First off, I wanted to highlight a few honorable mentions from the past year in terms of single performances. This list is such a coveted list (obviously) that everyone tries to get on it, so it's really difficult for me to try to select 10 most worthy choices. (The Academy has nothing on Enter the Movies Awesome Annual Actor Awards of course) So, the honorable mentions are.....
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, 22 Jump Street
These two are like peanut butter and jelly. I can't help but love 'em. This movie was as funny as it was simply because of these two hilarious actors and their bro-like chemistry. You gotta love it.
Laura Dern, Wild
Not to be lost in this movie of acting greatness is Laura Dern. She doesn't have a whole lot of scenes in this film, but she's asked to do sooooo much in her limited screen time as Witherspoon's mother. And this classic 80s and 90s actress reminds us in a great way that she's still got it 2014.
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
One of the more overlooked performances of 2014 was Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel. The movie is known for its cinematographical symmetries (that's a thing now) and its incredible set design, but we forget that Ralph Fiennes reminded us just how good he is as an actor. This performance also showed us a side of Fiennes we haven't really seen before: this man's comedic timing is fantastic. The dude is HILARIOUS in this film. A great departure from the previous excellent but serious films he's done.
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Easily the most overlooked performance for a female this year by the Academy, Jennifer Aniston dropped a phenomenal performance in the movie Cake. Any movie that has Jennifer Aniston crying in it is well worth the watch. Additionally, it's worth noting that this performance is quantifiable acting, as Aniston gained a ton of weight for the role. I only mention this because the Academy LOVES quantifiable acting, so it makes me even more confused as to why she was overlooked for Best Actress. Oh well....go see this for her!
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
This performance just BARELY missed my top 10. It was a great one, for sure, but at the end of the day it's quantifiable acting at its finest. I don't have anything against that by any means, but that's pretty much all this role brings to the table. I really felt that emotionally Eddie Redmayne pretty much just hit one note throughout the entire film, and his chemistry with Felicity Jones could have been better. This is why this performance misses my top 10. That said, this performance is the best quantifiable performance of the year. But don't worry! If you thought this was the best overall performance of 2014 I have a feeling the Academy is going to agree with you!
Alright! Y'all ready for my top 10? Here we go!
10) Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
God I love this movie. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain are incredibly talented stars in Hollywood, and have a knack for always putting in some of the best acting I see in films nowadays. So, what happens when you put these two great stars together? Pure greatness. Both Isaac and Chastain shine in A Most Violent Year, and not only that, but their chemistry together is so human and real. The little itty bits of romance that are sprinkled in this movie between the two characters are significantly better than a whole host of romance flicks out there right now, which is why I said in my review that this movie would make for a fantastic adult date flick. Their chemistry is definitely better than Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan! C'mon, moviegoers! Go out and see real films with a real relationship like A Most Violent Year! Not the crazy fantasy of 50 Shades!
9) Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch can do no wrong. My undeniable bromance in Hollywood, I am 100% biased when it comes to this man, so take everything I say about him with a grain of salt. But I'd like to think placing him here and not higher is a rather objective placement of his performance on the list. He's great as the lead in this movie, putting in the best performance of his movie career. Personally I'll still take him in Sherlock any day of the week, but let's be real: it's pretty hard to top Sherlock. That said, he does deliver a very human and grounded performance in The Imitation Game, and he really hits it out of the park as he deals with the lack of acceptance in Britain for his sexuality. I can't wait to see what he does next!
8) Julianne Moore, Still Alice
So I had my quirks about this movie and the total lack of production value, but I cannot deny the fact that Julianne Moore delivers a harrowing and downright heart-wrenching performance as Alice. Once again quite a bit of quantifiable acting, watching Alice's battle against Alzheimer's, and the performance Julianne Moore provides in order to convey this, is easily worth the price of admission alone. Even if this is the only thing this movie has to offer. The heavy HEAVY favorite to win Best Actress at the Oscars (going at 1-80 currently in Vegas) this performance easily qualifies for this list, even though personally I do not think it was the best performance by a female in 2014. We'll get there.
7) Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins
I freaking love Bill Hader. He and Kristen Wiig have now performed in several movies since they performed together all the time on SNL, (remember their debut in Knocked Up?) and their chemistry has only gotten better in the years since. However, I'm just giving this spot solely to Hader because of how good he as his character, a homosexual with a dark past. Not only that, but his scenes with Ty Burrell are some of the best scenes of the entire movie. With the help of some fantastic writing, the scenes between Burrell and Hader were heartbreaking and incredibly real, drawing a bit of moist to my eye more than once. If the fantastic lip sync scene between Hader and Wiig isn't enough to get you to watch this movie, then maybe the scenes between Hader and Burrell will!
6) Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone, Birdman
Basically the entire cast of this movie makes the list. While the story was a bit too out there for me at times, the performances in this movie more than make up for it. However, I'll narrow it down to three from this movie in Keaton, Norton, and Stone. More specifically, Keaton and Norton's interactions together coupled with Norton and Stone's interactions together. So, Michael Keaton has been dormant for a few years, as everyone knows. However, he has come storming back in this film, delivering a performance that is both powerful, hilarious, and satiristic in nature. Seriously. The dude is basically playing a parody of himself. And his undeniable chemistry with Edward Norton is also incredible. But then to depart from the over-the-top nature of Michael Keaton, you have an incredibly grounded performance from Emma Stone. I have loved this girl ever since her role in Zombieland, and she is only getting better with time. She, too, has outstanding chemistry with Edward Norton. And then there's Edward Norton as an individual! Oy vey, so many great performances in this movie! But Edward Norton is also over-the-top and hilarious here, following up his rather limited but excellent performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel with an even better, crazier, and more unpredictable performance here in Birdman. 2014 was a damn good year for Edward Norton!
Ok, so everyone before these last five performances were great, but the top 5 were in a league of their own in 2014. It was very difficult to decide which performances to put where, but I think I did it right!
5) David Oyelowo, Selma
Ok. Do me a favor. Go watch Interstellar and observe Oyelowo's performance in that, and then go watch his performance as MLK in Selma. You. Cannot. Recognize. Him. Oyelowo's performance in Selma raises the bar for what I expect out of a lead in a biopic. It's tough, really, for a recognizable actor to be completely absorbed into a performance. For you to no longer see the actor, but rather see the character he is playing. And Oyelowo accomplishes this and makes it look easy in the process while playing the late Reverend. It really devastates me that on MLK weekend everyone saw American Sniper and not Selma. I had faith in America before that, but the fact that our society wanted to watch another "America: f*ck ya!" movie over a movie that legitimately makes you uncomfortable while simultaneously pulling on your heartstrings with the performance of its lead. This movie was going to live or die based on Oyelowo's performance. And the movie easily made it into my top 10. You do the math. Please. Please. Please go see this movie.
4) Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
The Amazing Amy. Boy, did Rosamund Pike deliver the definition of an unforgettable performance in this movie. She is haunting, mysterious, and full of intrigue as she flawlessly executes a brilliantly written character in the Amazing Amy. While sadly Ben Affleck was not the best as the lead here, and Neal Patrick Harris, while great, was sort of misplaced, Rosamund Pike more than made up for it. This is absolutely a career-defining performance from one of the best British actresses in Hollywood right now. This performance has stood out in my mind through countless other movies, and still has made it into my top five when it was all said and done. Return to Sender is another mysterious and intriguing movie that's forthcoming from her, and I seriously can't wait to see this. Say what you want about this movie, but you cannot deny the greatness of Pike's performance.
3) J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
The best supporting performance I've seen from an actor in a loooooooooong time. I really could just leave it at that. His performance in Whiplash is terrifying, unpredictable, unforgettable, and diverse. J.K. Simmons has been on a bit of a downslope the last few years, but if his performance here doesn't bring him right back into the forefront of the business, I don't know what will. With Whiplash, Simmons reminded us in spectacular fashion why he is one of the best character actors of the last two decades.
2) Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Easily the best performance from a female in 2014, Reese Witherspoon blew me away in Wild. She is indescribable as the lead, holding this movie up with her bare hands and never letting go from start to finish. For most of the movie, she's by herself in this survival tale, much like Sandra Bullock was in Gravity, but Witherspoon simply blows the role out of the water. She bares all, and spares no expense in really putting herself and her dignity on the line in this movie. And she nails it. She absolutely nails it. Before this movie, I had always thought of Witherspoon as a great actress to star in rom-coms. Someone who seemed to act like she was above the rest of the crowd. So I was very skeptical that she could deliver going into this movie. After all this role required such a human and grounded performance from its lead. Boy did she prove me wrong. I know I've been saying this a lot, but this movie is worth seeing just for her performance alone. It takes about 30 seconds of film to see it, and she doesn't let go until the credits roll. I wish the Academy would not hold her 2013 over her head and give her a very deserving Best Actress award at the Oscars, but it seems like it will take more than one unforgettable performance to change their minds. Oh well....
And the Best performance of 2014 was...
I don't even know where to begin with this performance. So Jake Gyllenhaal has a knack for taking on out-of-this world, Johnny-Depp like characters and making them feel human, real, and simultaneously heinous and unnatural. Honestly, he does it better than Johnny Depp does nowadays. But it's been a while since Gyllenhaal has really embraced a character like he does in Nightcrawler. And when Jake Gyllenhaal embraces a character.....you know you're watching greatness unfold in front of you. And that's exactly what you get here. Hands-down the best performance of 2014, Jake Gyllenhaal's performance in Nightcrawler was criminally overlooked by the Academy this year. Why? Well, probably because the movie came out waaaaaaaaay back on October 31. Gyllenhaal is asked to convey just about every emotion imaginable, all while displaying an uncanny and brutally realistic lack of caring for human life. A performance that I will not be forgetting anytime soon, Jake Gyllenhaal's role in Nightcrawler was easily the best of 2014.
So, there's my top 10 best performances of the year! Now that Jake Gyllenhaal is holding his coveted award for Nightcrawler, let's hand out a few more individual awards, ya?
The Breakout Actress of 2014 was...
The Breakout Actor of 2014 was...
The Feel-Good Comeback Story of 2014 was...
The Actress with the worst 2014 was...
The Actor with the Worst 2014 was...
The Best Actress of 2014 was...
The Best Actor of 2014 was...
The Actress to watch out for in 2015 is...
The Actor to Watch out for in 2015 is...
Well, there you have it! With all the awards given, I am officially declaring Enter the Movies First Annual Awesome Actor's Awards for 2015 an unparalleled success! Congratulations to all actors and actresses who walked away with awards, including the not-so-nice ones. (Let that be a wakeup call for you) I hope you, the audience, has been entertained throughout the awards show, and thanks for reading! I'll see ya next time with my Worst Movies of 2014 list! DEUCES!