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

zombie President award winner ghosts Mary poppins Shudder Crackle toy story Trivia sitcom Paramount Network TV Land mutant Sundance Now FX hispanic adventure IFC Films 2018 Extras Spring TV transformers Emmy Nominations SundanceTV IFC book CNN streaming crossover Trophy Talk spain biography The CW The Arrangement 2019 talk show Thanksgiving BBC America elevated horror crime drama Quiz Fantasy USA foreign Cosplay Comic Book Nickelodeon ITV movies WarnerMedia USA Network Marvel San Diego Comic-Con Music Britbox Rocketman Esquire joker Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Comics on TV renewed TV shows American Society of Cinematographers Television Academy series Binge Guide Teen Logo Box Office Disney Plus revenge DC Universe Best and Worst Star Trek Universal CMT MCU DC streaming service SDCC Summer diversity LGBT Podcast free movies cancelled TV series comiccon Fox News 20th Century Fox First Look X-Men television casting sports spy thriller serial killer dramedy Disney streaming service Sci-Fi dragons tv talk Schedule game show Anna Paquin Trailer docudrama Pet Sematary Walt Disney Pictures DGA Pride Month Nominations Spectrum Originals CW Seed anthology Ghostbusters FOX Calendar dceu Amazon Prime Video Warner Bros. Red Carpet thriller Apple TV+ Disney Martial Arts TCM Watching Series PaleyFest adaptation Mary Poppins Returns Valentine's Day The Witch Film Festival Awards Mudbound Lifetime Awards Tour DirecTV space WGN Heroines Comedy cops Adult Swim ratings NYCC APB Acorn TV crime thriller First Reviews kids ABC cars The Walking Dead vampires Chernobyl Freeform Pirates canceled Arrowverse true crime binge canceled TV shows Creative Arts Emmys aliens 2015 SXSW 2017 cancelled MTV Tumblr VICE AMC spider-man natural history Elton John Holidays cults unscripted A&E anime History Lionsgate CBS All Access psychological thriller YA Writers Guild of America supernatural politics composers Hulu facebook Premiere Dates green book blaxploitation halloween National Geographic finale Film richard e. Grant Captain marvel Food Network spanish language Epix period drama Star Wars Mary Tyler Moore Superheroes teaser jamie lee curtis Tomatazos TV renewals zombies Amazon Prime comic video Certified Fresh 2016 Musicals ABC Family TNT Sneak Peek Rocky Disney Channel cooking singing competition Video Games 24 frames Super Bowl theme song CBS stand-up comedy YouTube E! TCA 2017 45 TCA technology Brie Larson Oscars what to watch New York Comic Con animated Pop Set visit Vudu Mindy Kaling Emmys ESPN Syfy Dark Horse Comics Opinion Winter TV Polls and Games Paramount Lucasfilm LGBTQ Stephen King science fiction zero dark thirty latino quibi Apple justice league Amazon RT21 OWN Animation GoT Spike TLC Showtime 21st Century Fox BBC Cannes war Drama Bravo Comedy Central psycho Election TruTV dc festivals strong female leads witnail disaster Starz robots GLAAD cancelled TV shows game of thrones Grammys crime Masterpiece Ellie Kemper Nat Geo Women's History Month harry potter Reality Competition cinemax social media Rom-Com Christmas Biopics Winners E3 Tarantino MSNBC RT History nature YouTube Red political drama batman travel boxoffice Interview mockumentary El Rey Pixar doctor who HBO See It Skip It Western TBS medical drama based on movie Cartoon Network sequel 71st Emmy Awards Song of Ice and Fire Shondaland Kids & Family YouTube Premium Photos Country Toys FXX miniseries 007 Ovation Countdown Black Mirror Sundance Character Guide TIFF cats hist romance VH1 Marathons NBC south america cancelled television historical drama Horror PBS spinoff golden globes Superheroe TV HBO Max Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sony Pictures Year in Review Infographic Action Reality BET Mystery Musical discovery Columbia Pictures police drama Fall TV slashers GIFs Netflix DC Comics Family Rock children's TV Peacock