Ten Best Performances from 2014 not nominated for an Academy Award

The 2015 Academy Award nominations were recently announced and as usual, there are plenty of people’s favorites absent from the list – No LEGO MOVIE for Best Animation? But I like to focus my concentration on the performances. I wouldn’t say I was necessarily upset with the nominees (click the link to read the list), but I did think a few on my list were probably more deserving. It’s tough to narrow the year’s best to five in a category so here are my top ten best performances from 2014 not nominated for an Academy Award. As usual, I got carried away and ran a little longer than ten. Who did I leave off?

15. Tom Cruise in EDGE OF TOMORROW – I can’t help feeling that Cruise’s superstardom status and crazy antics in his personal life overshadow the fact that he is a talented actor. He shines as the cowering privileged soldier before becoming the hardcore wrecking machine in this exhilarating action-packed, sci-fi version of GROUNDHOG DAY.

Chris Pratt as Star Lord (Peter Quill)

14. Chris Pratt in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – I would have chosen Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, but since he deservedly was nominated for AMERICAN SNIPER, I’ll shift my choice to the comedic shenanigans of Chris Pratt as Star Lord. Clearly, I don’t think he deserved to be nominated, but it was a pretty fantastic performance which was one of the many reasons that elevated this Marvel movie into one of the most fun films of the year.

13. Rene Russo in NIGHTCRAWLER – Besides a small part in a couple of Thor movies, we haven’t seen a lot of Russo in the last ten years. She came out swinging in NIGHTCRAWLER as a late night news producer with zero ethics. Her moral indifference was a great reflection on our society’s tendency to not take responsibility and even take advantage of shady operations.

12. Andy Serkis in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Sooner or later Andy Serkis is going to get a special Oscar for his performance capture roles comprising of: motion capture acting, animation, and voice work. His most famous role as Gollum in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was just the beginning. Now as Caesar in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES he brings life, soul, and even physicality to a character that isn’t actually there except by computer generation. Serkis and the special effects are the reason to see this movie.

Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year

11. Jessica Chastain in A MOST VIOLENT YEAR – Chastain gives a ruthless performance balancing the cold, harsh mobster mentality with being the supportive wife of an ambitious businessman who refuses to play dirty when his business and family are under attack.

10. Brendan Gleeson in CALVARY – Another strong performance from a man who has been a constant bright light in every movie he’s been in, no matter how small the part. Gleeson is perfect in an excellent film about a genuinely kind priest whose life is threaten during a confessional.

9. Jenny Slate in OBVIOUS CHILD – A sweet little film about the modern dilemma of an unplanned pregnancy. Awkwardly funny and dark, the film works because of Slate’s likability through unflattering situations.

8. Jack O’Connell in UNBROKEN – This young actor is absolutely magnetic in the inspiring true story of Louis Zamperini. I guarantee we will be seeing a lot more of O’Connell as he becomes a big star.

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

7. Matthew McConaughey in INTERSTELLAR – I did not think McConaughey should have even been nominated, let alone win, for his performance in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. I liken it to this year’s Eddie Redmayne’s nomination, predictably nominated because of the character being physically challenged. Both are good performances but there were so many better ones to recognize. Ironically, I believe he gives his best performance to date (besides TV’s True Detective) in a movie that is getting very little love during award season. I confess, his performance in INTERSTELLAR drained me emotionally through wet salty discharge from my eyeballs.

6. David Oyelowo in SELMA – I really liked SELMA but it got about as much award recognition as it deserves when compared to the other great films this year. The problem is mediocre films like THE IMITATION GAME and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING got too much attention.  Nevertheless, Oyelowo’s performance as Martin Luther King Jr. is clearly the standout, keeping King grounded as person. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see his name come up again for future films during award seasons.

Snowpiercer

5. Tilda Swinton in SNOWPIERCER – How much greater would it have been to nominate Swinton’s insanely over-the-top performance in SNOWPIERCER over Meryl Streep’s rather generic one in INTO THE WOODS? Don’t get me wrong, Meryl is a goddess when it comes to acting, but the film was subpar at best and almost anyone could have pulled off her rendition had they had the opportunity. Tilda brought a unique take that helped elevate the tone of her film to greatness.

4. Essie Davis in THE BABADOOK – I want more attention to this Australian horror film. It works on many levels and Davis’ honest yet frightening turn as a loving albeit exhausted single mother is a performance that should not be taken lightly. Go see this movie and judge for yourself.

3. Miles Teller in WHIPLASH – J.K. Simmons is rightfully getting a lot of attention for his performance as the excessive music professor. Unfortunately, Teller seems to have been forgotten by the wayside. Well it takes two to tango in this brilliant piece of work and Miles Teller more than holds his own. He goes head to head with the same obsessiveness just with a different quieter take. I noticed his talent in 2010’s RABBIT HOLE and I’m glad to see he’s proven himself every year since.

Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel

2. Ralph Fiennes in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – I love Wes Anderson almost as much as my wife does, but my favorite aspect of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL was not Anderson’s signature art direction but rather Ralph Fiennes all-in performance. Is there anything this guy can’t do?

1. Jake Gyllenhaal in NIGHTCRAWLER – Other than LEGO MOVIE not getting a nominated for Best Animated Film or BIRDMAN’s rhythmic drumming beat being disqualified for Best Score, the biggest slide at the Oscars was Jake Gyllenhaal’s incredibly dark and sociopathic performance in NIGHTCRAWLER. Easily his best performance to date and arguable the best performance of the year.

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