Skip to main content

Ranking the 20 Oscar-Nominated Acting Performances

Four weeks from today the Academy Awards will be honoring this year's most prolific performances. And while I've openly stated my personal opinion that 2016's cinematic year left me feeling rather underwhelmed, it's still impossible to ignore the quality performances that were given by a talented crop of actors and actresses. The Oscars aren't perfect, but in an opinion-based system in which operates, who really is? Yet, it's impossible to refute that Hollywood's biggest awards ceremony does a very admirable job of highlighting top-flight talent in all regards. So here are my individual rankings for the 20 Oscar-Nominated performances (December's list):

*** Note: It's VERY rare that I miss a nominated performance, however I haven't been able to catch the foreign film Elle this year (I will update this list as soon as I do).\

Unranked: Isabelle Huppert (Elle) ***

#19. Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

I mean, honestly, the Academy passed on Amy Adams for this? Streep is an amazing actress, it can't be denied, but she doesn't deserve a nomination for every role based purely on reputation! Florence Foster Jenkins was a punishing watch and it's difficult to fathom all of the film's fanfare.

#18. Nicole Kidman (Lion)

I'm still baffled by Lion's ability to capture 6 Oscar Nominations. Harvey Weinstein's influence appears a bit unsettling as this middling account of a remarkable story continues to churn through the awards season. Kidman offers a decent performance in a very small and forgettable role.

#17. Dev Patel (Lion)

We go back-to-back with the performances from Lion that were nominated. And while Dev Patel's much larger and more impactful role clearly outshines Kidman's work, the performance still lacks the type of depth delivered by many other actors and actresses this year.

#16. Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

This is by no means a slight towards Barry Jenkins' outstanding indie drama, Moonlight, I just viewed Naomie Harris' role as a drug-addicted inner-city mother as stereotypical. It failed to push any boundaries and, in fact, I'd argue that Janelle Monae's supporting turn in the film was just as impressive, if not more.

#15. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Octavia Spencer's work represents another performance that I felt was overshadowed by the brilliance of co-star Janelle Monae. However, Spencer landed the nomination as she delivers another fine piece of acting in this year's crowd-pleaser, Hidden Figures.

#14. Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Mel Gibson's war-drama, Hacksaw Ridge, is another one of those films that critics and moviegoers adored much more than myself. Although I was put off by the film's odd inability to capture an appropriate tone, I will admit that leading star Andrew Garfield stands as Hacksaw Ridge's most glowing attribute. 

#13. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Let me be clear, I believe the Academy went in the wrong direction here. Ben Foster offers a much more compelling and memorable character than Bridges, who admittedly gives an all-too familiar performance, but the veteran actor still shines in David Mackenzie's Hell or high Water.

#12. Ruth Negga (Loving)

As the fall of 2016 approached, early buzz placed Jeff Nichols' Loving as a legitimate Best Picture contender. However, as time marched closer to the awards season frenzy, the film's flame ultimately burned out. Yet, thankfully, leading lady Ruth Negga wasn't a casualty of time as she eked out a nomination for her soulful and deserving performance.

#11. Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Viggo Mortensen delivers a remarkable performance in one of the year's most prominent films, Captain Fantastic. The audience is transported into an unfathomable lifestyle that Mortensen and his co-stars give immense credence to. I completely believe that the film wouldn't have resonated like it did without Mortensen's towering achievements.

#10. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Despite being my highest rated performance on this list from Moonlight, Mahershala Ali's strong work serves as a necessary component to 2016's best ensemble of any film. This tantalizing indie drama is far greater than the sum of its parts and Ali represents just one of the many exceptional turns scattered throughout the film.

#9. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Lucas Hedges bursts onto the scene in Kenneth Lonergan's heavy-hitting drama, Manchester by the Sea. My initial reaction to the film was that the young performer's character was written a little poorly. Yet, upon further examination, the teenager's irrational reactions to his father's passing are actually captured in a more realistic manner than I initially thought. That revelation reaffirms just how impressive Hedges truly is in the film.

#8. Denzel Washington (Fences)

In the usual Denzel Washington fashion he gives a flashy, all-eyes-on-me type of performance in his own directed film, Fences. The actor's work is boisterous, loud and completely lacking in subtlety. Yet, the role gives him the ability to command the screen and Washington proves he can still do that with the best in the business.

#7. Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Just in front of Denzel Washington is his Best Actor competitor, Ryan Gosling. Their rankings are very close, in my eyes, but for completely different reasons. Gosling's performance isn't quite as showy, but it blends together heart-filled emotion, charm and complexity that helps stamp La La Land as the year's finest film.

#6. Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

There's a renegade-vibe to Michael Shannon's detective character in Nocturnal Animals. He's all about unbridled justice, a perplexing trait for a man of the law, as he helps a man seek retribution for his loss. Shannon continues to stand as one of the finest character-actors in the business.

#5. Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

While supporting star, Michelle Williams, isn't given anywhere near the amount of screen time as many other actors and actresses on this list, she makes the most of every second in Manchester by the Sea. Her emotionally-battered character oozes with torment and sadness in one of the film's most pivotal scenes. This blistering interaction between Williams and Affleck is both powerful and unforgettable.

#4. Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Natalie Portman captures the perfect blend of melancholy and sadness in her eerie, life-like portrayal of former First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. Portman delves into the despair of her title character, reliving the bitter moments following her husband's unforeseen assassination. This somber examination isn't the most thrilling watch, but Portman gives the film a shocking sense of authenticity.

#3. Viola Davis (Fences)

Given her massive amount of screen time, it's almost unfair that Viola Davis is competing within the Best Supporting Actress race. The Fences co-star outshines her counterpart and director, Denzel Washington, to deliver one of the most fiery performances of the year. There's nothing "supporting" about this role as Davis stands as the most influential aspect of the film.

#2. Emma Stone (La La Land)

Perhaps I'm a little biased, as La La Land is clearly my favorite film of the year. Either way, Emma Stone represents the heart and soul of Damien Chazelle's whimsical tale of love and chasing your dreams. Stone's character hits home as she straddles the line of confidence and quitting, a contemplation we've all experienced in some form. She's magnificent in the role and deserving of her first Oscar statue.

#1. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

In a year filled with amazing work from talented actresses, somehow a man still finds a way to steal the spotlight. Casey Affleck offers a career-best performance that should (and better) earn him a first Oscar victory. I've heard many complaints from moviegoers regarding Kenneth Lonergan's long, drawn-out screenplay. Yet, Affleck's quiet and nuanced performance screams pain and agony with one of the year's most gut-wrenching turns. He bear-hugs the tattered soul of his character and puts on an acting display for the ages. Affleck is reason enough to witness the heartbreaking tale of Manchester by the Sea.


Popular posts from this blog

The Glass Castle

Destin Cretton is anything but a household name. Yet, the gifted filmmaker turned heads with his massively overlooked 2013 drama, Short Term 12. The effort bridged together Cretton's singular story and vision with the remarkable acting talents of Brie Larson. Since then Larson has gone on to win an Academy Award (Room), but her career comes full circle in her latest collaboration with Destin Cretton in the adapted film The Glass Castle.

Told non-chronologically through various flashbacks, The Glass Castle follows the unconventional childhood of gossip columnist and eventual Best-Selling author Jeannette Walls (Larson). Prior to her career as a writer, Walls grows up under the dysfunctional supervision of her alcoholic father (Woody Harrelson) and her amateur artist mother (Naomi Watts). But as Jeannette and her siblings begin to mature and fully comprehend their squatter-lifestyle and impoverished upbringing, they must work together to escape the clutches of their deadbeat parents.

ATHIRAH (2016) REVIEW : Urgensi, Relevansi, dan Intimasi dalam Film Biografi

Urgensi, kata yang tepat dan selalu menjadi poin menarik di setiap film-film tentang seseorang atau biografi. Menilik tujuan seperti apa yang ingin diwujudkan lewat beberapa sineas setelah menyelesaikan proyek film biografi. Beberapa poin ini memang terkadang masih terkesan bias, karena masih ada kepentingan politik yang berusaha ingin disampaikan. Memang, film sejatinya bisa digunakan sebagai alternatif penyampaian pesan, film memiliki misi dari pembuatnya. Sehingga, metode ini kerap digunakan sebagai medium untuk membangun atau mengembalikan sebuah citra.
Juga ada Relevansi, kata yang tepat setelah menonton sebuah film biografi. Apa yang berusaha dibangun dan ingin disampaikan oleh menonton akan berdampak pada bagaimana seseorang memiliki paradigma dengan sosok tersebut. Dua poin itu juga yang membuat Riri Riza ingin mengabadikan secara visual tentang sosok Ibu Jusuf Kalla bernama Athirah. Memoir tentang Athirah telah pertama kali dituliskan ke dalam bentuk buku oleh Albethiene En…

The Best Performances in Christopher Nolan Films

Like a writer pushing his deadline, guest-writer Greg Rouleau has stepped in to deliver the first of a three-part Movie List of the Month featuring the magnificent Christopher Nolan just before the calendar changed to August (June's list). To begin the upcoming movie list series Greg begins by highlighting the Top 10 performances featured in Nolan's film catalog. Here's a look at the selections:

#10. Matthew McConaughey - Interstellar (2014)

The apex of the “McConaissance” came when McConaughey, fresh off an Academy Award win for Best Actor, signed on to star in Nolan’s big-budget sci-fi epic, with an ensemble that included its fair share of Oscar winners and nominees.  Heading this cast in impressive fashion, McConaughey’s Cooper perfectly embodies the rural American family man who can’t deny his dormant thrill for exploration when he’s chosen to lead a team through a wormhole in hopes of discovering a new home for Earth’s inhabitants.  Coop’s great balance of heart, herois…