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Oscars’ biggest snub goes to actor in three Best Picture-nominated films

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Justice for Michael Stuhlbarg

The Shape of Water - Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Shannon
Michael Stuhlbarg (left) and Michael Shannon in The Shape of Water.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Scanning the list of nominations for outstanding achievement in acting, and you’ll notice that Michael Stuhlbarg’s name doesn’t appear.

Stuhlbarg won’t get as much attention as Woody Harrelson or Sam Rockwell. His name isn’t going to grace headlines like Gary Oldman’s might. Stuhlbarg isn’t going to be walking up the steps to accept his award for Best Supporting Actor, and that’s a downright shame. It’s one thing for Stuhlbarg to not be acknowledged for his work in one film. There are are plenty of actors who did incredible work last year who slipped under the Academy’s radar. Armie Hammer, for example, deserved a nomination for his work in Call Me By Your Name, but lost out.

It wouldn’t even be an issue if Stuhlbarg starred in an Oscar-nominated film and wasn’t nominated. Snubs happen all the time. But Stuhlbarg didn’t participate in one or two Oscar nominated movies — he played a significant role in each. His roles weren’t necessarily starring, and it’s easy for him to fade into the background. His job was to accentuate the roles of actors around him, to ensure they were supported, and few actors do a better job of that than Stuhlbarg.

In The Shape of Water, Stuhlbarg plays the conflicted Russian double agent who is forced to infiltrate a top-secret U.S. government base. He’s committed to his cause and the Russian government; as a scientist, he does whatever he can to ensure the safety of the strange fish creature they’ve discovered. In The Post, Stuhlbarg plays famous New York Times publisher Abe Rosenthal. Stuhlbarg’s role wasn’t a big one, but he stood out. In Call Me By Your Name, Stuhlbarg plays the sympathetic, eccentric father of a young teen slowly falling in love with an older man. Stuhlbarg is a background character, but never goes unnoticed.

This is a man who has been in countless Oscar and Emmy-nominated projects. Here are just a few:

  • Lincoln
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Hitchcock
  • Trumbo
  • Arrival
  • Fargo
  • Transparent

Those movies are household names. But how many times was his name mentioned in marketing for those films or in press for award consideration?

I’ve been a fan of Stuhlbarg’s work for years, starting with his role as the suave Arnold Rothstein on Boardwalk Empire. I’ve waited for him to receive the attention he so greatly deserves. His closest brush with award show glory came in 2009 after the release of A Serious Man and a Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical nomination at the Golden Globes. He lost out to Christoph Waltz for his performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

Nearly a decade later, I’m sitting here, writing about the genius of Stuhlbarg’s acting. Stuhlbarg isn’t just an extraordinary actor, but one who stands out in every single thing he does. His brilliance isn’t just a one-time event that we’ll forget about 10 years after the fact (sorry to The Artist). Stuhlbarg’s acting demands an MVP award — the Heisman Trophy of acting. Stuhlbarg’s work may go unnoticed or unappreciated by the majority of Academy voters, but it won’t go unnoticed by us, the general audience.

Let’s raise a glass to Michael Stuhlbarg, one of the best actors working today who helps make movies exceptional. I can’t wait to see what Stuhlbarg does next, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about one of his movies by this time next year as it gets nominated for another Oscar.