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.


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.


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

Fall TV Mary poppins social media thriller supernatural Marathons political drama Hulu Drama 2019 cinemax Chernobyl streaming Film Awards 21st Century Fox WarnerMedia Song of Ice and Fire richard e. Grant MTV Comics on TV Pride Month OWN Binge Guide TCA ghosts technology Musical A&E psychological thriller Christmas dramedy cults 45 Sci-Fi movies festivals Teen discovery Holidays Mary Poppins Returns politics Comic Book Podcast San Diego Comic-Con space Emmys dc Lucasfilm transformers Mudbound composers TLC TV Land National Geographic E! toy story E3 television green book Rom-Com SDCC Infographic Winners Black Mirror Tomatazos Elton John romance Amazon Prime Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Esquire IFC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina theme song Ghostbusters spy thriller Valentine's Day Horror sports Adult Swim Rock DirecTV Western zombie cars cats animated Extras Thanksgiving Animation Pop Musicals nature elevated horror Epix Fox News anthology Lionsgate Sundance Now vampires blaxploitation doctor who Cosplay American Society of Cinematographers Watching Series zero dark thirty biography Sneak Peek 2015 true crime adaptation sequel Paramount diversity disaster Mindy Kaling HBO First Look See It Skip It Starz Martial Arts miniseries President Ovation Lifetime DGA ABC Family Freeform what to watch Captain marvel VICE ABC psycho Apple robots Character Guide Tumblr Grammys MCU Stephen King Winter TV USA Network spinoff Reality Competition golden globes binge Kids & Family Toys GIFs Photos Rocky Syfy Disney TCA 2017 ratings Superheroes cooking Heroines VH1 Masterpiece DC Comics Pirates Best and Worst Super Bowl Nominations natural history tv talk FX Food Network Logo AMC New York Comic Con Cannes 20th Century Fox Pixar Spike Crackle boxoffice Biopics Amazon Cartoon Network Creative Arts Emmys crime BBC America dragons Nat Geo Rocketman Trophy Talk comic cops quibi CBS All Access Calendar WGN Family FOX YA Trivia justice league serial killer historical drama crossover Brie Larson mockumentary Awards Tour TV CBS TBS GLAAD police drama award winner Oscars based on movie Schedule Mary Tyler Moore talk show Warner Bros. The Arrangement Acorn TV ESPN The CW crime drama History LGBTQ X-Men Disney Channel NBC Disney streaming service 2018 DC streaming service MSNBC Superheroe Opinion Sony Pictures medical drama science fiction FXX DC Universe children's TV Vudu comiccon game show witnail Mystery TruTV PBS RT21 Bravo singing competition Pet Sematary Year in Review finale anime YouTube Red spider-man Spring TV revenge USA book Red Carpet Set visit unscripted BET Nickelodeon HBO Max ITV PaleyFest Star Trek TCM Shudder Paramount Network travel facebook 007 CMT Box Office BBC Premiere Dates Britbox TNT Film Festival 24 frames IFC Films harry potter NYCC The Witch Music Universal Emmy Nominations 2017 YouTube Premium Dark Horse Comics El Rey kids strong female leads Comedy Central Columbia Pictures APB Country LGBT jamie lee curtis casting Tarantino Ellie Kemper Amazon Prime Video SundanceTV Video Games mutant Election Women's History Month zombies Comedy adventure sitcom period drama Trailer teaser Interview Walt Disney Pictures Polls and Games series TIFF Spectrum Originals Fantasy Showtime hist Sundance Writers Guild of America Action crime thriller Star Wars Certified Fresh SXSW aliens CNN Summer Shondaland RT History Netflix CW Seed dceu docudrama Anna Paquin Countdown Marvel 2016 Quiz Reality GoT war