Now that the Screen Actors Guild has announced the nominations and the Golden Globes are… well, live on Twitter… this season’s acting races are starting to get attention. However, I would like to urge adventurous Oscar voters to look elsewhere, as many of the best performances have been overlooked by both groups. Here are five stellar twists that still deserve their due, as well as a sixth performance that should be even better than it is.
Renate Reinswe, “The Worst Man in the World”
Here’s what Renate Reinswe does as Julie, the main character in The Worst Man in the World: she changes majors in college; she flirts; she is dating one guy and is thinking about dating another; sometimes she dances, takes drugs, writes, takes pictures; she worries, more often than she should, that she is aimless. But in this set of little things that make up real life, the film’s purpose is incredibly true.
Reinswe, 34, is a Norwegian actress, but she looks so much like Dakota Johnson that you’ll start to wonder why Johnson isn’t doing romantic dramas that are so real and appealing, or why Hollywood has stopped making them. (The film, which had a brief Oscar-nominated run last year, will be shown in more US theaters next month.) That may be why I treasured this film so much, though most of the credit should go to Reinswe for that he played someone. so specific in its stretched form that you might think you could text Julie about drinking after watching her movie.
Colman Domingo, Ash
What can’t Colman Domingo do better? The 52-year-old Broadway veteran has become one of our top character actors, appearing in a slew of award-season films such as Lincoln, Selma and If Beale Street Could Talk. He can play slyly – with his raised eyebrows and shady silence, he almost stole “The Butler Lee Daniels” from the rest of the star actors in this film – or solidly, as when he embodied the traditionalist opposite the fiery Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey”. Black Bottom.
Cinder is less obvious as an Oscar contender than those films, but Domingo’s performance in it is still noteworthy: as a pimp who plays with our heroine (Taylor Paige) during a failed trip to a strip club, Domingo frightening at the same time. and a buzz under tension, sometimes switching between these extremes in line space. After proving to be a good luck charm despite so many award-winning performances, it’s time for Oscar to let himself be charmed by Domingo himself.
Jessie Buckley, Lost Daughter
I enjoyed seeing Irish actress Jessie Buckley’s work in films like I’m Thinking of Ending It and Wild Rose, but not once did I think, “You know who she should play? Young Olivia Colman! In fact, it seems reckless on the part of director Maggie Gyllenhaal to even use Buckley as an earlier version of Colman’s character in The Lost Daughter: is there really enough space between 32-year-old Buckley and 47-year-old Colman that we’d buy them as different poles of the same and the same person?
Somehow it works, and that’s while Buckley is also juggling a few other balls. Not only does she have to convince like Coleman, she has to uncover this hapless character’s enigmatic backstory and sell off a few scenes that sound unsympathetic on paper – like taking it out on her kids and contemplating adultery as a fun change of pace. However, Buckley is so nimble and inherently clingy that you don’t wonder for a second. Even surviving this challenge is a feat, but completing it and becoming the stealthy MVP of the movie is a completely different level.
Olga Meredis, “In the mountains”
The high-energy summer release “In the Heights” seemed to be one of the first top contenders for this year’s Oscars, until underwhelming box office performance put it in “also winning” status. That quick rejection now seems unfair, as most of the contenders for the awards that came in a few months later, including West Side Story, a much more expensive adaptation about singing on the streets of New York, hardly did much better.
Perhaps it’s time to take another look at In the Heights, especially if more attention is paid to Olga Meredis, the 65-year-old actress who played the role of Abuela Claudia on stage. Her song “Paciencia y Fe” becomes the centerpiece of the film, a fantasy about an immigrant experience that takes your breath away after a few decades. Director John M. Chu choreographed the scene well – with lots of beautiful dancing and smart cuts with effects – but the vulnerable Meredis singing from the bottom of her heart is what you remember the most. (You could cut out everything but her face and not miss a beat.)
Ben Affleck, The Last Duel
Sometimes when I look at those who are nominated for an Oscar, I want to portray the image of the buxom socialite Kristen Johnston from “Sex and the City” and exclaim: “Nobody is more fun! What happened to the fun? Here’s what happens when people equate seriousness with dignity: we get a full list of serious, smug candidates.
As a defense against this, may I bring to your attention 49-year-old Ben Affleck? No, not for the more traditional “The Tender Bar” that just earned him a SAG nod: instead, please nominate him for spending time in “The Last Duel,” in which his lewd Count puts on orgies, bliss. Matt Damon tells dirty jokes and begs Adam Driver to take off his pants. Is this all a bit anachronistic? Does he use a British accent instead of French in the movie? Can anyone on this planet understand his hair? Yes, yes and no, but what of it? Affleck is so funny that only a professional can handle it all.
Ruth Negga, “The Walkthrough”
Ruth Negga has been nominated for SAG and Golden Globe awards for her work in The Passage, but I still can’t put her on this list because The Passage itself didn’t receive the proper awards and I’m afraid that puts 40-year-old… old Negge is in danger of being snubbed. There are few films I’ve thought about this season more than this directorial debut of actress Rebecca Hall, and absolutely no film has stuck in my mind more than Negga’s performance.
In Passage, based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Negga plays Claire, a light-skinned black woman who pretends to be white. When she reunites with her childhood friend Irene (Tessa Thompson), an already difficult existence becomes doubly dangerous: Claire hooks up with her racist white husband (Alexander Skarsgård) to flirt with Irene in all sorts of provocative ways. Does she see Irene’s respectable life as an honest black wife in Harlem and yearn for what she’s been avoiding? Or she wants to lure Irene into an intermediate life where the bond between them might even become romantic.
I’m still not entirely sure because a year after seeing this movie, I’m still turning Negga’s performance around to explore it from new angles. This is what you call a gem, isn’t it?