A number of really terrific actors have taken home the Academy Award for Best Actor. Just as immense, sadly, is the number of really terrific actors who never won an Academy Award. If you want to watch some fantastic acting, or even just humdrum acting that managed to steal an Oscar from someone more deserving, simply get yourself a Netflix subscription of at least three movies out at once and then buy a Roku. Stream these movies from your Netflix instant viewing queue directly to your TV whenever you want and as often as you want.
Tom Hanks, Academy Award Winner for Philadelphia.
The next year Tom Hanks would win an Oscar he deserved for Forrest Gump. Hanks’ first Oscar rightfully should have gone to Liam Neeson for Schindler’s List. Still, he is the best thing about this well-intentioned film about AIDS that is essentially little more than a TV-movie. There are better movies to send to your Netflix Roku, but if you find yourself in the mood for one of Hollywood’s attempts to catch up to the world of independent movie makers when it comes to addressing “controversial” subjects, Philadelphia might give you a sense of brotherly love.
F. Murray Abraham, Academy Award Winner for Amadeus.
Now this one deserves to be near the top of your Netflix instant viewing queue. A masterful adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play about the mostly fictional rivalry between Mozart and Salieri. Abraham gives a perfectly modulated performance that reveals both his profound envy of Mozart and his profound appreciation of the music he made. This is a sumptuous performance that crackles with subtlety and humor.
Dustin Hoffman, Academy Award Winner for Kramer v. Kramer.
Another case of beating out a more deserving winner, in this case Roy Scheider for All That Jazz. I believe that Dustin Hoffman finally won an Academy Award for Best Actor after being rooked for Midnight Cowboy and overlooked for Lenny and All the President’s Men because he proved he could excel in the middle of his range. He’d been mostly known for disappearing into the character and Kramer v. Kramer proved he could normal. Oddly, of course, the Academy rarely rewards normal, but they are a perverse lot.
Peter Finch, Academy Award Winner for Network.
Peter Finch is, as of this writing, the only actor to win an Academy Award posthumously, though the hype machine is in full force to make sure that Heath Ledger puts an end to that fact for his role as the Joker. Network is a great movie that predicted, in what seemed at the time to be a totally outrageous and unbelievable manner, what passes for television entertainment today. Peter Finch is the foundation upon which the movie rests and his cry of “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” should have ringing out from rooftops across the country for the past five years or so. The fact that such outrage has not been expressed can be related in many ways to the fact that so much of what Network predicted about television viewing has come to fruition.
Lee Marvin, Academy Award Winner for Cat Ballou.
A sick joke, A sick, sad joke. Marvin’s character in Cat Ballou is hardly the type of character that usually wins awards and Marvin’s performance hardly was distinguished enough to lift it to the level of Oscar-worthy. But what makes the fact that Lee Marvin won an Oscar for Cat Ballou all the more disgusting is that he beat out Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker, probably the single best performance of the decade. Netflix this to your Roku only for the purpose of comparison.
Charlton Heston, Academy Award Winner for Ben-Hur.
Another joke. I mean, come on, Charlton Heston gets an Oscar for Ben-Hur. You can watch put Ben-Hur on your Netflix instant viewing queue to stream directly to your Roku and watch on your TV, but I’d recommended instead going the tradition Netflix route and watching the performance that should have won the Oscar for Best Actor that year: Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot.
Yul Brynner, Academy Award Winner for The King and I.
Sometimes when you find out that an actor won an Oscar for a certain role you cannot help but step back and ask “What?” Such is the case with Brynner. It’s not a bad performance; in fact, it’s very engaging and humorous. But we usually associated Oscar winning performances with something a bit more meaty and substantially. The 1950s were a weird decade for the Academy Awards. They routinely rewarded schlock while overlooking movies that could become classics. Netflix this musical to your Roku to determine for yourself where along the spectrum The King and I may fit.
Ray Milland, Academy Award Winner for The Lost Weekend.
One of the most dependable actors in Hollywood history, Ray Milland’s career stretched from the 1930s to the 1970s and he made very kind and level of film imaginable. By the time he assayed the role of the alcoholic in Billy Wilder’s disturbing film about addiction, he was at the top of his game. This is the most powerful movie ever made about alcoholism and Milland deservedly won his Oscar. Unquestionable a movie to be on your Netflix Roku plan.
James Cagney, Academy Award Winner for Yankee Doodle Dandy.
I wish there were other James Cagney movies available for Netflix instant viewing that I could recommend you send to your Roku. As is often the case, the Academy honored Cagney not for his one of his greatest performances, but for one that felt more Oscar-worthy. Cagney is just find in his biopic of George M. Cohan, but he never gets the chance to express the intensity that was present in almost all his performances in the 1930s.