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Thanks to the fact that 2014 was such a brilliant year for film, practically every Academy Award category this year can be seen as a tight race – but there is one that really stands above them all. The crop of Best Actor candidates this year was absolutely incredible, to the point where you almost wish they changed the rules to allow 10 nominations instead of the normal five. Because they didn’t, however, there are many amazing performances that aren’t being celebrated the way they should today. That’s definitely not okay, so we’ve decided to do something about it.
While congratulations are certainly due to Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), we’ve put together a list of the five other performances from 2014 that could have just as easily been recognized by the Oscars. Read on for our picks!
Jake Gyllenhaal - NightcrawlerThe Academy Awards has a long, long history of choosing the "safest" choices for nominees and winners – explaining why every year’s list is filled with numerous big name biopics and period dramas – and this year the biggest victim of that fact is Jake Gyllenhaal’s blistering performance in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Playing Leo Bloom, a young man who works shooting footage of violent crimes for a local morning news station in Los Angeles, Gyllenhaal puts on one of the most terrifying, sociopathic performances of recent memory, to the point where you spend much of the movie agog at the depths of his monstrosity. Taking a visage akin to hungry coyote hunting the urban landscape for any kind of meal, Gyllenhaal’s performance is not only a powerful, but a transformative one as well, and it’s a true shame that the Academy didn’t feel the need to recognize his brilliance.
David Oyewolo - SelmaSad as I am that the Oscars didn’t feel the need to recognize any of the names highlighted in this feature, the exclusion of David Oyewolo is one that has me completely dumbfounded. On beyond the fact that Selma is the kind of movie that the Academy typically eats up with a spoon, Oyewolo’s performance as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is so stunning and rich that it honestly makes you wonder if his exclusion isn’t the result of a miscalculation or typo. It would be one thing if the film were simply a glossy portrait of one of the greatest leaders in history, but the star shines in the film because of the humanity of his performance and the fact that he brings King to life in his brightest moments and his darkest – capturing depth and passion on both sides.
Channing Tatum - FoxcatcherOf all the movies mentioned here, Foxcatcher is the one that actually didn’t get snubbed in the Best Actor category – but there exists a strong argument that the Academy actually nominated the wrong guy. As terrific and transformative as Steve Carell’s performance is in the drama, the truth is that it’s really Channing Tatum’s movie, and it’s a shame that he’s not getting proper shrift for it. There’s a deep emotional complexity to the role of Mark Schultz – a young man living in the shadow of his champion brother and long yearning for some kind of father figure – and Tatum finds every moment of it, whether he’s practicing wrestling moves alone in an empty gym or smashing his head through a mirror. The reality of this particular situation is that it’s been driven entirely by Oscar politics ,with Sony campaigning for Carell in the Best Actor position because they figured he would have better odds, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to give Tatum the recognition he deserves for an equally image-shattering performance.
Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent YearIn J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, Oscar Isaac is given a pretty extreme challenge playing the lead. After all, self-made man Abel Morales is a stern, hard-nosed, rather humorless character who never really tries to make other people like him. In lesser skilled hands this could be a recipe for a stale, dreary period drama, but instead Isaac brings the entire movie to life with his performance. He doesn’t have likability on his side, but its damn remarkable to watch how his drive, persistence, integrity and honor make you not only compelled by his story, but actively root for him to succeed. He carries the entire narrative on his shoulders throughout the movie, and it’s honestly impressive to see him do it so magnificently. It’s really only a matter of time before Isaac eventually walks away with Oscar gold, but it’s still a shame that he won’t have the chance to do so for his work in this movie.
Miles Teller - WhiplashJ.K. Simmons’ nomination for Best Supporting Actor has practically been a lock ever since Whiplash first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival at this time last year, but a really unfortunate side effect of all that buzz has sadly left the lead turn by Miles Teller to become underrated and under-appreciated. In a story that’s all about passion and drive, Teller shows endless amounts of both in his performance, and its stunning and emotional to watch him sacrifice absolutely everything in his life so that he can have some semblance of a shot at living up to his ambition of becoming the greatest drummer the world has ever seen. It’s a blood, sweat and tears performance – quite literally – and while some might argue that Simmons’ energy really boosts Teller’s by giving him something to play off of, the truth is that the star really does hold his own and uses Whiplash to once again prove that he is one of the best young actors currently working.