Amy Adams has racked up six Academy Award nominations, but she has gone home empty-handed on each occasion. Her first came in 2006 for a breakthrough role in Junebug, and her most recent was earlier this year in the supporting category for her portrayal of Lynne Cheney in Vice.
Adams is a versatile performer, as these six movies can attest (Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, and American Hustle are the other four), but there are some big omissions on this list. And to celebrate Adams’ birthday, we are going to take a look at the genre movies she should’ve been honored for.
Arrival - Best Actress (2016)
For some actors, their first Oscar win comes from the first nomination, for others like Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio it takes far longer. Adams is very much part of the latter club, but an incredible (and raved about) performance in Arrival suggested this losing streak was finally going to come to an end. And yet, voters must have had other ideas because they didn't even nominate her, making this one of the most egregious Oscar snubs in recent years. A technical error only added to the outrage as she was initially listed as a nominee (as it did with Tom Hanks for Sully). Good job, guys. This was also the year the wrong Best Picture name was announced, to top off the calamity.
Every year some performances don’t get the recognition they deserve. It happens a lot, and the whole, "well they’ve been nominated X times so, therefore, they deserve to win" reasoning is some pretty fuzzy logic. However, this is an incredible performance anchoring a beautiful science-fiction movie, in which Adams plays linguistics professor Louise Banks. She anchors the action, delivering a range of emotions including grief and wonder. She is the reason why this movie resonates, so it is fine to still be mad about this snub two years after the fact. Before the Oscars, Adams had racked up nominations for this part at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guilds; suggesting the Academy would follow suit. Alas, they did not.
Genre movies haven’t always fared so well at the Oscars, but this isn’t a case of negative bias as Arrival was nominated for Best Picture and Denis Villeneuve received a Best Director nod. This news was bittersweet for Villeneuve, telling Entertainment Weekly, “This is the big disappointment. I’m deeply disappointed for Amy. She was the soul of this movie. For me, it was a given! She had the movie on her shoulders, she’s the one who made it happen. It’s a strange feeling to celebrate and feel sad at the same time.” We're not going to argue with this accurate assessment.
Her - Best Supporting Actress (2013)
For a supporting role, a lot of screen time doesn’t necessarily factor into the decision. Judi Dench’s turn as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love won for eight minutes, Adams’ Doubt co-star Viola Davis also bagged an Oscar nomination for roughly the same length of performance time. Occasionally, all that is needed is a solitary scene to make a lasting impression. A powerful moment that will feature in trailers or on talk show appearances, which give you goosebumps even without the context of the film. But there are also supporting performances that are quieter, but no less brilliant. On this occasion, Adams falls into this latter group.
Her received five Oscar nominations in 2014, with Spike Jonze winning for Best Original Screenplay. Set in the near future, Her tells the story of Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falling in love with an operating system called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Adams plays Amy, Theodore’s closest human confidant who is going through an emotional crisis of her own. The pair briefly dated in college, but now share a platonic love. Amy encourages Theodore to take a leap on his relationship with Samantha, telling him, “I’ve just come to realize that we’re only here briefly and while I’m here I want to allow myself… joy. So f*ck it.” It is a beautiful sentiment and as her voice cracks, it is clear why Adams is the perfect actress to ground this movie. She is both heartbreaking and hopeful, imbuing swaths of empathy in the scenes she shares with Phoenix.
Adams was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category this same year for American Hustle, a flashier performance when viewed against the stillness of Amy in Her (again, showing her versatility). She is the best thing about American Hustle, but it is still a shame she didn't pull off a double nomination.
Enchanted - Best Actress (2007)
Adams cemented her movie star status as Giselle in Enchanted in 2007. The Disney live-action puts a spin on the fairy tale tropes it has made a lot of money out of, in a movie underscoring how delightful Adams can be. Traditionally, Disney does quite well at the Academy Awards but typically this is limited to the animation and original song categories. Enchanted does have animated portions, although it's primarily a live-action movie. However, it did receive three nominations for Original Song. Comedic performances only tend to get honored at the Oscars in the supporting categories (for example, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids) so Adams was highly unlikely to score back-to-back nominations after Junebug, no matter how charming and subversive she is in this part.
Enchanted was well-received by critics (it sits at 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and Adams did get a Golden Globe nomination — the benefit of a comedy/musical category. But it shouldn’t take a genre classification split to receive awards love. So maybe when the long-awaited sequel Disenchanted finally comes out, perhaps it will deliver a real-life fairy tale ending with a little gold man for Adams to take home.