News

Don't Sleep on these 14 Award-Worthy Performances From Earlier In the Year

For Your Consideration: Standout showings that voters shouldn't forget as awards season ramps up.

by | September 28, 2018 | Comments

(Photo by © Marvel / © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, © A24, © Sony Pictures Classics)

We’re just days into awards season, and already each new weekend is bringing movie fans the kind of noteworthy titles and buzzy performances that get voters and prognosticators talking. This weekend, Robert Redford returns to theaters – apparently for the last time before going into retirement – with his disarming and hilarious turn as an aging bank robber in The Old Man and the Gun; next week, the crowd-pleasing A Star is Born is primed to dazzle audiences in the same way it’s already captivated critics (it’s currently Certified Fresh at 94% on the Tomatometer).

The onslaught of big awards aspirants at this time of year is, of course, no accident. Studios postpone the release of movies they deem awards contenders to couple with ‘For Your Consideration’ campaigns and to ensure voters have the films and the performances in them top of mind when it’s close to voting time. It’s a strategy that works. Of the last three year’s Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards, only one film each year was released before September: Genre favorites Mad Max: Fury Road, Hell or High Water, and Get Out were the precious few that managed to remain in the conversation months after their release. Similarly, the acting categories are typically dominated by showings in later-in-the-year releases.

Here, we’re making a case for some actors who staked a claim for gold many months ago, some as far back as February. These are the impressive early-year performances that critics singled out, and we hope Oscar voters haven’t forgotten.


GENRE FAVORITES

Toni Collette | Alex Wolff | Emily Blunt | Joe Cole | Helena Howard

We’re seeing more and more genre films land nominations – and wins – in major categories. Last year, Get Out and eventual Best Picture winner The Shape of Water topped various Oscar categories, while in other recent years, Mad Max: Fury Road, Gravity, and Arrival have taken home golden statuettes. Still, the Oscar spotlight rarely shines on performances in genre films, particularly multiple genre performances in the same year. This year could be different. For Hereditary, released in June, Toni Collette managed to be both convincingly terrified and terrifying in a performance that’s unquestionably deserving of voters’ attention – critic Christy Lemire called it an “all-time great Toni Collette performance.” (And, on the subject of fierce horror performances, don’t dismiss Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place.) Hereditary costar Alex Wolff also has a chance to join Collette for his unsettling and eerie turn as teenage Peter in the supporting categories. But don’t overlook some of the less prominent indie genre darlings, too. Joe Cole, in a primarily non-verbal role, transformed into a gut-wrenching bare-knuckle boxer in A Prayer Before Dawn. Hard to watch but impossible to shake, Cole – who many may remember from Black Mirror‘s “Hang the DJ” episode – gives an astounding and, according to critic Stephanie Watts, “brilliantly physical performance.” Like Cole, newcomer Helena Howard wowed critics as the titular character in Madeline’s MadelineMinneapolis Star Tribune critic Colin Covert called her a “once-in-a-generation talent” in his review of the film.


WAKANDA FOREVER

Lupita Nyong’o | Danai Gurira | Michael B. Jordan

Black Panther will likely land several Oscar nominations. Below-the-line contributions from costume designer Ruth E. Carter, production designer Hannah Beachler, and cinematographer Rachel Morrison will probably receive their due, but there are a handful of onscreen efforts that we should keep in mind six months after the film stormed into theaters, particularly the work of Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira. As Nakia, Nyong’o preached the virtues of Killmonger’s message without adopting his ‘by any means necessary’ militant approach, while Gurira balanced ferocity and grace for a surprisingly emotional portrayal of the Dora Milaje general, Okoye – her tearful threat to her husband Wakabi, played by Daniel Kaluuya, still delivers the chills. “Men quail before her,” Vulture’s David Edelstein wrote of Gurira’s Okoye in his review. “Black Panther gives her a wide berth. Everything in her affect says ‘uncontainable’.” Letitia Wright as Shuri is a fan favorite but unlikely to get any traction with voters – though stranger things have happened. Of the men, while Winston Duke impressed as M’Baku, Michael B. Jordan‘s Killmonger might be one of the strongest supporting performances of early 2018. Uncompromising and charismatic, Jordan was the ultimate antagonist, delivering biting one-liners laced with social commentary and shaping what many have called the most complex and interesting villain in the MCU.


The Quiet Ones

Charlie Plummer | Brady Jandreau | Elsie Fisher | Rachel McAdams | Ben Foster | Ethan Hawke

Understated, early-in-the-year performances tend to be subsumed by the showier stuff that hits screens during awards season, but this year we could be different. Pay particular attention to Charlie Plummer in Lean On Pete and Brady Jandreau in The Rider. Plummer disarmed critics as an unassuming runaway, journeying to find a home for himself and his aging racehorse Pete, and the role cemented the All the Money in the World co-star as a young actor to watch. Meanwhile, Jandreau’s performance in The Rider is so subtle that its brilliance takes a minute to creep up on you – AARP‘s Tim Appelo writes that Jandreau has “the presence of a screen veteran” in his debut. The same could be said for Elsie Fisher as Kayla in Bo Burnham’s authentically awkward and heartrending Eighth Grade. Ben Foster earned praise for Leave No Trace (Certified Fresh at 100%), as did Rachel McAdams in Disobedience; whether they can compete with the likes of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga come ballot-time, though, remains to be seen. Among the set of quieter performances that earned acclaim early in the year, Ethan Hawke’s as an equal-parts nihilistic and hopeful priest in First Reformed seems the surest bet to be in the awards conversation. Questioning his faith and ultimately his existence, Hawke is unyielding and devastating in a performance that multiple critics have called a “career best.”

Tag Cloud

93rd Oscars The Witch canceled Lifetime remakes renewed TV shows Pixar Food Network Marvel Studios Amazon Prime scene in color IFC Nat Geo Marathons 72 Emmy Awards universal monsters a nightmare on elm street Calendar comiccon Grammys Paramount E! Syfy Interview unscripted Avengers FX Amazon Prime Video hispanic Spring TV target crime drama Tokyo Olympics nature Women's History Month asian-american RT History jurassic park Lionsgate stop motion Esquire australia parents zombies Star Wars reboot theme song BET Awards kids spanish language sequel werewolf heist movie Walt Disney Pictures cinemax Apple cars social media italian HBO Go slashers Classic Film Disney Plus independent christmas movies pirates of the caribbean LGBTQ Pop ABC Signature Pacific Islander Reality telelvision Set visit based on movie Countdown psychological thriller revenge Box Office ABC DC Universe concert Nickelodeon NBA Marvel satire Tubi Crackle composers dramedy 21st Century Fox Podcast Mary poppins MSNBC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina king kong worst TCA hidden camera cats black Chernobyl godzilla justice league Fox News name the review The Academy MTV 45 Awards Tour laika video on demand game of thrones war VH1 sag awards 2017 Quiz Epix VOD Wes Anderson sitcom razzies 1990s dragons El Rey Drama YouTube DC streaming service Binge Guide Paramount Network technology prank Musical E3 mission: impossible zombie Martial Arts First Reviews binge crime golden globe awards hist ESPN Netflix cancelled TV series versus book Travel Channel YouTube Premium HBO Star Trek 2019 cancelled period drama hollywood tv talk YouTube Red CBS All Access halloween tv Polls and Games Tomatazos adventure Amazon Apple TV+ Hallmark Christmas movies Paramount Plus Lifetime Christmas movies Peacock The Purge vampires free movies Black History Month directors suspense FX on Hulu Comics on TV indie Nominations Warner Bros. 2015 CMT new york travel twilight BAFTA TCA Winter 2020 2018 cancelled TV shows green book Turner Classic Movies aliens Animation Turner Sundance FXX book adaptation Anna Paquin BBC One Video Games GIFs 4/20 SDCC Brie Larson Rom-Com American Society of Cinematographers USA Network Shondaland nfl facebook OneApp critics Election Baby Yoda festivals docudrama dogs japan Black Mirror south america Pet Sematary Freeform emmy awards robots cartoon WarnerMedia halloween police drama PlayStation Character Guide Song of Ice and Fire legend Academy Awards chucky space TruTV ITV adenture lord of the rings nbcuniversal National Geographic CBS natural history Sundance Now harry potter ViacomCBS crossover TV richard e. Grant video See It Skip It documentary Schedule festival Ovation quibi kaiju Comic Book jamie lee curtis dc children's TV superman 24 frames Britbox witnail Discovery Channel Creative Arts Emmys worst movies animated award winner YA die hard Winter TV elevated horror dark politics Marvel Television Sony Pictures Disney+ Disney Plus documentaries SundanceTV comic books casting spy thriller scary movies Superheroe TCA 2017 screen actors guild Cosplay Action Ghostbusters The CW 007 supernatural Writers Guild of America rotten romance Family spain TBS blockbuster San Diego Comic-Con AMC Film Festival A24 Starz batman Infographic OWN Arrowverse Columbia Pictures Super Bowl mockumentary deadpool Captain marvel james bond SXSW comics Horror transformers Photos Endgame Fall TV Comedy Central Best and Worst Rocky screenings Sci-Fi Lucasfilm comic japanese women Comic-Con@Home 2021 PaleyFest popular Certified Fresh Mary Tyler Moore Biopics dceu latino news mutant criterion Bravo toronto monster movies 20th Century Fox series cancelled television TLC foreign Image Comics fresh 2021 Sundance TV Disney Cannes History archives Holiday Ellie Kemper Music teaser 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2020 WGN strong female leads Reality Competition Stephen King Television Critics Association Fox Searchlight Disney Channel Winners 99% The Walking Dead Toys PBS zero dark thirty obituary new star wars movies rom-coms Tarantino Pirates discovery international Acorn TV french Spectrum Originals TCA Awards BBC ratings ABC Family finale 71st Emmy Awards kong Mary Poppins Returns anthology miniseries TCM Western Fantasy best Hallmark First Look TV renewals cooking Shudder USA Musicals Elton John DirecTV talk show scorecard Rock BBC America Hear Us Out science fiction NYCC Broadway NBC docuseries spanish ghosts Premiere Dates TV movies all-time Superheroes boxing Opinion Adult Swim Disney streaming service true crime rt archives Emmys Funimation Trivia marvel cinematic universe trailers boxoffice fast and furious streaming movies know your critic adaptation game show biography Legendary romantic comedy DC Comics LGBT breaking bad APB Country historical drama Kids & Family blockbusters venice toy story basketball Heroines FOX TV Land HBO Max classics TV One canceled TV shows Holidays TNT IFC Films RT21 90s Thanksgiving superhero MCU Cartoon Network football joker Trophy Talk CNN The Arrangement Universal anime GLAAD medical drama Amazon Studios Spike Netflix Christmas movies Watching Series saw golden globes spinoff reviews indiana jones Valentine's Day crime thriller serial killer new zealand Mystery Summer child's play Alien aapi stoner stand-up comedy comedies Apple TV Plus Mindy Kaling DGA olympics movie Trailer sequels Showtime live action Film X-Men movies Extras New York Comic Con Christmas The Walt Disney Company GoT cults Rocketman Teen Awards BET ID political drama singing competition Tumblr diversity TIFF Emmy Nominations Exclusive Video doctor who Crunchyroll Television Academy rotten movies we love VICE Comedy films Logo Pop TV streaming Sneak Peek Dark Horse Comics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Mudbound sports 2016 what to watch Year in Review Red Carpet Vudu Masterpiece spider-man Hulu Pride Month blaxploitation thriller President psycho franchise disaster A&E television high school CW Seed cops Oscars