I can't list all of them here, but I would say, there are some actors who don't deserve an Oscar and are unlikely to win, such as: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Bill Murray, etc. They are all A-listers, they are all very famous and popular, but they haven't reached what can be called greatness yet. Just look at actors like Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Heath Ledger, etc. you'll see.
Even Leonardo DiCaprio, 1 of my favourite actors, can't be considered great. I have seen him in about 11 films, the latest "Django unchained". In film history there have been performances that are impeccable and can't be topped, such as Heath Ledger in "The dark knight", Robert De Niro in "Raging bull", Marlon Brando in "A streetcar named Desire", Joaquin Phoenix in "The master", Adrien Brody in "The pianist", Al Pacino in "Scent of a woman", John Malkovich in "In the line of fire"... but in the case of Leonardo DiCaprio he hasn't had a performance that can't be bettered, and his ability has a limit- he can't push it further. But, because getting an Oscar depends on lots of factors (which will be discussed later), and he's a serious actor who takes the opportunities as well as looks for good films, has ambition and works hard, he may have a chance and personally I hope he'll get one.
2/ People often forget, an Oscar is given for a single performance, not the career as a whole. It therefore depends on:
- The actor's talent.
The ones mentioned in 1/ are not good enough for an Oscar, for example.
And then there are actors who are so talented that the idea of them not winning is inconceivable, and they therefore must win sooner or later.
Sean Penn didn't get an Oscar for his unforgettable performances in "I am Sam" and "Carlito's way", but he later won for "Mystic river" and "Milk". Philip Seymour Hoffman was impressive and extraordinary in various roles without getting an Oscar but finally won for "Capote".
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" was much better than Kate Winslet in "The reader", the winner, but a few years later Meryl won for "The iron lady".
Gary Oldman, I haven't seen in many films, but it seems that people are right about his ability to transform into different characters and, very often, become unrecognisable, so I think sooner or later he'll win- the only problem is that filmmakers must give him the right roles instead of those small supporting roles in those unserious films.
- The role/ the character.
Depth of personality and emotions is favoured over eccentricity in behaviour and manner. That explains why Johnny Depp hasn't won and will not win. It also explains why Gary Oldman wasn't nominated until "Tinker tailor soldier spy". He may be considered 1 of the greatest actors of all time, for disappearing into characters, reinventing himself each time and inhabiting each role he plays, and thus has become the inspiration and role model for lots of actors, but as I've said an Oscar is given for a single performance, not the career as a whole. When a role is somehow limited, the actor, no matter how great, can't do anything more. So when Gary Oldman finally got what he called a role of a lifetime and was nominated for "Tinker tailor soldier spy", his subdued performance couldn't beat Jean Dujardin in "The artist" even though I don't think Jean Dujardin normally can't be called a very talented actor.
It's also why Daniel was perfect in "Gangs of New York" but the Oscar went to Adrien Brody- Adrien's role in "The pianist" is psychologically much deeper and more complicated.
- The performance itself.
There are Oscar winners that are not really incredible in their films in general: Colin Firth, Adrien Brody, Nicolas Cage, Jeremy Irons, Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, etc. But that doesn't mean they can't have a wonderful, Oscar-worthy performance. This again depends on lots of factors: the script, the character, the film director...
I do not necessarily mean they can't act, or have no talent. Those that can hardly act like Scarlett Johansson, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Christina Ricci, Taylor Lautner... have no chance of winning or being nominated. Some actors and actresses have talent, they can be very good at conveying, expressing emotions, playing certain kinds of roles, and among those I mention above, there are some I like very much. But a great, incredible actor is someone who:
+ has flawless, can't-be-topped performances
+ has a wide range= plays a variety of characters that are very different from themselves and very different from each other, from physical appearances and personalities to mannerisms, gestures, accents, voices
+ can always be expected to be good and never disappoints even if the film is bad
On the 2nd point, James Stewart's always the same, for example. I like him very much, because of his voice and what I've read about him, but the guy's always himself. He's exactly the same in "Come live with me", "The man who knew too much", "The Philadelphia story", "Anatomy of a murder" and "It's a wonderful life". Julia Roberts delivered a mesmerising performance in "Erin Brockovich" and is very good at conveying emotions, but, to take her career as a whole, in different roles she's very much like herself in real life- gestures, the way of talking, etc.
(Johnny Depp also repeats himself. The only things that change are his costumes and make-ups. Gestures, mannerisms are pretty much the same).
- Also very important, other nominees.
Hugh Jackman did a wonderful job in "Les misérables", singing for the entire film. Unfortunately he was nominated the same year with Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix.
Joaquin Phoenix was nominate twice, 1st time for "Walk the line", he was up against Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Capote", 2nd time for the "The master", against Daniel in "Lincoln".
Leonardo DiCaprio was extremely good in "The aviator", but among his fellow nominees was Jamie Foxx in "Ray".
3/ So, does being an Oscar winner mean anything?
Well, the Oscars, like any other award, have some limits. But it doesn't mean people should discard them altogether and call them bullshit (like Joaquin Phoenix, Ethan Hawke and many idiots in the internet have done). "Art is subjective" is a poor argument. People's opinions are not equally plausible. The fact that there's room for disagreement doesn't mean there's no standard, no distinction between good and bad. A person who says Robert De Niro can't act doesn't have a different opinion that can be equally respected as the opinion of those who recognise his talent- he or she is just wrong.
I would say, one should be careful with people who have 1 Oscar- some actors have 1 great role and a mediocre career. I mean, look at Nicolas Cage, Halle Berry and Adrien Brody. It gave me pain when I saw the title "Academy award winner" before the name Adrien Brody in the trailer of "InAPPropriate comedy". This guy makes the phrase "Academy award" stink. But when somebody has won more than once, it certainly means something. Daniel Day-Lewis has won 3 times, in 1990, 2008 and 2013, that definitely means something. While people may agree or disagree with the claim that he's the best actor of all time, or the best living actor, that he's a genius actor is universally accepted, anyone who has seen him in "My left foot", "There will be blood", "Gangs of New York", "Lincoln", "A room with a view", "In the name of the father"... can see that it's an indisputable fact. The same goes for Meryl Streep.
I wouldn't always use the Oscars as some kind of standard for comparison. For example, it's absurd to say Joe Pesci is more talented than Gary Oldman because Joe Pesci has won an Oscar for supporting role and Gary hasn't. I have also seen people who argue that 1 actor is a better actor with more nominations and therefore must be better than another in the same role. An example is the Joker, there's an argument that Jack Nicholson is much greater and has got 12 nominations, more than anybody else, and therefore he played the Joker better than Heath Ledger. That is purely absurd and very idiotic. On the other hand, the Oscars are still good and prestigious. I've seen some people say ridiculous things like, "Kristen Stewart deserves an Oscar", "why hasn't Brad Pitt won?", "Michael Fassbender should have got one for "Hunger"", "Leonardo DiCaprio should have won for "Titanic"", etc, etc. (Forget about Kristen Stewart) it is awarded to the best performance, not just a good performance, at least on principle. And most of the time, the winners do deserve it. So in spite of the limitations, the Oscars are still good and prestigious.
(Ethan Hawke may say whatever he likes- I mean, who can forbid him?- but in the end, is he certain that he's indeed more talented than the Oscar winners? Is he really confident? And is he really great? I have also seen people in the internet who say the Oscars are bullshit/ pointless/ meaningless/ stupid, and then they mention a few actors who they think are talented, well....)
o O oOn the other hand, I probably should learn from Klasien: when you disagree with somebody and are certain that you're right, you don't have to argue and try to convince anybody, because chances are, you can't, and when you're already certain that you're right, whether or not others agree doesn't matter.
How can I convince those people who know nothing about cinema, good films and especially, great acting? Or that guy Dana Carvey, who mocked and attempted to make fun of Daniel Day-Lewis. Can I ever change his mind? No. But does it matter? No. Because the thing is, everybody knows, Daniel knows and the envious dude also knows, Daniel has won 112 awards including 3 Oscars, has made history, has become 1 of the greatest actors of all time and will become immortal, and in the next 50 years people will still watch and talk about him, but who will remember Dana Carvey? He has appeared in a film like "Jack& Jill". He may say anything- again, who can stop him?- but everybody can see that he's jealous, and thus, pathetic.