michael Clayton" Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton, as a mother trying to deal with grief, and guilt, in the wake of her son’s high school killing spree in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Another Oscar-winner, Charlize Theron, delivered an impressively unhinged portrayal as "Young Adult’s" arrested-development anti-heroine. Michelle Williams, an Oscar nominee this year for "My Week With Marilyn," showed her versatility with a polar-opposite portrayal of a flinty pioneer woman in "Meek’s Cutoff." Newcomer Elizabeth Olsen and veteran Vera Farmiga, meanwhile, offered equally impressive takes on women wrestling with crises of faith in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Higher Ground," respectively.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Martin Scorsese’s "Hugo" collected 11 Oscar nominations but, curiously, not one for Ben Kingsley’s gruffly melancholy portrayal of a mysterious toy shop owner with a magical past. Similarly, Woody Allen’s "Midnight in Paris" hinges on characters from the past coming back to life — and none proved livelier or more delightful than Corey Stoll’s channeling of Ernest Hemingway.

Motion-capture king Andy Serkis outdid himself as uncannily human chimp Caesar in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." And for all those "Harry Potter" fans upset at the Academy’s major-category diss of the long-running fantasy franchise, we feel your pain — especially when it comes to Alan Rickman, who conjured hidden motives and past heartbreak as the slithery Severus Snape.

Finally, lest we forget, here’s a special Terry Awards shout-out to the one, the only Albert Brooks, whose "Drive" performance — as a sleazy movie producer turned even sleazier crook — definitely shoulda been an Oscar contender.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Three more members of this year’s "You’re in a best picture Oscar nominee but you didn’t get nominated" honor roll: "The Descendants’ " Shailene Woodley, who captured the agonizing plight of a teen who’s in no way ready for the adult problems she’s forced to confront; and "Midnight in Paris’ " Kathy Bates and Alison Pill, both hilariously on target as gruff literary guru Gertrude Stein and unbalanced literary muse Zelda Fitzgerald, respectively.

Other Terry honorees range from Judi Dench’s savvy thespian Sybil Thorndike in "My Week With Marilyn" to Amy Ryan’s down-to-earth wife and mother in "Win Win." And Terry Awards regular Robin Wright returns yet again as "The Conspirator’s" title character (accused Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt), gracefully capturing the predicament of a stoic resigned to her fate — whether she deserves it or not.

Which, come to think of it, perfectly describes the plight of Oscar snub victims everywhere.

So, Terry Award winners of 2012, we salute you. We wish you better luck next year. And rest assured: We really, really like you.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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