In an alternate universe, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Joaquin Phoenix, Oscar Isaac and – oh, I don’t know – Hugh Jackman raise a glass this morning and toast the Best Actor nominations that never came to pass.

The Best Actor category at this year’s Academy Awards always seemed like it was destined to be a "Murderer’s Row." So many outstanding performers delivered what can be described as Oscar-worthy performance. Yet, the cold, hard reality of the Oscar ceremony is that there are five slots open, no matter how many willing and worthy candidates throw their names into the ring for consideration.

For the record, Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey did make the cut… and even though I don’t care for the vastly overrated American Hustle, I’m not going to protest Bale’s nomination. All five are worthy. The five men I mentioned above are worthy, as well.

So what the hell happened? How did Hanks go from an assumed two-slot nominee (many thought he’d get into Supporting Actor for Saving Mr. Banks as well as here or Captain Phillips) to an empty-handed A-lister this morning? How did Redford get overlooked after shouldering ALL of the amazing All Is Lost?

We can spend weeks reading the tea leaves – and because the Oscar ceremony is still more than a month away, we likely will waste all of that time. My guess is that Hanks split his attention between two performances, and ended up on the short end of the nominee stick in both instances. The Academy liked Captain Phillips. It earned nods for Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. I’m not sure how you nominate the film and MISS Hanks, but I agree that his best scene was in the final minutes of the film. Perhaps Academy members didn’t make it that far before ejecting their screeners.

Robert Redford

Redford is more of a puzzle. Viewed as Hollywood royalty, the actor turns in a mesmerizing performance as a doomed sailor in J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost. The picture was shut out of all categories. Yes, Redford has won an Oscar before, for directing Ordinary People. He also received an Honorary statue in 2002. Does the Academy simply feel that enough is enough? If so, that’s sad. The 71-year-old won’t have many more feature-lead opportunities. He deserved a nod.

The same could be said for Phoenix, Isaac and Jackman, though Prisoners never caught on with the Academy. At the same time, I’m not sure who you’d pull from the category. This year happened to be an embarrassment of riches in the performance category. (For a similarly stacked category, just look to Best Actress.)

At the very least, if Tom Hanks needs to drown his sorrows with a friend, he can call his also-shut-out Saving Mr. Banks co-star, Emma Thompson. Someone order them two spoonfuls of sugar. It might help these snubs go down.

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