Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) doles out awards and nominations intended to recognise and reward the members of the creative community that have contributed something great to their particular field of effort. Obviously, we know these awards better as the Oscars. Having gone for more than 80 years in the business of recognising art and artists (that's the mission statement, anyway), there has been a slew of awards handed out to those deemed worthy of them over all that time, and even more nominations to stand beside them.
Now, some of these artists have proved themselves to be regular fixtures in the Oscar-nominee process, appearing more than once, perhaps in more than a single category... maybe even eventually winning. Then, there are the others who garner maybe only one nomination over their career, recognised for just a single performance or script, which is subsequently forgotten about or overlooked in the subsequent years of solid work (or complete obscurity).
Here, we'll look over 15 artists who have been recognised by the Academy for their work that you may have forgotten about, or maybe even didn't know at all.
Busey is excellent in this biopic of music legend Buddy Holly, which itself stands as one of the best musical biopic movies. Busey did his own singing and played his own guitar for the role, and submerges himself in a way that means you should seek it out, even just to see what Busey was capable of in his prime.
Lost to: Jon Voight for Coming Home
2) Joan Cusack - Best Supporting Actress for Working Girl (1988); and In & Out (1997)
Often spoken of in relation to her brother John rather than on her own merits, Joan Cusack is one of the most solid comedic actresses we have, working steadily and with great consistency for decades. Perhaps better known to current audiences as the voice of Jessie from Toy Story 2 and 3, Cusack actually has not one but two Oscar nominations for her work, in Working Girland In & Out. With Cusack as one of our most gifted comediennes, you should definitely put her films put in your queue.
Lost to: Geena Davis for The Accidental Tourist; and Kim Basinger for L.A. Confidential
3) Dan Aykroyd - Best Supporting Actor for Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Following in the footsteps of fellow SNL cast member Joan Cusack, Dan Aykroyd became only the second alumnus of the comedy show to earn an Oscar nomination. Aykroyd’s shot came from his turn as Jessica Tandy’s son in the comedy drama about the friendship between an old white woman and her black chauffeur over 25 years in the American South. Both Tandy and Morgan Freeman were also nominated alongside Aykroyd, though it was only Tandy who came away with a statue.
Lost to: Denzel Washington for Glory
I’m really no fan of Bon Jovi, but even I have a grudging fondness of his Oscar-nominated song for Young Guns II, sequel to the 1988 western starring Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Lout Diamond Phillips. Brought onto the project by Estevez, Bon Jovi wrote the song as a more fitting alternative to “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and picked up a nod from the Academy for his effort.
Lost to: Stephen Sondheim for “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” from Dick Tracy
5) Rosie Perez - Best Supporting Actress for Fearless (1993)
Rosie Perez was brought to the world’s attention by Spike Lee, who cast her in Do the Right Thing after seeing her in a club (who knew that actually happened?), but it was really Peter Weir’s Fearless where she showed what she could do, portraying mother who survived a plane crash whilst her baby son did not, so now struggles with severe guilt. It’s a hell of a turn, and that film is one that more people should see.
Lost to: Anna Paquin for The Piano
6) Eric Roberts - Best Supporting Actor for Runaway Train (1985)
Eric Roberts seems to have lost some of his stock over the years, mainly because he will fearlessly say yes to just about anything, hence things like DOA: Dead or Alive or A Talking Cat!?!. However, back in the day, Roberts turned in some excellent performances in consistently solid films, such as The Pope of Greenwich Village and Runaway Train, the latter of which earned him an Academy Award nomination for his turn as one of two escaped convicts trying make to a getaway on the titular vehicle.
Lost to: Don Ameche for Cocoon
Were it not for the fact that Quaid wasn’t yet an SNL cast member, he would have beaten Joan Cusack to the Oscar-nominee punch for his turn as a young sailor being escorted to naval prison for petty theft, but whose chaperones decide to take him on a series of adventures before sending him off to be locked up. Quaid does hold his own for the most part, though is often overshadowed by co-star Jack Nicholson (who isn’t overshadowed by Nicholson). Still, his work was still regarded as worthy of recognition by AMPAS.
Lost to: John Houseman for The Paper Chase
8) Willie Nelson - Best Original Song for "On the Road Again" from Honeysuckle Rose (1980)
Willie Nelson has had a long and very successful career as both musician and actor, often playing variants on himself onscreen, if not actually just playing himself (see Wag the Dog). The film that saw him take on his first leading role was Honeysuckle Rose, though it’s more noted for being the source of one of Nelson’s most popular and recognisable hits: "On the Road Again", which even bagged the red-headed stranger a Grammy award as well as an Oscar nomination.
Lost to: Michael Gore & Dean Pitchford for “Fame” from Fame.
9) Dolly Parton - Best Original Song for "9 to 5" from 9 to 5 (1980); and "Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica (2005)
Another country star with even more success in the movie world is the Queen of Country herself - Dolly Parton, who took her first crack at acting in the 1980 comedy 9 to 5 (alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin), for which she also wrote the immortal, and Oscar-nominated, title song. Twenty-five years later, Parton scored a second nod for her song “Travelin’ Thru” forTransamerica. Unfortunately, she came away empty-handed on both occasions.
Lost to: Michael Gore & Dean Pitchford for “Fame” from Fame; and Juicy J, Frayser Boy and DJ Paul for “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow
Diana Ross's turn as jazz legend Billie Holiday in biopic Lady Sings the Blues, which garnered her a Best Actress nomination, is something quite commendable, finding a strong emotional core for her performance, although the film itself, despite the numerous other Oscar nods (amongst them Adapted Screenplay and Music), is a bit overwrought as everyone involved tries to ring every bit of drama and poignant struggle of Holiday's life onscreen.
Lost to: Liza Minelli for Cabaret
11) Paul Hogan - Best Original Screenplay for "Crocodile" Dundee (1986)
Paul Hogan was an unknown (outside of Australia at least) when he concocted the story of Mick "Crocodile" Dundee, which was turned into a screenplay by Ken Shadie and John Cornell. As "fish out of water" stories go, it’s actually not terribly good, but it is certainly distinctive, spawning two sequels and a short lived fascination with all things Australian for a while after. And for his trouble, Hogan, Shadie and Cornell were all nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
Lost to: Woody Allen for Hannah and Her Sisters
12) Owen Wilson - Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tennenbaums (2001)
Everybody knows Owen Wilson, star of commercial hits, indie gems, and a variety of fare in between. He’s also enjoyed some success as a writer alongside Wes Anderson, with whom he co-wrote the sublime comedy The Royal Tennenbaums, about an asshole and his family, earning them both an Oscar nod each.
Lost to: Julian Fellowes for Gosford Park
Dan Futterman may not be very well known as an actor, despite starring in some good movies alongside many who either are established stars (The Birdcage, A Mighty Heart) or would go on to be stars (Shooting Fish). However, he did earn himself a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for Capote, the film that won Philip Seymour Hoffman his Oscar.
Lost to: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana for Brokeback Mountain
14) Graham Greene - Best Supporting Actor for Dances With Wolves (1990)
Graham Greene is a character actor that you likely already know, given that his versatility have led him to a multitude of different roles, from Die Hard With a Vengeance to The Green Mile toMaverick to Atlantic Rim, as well as the film that earned him Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor – Dances With Wolves, playing Kicking Bird, the medicine man to the Sioux tribe who comes in contact with Kevin Costner’s recovering Union soldier John Dunbar.
Lost to: Joe Pesci for Goodfellas
15) Joss Whedon - Best Original Screenplay for Toy Story (1995)
Yes, the man behind Buffy, Angel, Firefly and the third biggest movie ever is also an Oscar-nominated person. True, it's alongside Joel Cohen, Peter Docter, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft and Alec Sokolow, but an achievement it remains, with Toy Story being the first animated film to ever be nominated for a screenplay award. And by God, it's a wonderful film, smart and full of wonder, and kicked off so much of current pop culture that it's kind of amazing to take it all in.
Lost to: Christopher McQuarrie for The Usual Suspects