It’s that time of year again, where Hollywood breaks out the gowns and bubbly to honor the best of the best. Here are some of the year’s finest performances, many of which are expected to garner major awards consideration in the weeks leading up to the Oscars®.
Ralph Fiennes in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014)
As the Grand Budapest Hotel’s colorful and overly committed concierge, Fiennes is an absolute treat to watch. Funny, charming, romantic and deceiving, at times it feels like he’s playing several characters at once -- and you can’t help but love them all.
Ellar Coltrane in ‘Boyhood’ (2014)
A relative unknown, Coltrane had the rare, once-in-a-lifetime honor of playing one role over the course of 12 years. The results are fantastic, and by the time the movie is over, you will have watched this boy literally grow up right before your eyes.
Tilda Swinton in ‘Snowpiercer’ (2014)
As the freakishly forceful second-in-command on a train packed with what’s left of humanity, Swinton absolutely steals this gritty sci-fi film. She’s described her character as being “a smash cut of all the monstrous, maniacal, political clowns…” and, yeah, that about sums it up.
Toby Kebbell in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (2014)
Kebbell donned a motion-capture suit to play Koba, a scarred and vindictive ape hell-bent on exacting revenge against the human race. You may not see a human when you watch him, but that doesn’t make his performance any less powerful.
Rosamund Pike in ‘Gone Girl’ (2014)
With a performance that’s deranged, delirious and wickedly funny, Rosamund Pike plays the perfect wife – and by “perfect,” we mean for someone else. Not us. Yeah, we don’t want to marry her. Not a chance.
Edward Norton and Michael Keaton in ‘Birdman’ (2014)
So much of ‘Birdman’ rests on the hilariously complicated relationship between Edward Norton and Michael Keaton, two actors (in the film, but also in real life) desperately searching for respect and, well, love. But they have to learn to love themselves first.
Emma Stone in ‘Birdman’ (2014)
As a former drug addict just trying to keep herself – and her father’s career – together, Stone delivers what might be the most powerful performance of her career. And those eyes! Can we talk about those eyes?!
Bill Murray in ‘St. Vincent’ (2014)
He’s a lonely, bitter, alcoholic grump with a gambling problem, but it’s impossible not to immediately adore Bill Murray in ‘St. Vincent’ because, well, he’s Bill Murray! But he’s also really charming in the role, making the love-to-hate Vincent a very sympathetic character.
Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’ (2014)
You’ve never seen Jake Gyllenhaal as creepy, slimy and generally unpleasant as he is in this thriller, but at the same time you can’t take your eyes off him -- he’s that good. We wouldn’t want to interview for a job after this guy, that’s for sure
Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014)
If you looked up “Oscar winner” in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything.’ His performance is so authentic and awe-inspiring, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between him and the real Hawking.
Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Imitation Game’ (2014)
As Alan Turing, one of the founders of computer science -- and one of WWII’s unlikeliest war heroes -- Cumberbatch is just as brilliant as he is handsome. Will this tortured cinematic soul crack Oscar’s code?
Steve Carell in ‘Foxcatcher’ (2014)
Carell absolutely disappears into the role of deranged multi-millionaire John du Pont, delivering a performance that, unlike his others, is immensely unfunny in every conceivable way. If you laugh, it’s only because you’re too uncomfortable to do anything else.
Reese Witherspoon in ‘Wild’ (2014)
It’s the most difficult role she’s ever taken on, but, man, is she good in it. Chock-full of grit, emotion and really nasty broken toenails, Witherspoon completely owns this real-life tale of a woman who ditches her life for a 1200-mile hike. Dare we say we’re “wild” for the movie?
Matthew McConaughey in ‘Interstellar’ (2014)
In Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi adventure, Matthew McConaughey plays a farmer and pilot who must cope with the ramifications of leaving his family in order to explore the far reaches of outer space. There’s no phoning home where he’s going, but that’s what makes his performance all the more gripping and heartbreaking.
Amy Adams in ‘Big Eyes’ (2014)
Amy Adams simply melts into the role of painter Margaret Keane, whose ratty husband took credit for her iconic pieces of art featuring girls with big eyes. You won’t want to paint her out of awards consideration.