Look, America worships its actors, both the stars and the underdogs. The former shine brilliantly as proof of the American dream of fame and fortune. The latter we hold dear as guardians of secret brilliance the masses are too sheeplike to ever understand the genius of. Still, there are some who are just continually going to get the shaft no matter how gifted they are.
We're not even talking about people like Jim Carrey or Jennifer Jason Leigh who just get constantly screwed out of recognition for their acting work. What we're talking about are artists who aren't even eligible for an Academy Award because what they do isn't seen as worth a damn by the "real" actors. People like...
People look at Mark Hamill and shake their heads because they all feel sorry for Luke Skywalker not becoming the superstar that Harrison Ford did. His story is somehow seen as a tragedy where a mighty hero falls and is disgraced. We call those people, "brain damaged."
Why? Because Hamill is the Joker. Sure, Heath Ledger's performance in the Dark Knight was awe-inspiring, but let's face it, he was playing a character based on the Joker. Hamill has been turning in the most definitive and accurate interpretation of the Ace of Knaves for 20 years in voice work in various mediums. His performances have grown more deep and nuanced with every passing vehicle, and it was very sad to read that he was saying goodbye to the role with Batman: Arkham City.
Hamill has managed to snag some minor statues as a voice actor, but even if he did manage to land a starring role in a cinematically released animated film he still wouldn't be able to win an Oscar. If they aren't going to make room in the Academy for Tom Hanks, who has turned in three of the greatest voice acting roles of all time, then Hamill has no shot.
Wrestling is lowbrow entertainment. Then again, so is My Cousin Vinnie and they gave Marisa Tomei an Oscar for it so there you go. Still, most people would argue from pretty solid ground that the melodramas that occur in the squared circle don't belong in the same category as, say, Heat.
There are exceptions to this premise though, and the biggest one is Mick Foley. Anyone who has had a chance to read his autobiography knows the agonizing, almost method acting preparation that Foley put into his performances. Our particular favorite was his description of his pre-match planning for his famous Hell in the Cell match against the Undertaker. Foley sat backstage with nothing but Tori Amos's "Winter" to keep him company while he methodically walked out the way and why of every bloody moment. It was a ballet of violence, and an amazing feat of acting and athleticism unmatched in any other medium.
Plus, let's see Al Pacino get his ear ripped off in the middle of a scene and finish it.
If Hamill is screwed out of awards because voice acting in animated vehicles isn't worthy of praise then video game casts haven't got a chance. Luckily, the art world is finally realizing that video games do in fact constitute art. The Grammys have added a category that makes video game composers eligible for awards, which they will probably celebrate in true Grammy fashion by not giving one to Nobuo Uematsu.
Just like film, not all voice acted games are going to be something you turn in as a triumph of the medium. For every Portal there is a Final Fantasy X, but if you had to pick the greatest unrecognized brilliance in video game acting it has to go to the cast of the Legacy of Kain series.
Sure Michael Bell as Raziel was just a little too angsty, but it made the work done by Tony Jay as the Elder God opposite of him something that transcends space and time in the annals of villainy. Even Jay's performance pales next to that of Simon Templeman as Kain. The morally ambiguous and Machiavellian central character of the series remains the most badass vampire ever to be created, and not only did Templeman do his voice, the character was actually modeled after him. They managed to turn a good portion of this amazing story on a PS1 for God's sake, but never mind. The industry that actually released a Bratz movie thinks video games are stupid and not worth an award.
Did you know there is no Academy Award for stunt men? Nope, not even the ones they don't give out on TV. They've been trying for 20 years to get a category, but no dice. Three Six Mafia has an Oscar, but Harrison Ford got exactly squat for actually outrunning a giant boulder for that shot in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Fight scenes and the scenesters who fight them get no respect either. Love them or hate them, you can't deny that the best part of all three Star Wars prequels were the lightsaber battles, and no one did it better than Ray Park as Darth Maul. Screwing over the villain in a Star Wars flick is nothing new. Have you ever heard the name Bob Anderson in connection with Darth Vader? If you think David Prowse turned in that climatic battle in Return of the Jedi you're nuts.
Park has consistently proven his superhuman abilities in films that have grossed almost $2 BILLION when combined. He was the best part about X-Men, and his portrayal of Toad completely reinvented the character in the comic books. They'll give Julia Roberts an Academy Award for a wearing a low-cut top, but Park kicks the laws of physics as they relate to human ability in the balls and he can't even get invited to the ceremony.
Of all the names on this list, Andy Serkis has it the worst. What would the Lord of the Rings films have been like without the amazing performance he handed in as Gollum. The Academy Awards gave every award in the catalog to the films for Return of the King, but Serkis wasn't considered worthy because Gollum was a CGI character and we've already gone over what Hollywood thinks of voice actors.
But Gollum wasn't just a CGI character. Serkis is an incredibly gifted physical actor and provided motion capture for Gollum. He later did the same for King Kong (meh) and as Caeser in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Holy crap this is awesome!). The second example alone is a one of a kind performance that should ensure Serkis's status as a brilliant actor, but we don't expect to see him on the ballot in March.
What makes the whole thing incredibly unfair is that the 81st Academy Awards had no problem nominating Brad Pitt for Best Actor in the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Pitt only appears as himself for a short time in the film, and the rest is a computer generation. Not that Pitt didn't do a fantastic job. He did, but we fail to see how showing up for only half of your role is really any different from what Serkis does.