Pete Postlethwaite did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Danny in Brassed Off.
Postlethwaite was actually in six films in 1996 including his best of show performance in Romeo + Juliet, and his enjoyable if over the top portrayal of a monk who is a wannabe poet in Dragonheart. I actually have not seen all of the films, but Postlethwaite was one of the most consistent character actors of 90's and one of the best examples of his talent was in this film. Postlethwaite plays the conductor of the band who is the largest source of comedy for most of the film as his character Danny seems far more interested in the success of the band than the success of the mine. Although many of the men are pretty cynical of the whole thing that will not be found in Danny especially not in the way Postlethwaite plays the part.
Postlethwaite makes Danny a source of comedic gold through his completely no nonsense performance actually. In any of the band scenes Postlethwaite is absolutely hilarious because of just how dead serious he is as he conducts the band. This is not just some sort of mundane task or even an extra activity for fun this is the most important business of life in the way Postlethwaite performs the part. There is nothing but the utmost determination in his work that works in two ways. One he does make it genuine that Danny feels this way as the band is a matter of pride, but it is also very funny because he so believably shows a man who is so deadly serious about something that most don't really care too much about.
Postlethwaite's seriousness only continues to be effective though in some great moments earlier on the film where there are some double entendre moments in the dialogue. Really these moments could have fallen ridiculously flat in just the pitch of them but the reason they work so well is because of Postlethwaite. In one moment the jealous wives of other band members question the inclusion of the only young female player. Everything the women imply about her is in a most sexual fashion, but Postlethewaite makes it funny because every response by Danny is slightly bewildered yet completely firm on the fact that she simply is very talented. Really there probably would not be many laughs at all if it were not for Postlethewaite's stone faced delivery.
Of course the laughs rather abruptly stop in the film once the mine actually closes and old Danny even collapses from a mine related illness. This quickly leads Danny into a change of heart as he finally values people more than the band. This is a fast transition but handled well by Postlethwaite in a scene of reflection as the band plays just for him, then his important final speech after the band successfully won a national competition. The film itself really does hammer in its message like ten too many times since it does just keep saying the things over and over again instead maybe doing a little more with the characters.
The final time the film's message is given though, other than one more printed message, is in the speech by Danny. It's the best moment for it's message because Postlethwaite is the one delivering it. He just brings such a intense passion in his delivery that he gives the film a powerful bang at the end that has nothing to do with any brass instrument. This is a very good performance from Pete Postlethwaite as he brings such an abundance of humor to the first well about eighty percent of his performance, many actors may have not been able to bridge the transition. Postlethwaite, with the little time he has, manages to connect the two sides and give an emotionally poignant performance as well.