DiCaprio in 'Django Unchained,' Bardem in 'Skyfall' (Photo: Weinstein Company/Columbia Pictures)
Oscar's not feeling the villains this year, at least when it comes to the Best Supporting Actor category.
None of the characters portrayed by this year's nominees for Best Supporting Actor -- Alan Arkin ("Argo"), Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master"), Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln") and Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained") -- qualify as "bad guys." Sure, Lancaster Dodd in "The Master" isn't exactly the most heroic guy on the block, but nor can he be considered the "villain" or even the "antagonist" of his story. There's a distinct lack of wrongdoers nominated this year … and it's certainly not because of slim pickings.
[Photos: Oscar nomination snubs and surprises]
The biggest snub is definitely Leonardo DiCaprio, who looks to be having a blast embracing his dark side as ruthless plantation owner and slavemaster Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." DiCaprio brought a Southern gentleman's charm to his particular brand of evil … and a frightening intensity to his temper tantrums, including one in which he actually cut his hand after smashing a glass on the table. Being a Hollywood pro, DiCaprio continued with the take as blood oozed from his mighty fist.
Speaking of "Django Unchained," Samuel L. Jackson gave his best performance in years as Stephen, Candie's scheming majordomo. Jackson's work has been overlooked in comparison to the more high-profile roles played by DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz (perhaps because his participation might seem little more than obligatory in a Tarantino film), but he's just as electrifying in "Django" as he was in "Pulp Fiction" over 18 years ago.
Also, do awards-givers not dig Javier Bardem anymore? The dude got nominated (and won) for spreading ill will in "No Country for Old Men" but not for his dastardly deeds in "Skyfall." Bardem's performance as the occasionally fey, often funny and always completely terrifying Silva made for one of the best James Bond villains in years. Maybe the Academy was grossed out by his fake teeth?
Speaking of terrifying, how about Guy Pearce in "Lawless"? After his swaggering Kurt Russell-esque turn in Luc Besson's space jam "Lockout," Pearce went near-unrecognizable for his roles in "Prometheus" and "Lawless." The latter had him as Charlie Rakes, the most corrupt (and strange-looking) lawman to ever mess with likable bootlegging brothers -- definitely one of the most thrilling performances by the always-reliable character actor.
Speaking of "Prometheus," it's a shame that the film's much-discussed script issues seem to have blinded many from the film's several strong points, one of which is Michael Fassbender's fascinating portrayal of David, an android predecessor of later "Alien" synthetics like Ash (Ian Holm), Bishop (Lance Henriksen) and Call (Winona Ryder). Like Ash before him (or, rather, after him), David was programmed to put the mission before the crew, which made for a rather sinister agenda (never accept a drink from a robot!).
And what about Matthew McConaughey? He seemed to be the dark horse candidate to score an Oscar nom this year for his charismatic performance as strip club owner Dallas. True, Dallas isn't really a "villain," but he's also not the nicest guy in the world as, driven by greed, he dreams of running an entire empire of strip clubs (McConaughey also got robbed in the Best Song category for his ballad “Ladies of Tampa”).
Finally, let's give a shout-out (or perhaps even sing a song) to Russell Crowe in "Les Miserables." True, no one really liked his performance as the obsessed and misguided Javert, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't have received an Oscar nomination. Right?