Monday, January 4, 2016

2015's Most Underrated Performances

In a rare year such as 2015, where a cloudy Oscar forecast looms over nearly every major race, pinpointing my most underrated performances of the year can be quite challenging. Every performance I am selecting has missed out on both a Golden Globe and SAG nominations, making their chances of slipping into the final five at the Academy Awards minuscule at best. Let me also state that it was a difficult list to whittle down. I began with around 20 finalists and was forced to cut the field in half. But here they are, 2015's most underrated performances:

#10. Greta Gerwig - Mistress America

As a staple in Noah Baumbach's lengthy filmography, Greta Gerwig gives an unforgettable turn in the 2015 indie comedy, Mistress America. In her co-starring role, she keeps the audience on their toes with her riotous one-liners that share moments of mature profoundness coupled with complete idiocy. Gerwig's character, Brooke, is an energetic and ambitious mess. A maturing woman who wants to try and succeed at anything and everything. Gerwig does a remarkable job of bringing the character to life, all while entertaining the audience in the process.

#9. Domhnall Gleeson - Ex Machina

In one of the year's finest cerebral offerings, Domhnall Gleeson continues to illustrate his notable acting chops throughout Alex Garland's Ex Machina. As an impressionable, albeit scientifically gifted, individual selected to participate in a secretive test for his mysterious employer, Caleb (Gleeson) is introduced to the world's first passable A.I. robot. Tasked with conducting a week of interviews with this sophisticated machinery named Ava, Caleb must decide if she meets all the necessary requirements of demonstrating human qualities. You'll need to see the rest yourself, but witnessing Domhnall Gleeson's slow psychological deterioration is something worth savoring.

#8. Henry Cavill - The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

As a harsh critic of Henry Cavill's most recognizable role as Clark Kent in the Man of Steel reboot, I'll also be the first to admit that Cavill discovers his most suitable character in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guy Ritchie's high-octane action-comedy. Starring as Napolean Solo, a 1960s CIA agent who prefers working alone, Cavill's sleek performance feels effortless. His Bond-like charm and wit make him the quintessential super-spy and, not only is Cavill masterful in the role, he validates himself as a leading star. 

#7. Julie Walters - Brooklyn

The only issue hindering Julie Walters from landing much higher on this list is the size of her role in John Crowley's wonderful romantic drama, Brooklyn. Leading lady, Saoirse Ronan, is all but assured a spot in the Best Actress category, but co-star Julie Walters is unforgettable as her landlord. The comedy rolls off her tongue with ease as the humor works to complement this wonderful 1950s love story. Walters' screen time is awfully minimal but she makes the most of every second and creates a lasting impression with the supporting role.

#6. Joel Edgerton - The Gift

Almost as impressive as his co-starring work in one of this year's biggest surprise thrillers, The Gift, Joel Edgerton offers a remarkable big-picture effort as both the film's writer and director. After Simon returns to his home town with his wife to start a new chapter in their lives, he runs into Gordo (Edgerton), an old childhood acquaintance. They both carry a deep secret that Simon's wife goes to great lengths to unravel. Edgerton is priceless in the supporting role, he's a blank slate of mystery and intrigue. Boasting an earth-shattering finale that sticks with you long past the credits role, The Gift is a rare darkly psychological treat.

#5. Juliette Binoche - Clouds of Sils Maria

Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Alps, Juliette Binoche stars as an actress in the twilight of her career asked to star in a revival of the play that brought her fame. Except this time around, she's asked to play the role of the older and emotionally weaker woman. Clouds of Sil Maria unfolds like a dialogue-driven play that examines the bitterness of coming to terms with aging. Binoche is magnificent in this tender character study that admittedly struggles to engage the audience. Nonetheless, Binoche's work is admirable and the performance is a testament to her Oscar-winning talents.

#4. Mark Stanley - Kilo Two Bravo

While Mark Stanley's most recognizable role undoubtedly comes from his work on HBO's mega-hit, Game of Thrones, a show in which I've never actually seen, his phenomenal turn in the vastly overlooked war drama, Kilo Two Bravo, stands as one of the year's finest performances. Centered around the true story of a company of British soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, Stanley stars as Tug, the on-sight medical specialist who responds to an incident in an active mine field. Severely injured and trapped in an environment where the slightest movement may cost them their lives, Tug must put on his bravest face to assist his brothers in arms. This heart-pounding and intense journey is given a human element thanks to Mark Stanley's exceptional onscreen effort.

#3. Samuel L. Jackson - The Hateful Eight

The finest performers in any Quentin Tarantino film can never be counted out of Oscar contention, although I find it very unlikely that Samuel L. Jackson will make the final cut. Therefore, I'll gladly chalk him up as one of the most underrated performances of the year. Co-starring as bounty hunter and former Union officer, Major Marquis Warren, Jackson gives a hilarious and committed turn that's vital to the film's success. He steals the show with hysterical zingers that could only come from the twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino. In fact, Jackson may have climbed a little higher on this list if the performance was more under the radar. Yet, everyone's fully aware of the longtime Tarantino collaborator's outstanding role in The Hateful Eight.

#2. Olivia Cooke - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

In the year's finest film, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Olivia Cooke gives a towering performance as a cancer-stricken teen who must come to terms with her own mortality. This Sundance winning entry takes a typical premise and transforms it into something so exceptional and sincere. Sporting a wonderfully heart-filled and funny script that's unveiled through director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's, keen eye, Olivia Cooke breeds enormous life to her appealing character. Cooke and co-star Thomas Mann even combine in a pivotal Oscar-caliber scene that hammers home the power of this brilliant film. Unfortunately, though, the Academy and other major outlets don't seem to agree.

#1. Jason Segel - The End of the Tour

The most tragic omission from this year's awards season circus is Jason Segel's phenomenal turn in James Ponsoldt's adapted drama, The End of the Tour. It's a very personal film focusing on the late-American novelist, David Foster Wallace (Segel), and the brief five-day interview he shared with Rolling Stone Magazine reporter, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). Segel's perfectly nuanced performance as the insightful and existential author of Infinite Jest is an absolute marvel. Not only is Segel's commitment to the role worthy of recognition, but the level of execution is remarkable in its own right. Sadly, his career-best work will come and go without garnering the amount of attention it so truly deserves.

1 comment:

  1. but segel's performance will be remembered by those who saw the film. the overall audience has been just too small, at least this year.