The late Peter Sellers was one of the greatest mimics and finest comic actors in screen history. His career was filled with films which weren’t worthy of his prodigious talents, but he got two shots at winning an acting Oscar — for “Doctor Strangelove” and for “Being There,” which came out just before his death. He went to his grave certain that director Hal Ashby stole his Oscar from him (Dustin Hoffman won for “Kramer vs. Kramer,” meh) by including outtakes that “break the spell,” as Sellers told him in a pleading note.
Sellers was right.
Jim Carrey is the Peter Sellers of his day, also a gifted mimic, a comic of unique talent capable of performances of wacky anarchy and alarming sensitivity. He has never been nominated for an Oscar, but should have been for “Man on the Moon,” “The Truman Show,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I’d have thought “I Love You, Philip Morris” was worth at least consideration. But no.
Robin Williams was another singular comic talent who endured years of dismissal before finally breaking through to be considered –– briefly (“Good Will Hunting”) Oscar worthy.
Eddie Murphy hasn’t made many films that would warrant awards consideration, too often content to take the paycheck, support his enormous family, and occasionally “phone-it-in” in many a project. The first inkling we had that he might want some sort of recognition was “Mr. Church” a few years back. The movie wasn’t much, even as “awards bait.” “Dolemite is My Name” is a dazzling turn, “Oscar bait” but also Oscar-worthy. His past of crappy films, his ’80s homophobia may still count against him, and it’s a crowded field making him a long shot. But I would not be put out if he pulled in a surprise nomination, just this once.
So tell me again how Adam Sandler “deserves” a nomination for the a role he took on with that in mind. Is he better in “Uncut Gems” than he was in “Punch Drunk Love” or “Spanglish” or “Reign Over Me” or “Funny People,” other awards-bait turns? His directors this time out did what his directors in all those earlier “Let’s try something serious (ish) with this guy” did. They all engineered a role to fit his limited range.
Look at his face in that desperate — or seemingly so — moment in “Uncut Gems.” Packed into a car with a hard-hearted bookie (Eric Bogosian), two ruthless, testy thugs holding him down, no idea how bad it will be for him before the night is over. And that’s all he’s got. Voice rising, face flat, eyes dark pools of dull.
Buster Keaton was “The Great Stone Face.” Sandler is the “Great Dull Face,” the “I can’t really give you any facial expression that matches the hysteria, rage or delight in my voice” face.
Look at all the Razzies he’s “earned” over the decades. And again, TELL me how this guy deserves one of the five honored spots in a Best Actor field for this upcoming Academy Awards.