Well, it should've gone to Washington for his breathtaking performance in this biopic from 2000. Washington captures the very essence of the different modes of "Hurricane" Carter, a man wrongly incarcerated for a crime that he didn't commit. Washington superbly displays the various sides of this most complex man: anger, defiance, reflection, intelligence, humility, and perseverance. As others have hypothesized, Denzel's win for "Training Day" was a reward for Academy oversights for earlier tremendous performances...and his work in "The Hurricane" ranks as one of his best.
Besides the work of Washington, the film benefits from marvelous turns from co-star Vicellous Reon Shannon as a young man enamored of the boxer and determined to right the wrong that has befallen Carter. The young man possesses the right amount of "wide-eyed innocence" as he confronts a man that he discovers in a long-forgotten autobiography. Who cannot be moved when man and boy share a tender moment by touching through the bars of the convict's cell???
This kid deserved a supporting acting nod, if nothing less.
And a film that sports such stellar character performers as Rod Steiger, Debbi Morgan, Dan Hedaya, Harris Yulen, Clancy Brown, and David Paymer is a cut above the others. Liv Shrieber, Deborah Unger, and John Hannah are wonderful as Canadians that assist Shannon's "Lesra" as the lad works to free his friend.
While there are a few slow moments, the overall film is worth viewing...and owning.