6. Michelle Williams – Take this Waltz (2011)
Of course Michelle Williams is nothing short of unforgettable as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. Of course her understated performance in Brokeback Mountain and her sensitive turn in Blue Valentine were worthy of the Oscar nominations – but in Take This Waltz, Williams gets rid of the glamour and incarnates a down-to-Earth dilemma while taking us on a journey of recognition, reflection, and ultimately loneliness.
Sarah Polley’s brilliant film is a delicate story about love in all its nuances and complications brought on by those weird, unwanted feelings that we can’t control toward other people. It’s all in Williams’ eyes, posture, demeanor… she’s always so absolutely present on camera. Among decent performances from male leads Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby and a stunning supporting turn from Sarah Silverman, she’s the still one that makes it work.
7. Chiwetel Ejiofor – Z for Zachariah (2015)
Mr. Ejiofor has been in a lot of great underseen movies (political thriller Endgame, for example), but the one that’s freshest on my mind right now is Z for Zachariah, Craig Zobel’s deliciously daring sci-fi drama with Adam & Eve undertones. In a post-apocalyptic world, Ejiofor and Margot Robbie are seemingly the only ones left – that is, until Chris Pine comes along, playing Serpent to their Adam & Eve.
Z for Zachariah discusses race, sex, maturity, selfishness, faith and that feeling of being the “outsider” of a group, all while presenting a trio of absolutely stunning performances. Ejiofor still stands out, though, as his problematic and tough-minded character gets more and more nuanced while the film progresses. The actor is right there every time Zobel wishes to up the ante, and the result is a deeply enthralling piece of fiction.
8. Charlize Theron – Dark Places (2015)
Another one that got overshadowed by another role from the same actress on the same year, Dark Places is the Gillian Flynn adaptation everyone forgot to watch after Gone Girl blew our collective mind.
It’s still a scathing story of confronting the past, the present and the possibility of a future, though- through the tale of a young woman revisiting a terrible crime that took place during her childhood, it takes us back and forth in time to balance the decisions everyone involved had to make.
Theron is great throughout this journey, delivering a quiet performance, much in the same vein as her Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, on that same year. Behind the troubled eyes and the few words, she’s all body language and perfectly calculated expressions, though, and you’ll soon feel involved in her story – the film also boasts impressive supporting turns from Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Christina Hendricks and Chloe Moretz.
9. Jake Gyllenhaal – End of Watch (2012)
Mr. Gyllenhaal is another one for which is hard to pick just one overlooked film. End of Watch gets the prize, though, both because it’s inventive and interesting as a cinematic experiment and because it boasts one of the actor’s finest performances to date. As half of a duo of cops trying to escape an assassination order from a cartel in Los Angeles, Gyllenhaal is in tune with scene-partner Michael Peña, often assimilating his style into his particular brand of acting.
That means, of course, naturalistic and charismatic work, that’s nevertheless brilliant in other, more profound levels. Arguably director David Ayer’s best film, End of Watch is thrilling, innovative, perpetually interesting and carefully crafted, all attributes you wouldn’t normally find in the director’s other films. It works because it has the right actors for it.
10. Gael García Bernal – Rosewater (2014)
Before leaving his post as the host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart made his writing and directing debut with Rosewater, the scathing retelling of journalist Maziar Bahari’s agonizing journey through 118 days of prison in Iran. He picked Gael García Bernal for the main role, which could’ve been a controversial decision if the actor didn’t deliver in such a manner that protesting against his casting would be sucking out the pure soul of the film.
As usual, Bernal’s work here is subtle, but tremendously effective. We feel his pain, his fear, and eventually his adaptation into a situation he already knew all too well. Meanwhile, Stewart has yet to deliver a follow-up movie, and we certainly wait with bated breath.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.