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Best Actor B-Sides

Never mind the comeback actors, or the scientists, or the mathematicians, or heirs to a fortune, or American snipers. Some of whom have sat politely under the limelight for months and months now. I have seen a wide taste of movies this year. We all have. And as the men continue to dominate the industry, there were a select few that I feel were not so much left in the cold this year, but were not given more coverage. In fact, not much at all. Which means I haven’t included the obvious, and painfully AMPAS omitted, contender choices of actors like Timothy Spall and Jake Gyllenhaal – though I have seen the films. Or Chadwick Boseman and David Oyelowo, as I have yet to see those films (Selma January 19th). Apologies, though this list is by no means definitive.

Jesse Eisenberg (The Double)

It is a compliment to Jesse Eisenberg to state that this oddball doppelgänger role is perfect for him. Eisenberg has mastered the nerd, the ordinary, the loser, and made them compelling and likeable. In Richard Ayoade’s extraordinary not-quite-drama, not-quite-horror, Eisenberg has to portray the bumbling office nerd who thinks he can’t get the girl, and also his exact double. Except his clone is confident, suave and prospers, and he depicts both characters on the screen with expert ease.

Mark Duplass (The One I Love)

We may as well get the other double role out of the way then. In The One I Love a marriage-salvaging weekend away takes an eerie turn when the couple (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) experience alternative versions of themselves. What is paticularly great about the sympathetic and assured Duplass, is how his character appears to react the way you would if this actually happened – with bemusement and contention. 

Tom Hardy (Locke)

Just one man and his dilemmas, driving for an hour and a half along an English motorway, appears meek. Tom Hardy in Locke, is anything but ordinary. In fact, he is pretty much the entire movie, and there is seldom room for anything else let alone larger landscapes or a supporting cast. Those he does speak to are only heard via speaker phone, so it is down to Hardy to fill the screen. And he does, commanding, emotional, and always compelling.
Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood)

What is marvellous about Ellar Coltrane’s performance is that over the years you not only see him physically grow before your eyes, but there are developments as an actor. Not necessarily getting better or worse as a performer, it is more about his shifts in style and depth, year by year. How much of that is intentional or how much is natural is neither here nor there, you can’t help but praise Coltrane (as well as his director Richard Linklater) for making such an impact in documenting a significant chunk of his life – as a boy, and an actor.

Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again)

Terrific as Dave Schultz in Foxcatcher, Mark Ruffalo has had quite the year when you take into account his solid work in Begin Again. Playing a record exec, a husband, and a father (and failing somewhat at all three), Dan seemingly “begins again” when he meets singer Greta (Keira Knightley). He wants to help her, but sure, it is himself he really wants to save. It is an enthusiastic performance by Ruffalo, like many of his prior works that seems to get lost in the crowd. 

Chris Evans (Snowpiercer)

Cranking up his handsome superhero image several notches into a much darker realm of world annihilation, Chris Evans is inspiring in Snowpiercer. With his tatty beard, often tears in his eyes, but always an edgy determination, Evan’s Curtis has the truly daunting mission to lead his people from the low end of the train to the high end dictatorship. There is an integrity to Evans’ acting here, that goes beyond the cool, action man we already know him for.

Aleksey Serebryakov (Leviathan)

It’s no secret that foreign films are often stealing thunder from some of the English-speaking movies, and this year the competition has been fierce. In Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, a highly acclaimed film since Cannes, Aleksey Serebryakov plays a man who appears on the surface to be a bad-tempered drunk. He is also a desperate man, a husband, a father, facing the loss of his land. It is a powerful performance, and he is heart-breaking long before the end.

Brendan Gleeson (Calvary)

Calvary is yet another successful venture from the collaboration of writer / director John Michael McDonagh and actor Brendan Gleeson. To be honest, the Irish actor is hardly ever not short of brilliant. Here he plays a priest who, during a confessional, is told he will be killed. Calvary hits hard with sensitive issues of regret and loss, but also allows for touches of real humor and reason. Gleeson is more than adept to the task of crossing over the various emotions, as his character comes to terms with the reality of the issues around him.

Jack O’Connell (Unbroken)

There’s a real “Oh what a shame” attitude towards Unbroken now that the movie has been seen, the reviews have been published, and the aspirations have wilted. Jack O’Connell is known (more so in the UK) for his more thuggish roles, but in Angelina Jolie’s true story of war-time suffering and survival, he immerses himself into the human triumph of Louie Zamperini, and at just twenty-four is proving to be a worthy big screen leading man.

Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher)

When all the awards talk was dominated by Steve Carell, then Mark Ruffalo, it was the movie’s actual lead role played by Channing Tatum that seemed to allude voters. But he was certainly being talked about, and quite often as an equal to his co-stars. He may not say a lot, but his oafish presence, near-perfectly incorporating the body language of a wrestler (in this case Mark Schultz), is engaging to say the least. For the time being Tatum has broken away from the romantic and/or comedy lead persona, and done so with great success.



  1. Sati. Sati. January 19, 2015

    Love to see Ruffalo here. I thought his work in BA was better than in his two other 2014 movies.

  2. Robin Write Robin Write January 19, 2015

    It was great. He is under-rated. He picks movies were he does not have to go overboard, but that does not make his performances any less than anyone else. If you have not seen it you should check out from You Can Count On Me from 2000 – a great little movie and he is so good in it.

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