2013 was a year with many standout performances. But, like every year, there are many that have been overlooked for the more “showy” performances. Because of that, I wanted to make sure that some of the more underrated performances are recognized. What actors are you rooting for despite believing they have zero chances? Which actors do you think I unjustly left off my list? This year is packed with wonderful performers-it was difficult to narrow it down to just ten!
10. Chris Hemsworth (Rush) It may seem bizarre to have Thor on an under-appreciated list but despite coming back as one of our Marvel favorites, he also gave a truly fantastic performances as formula one driver James Hunt in Ron Howard’s Rush. As Hunt he was all energy, whether it be the adrenaline pre-race that dominated his mind and body or anxious energy whenever he was off the track and trying to occupy his mind. Daniel Bruhl is deservedly getting most of the praise but any other year Hemsworth may have been a serious contender for the Leading Actor race. Charismatic and possessing a true Hollywood “it” factor, he was genuine joy to watch.
9. James Franco (Spring Breakers) People are beginning to discount this performance as a joke due to the studio putting out Oscar “in contention ads”-but the fact of the matter is that Franco gave one of the best performances of the year as Alien in the satirical Spring Breakers. He was utterly unrecognizable as the stuff obsessed Alien and gave one of his best performances in years because he put his all into it, never playing lines for jokes unless they were meant to and managing to ground the larger than life character.
8. Waad Mohammed (Wadjda)This was a great year for child actors as they continue to prove to be just as naturally gifted as their more mature contemporaries and Mohammed is a perfect example. She gives a soulful and innocent performance that equals any practiced actresses. It’s even more of a slight that she’ll be seeing so little recognition now that Wadjda isn’t in the race for best foreign picture. It was a uniformly sweet film riddled with sentiment with a confident young lead at the forefront.
7. Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station) Diaz had the less showy role in this year’s phenomenal film Fruitvale Station as Oscar’s (Michael B. Jordan-also fantastic) girlfriend. Diaz has been around for a few years, filtering in and out of projects with typically little notice but always leaving a mark. She’s effortless in her delivery’s and was possibly my favorite part of the entire film-she was our main look at how Oscar affected people and the way she is defiant, charming, in love all comes so naturally that we really feel like we’re watching a real person rather than a shadow of one. There’s a lot to love about the film-she’s simply a highlight.
6. Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)I went into Frances Ha not expecting to like it and mainly due to the fact that typically I can’t stand the characters Gerwig plays: well, I feel ridiculous since I’ve rarely identified more with a character than her recent turn as Frances. The incredible aspect of Gerwig’s performance is that you never question it-she is a real person, her motives are understandable, her dreams relatable and her doubts easy to emphasize with. As much as I loathe to use this word, her performance sticks because of its authenticity.
5. Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12) The “So You Know What It’s Like” rap may be one of the most singular standout cinematic moments of 2013-and it was all due to the character Marcus played wonderfully by Stanfield. He was raw emotions whether they be happy, angry or lonely due to Stanfield’s honest performance. This was film with an enormously gifted cast-two cast members end up on this list-but Marcus presented the heart of the film, the character who’s story arc and happiness was rooted for the most.
4. Brie Larson (Short Term 12)It would be remiss of me to not mention Brie Larson’s start turning portrayal of Grace. She’s been around for quite some time but delivered he tour de force as a young woman battling inner demons while helping kids not much younger than herself face off with their own. She successfully portrays the old soul mindset while making sure she also captures her characters fragility. It’s a beautifully acted character by an actress who seemingly has just begun to show us what she can do.
3. Adepero Oduye (12 Years a Slave)If Pariah didn’t open your eyes to this actress hopefully 12 Years a Slave will. 12 Years a Slave was a film with a wealth of talent-Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor all delivering awards worthy performances-but hidden amongst them was Oduye as a gem of a performance. She didn’t get as much focused screen time but she made the most of the time she was given as a heartbroken mother separated from her children. Her grief feels real and it’s harrowing to see a woman that stricken by it that she hardly recognizes the dire situation she’s in herself. I left the film wondering whatever happened to her character, or if I’d even want to know. She leaves her mark for the entirety of the film.
2. Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color) Has the term “breakthrough” been ever more appropriate? She was an unknown before this film and with this role she deserves every and all accolades being shoved her way. Her performances as Adele was stunningly unsettling as she possessed an unconscious confidence that made it seem like she wasn’t even acting. It was a path of self-discovery and with her at the helm we never felt the three hour runtime, rather enjoying watching her grow and live. In the end our purist home is that this character gets her happy ending. Adele was flawed, broken, and human and Exarchopoulos arguably gave the best female performance of the year-if the Oscars were a fair system she would undoubtedly be receiving a nomination.
1. Simon Pegg (The Worlds End) Listen, I haven’t shut up about this performance since I saw it in August. I just thought Simon Pegg was phenomenal as Gary King. It would be easy to just go for the cheap laughs, the well played comic timing and let it rest at that for the character: have it be a shallow character rather than one with as much nuance as it did. Gary King is a character riddled with complexities-on the surface he’s unlikeable, a manipulator, but as the movie progresses and we see his deconstruction into this broken, lonely middle aged man we realize the true being behind the façade that he so wonderfully plays and that wouldn’t be possible without Pegg’s performance-the best of his career. He managed to say one thing as his face told the audience another. He was heartbreaking, uncomfortably masquerading, he was funny too (which is why I’d assume he’s being so woefully ignored by any form of awards recognition) but it was the gravitas he gave the drunken Gary King that made his performance, especially the breakdown sequence, so lasting. He was the drunken, sad clown personified, all manic energy covering a deeper, sadder human being.
Special mentions to those who didn’t fit on my list but had nice moments regardless: Emma Watson (The Bling Ring), John Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12), Steve Coogan (Philomena) Jason Schwartzman & Paul Giamatti (Saving Mr. Banks), Josh Gad (Frozen), Ziyi Zhang (The Grandmaster), Robin Weigert (Concussion), Bradley Cooper & Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines), Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color), Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis) and so many more wonderful performances.