Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

For Your Consideration: 10 Overlooked Actors Who Deserve Some Awards Season Attention

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 26, 2013 4:17 PM
  • |
Before Midnight

Ethan Hawke - “Before Midnight”
With his career shifting worryingly into Nicolas Cage/John Cusack territory (three cheap exploitation flicks, "Sinister," "The Purge" and "Getaway," over the past year), we could have used a reminder of how talented Ethan Hawke really is. Fortunately, this year saw him reteam with Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater for "Before Midnight," the third in their trilogy of love-story travelogues, and Hawke might have pulled off his finest hour in it. If the first film was about potential, and the second about that potential being unfulfilled, the third is about reality, and 'Midnight' presents an all-grown-up version of Jesse, imperfect and tired to the point of brokenness at being separated from his son. Of course, it's impossible to talk about these films by separating the central duo (and we'll get to Delpy in due course...), but while she was the clear stand-out in the earlier films, Hawke goes toe-to-toe with her in "Before Midnight."

The Great Beauty

Toni Servillo - "The Great Beauty"
One of the more divisive films of the year, Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty" is, depending on who you ask, either a gloriously heady, incredibly rich masterpiece, or an indulgent, empty-headed pastiche of better filmmakers (and occasionally, somewhere in between...). Whichever way you come down on it, though, we hope we can all agree on the brilliance of its central performance by Sorrentino favorite Toni Servillo. The actor essentially is the film as Jep Gambardella, a writer decades on from his acclaimed, but lone novel, still living the high life in Rome, and the whole simply wouldn't work without the wry, glorious minimalism of Servillo's turn—he's a man who's lived so much and so hard that he's now exhausted and disgusted by his friends, his parties, his city and his women. The film brings all kinds of colorful characters into Jep's orbit, but it's always him in the middle, and you couldn't ask for a more watchable performer: Servillo might even have topped his extraordinary turn in Sorrentino's "Il Divo" here.

The Past, Asghar Farhadi,

Ali Mosaffa - “The Past”
After "About Elly," "A Separation" and now "The Past," Asghar Farhadi is starting to look like one of the best directors of actors in the world right now: there hasn't been a performance in any of his films so far that feels anything less than lived-in, multi-dimensional and totally convincing. While Berenice Bejo might have won the lion's share of honors, taking the Best Actress prize in Cannes (and rightly so), we wouldn't want Ali Mosaffa to be forgotten for his unbelievably fine work in the central role. The Iranian actor and director, mostly unknown in the West before now, plays Ahmad, who returns to France after a four-year gap to finalize his divorce from his ex-wife (Bejo), only to become caught up with troubles with her daughter and new beau. It's rather a passive character, in some ways, carried along by other events, but Mosaffa unveils real generosity and love in Ahmad, even as he shows glimpses of the reason that the marriage initially fell apart. It's the best kind of ego-free acting, enabling his co-stars while quietly stealing scenes himself, and as good as anything else you'll have seen this year.

Blue Caprice

Isaiah Washington - "Blue Caprice"
It takes a pretty special performance to come back from scandal, and whatever his previous sins, Isaiah Washington gives that kind of turn in "Blue Caprice." The actor's barely figured in any significant work since he was fired from "Grey's Anatomy" in 2007, but Alexandre Moor's retelling of the real-life Beltway Sniper killings puts him front-and-center as serial murderer John, and reminds us all of how impressive he could be at his best. He has a thin veneer of charisma on the surface—just enough that you can believe he can lead his surrogate son into terrible acts—but underneath is a terrifying and broken man, a portrait of evil and mental illness, or somewhere in between, that's not quite like any seen before on screen. Even if the film had found a wider audience, it's likely that Washington's baggage would have prevented a nomination, but if he keeps letting the work speak for itself like this, a full-on comeback could be on the way.

Prisoners, hugh jackman

Hugh Jackman - “Prisoners”
Audiences have become used to Hugh Jackman playing a largely invincible hero as Wolverine across a series of comic book movies, but when he emerged this fall as a hulking, bruised and haunted man in Denis Villeneuve's shattering "Prisoners," it was a reminder of the depths the actor is capable of reaching. The moody crime saga and domestic drama follows Jackman's survivalist, ready-for-anything, All-American everyman Kelly Dover who is forced to come face to face with something he could never be ready for: the abduction of his daughter. And what follows is a man sickened by a situation that has run out of his grasp, and who takes extraordinary measures to inflict some sort of cruel justice and becomes wholly haunted by the person he has become and the weakness of character he displays. It's complex, riveting stuff and Jackman is a hulk of man trying to keep it together in a performance that re-confirms that the actor is so much more than the adamantium claws he displays every couple of years. "Prisoners" has quieted in awards season talk but anything can happen, and we'd be pleased if this film and Jackman got recognized.

Honorable Mentions: Other performances that caught the eye of Team Playlist in the last twelve months include Conner Chapman in "The Selfish Giant," Dane DeHaan in "Kill Your Darlings," Josh Pais in "Touchy Feely," Chris Hemsworth in "Rush," Michael Shannon in "The Iceman" and Tony Leung in "The Grandmaster." Any others that you think deserve recognition? Let us know in the comments section below.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Celli | January 11, 2014 5:15 PMReply

    Wow, Indie Wire...I am seriously disappointed to not find any women listed as part of those worthy of attention this awards season: Shailene Woodley, _The Spectacular Now_; Lea Seydoux or Adele Exarchopoulos, _Blue is the warmest color_; June Squibb, _Nebraska_.

  • BOO | January 3, 2014 11:46 PMReply

    Joaquin Pheonix gave probably my favorite won't-be-nominated performance of the year. I like this list, there's a lot of good ones. Everything on here that I've seen I agree with.

  • TrentLawnDog | December 31, 2013 12:17 AMReply

    No love for Sam Rockwell? His performance in The Way Way Back was awesome

  • Nick | December 11, 2013 7:13 AMReply

    Mads Mikkelsen is amazing. I have found many of his movies on DVD and find it funny that he is overlooked. Hollywood no doubt wants to keep a lid on this Dane's talent because he would be competition for some of the well known leads.

  • Dtv. Loki | December 9, 2013 2:39 PMReply

    Hugh Jackman isn't the lead in Prisoners.

  • BOO | January 3, 2014 11:45 PM

    Yes he is.

  • Mike | December 8, 2013 10:57 PMReply

    Mads Mikkelsen was AMAZING in The Hunt. One of the best male performances of the year. I wasn't familiar with What Richard Did but it looks great. When is that going to get a US release?

  • David H. | December 7, 2013 9:13 PMReply

    Dennis Quaid for his career best performance in At Any Price

  • Frank Murphy | December 7, 2013 2:23 PMReply

    Joaquin Phoenix.

  • Marcy | December 5, 2013 2:01 PMReply

    I would add Miles Teller to this list. His performance in The Spectacular Now elevated the movie from very good to great.

  • jared | December 5, 2013 12:00 AMReply

    It's Keller Dover not Kelly

  • NewYorker | December 4, 2013 9:54 AMReply

    10 actors i think should get a best actor nom are
    1-Jason Bateman-Disconnect
    2-Miles Teller-Spectacular Now
    3-James Gandolfini-Enough Said
    4-Paul Walker-Hours
    5-Shia Labeouf-Charlie Countryman
    6-Michael B. Jordan-Fruitvale Station
    7-Chris Hemsworth-Rush
    8-Michael Shannon-The Iceman
    9-Steve Carell-The Way, Way Back
    10-Dwayne Johnson-Snitch(he gave a great performance in snitch)

  • Rahul | December 4, 2013 8:22 AMReply

    Saw "The Hunt" a few weeks ago and as a independent film-maker myself, it gave me goosebumps that such a small Danish production could have such a powerful storyline. Well-acted, a subject matter handled in the most sensitive manner and by god, an amazing and compelling performance by Mads Mikkelsen that made me cry for his character's predicament. I have not seen a better movie all year long.

  • Werner Kyne | November 29, 2013 10:46 PMReply

    Not a word about Michael Shannon.
    Weird guy, but a good actor.
    Made Man of Steel worth watching, where Crowe did not.

  • Skippy | November 29, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    Ethan Hawke has made it clear that he's really more interested in theater, so he's picking up checks from the genre films to finance that life. There have been worse reasons to make movies.

  • Philippa Chapman | November 29, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    'Outstanding contribution to movies and TV since 1980' = Adam Baldwin

  • Ella | November 27, 2013 2:23 PMReply

    Jackman was fantastic in Prisoners, he really deserves the nomination. And boy, Simon Pegg! I am glad somebody noticed. He was brilliant and I hope it will help him to get some serious roles instead of comic relief in franchises (however, his Benji in MI4 was great :-))

  • Kyra | December 6, 2013 10:21 PM

    Gyllenhaal was better.

  • JK1193 | December 3, 2013 2:18 PM

    Yes!!! Jackman and Pegg were my top two favorite performances of the year and they should definitely be included in the pack.

  • anya | November 27, 2013 6:51 AMReply

    Jonathan Rhys Meyers is superb in Dracula, he is far too underrated. A brilliant actor.

  • Neil | November 27, 2013 5:42 AMReply

    Oscar Isaac might get some traction once the film releases in the U.S. It's truly a great performance.

  • shark | November 27, 2013 2:45 AMReply

    Goddammit, you forgot Tye Sheridan in Mud.

  • Mark | November 26, 2013 11:02 PMReply

    You completely forgot to include Michael B. Jordan in "Fruitvale Station"...surely you didn't mean to do that!

  • Mark | November 26, 2013 11:04 PM

    Well, at any rate, you certainly didn't mean to leave his name off this list or in this article altogether as a potential contender for the Best Actor Oscar.

  • Andrew | November 26, 2013 9:54 PMReply

    I'd prefer Gyllenhaal over Jackman. A more layered, nuanced performance.

    Also, I thought Sinister was pretty good. Definitely understand you calling the other two cheap, but not that one.

  • Wynn | December 6, 2013 10:19 PM

    Agree on Gyllenhaal. In a cast full of big names, he was the standout. A more internalized, contained, impactful performance. But he's already getting more buzz than Jackman....

  • Jamie | November 26, 2013 6:52 PMReply

    Both the Isaac and Jackman performances definitely deserve nominations. Prisoners is still the most riveting dram I've seen this year. Still waiting for 12 Years a Slave to show up locally, but as of now nothing has replaced that feeling of wanting to talk about a film for hours after seeing it.

  • DUDE | November 26, 2013 5:49 PMReply

    His name is Keller Dover, not Kelly.

  • alex | November 26, 2013 4:51 PMReply

    Even though the movie wasn't liked by many, I think Vithaya Pansringarm's performance in Only God Forgives deserves some recognition. His spin on the silent villain was very interesting and distinctive. He would be for supporting actor though.

  • RYAN GOSS LING | November 26, 2013 10:12 PM

    i predicted he would win best actor at Cannes like waltz did for 'inglorious basterds'

    a sup performance but the best most memorable one all the same

  • gert | November 26, 2013 4:54 PM

    Agreed. I thought that guy was rather awesome.

  • AddictedAICN | November 26, 2013 4:32 PMReply

    Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)
    Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now)

  • Rick | November 27, 2013 10:11 AM

    @Mark, the article is about overlooked performances. I think Michael B. Jordan is getting a good amount of looks.

  • Mark | November 26, 2013 11:05 PM

    I second your mention of Michael B. Jordan. That this article fails to mention him as a contender is pretty sloppy, in my estimation.

  • BEF | November 26, 2013 5:33 PM

    Second Teller; especially over Jackman, that flick is all Deakins ability to make absurd red herrings look like art.

Email Updates