Oscar Talk (X): Tracking Tom Hanks’ Oscar Journey

Tom Hanks won consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actor in the nineties for his superb performances in Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994) — the first actor to do so in that category since Spencer Tracey did so. He was first nominated for an Oscar for Big (1988), received another nod for Saving Private Ryan (1998) and his most recent in Cast Away (2000). Yes that is correct, Tom Hanks has not been nominated for an Academy Award since 2000. Many actors would be thrilled to have won two Oscars and been nominated for three others, and I am sure Hanks is, but is it not near criminal that is has not been nominated for other work that was easily among the best of the year?

Consider A League of Their Own (1992) in which he was simply superb as a former star ball player, Jimmy Duggan, a drunk,  reduced to coaching women, but who in doing so finds redemption, manages to stop drinking and re-discovers his life for the game. The performance is hilarious and made famous by the line “There’s no crying in baseball!! There’s no crying in baseball!!” he roars to a player who made a bad play reducing her to tears. The film, among the years very best was not nominated for a single Oscar but deserved to be up for at least ten including supporting actor for Hanks. A further nomination should have come for his outstanding performance as James Lovell in Apollo 13 (1995), one of the great films of the nineties. He richly deserved the nomination he received for his performance in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) as fine a performance as you will find in a war film. For his performance as Chuck in Cast Away (2000) Hanks should have become the first actor to win three Academy Awards for Best Actor. He won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actor as well as the Golden Globe but was denied the Oscar, which went to Russell Crowe in Gladiator (2000).

In the years between, he has given an array of fine performances, from his FBI man in Catch Me If You Can (2002) and hit man in Road to Perdition (2002), both deserving of Oscar nominations through to his more recent work as the brave Captain in Captain Phillips (2012) in which the shirt sequence in the trauma unit was enough to get him nominated (but did not). Last year he was superb in Bridges of Spies (2015) as the lawyer who brokered a deal with Russia for one of their spies and one of America’s pilots. Again though brilliant and under stated, he was not nominated. So despite two Oscars on his mantle and three other nominations, there are at least, six other performances for which Hanks might have been nominated. It remains astounding to me that he lost for Cast Away (2000), easily the best work if his career and that he was NOT nominated for either Road to Perdition (2002) or Captain Phillips (2015).

He is vying for a nomination this year for his fine, quietly powerful performance in Sully, working with Clint Eastwood for the first time as Captain Sullenberger, who in 2009 incredibly landed a plane on the Hudson River in New York just after take when a flock of birds took out the planes engines. Unsettled by being called a hero, shocked that the airline seems to be lining up against he and his co-pilot looking for fault, it is a fine, solid performance. Watch his face when told all 155 souls aboard the plane have been accounted for; so many emotions sweep across his face, relief, joy, and emotions that run far deeper. One thinks for a moment he will burst into tears, but he holds it together.

Hanks has often been compared to James Stewart as America’s Everyman, but he is a greater actor than Stewart — always has been. That is not meant as a knock against Stewart, he was wonderful, Hanks is simply deeper and has greater range. Hanks has always been willing to take risks as an actor, never more evident than in his multiple roles in Cloud Atlas (2012) in which he and his co-stars portrayed several roles. Watching this film you get an idea of the remarkable range the actor has. But he is not this generations Stewart, he is very much this generations Tom Hanks, the one and only one.

He seems a shoo-in this year, but he seemed like a shoo-in for Captain Phillips (2012) and failed to get that nod. Hopefully they were watching closer this year.

Read More: The 10 Best Performances of Tom Hanks