Our four-week Top 5 of the best performances of 2014 winds down with the hardest of the categories. Naturally, many of the actors we highlight in our Top 5 have movies that are up for awards at the Oscars this coming Sunday. Let us know what you think of our choices and make sure to keep the conversation all the way until the Academy Awards get going this coming Sunday!
5) Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel – Snub is a sensationalistic and inaccurate description when an actor gets overlooked for an Oscar nomination. However, Fiennes not getting a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as M. Gustave can be considered a travesty. He is at his absolute finest as the proficient and legendary concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel. His performance is comedically brilliant, has the right amount of quirk for a Wes Anderson film, and also possesses an authority and charm befitting of a man who is supposed to be a great leader and an gentleman’s gentleman. It’s amazing how Fiennes disappears in this role and it seems like he just cannot be the same guy who played Voldemort or Gareth Mallory. Simply spectacular from this great actor! –Josh
4) Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – It has been said before that if Andy Serkis is not going to get nominated in an acting category for his incredible motion capture performances, then the Academy needs to create a new category to recognize his work. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes works because the apes no longer look like confused humans in rubber suits– they look, and act, and feel in a way that you completely forget they are not real. That is what good motion capture does and that is why Serkis is redefining how we should think of this category. –Fizz
3) Michael Keaton, Birdman – He’s back and he seems like the same man that killed it as Batman and Beetlejuice all those years ago. He’s up for an Oscar for his performance as Riggan Thompson as Birdman and my prediction is that he will win it. Just like Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Keaton’s comedic timing is absolutely impeccable. There is a frantic sincerity in his performance that drives along the narrative at the same pace as the continuous take of the camera. He’s got such a great chemistry in the funnier moments with Ed Norton and he tones it down considerably for his more heart-filled moments with members of his family. I’m still interested to see if he can reprise a more dramatic role, but this role fits him perfectly and I’m very excited Keaton has three movies in post and pre-production. An Oscar would only add to the clamor around his triumphant return to leading roles. -Josh
2) Brendan Gleeson, Calvary – In a world of film that really doesn’t have a good idea of how to portray faith in film without going to one extreme or the other, Calvary manages to give us a picture of a priest who is humble, yet stern. Even with good material, finding the right person who could pull off Father James who could encapsulate both those traits couldn’t have been easy. Gleeson navigates the role with an outer sarcasm about the world and its ideas but never allows you to think for a second that he does not love it– even when it mocks him to his face. His performance not only makes you long to have him shepherding your local flock, but gives the film’s climax the punch it aims for. –Fizz
1) David Oyelowo, Selma – Remember what I said about Ralph Fiennes and snubs? If there was ever a performance that could be worthy of a snub rant, it would be David Oyelowo’s performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Oyelowo is a magician! He absolutely Cooperfields it and disappears in his role as MLK. Not only does he look incredibly similar, but he has the calming confidence and fiery passion of the preacher and civil rights leader. As the movie opens he’s got that Atlanta southern drawl and a touch of humanity as he fusses over his ascot with Coretta Scott King. It’s a very human look at a legendary man and Oyelowo balances the public persona and private man of MLK with deft savvy and dramatic aptitude. If he had been nominated for the Oscar, I would bet my pre-ordered Blu-Ray copy of this movie on it! –Josh