You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars: 9 Under-the-Radar Performances that Deserve Buzz

If you believe the awards season chatter, the Oscar race is practically over—even though the season is only beginning. There’s already been a lot of talk about the frontrunners this year (from “The Imitation Game’s” Benedict Cumberbatch to “Wild’s” Reese Witherspoon). But the Academy always throws some curveballs into the mix come January. Here are nine under-the-radar performances that deserve a fighting chance in this year’s Oscar race.

Channing Tatum
Best Actor, “Foxcatcher”

The trio of male performances in “Foxcatcher”—from Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo—are all worthy of Oscar nominations. But the problem is, where do you put each actor? Sony Pictures Classics had decided to campaign Tatum and Carell in lead and Ruffalo in supporting, but I fear the strongest performance in the film may slip through the cracks. Carell has gotten a lot of ink for his portrayal of lunatic millionaire John du Pont. But the movie belongs to Tatum. His understated performance as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz might not be as showy, but he’d be a lock for his first Oscar nomination if he wasn’t competing against his co-star.

Jake Gyllenhaal,
Best Actor, “Nightcrawler”

Jake Gyllenhaal has only been nominated for an Oscar once (for 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain”), and since then he’s quietly turned into the gutsiest actor of his generation. His work in 2012’s “End of Watch” and 2013’s “Prisoners” should have earned him invitations to the Academy Awards. “Nightcrawler,” which opens this weekend, isn’t a traditional Oscars film—it’s far too daring for that—but Gyllenhaal’s performance is one of the acting triumphs of the year. He shed 30 pounds to play a LA paparazzo, a haunting transformation that sticks with you long after the screen goes dark.

Ellar Coltrane
Best Actor, “Boyhood

The best actor race is already packed with Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”), Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”) and Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), with Bradley Cooper waiting in the aisles with the upcoming “American Sniper.” But sometimes the Academy lets a newcomer slip in. If they do, there’s a good argument to be made for the inclusion of 20-year-old Coltrane, who spent 12 years growing up onscreen in Richard Linklater’s indie.

Ben Affleck
“Gone Girl,” Best Actor

Affleck already has Oscars for producing (“Argo”) and screenwriting (“Good Will Hunting”), but he’s never been nominated in the acting category. Critics liked him as the panicked husband in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl,” which has so far grossed $127 million. Plus, voters owe him one for snubbing him in the director’s category for “Argo.”

Keira Knightley
Best Actress, “Begin Again”

The Academy will definitely nominate Knightley in the supporting actress category for “The Imitation Game.” But her most lovable performance this year was in John Carney’s musical comedy. As Gretta, Knightley hits high notes as a struggling Manhattan singer-songwriter, who breaks up with her rock-star boyfriend (Adam Levine). She modeled her character’s wardrobe on Diane Keaton, and “Begin Again” is Knightley’s “Annie Hall” moment. I wish more people had seen the movie. It will be discovered on non-theatrical platforms.

Anne Dorval
Best Actress, “Mommy”

The Canadian star’s performance as the title character (looking after her troubled teenage son) in Xavier Dolan’s drama is my favorite performance from an actress this year. Dorvall was robbed of an acting prize from the Cannes jury, who honored Julianne Moore in “Maps to the Stars” instead. But she will hopefully enter the conversation if she starts landing some end-of-year critics’ prizes.

John Lithgow
Best Supporting Actor, “Love is Strange”

Ira Sachs’ drama about an aging gay couple is one of the best-reviewed films of 2014, and Sony Pictures Classics recently sent out screeners to the Academy and Writer’s Guild. If enough voters do their homework, they’ll see that Lithgow does his most heartfelt big-screen work since 1983’s “The World According to Garp.” The actor has never won an Oscar, which doesn’t seem right.

Jaeden Lieberher
Best Supporting actor, “St. Vincent”

Is it a compliment—or a curse—to call him the most nuanced child actor since Haley Joel Osment in “The Sixth Sense”? Lieberher, 12, not only carries some of the weightiest lines in Ted Melfi’s script, he makes this comedy work based on his chemistry with Bill Murray.

Tilda Swinton
Best Supporting Actress, “Snowpiercer”

The Academy usually doesn’t nominate actors in sci-fi films. But Swinton is a riot in Bong Joon-ho’s trippy futuristic thriller as a dystopian leader. She’s like a cross between Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Iron Lady.”

More Film

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED Related Kevin Costner on Oscar Netflix Controversy: 'Movies Are for Theaters' Lady Gaga Honors Longtime Hairstylist: 'If I Was [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content