Gene Hackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Harry Zimm in Get Shorty.
Gene Hackman plays the man who seems to potentially be Chili's "in" into the industry as a B-movie producer that Chili comes across due to the various debts the man owes. Now Hackman comes into the film, and instantly seems like he'll be a highlight of it just from the way he so earnestly ponders about what happened to the dog woman he's sleeping next to, though not sleeping with. Things only continue along this course for the rest of the film every time in which Hackman makes an appearance. Hackman interestingly does not really play Harry with much sleaze, though it would have been easy to see how the character could have gone that way, considering his shady dealings, and that some his actions are not exactly the most noble. Oddly enough Hackman plays Harry Zimm in a rather likable fashion, and it certainly would be easy enough for Hackman to go despicable since he's certainly quite good at that as well. Hackman instead plays Zimm with kinda of a twinkle of sorts in his eye as a wannabe Hollywood player himself, just the strange thing happens to be that Harry has managed to fairly successful in his making of B-movie creature features.
Hackman's performance is actually rather essential for Harry working as a character, or at least making much sense in his existence. Harry again is kinda sleazy in his own short cuts at getting ahead, as it does not even seem like he's above potentially selling someone else out, and obviously has difficulties with his own abundance of debts, yet Harry is indeed left standing by the end of the film with no one seeming to mind him in fact many seem to like him. Again this works because of Hackman's endearing portrayal of Harry with this certain constant energy of his presence. Hackman makes Harry very active with this whole up beat quality to him that is more inspiring than off-putting, as Harry is always trying to work some sort of angle which Hackman handles in with an engaging vigor about it. What's so good about this is that Harry not very good what he does, and Hackman is so much fun in basically putting a smile on Harry's face every time he falls flat on that same face with every foolish decision he makes. The audience and Chili probably should hate Harry for all his shenanigans, but due to the way that Hackman portrays them you never do, and it is convincing that Chili doesn't either.
Hackman is a hoot here and the remarkable thing is just how effortless Hackman is in achieving that. Hackman makes Harry a hilarious character yet there is never a time when Hackman seems to actively be trying for laughs, it always feels very much within what should be Harry's behavior in any given situation. This works so well because of how vividly Hackman manages to draw Harry as character. Hackman ends being funny just by making Harry be Harry, and his behavior just ends up being comedic gold. This is particularly needed for one part of the story where Harry deals with one of Chili's gangster associates. Harry tries to act tough with the guy over the phone, Hackman who certainly can be quite intimidating when he wants to be, is just wonderful in not being menacing in the least as Harry is all bluster in his attempt to be tough guy. This leads quite quickly to Harry being brutally beaten ending up with two broken hands as well as several bruises. This scene potentially could have messed up the film's tone but Hackman manages to maintain it by making the beaten Harry just so amusing, while in no way underplaying the amount of pain he suffered. Hackman just always finds the right approach for the material, and this is yet just another strong performance from the great actor.