2014 has been a fantastic year for performances so much so that performances have more than outshined their respective films and in a lot of cases saved the film from being dull or run-of-the-mill. Please note that I am not splitting up the acting categories into Best Lead and Best Supporting as I feel that every role is equal if good enough.
Without further adieu, here are my nominees for ‘Best Actor’ –
Michael Keaton – ‘Birdman’
Michael Keaton delivers a fantastic performance in an otherwise average film and truly elevates the quality of the film and the cast around him, add to that the very meta script with many correlations that can be drawn between ‘Birdman’ and ‘Batman’ which Keaton fully embraces in his performance.
Benedict Cumberbatch – ‘The Imitation Game’
Benedict Cumberbatch turns what could have been a very cold and distant character into a sincere and relatable performance which is no easy feat as we have seen time again actors, when playing similar characters, resort to the easy method of making the character distant and almost sociopathic, but instead Cumberbatch truly humanised what was a brilliant, yet flawed man and although the film may take it easy on Turing, Cumberbatch’s performance remained consistently exceptional throughout.
Jake Gyllenhaal – ‘Nightcrawler’
Jake Gyllenhaal was absolutely absorbed into his character in ‘Nightcrawler’, he was utterly unrecognisable and thoroughly convincing in his portrayal as a slimy, sleazy and dark character who is only out for himself. I was never a huge fan of Gyllenhaal’s but his performance in ‘Nightcrawler’ has made him stand out to me as one of the best actors working right now, such a phenomenal performance.
Tom Hardy – Locke
‘Locke’ is a character sat in a car for 90 minutes, talking to people on the phone yet Tom Hardy’s performance makes it easily one of the most compelling films of 2014 and further cements the fact that he is an acting force upon himself.
Ellar Coltrane – ‘Boyhood’
Imagine being an awkward 15 year old teenager again, going through puberty, feeling miserable some days and just angry on other days, discovering the changes your body is going through, then imagine a film crew turns up and expects you to act in front of the camera for a few weeks. That was Ellar Coltrane’s life for 12 years with Linklater shoving a camera in his face throughout yet despite all of that, Coltrane managed to deliver an absolutely fantastic performance that remained consistent throughout the entire 12 years. It’s astounding when you think about it that Coltrane started out as a child actor with no previous film performances to his name and not only consistently delivered a fantastic performance but also managed to outshine acting veterans like Ethan Hawke.
Miles Teller – ‘Whiplash’
Miles Teller is one of the best young actors working today, he can deliver the funniest joke of a film and within the next sentence absolutely break your heart. ‘Whiplash’ is his second best performance, in my opinion, behind his phenomenal role in ‘The Spectacular Now’. However, let’s not discount how much raw talent it takes to not only be in almost every scene of a film whilst keeping the audience gripped but also display a full range of emotions through his facial expressions and body language while he is drumming. You can feel his despair, his rage, his fear, everything and it’s amazing.
J.K. Simmons – ‘Whiplash’
Miles Teller was amazing in ‘Whiplash’, however J.K. Simmons is utterly phenomenal and i have no doubt that he will get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Simmons brings so much rage and a domineering presence to the screen that at times you want to look away at this monster, but you can’t, you’re in awe of him and that takes something very special.
Ben Affleck – ‘Gone Girl’
Ben Affleck was perfect for ‘Gone Girl’, at times you felt sorry for him, empathised with his situation and hoped everything would turn out ok for him, then in the next scene you suspected him of being a murderer, hoping he would get locked up or killed and then again, in another scene he would just become a smug prick. This role is incredibly multi-faceted and Affleck pulls it off in style.
Steve Carell – ‘Foxcatcher’
Steve Carell is almost unrecognisable in ‘Foxcatcher’ not only is he playing against type as an eccentric, shady multi-millionaire but he changed every aspect of who he is in order to convincingly do so, his voice, his way of speaking, body language, everything changed to fit this eccentric character and it worked excellently.
Channing Tatum – ‘Foxcatcher’
Who would have thought that the guy from ‘Step Up’ and ‘21 Jump Street’ would be such a great dramatic actor? Not me for sure, yet he successfully goes toe-to-toe against both Ruffalo and Carell in the acting department and manages to hold his own.
Mark Ruffalo – ‘Foxcatcher’
Mark Ruffalo delivered what could have been quite a flashy role in a subtle and nuanced way which worked brilliantly for the film. Instead of chewing the scenery and commanding the spotlight, the subtlety and almost softness of his performance is what makes him shine in a film filled with great performances.
Andy Serkis – ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’
There is always an argument any year Serkis delivers a fantastic performance between film fans not agreeing that he is left out come awards season with the awarding bodies claiming that the performance isn’t real due to CGI where fans claim that CGI is just the next generation of make-up. I stand somewhere in the middle, however there is no doubting that Serkis consistently delivers fantastic performances, from Gollum, to Caesar, to Kong, Serkis humanises them all.
Ralph Fiennes – ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’
Ralph Fiennes, who is generally regarded as a serious, dramatic actor in a Wes Anderson comedy? Too weird to work, right? Wrong. Fiennes is not only utterly convincing but genuinely hilarious in his delivery of the script but also makes Monsieur Gustave relatable and seem like a real person, which in a Wes Anderson film is a very rare quality.
Macon Blair – ‘Blue Ruin’
Macon Blair came out of nowhere, much like this film and shocked me. The performance is subtle with a slight sense of crazy and it works brilliantly with the film, I definitely look forward to see what his next project is.
Domhnall Gleeson – ‘Frank’
Domhnall Gleeson is our introduction to Frank and his crazy bandmates, now this role could have easily been a complete disaster if it had a few missteps as is usually the case when dealing with mental illness but Gleeson plays the role absolutely perfectly yet still managed to be extremely funny and seem like he was genuinely having fun with the role.
Michael Fassbender – ‘Frank’
It takes a special kind of actor to pull off having an oversized paper-machiér head on throughout almost the entirety of the film yet also deliver a heartwarming performance, but Fassbender pulls it off seemingly effortlessly and utterly convincingly.
Eddie Redmayne – ‘The Theory of Everything’
Playing Stephen Hawking could have been done in a multitude of different ways, almost none of them good. There is always the chance of hamming it up, getting overly complex and emotional or even making him seem like a distant person but fuck me, Redmayne was utterly perfect as Stephen Hawking, playing the role down to the letter, it blew me away how much Redmayne convinced me in the role. Even Hawking said that in some scenes he thought it was himself, that is a feat very few actors reach and Redmayne pulled it off in an extremely dignified yet playful manner. Perfect, utterly perfect.
And the winner is …
Eddie Redmayne for ‘The Theory of Everything’. No performance this year impressed me more than Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking, every line delivery, every facial expression, every body movement, every syllable uttered by Redmayne, it was all perfect.