Over the course of award season several actors are going to earn their share of both nominations and awards. However, we’ve had a strong year in terms of both film and memorable performances meaning there are several worthy but under-recognized roles and actors who are likely to slip through the cracks. My love for the top two performances you’ll find inside inspired this list, but I didn’t have to look too hard to fill in the Top 10 Performances from 2013 You May Have Missed.
I may have not been wildly supportive of Lake Bell or her pet project involving the hidden world of voice-over actors, but the best thing about In a World… is Fred Melamed’s performance of the egotistical Sam Soto. A big fish in a small pound, Soto’s legendary voice and status continually feed the man’s insatiable appetites even causing him to try and derail his own daughter’s success. Given his unchecked ego and larger-than-life voice Melamed steals the film.
Brie Larson has a legitimate chance to earn acclaim for her role as the troubled foster care worker in the under-appreciated Short Term 12, but is likely to get beaten out by better known performances and actresses come awards time. That said, I was equally impressed with her much smaller role as the 18 year-old alcoholic Sutter’s (Miles Teller) former girlfriend in The Spectacular Now. While I may not have thought as much of the film as some other critics, Larson’s performance of a young girl understanding that she has to give up an unhealthy love to find any hope of happiness is the kind of real heartbreak and tough decisions the movie could have used far more of. Larson also steals one of the best scenes in Don Juan as the silent sister who finally opens her mouth to offer her brother (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) the support he needs with his parents (Tony Danza, Glenne Headly).
Ender’s Game may have underachieved at the box office but Asa Butterfield proved he was the perfect choice for conveying the complexities of Ender Wiggin, both a hero and villain (especially in his own eyes) who bears the weight of the future of humanity on his pre-teen soldiers. I have loved the book for years but thought it would be hard to adapt given the nature of the title role. Butterfield quickly erases any doubts and reminds us why he is one of the best young actors working today.
Usually one foreign film performance can sneak through the cracks come Oscar time. Although Blue is the Warmest Color is going garner attention for it’s two leading ladies (and if I could I would hand the award for Best Actress to Adèle Exarchopoulos right now), Ziyi Zhang is likely to be forgotten for her superb supporting role as Gong Er, the daughter of the Northern Chinese Grandmaster (Qingxiang Wang) who proves she is far beyond the time-period-imposed limitations of her gender, an equal to Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), and a better to the man (Jin Zhang) who killed her father and ended any chance of her leading a happy life. The scenes between Gong Er and Ip Man, including the flirtateous duel of their first meeting, are the film’s best.
It saddens me that Harmony Korine‘s film is likely going to get overlooked for anything other than perhaps James Franco‘s role (which is certainly worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination) as a low-level drug dealer who fancies himself a gangster and rap sensation. The film is one of the year’s best and, as Franco’s character comments, of the four girls who head south for a wild spring break adventure Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens are indeed the best ones. As the pair who truly embrace the all-corrupting life that opens before them both Benson and Hudgens show untapped depths and prove they each have long careers ahead of them outside of run-of-the-mill romcoms or Disney and ABC Family projects.
Ever since she first appeared in the final arc of Angel‘s Second Season and spoke the lines “Handsome man saves me” I’ve been a fan of Miss Acker, and so apparently has Joss Whedon who chose to cast the actress as the female lead in his version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Although it appears the early love for Whedon’s pet project has passed, my appreciation for Acker’s performance as the sharp-tongued Beatrice, who plays oh so well off her former Angel co-star Alexis Denisof, has not diminished. Although I’m thoroughly enjoying her role of Root on Person of Interest, Acker’s strong turn here makes me hope she may earn a few choice film roles in the near future as well.
There’s so much good to discuss about David O. Russell‘s American Hustle in terms of story, style, and performance that Louis C.K.’s small role as the movie’s only rational character in the film is likely to get overlooked. And that’s a shame as the comedian turned actor is perfectly cast in the role of Bradley Cooper‘s mild-mannered boss who earns only scorn (and even a severe beatdown) for trying to inject some critical thinking and logic into the increasingly out-of-control mission of his agent who looses himself further and further down the rabbit hole while attempting to take down mobsters and politicians.
Sofia Coppola‘s film has a number of performances likely to be overlooked, including all the young members of the Bling Ring, but Leslie Mann’s performance as one of the parents in the film who homeschools all three girls with the kind of pop culture religious psychology that is both bitingly satiric and whimsically sad is simply too good not to make this list. We see the woman’s warped logic come into play on the young girls throughout the film, particularly Emma Watson‘s character of Nicki whose basic misunderstanding of how the world works can be traced right back to her mother. And the scenes where Mann somehow earnestly spouts her life lessons directly to the young women (including using a collage of Angelina Jolie), all somehow with a straight face, have to be seen to be believed.
It’s unlikely Alan Tudyk will earn any major award or recognition for his role as racist Phillies manager Ben Chapman, but it’s the most shocking performance I witnessed all year. Known best for his role of Wash in Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity, and a handful of light comedic roles such as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Death at a Funeral, Tudyk’s dark dramatic turn is wholly unexpected and difficult to watch as the hate-spewing coach never lets up on Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) spouting racial slurs and insults in the middle of multiple live baseball games. For an actor to take such a role so outside his comfort zone and, in baseball terms hit a home run, is amazing to watch.