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For Your Consideration: 5 Lead Performances That Deserve Oscar Recognition

by Oliver Lyttelton
December 20, 2012 12:05 PM
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For Your Consideration Actors 2012

Oscar voting got underway this week with a January 3rd deadline that, between Christmas and New Year, will be on us before we know it. And so, with only a few weeks left to catch up in theaters and work through screeners, we wanted to pick out a few names who've been otherwise overlooked by prognosticators and experts in the conversation to date.

Yesterday, we took a look at some of the supporting actors, and today, we're putting the spotlight on the leads. Right now, the categories are more or less locked up with heavyweights like Daniel Day-Lewis and Jessica Chastain as the likely front-runners, but there's still lots of room. And while the odds of recognition for the five performers below are slim, we'd say that they absolutely deserve to sit alongside those whose chances are more realistic. Take a look at our picks below, and let us know who you'd cast your vote for in the comments section.

Denis Lavan In Leos Carax's "Holy Motors"
Denis Lavant - "Holy Motors"
The performance of 2012 isn't even going to scratch the surface of an Oscar longlist; Denis Lavant is virtually unknown to voters, he's not campaigning, the film was barely seen in the U.S., and being a foreign language flick presents another hurdle (it remains to be seen if even Emmanuelle Riva or Marion Cotillard will make the cut for their respective films). But one can only imagine that, if enough adventurous Academy members actually watched the film, it would surely be a shoe-in. Lavant plays Oscar, a man driven around Paris by Celine (Edith Scob), taking on different personas for self-contained scenarios. It's a wildly diverse selection of styles and characters, from the monstrous, clown-ish Monsieur Merde (who Lavant played in director Leos Carax's segment of "Tokyo!") to a bonkers, sexually charged segment in a performance-capture studio, to more naturalistic vignettes playing a father with a bullied daughter, or a dying old man. Each one is entirely distinct, and each one is extraordinary, and Lavant reinvents himself over and over again across one film. Carax has joked in interviews that he offered the part to Lon Chaney and Charlie Chaplin before his long-time collaborator came on board, but we're not sure even those silent greats would have done it justice in the way that Lavant does. Again, there's not a holy chance in hell of him getting a nomination, and that's one of those cases where future generations will look back and mock us for overlooking his work.

Ginger & Rosa
Elle Fanning - "Ginger & Rosa"
While most people won't be seeing Sally Potter's excellent post-war coming-of-age drama "Ginger & Rosa" until its February release date in North America, the film got a quiet one-week qualifying run in L.A. earlier this month. And this is all because of Elle Fanning's astonishing lead performance as the titular Ginger, a sensitive and artistic 14-year-old girl who is becoming more politically and socially aware but still grapples with her radical father, once imprisoned for his political beliefs and seemingly hell bent on testing every acceptable social more. Betrayed by her best friend and led astray by her father, Ginger is a hopeful, but confused ball of teenage emo angst. But as a vessel for Fanning, she is far more than a shrill, emotional dumping ground. A radiant and transformative Fanning gives herself to this character, letting the pain, anger and tremendous heartache just pour out of her skin. A luminous and breathtaking performance, this may be the best turn from a 14-year-old ever captured on film. Fanning is the real deal and while this performance likely doesn't even have a shot at a nomination because it’s too underseen, it's a fierce and unforgettable one that people will be looking back on when she's inevitably racking up awards later in her career (read our review).

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  • Alan | December 20, 2012 11:21 PMReply

    Émilie Dequenne is extraordinary in 'Our Children'. That's a film that zero people will see in the states, but - without extensive makeup - she gives an amazing physical transformation over the course of the film, stripping down layers until she gets to a very vulnerable and dark place, emotionally. That was easily the best performance that I had seen this year, and I hope that international filmmakers will see that role and cast her in prominent projects.

  • Jimbo | December 20, 2012 6:45 PMReply

    Hurray for this article. Michelle Williams, whose previous performances - particularly Marilyn - haven't wowed me especially, gives quite easily the performance of the year, if not many years, for me, in 'Take This Waltz'. She's stunning, and what's more, she isn't playing someone afflicted, or someone with a cause, or someone historical or royal, as most Oscarbaiters are: she's playing an everyday woman. And she does it sensationally.

    But then I've not taken the Oscars seriously since The Ice Storm earned no nominations for doing the same thing.

    Emmanuelle Riva is also incredible but just too out there for Oscar recognition. Good to see The Playlist giving them their dues.

  • Alan | December 21, 2012 5:51 AM

    I have no idea why this happens, but the Academy tends to overlook outstanding work by actresses in favor of obvious awards bait. I have a strong feeling that Mirren will get the nod this year for 'Hitchcock'.

  • Jah | December 20, 2012 6:54 PM

    Michelle Williams was seriously, seriously overlooked for "Wendy & Lucy." That year in particular a lot of strong female performances were overlooked.

  • DG | December 20, 2012 2:20 PMReply

    Agree with all of these wholeheartedly except maybe Williams. Great list tho

  • Andrew | December 20, 2012 12:21 PMReply

    Mary Elizabeth Winstead!

  • Tom Weitz | December 20, 2012 12:17 PMReply

    Lavant is mesmerizing in Holy Motors, my performance of they year. Just to add a few more names who deserve recognition, imo. Mads Mikkelsen in 'The Hunt', and two people might find surprising, Robert Pattinson in 'Cosmopolis' and Jack Black in 'Bernie'.

  • Rodrigo | December 20, 2012 12:30 PM

    The Hunt is technically a 2013 film otherwise, oh man, it would most certainly be here. All of us who have seen it were floored by his performance. I like your other picks too.

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