Oscars Underdogs: Nine Actors Who Deserve Voters’ Attention

One disadvantage of award contests is that there are too many candidates, thus some good performances are overlooked. Here are nine actors that accomplished outstanding work in 2021 but are considered underdogs in the Oscar race. The SAG Awards nominations were announced on January 12, although there is still time for Academy Award consideration (voting is Jan. 27-Feb. 1).

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Clifton Collins Jr., “Jockey”
Variety critic Peter Debruge said in January 2021 that “Jockey” provides Clifton Collins Jr. with the function of his profession, with the actor “delivering the performance of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.” “An Academy Award nod would be long overdue acknowledgment for Collins, who produces consistently fine work without ever seeming to have found that one role to vault him out of ‘that guy’ roles and drive him to the A-list,” Variety’s Brent Lang wrote around the same time. Debruge and Lang are both quite wise. Listen to their advice and watch the film before casting your ballot.

Jennifer Hudson, “Respect”; Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”; Penelope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”
Yes, these three are occasionally mentioned as potential Oscar contenders, but they must be the center of the actress conversation. Kristen Stewart was definitely the internet/Twitter favorite, and he or she deserves a consideration; nonetheless, Stewart’s problems were not quite as significant as these three. Jennifer Hudson performs an emotional tour de force, as well as re-creating Aretha Franklin’s songs, which isn’t easy. Nicole Kidman plays an American icon and the woman behind that icon; she stirs up and smashes familiar recollections. And Penelope Cruz plays maybe her most intricate role in Pedro Almodovar’s film, which has enough plot twists for three or four films, and Cruz keeps the film grounded and always engaging.

Nicolas Cage, “Pig”
Timing is everything in award shows, just like it is in comedy. When “Pig” debuted in July, Oscar experts projected a nomination for Nicolas Cage, but punditry eventually switched to newer, sexier films. Cage has usually swung for the fences in his 40-year career, which has been excessive (however at all times enjoyable). He’s somber, interesting, and incredibly effective in “Pig.” It is one of his best performances, if not the best. Even after all these years, he can still take audiences on an unexpected journey.

Ann Dowd, “Mass”
Ann Dowd, like Cage, was a front-runner for supporting actress for a long time because of her devastating performance in Fran Krantz’s “Mass,” but the race has gotten congested. In truth, all four actors (along with Reed Birney, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton) are excellent; a nomination and/or win for Dowd can double as acknowledgment for all. “Mass” isn’t a simple story, but it’s uplifting, therapeutic, and captivating.

Tim Blake Nelson, “Old Henry”
Could Tim Blake Nelson be the next James Bond? The idea appears far-fetched, but Nelson has made a career out of defying expectations. He could play Bond, Spider-Man, or Godzilla and make it work. “Old Henry” is set in 1906 Oklahoma territory and stars Nelson as farmer Henry McCarty, who wears a hilariously wide-brimmed hat and appears to be a squinty-eyed yokel. But, as the main antagonist (Stephen Dorff) puts it, “there might be more to old McCarty than meets the eye.” That is also true of the actor, who demonstrates that he is a man of action as he takes charge of the crisis — and of the film.

Harriet Sansom Harris, “Licorice Pizza”
Harriet Sansom Harris appears in only one scene in “Licorice Pizza,” as a casting agent, and she excels at conveying the character’s interest, assistance, skepticism, and humor as she interviews a too-eager-to-please want tobe actress (Alana Haim). There are numerous candidates for the role of supporting actress, therefore Sansom Harris faces an uphill battle. But she’s electrifying and worth remembering.

Udo Kier, “Swan Song”

Udo Kier is another seasoned businessman who will be given the opportunity to shine. In “Swan Song,” he plays a hairdresser who reluctantly takes care of a former customer. Kier might have been an Oscar frontrunner in another year. He’s fantastic, smart, emotive, and always charming.

Also receiving awards were Jessie Buckley for “The Lost Daughter,” Haley Bennett for “Cyrano,” Benicio del Toro for “The French Dispatch,” Richard E. Grant for “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” Ray Liotta for “The Many Saints of Newark,” Lily Rabe for “The Tender Bar,” Charlotte Rampling for “Benedetta,” Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie for “The Worst Person in