There's only one rule as far as the kinds of performance that get nominated for Oscars go: Someone has already been nominated for a role just like it.
While it was thrilling to watch Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, and JK Simmons pick up expected Oscars for their work this year, it cannot be denied that many of their roles have obvious Oscar forebears. Here are four performances you should watch next if you loved “Still Alice,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Boyhood,” and “Whiplash.”
If you liked Julianne Moore in “Still Alice,” watch Bette Davis in “Dark Victory”
Julianne Moore copes with the inevitability of a devastating condition in “Still Alice,” and her decline is both grim and undeniably cinematic. Her emotional and physical transformations serve as the movie's entire plot, and her family's shifting response to her progressing Alzheimer's is just as compelling. In Oscar history, we actually haven't seen too many winning female performances about terminal illness, but one of the first examples that comes to mind is Bette Davis's nominated work in “Dark Victory.” In her third Oscar-nominated role, Davis plays a socialite who learns she has a brain tumor that will cause her to go blind and die within a year. While it's a certainly an example of Old Hollywood acting (and all the grandeur that goes with it), it is a bracing performance over 75 years later. Like in Moore's performance, Davis attracts us to her decline by conveying integrity and a rising sense of urgency.
If you liked JK Simmons in “Whiplash,” watch Louis Gossett Jr. in “An Officer and a Gentleman”
Sometimes the Academy likes giving Oscars to hard-asses who don't back down. Usually this means wins for psychotic roles like Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” or Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” but occasionally it's just a gruff guy with a commanding, cruel tone. See: Louis Gossett Jr. smacking down recruits in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” It's exactly the unbearably tough pseudo-love that JK Simmons achieved in “Whiplash.”
If you liked Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood,” watch Dianne Wiest in “Parenthood”
It's hard to find an exact forebear to Patricia Arquette's performance in “Boyhood” considering it's such an unusual movie, but the truth is her steely, but emotionally grounded work as a supportive, under-thanked mom is quite similar to Dianne Wiest's excellent, Oscar-nominated work in “Parenthood.” Watch this scene in which Wiest's son tries to call up his aloof dad. You want her to meet Patricia Arquette's character from “Boyhood” and hug it out.
If you liked Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything,” watch Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot”
Geniuses in physical decline. What could be a juicier, more Oscar-ready role? Eddie Redmayne's startling work as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” can only be compared to Daniel Day-Lewis' first Oscar-winning performance in “My Left Foot,” where he plays the paralyzed artist and writer Christy Brown. In theory these performances seem like traditional bait for awards — and they are! — but that doesn't mean they lack authenticity and painfully real moments.