November 05, 2008 at 10:17 PM EST

Every year, certain stars receive Oscar campaigns that seem ridiculously pointless (Jack Nicholson for The Bucket List?), while other truly deserving performers get left out of the hype. These three underdog actors probably won’t be getting full big-studio pushes this year. But if you ask me, they should.

Greg Kinnear, Flash of Genius
Universal Pictures’ awards site doesn’t even list Flash as one of its contenders, and I’m told screeners for the film (which admittedly flopped at the box office) won’t be sent out to Academy members. But it’s a shame that most voters won’t get to see Kinnear’s complex performance as inventor Bob Kearns.

Ari Graynor, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Goofy comedy doesn’t usually catch the Academy’s eye, but Graynor, who plays the ditsy, drunk party girl Caroline, is a scene-stealer of the highest order, combining gross-out humor (that toilet-bowl sequence!) with some real tender moments. Nick & Norah screenwriter Lorene Scafaria should also be recognized for her keenly-observed script, which is as memorably hip as Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning Juno.

Michael Kelly, Changeling
Universal lists no fewer than five supporting actor candidates from its Clint Eastwood/Angelina Jolie kidnapping drama. But the guy who really deserves his own push is Kelly, the good-guy detective who discovers what happened to Jolie’s missing son. It’s a star-making performance, notable for its understatement. You’ll have to excuse the name-dropping here, but when I met Jolie this summer for an EW cover story after seeing the film, I mentioned that I thought Kelly was the standout. “Clint was talking about him the other night, that he’s a leading man,” she said. “He’s got that thing.” You hear that, Academy?

addCredit(“Kinnear: Kerry Hayes; Graynor: JoJo Whilden; Kelly: Tony Rivetti, Jr.”)

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