Is the Academy Taking Tom Hanks for Granted?

Sully Movie
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

When he hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the ninth time last October, Tom Hanks delivered his monologue as “America’s Dad.” The sketches David S. Pumpkins and “Black Jeopardy” may have gotten more press, but the monologue fit Hanks like a glove. Clad in a fuzzy sweater, offering us words of encouragement (and money), Hanks pulled it off brilliantly because he truly is what we look for in the ideal parent — warm, trustworthy, and fair. And, like so many lovable dads, we’re in danger of taking Hanks for granted.

Hanks has long been one of our most reliable and beloved icons, the kind of Hollywood star you don’t see much of anymore. He’s a versatile actor, well-regarded by his peers as one of the nicest people in the business, and always seems to be having a great time. And he’s fairly reliable at the box office — while “Sully” came armed with the pedigree of Clint Eastwood directing and Hanks starring, it was, at the end of the day, a story everyone thought they already knew about the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane landing. Yet it raked in more than $230 million worldwide and put Hanks back in the awards conversation.

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Sully Movie

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And yet, those awards have yet to materialize. Passed over for a SAG Award nomination, Hanks also failed to show up on the less competitive Golden Globes list — particularly surprising considering that the separate drama/comedy categories should have given him even more of a chance. No one questions that Hanks was terrific in playing Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. So why isn’t he a lock for an Oscar nomination?

Beginning with his first Oscar nomination in 1989 for “Big,” Hanks spent the 90s a regular on the awards circuit, racking up four more nominations between 1994 and 2001. He famously won back-to-back Oscars in 1994 for “Philadelphia” and 1995 for “Forrest Gump.” But his last nod was in 2001 for “Castaway.” That’s more than 15 years of great performances that have failed to score with voters, including “Catch Me if You Can,” “The Terminal,” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.”

Things got truly ridiculous in 2013 when the question wasn’t whether Hanks would get nominated, but how many times. He had a standout supporting role as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks” and a stunning lead turn in “Captain Phillips.” As the season went on, “Banks” seemed to fall away in voters’ eyes, but surely he would score a nod for “Phillips,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Award nomination. Yet on the morning of nominations, Hanks was left empty-handed. While I hate to use the term “snub” because it implies one person belongs on a list over another, make no mistake: the last 10 minutes of “Captain Phillips” features some of the best acting ever seen on film, and Hanks was snubbed.

Part of the problem this year could just be competition, plain and simple. There are a lot of remarkable actors jockeying for just five spots. It’s also entirely likely that Hanks has been so good for so long, we’re just used to it. We expect greatness from Hanks, and he always delivers. “Sully” is also a fairly subdued performance — there is no cathartic breakdown like at the end of “Captain Phillips,” no starving himself to a skeletal form like “Castaway.” But that just makes it all the more impressive that Hanks commands our attention for the full movie.

There is much to be said about showy performances versus understated ones, and I’m a fan of both. But in “Sully,” Hanks does some of his best work, truly embodying the heart and soul of something you don’t see on screen much: a decent man. Soft-spoken and reserved, Sullenberger is uncomfortable being labeled a hero and you feel his reticence in every look and awkward pause Hanks conveys. It’s a testament to him that you are able to forget you’re looking at one of the most famous faces in the world and really believe you’re watching Sullenberger.

Let’s be clear: nobody is asking you to feel sorry for Tom Hanks, least of all Tom Hanks. He already has two Academy Awards and a resume full of masterpieces that most actors would kill for. But that doesn’t mean great work shouldn’t be acknowledged, and Hanks should certainly be recognized.

If not, there’s always the Emmy Awards. Who wouldn’t vote for David S. Pumpkins?

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  1. Tonya J says:

    I won’t belabor the point. I just literally watched Sully and as with a somewhat similar article about Meryl Streep, I think Tom Hanks should be nominated for acting awards as often and as regularly as possible, even knowing what the film world is and how it works (politics). He was sublime as Capt. Sullenberger, totally in command of character and craft, and that’s all his nomination should be based on.

  2. Marsha Berger says:

    This snub of Hanks is purely a snub of Eastwood. Sully was brilliant all the way around. It’s so sad that Hollywood screams of diversity, equality, and tolerance, but they will not allow or tolerate peaceful conservative viewpoints.
    True or not true?

  3. Hilary Clay Hicks says:

    While I agree with the sentiment of the article, Castaway is a 1986 film starring Oliver Reed. Tom Hanks starred in Cast Away (2000).

  4. BD says:

    So, first, the world needs to stop with David S Pumpkins. The other two guys were hilarious, Hanks and his character were not.

    Second, it’s not about taking Hanks for granted, it’s about people thinking too much of him with these lackluster films. Sully is so plain, so simple, both in story and execution that I don’t really understand why people keep bringing it up. Thankfully the guilds, SAG and Globes have left it were it belongs, in October, enjoying box office success and as a flavor of the month because there’s wasn’t anything else to Oscar-talk about that everybody had actually seen. Sully was a filler (possible) nominee back then in several categories but sadly for its fans, others came along and Sully is today what it was back then. A simple, lame, but somewhat good film that doesn’t need to be THAT remembered. Neither does Hanks. He can blame his lame film for being “taken for granted”.

    As for Bridge of Spies, he wasn’t worthy of a nomination, Saving Mr Banks was another not so good film that couldn’t even get Emma Thompson a nomination, much less Hanks. The Terminal, please, it wasn’t even a hit, it wasn’t even a critical success, so no need to bring that up. Catch me if You Can was a DiCaprio show, and he couldn’t get a nomination either.

    Sure, he was taken for granted for Captain Phillips, but the whole movie was too. I think it came out too early and Hanks got lost thanks to competition. But yeah, that would’ve been a very deserved nomination.

    No. Hanks is not being taken for granted.

  5. Alex Meyer says:

    I’d love to see him nominated for Sully.

  6. cadavra says:

    Of course he’s taken for granted. Fine and steady always is. So were many other excellent actors, like Robert Ryan and Lloyd Nolan, and they never even won Oscars. But long after the flavors of the month have fallen in obscurity, Hanks will still be a beacon of talent and decency.

  7. Michael Anthony says:

    Love Hanks, but Sully had more of a TV film feel. No real tension, drama, etc. The film COULD have been much better, had hey spent more time exploring how the feds treat pilots of accident aircraft. Would have given Hanks more of a power role.

    If course, the real Sully, is quiet and unassuming. Hanks played him good, but it’s not the kind of role that becomes unforgettable.

    • Maaz Kalim says:

      TV-film, as in?? Short in a budget or just slow-pace…?? If so, don’t you think even TV-films are not that long [in duration]…? 😕

    • JudyC says:

      Like Jimmy Stewart in an earlier time, Hanks is a favorite pair of slippers that would have to transform into stilettos to be invited to the prom.

  8. not sure about sully, but i understand hanks’ next appearance (in 2017) in “the circle”, with emma watson, will be fantastic and award-worthy–but maybe as a supporting actor.

  9. Hanks was also relegated for Bridge of Spies. That and Captain Fhillpis were films that got Oscar attention,both with Best Supporting Actor nominations (Rylance even won!). So maybe yes, they’re taking him for granted.

  10. Goodbyenoway says:

    Tom Hanks is one of the 3 or 4 most overrated actors in film history. He’s boring dull and about as interesting as iceberg lettuce.

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