Chris Meloni in WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD: Can we just take a moment to commend Meloni for bouncing back after his celebrated tenure on Law & Order: SVU? His career has literally been on fire since leaving the show a few years ago -- from roles on Veep, True Blood and this indie gem in which he plays a duplicitous father and husband harboring a frightening secret. It's time for him to headline a major project. Hollywood, let's go.
Noah Wiseman in THE BABADOOK: Many have mentioned Essie Davis's performance in this meaningful horror, but I continue to be drawn to young Wiseman's nuanced portrayal of an unruly child-turned-unlikely protector. Like many great coming-of-age stories, we see Samuel (Wiseman) mature as the story progresses. Wiseman is keenly aware of his character's reaction to his mother's downward spiral and, in his own little way, takes on the overwhelming task of trying to save them both -- without overstepping his position.
Arash Marandi in A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT: In my eyes, he's already a star. He's talented, handsome and full of charisma. I mean, why else would they call him "The Persian James Dean?" He is magnetic in this film, as desperate for a connection as our vampire heroine. Commanding the screen from the very beginning, Marandi's performance is as much vulnerable as it is strong.
Ben Affleck in GONE GIRL: Quick question: why aren't we talking about Affleck's performance in this movie? Like, at all. It's particularly perplexing to me because going into the film I just knew Affleck was perfect for this role. And he didn't disappoint. He portrays the preeminent doe-eyed/accidentally brilliant husband to a T.
James McAvoy in THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: THEM: Again, I wasn't in love with this film. But McAvoy is just one of those actors that is so darn dependable. You cast him in a role and he's going to be great. Only an actor like that can make you interested in a film that is otherwise so lifeless, so unmemorable (not bad but just not enough to make you want to revisit). McAvoy's performance is just so bare, without a barrier that you have to break through in order to figure him out. He lays it all out for you. How bold is that?
Nelsan Ellis in GET ON UP: I know, this film is not great. But the performances are really good! Ellis (most known a Lafayette on True Blood) is so understated and remarkable in this role that really is the heart of the film. While Boseman, as impressive as he is in the lead, has the more showy performance (and has more agency in the film), it is Ellis's performance that is most intriguing, one that you are instantly drawn to. That is in part due to Ellis's ability as a supporting actor to not upstage but to absorb each scene and deliver a subtle performance that still resonates with the audience.
Chris Rock in TOP FIVE: This is one of those moments in cinema when you don't really know whether to laugh or weep, a reaction that is indicative of any smart comedian's work (whether is it on film or in stand-up). Rock essentially plays a warped version of himself -- blending caricature with personal and professional reflection in a way that doesn't undermine his real-life celebrity but highlight it so that it humanizes him.