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As Mason in Boyhood
As much as my feelings on Boyhood have fluctuated throughout the year and after two viewings, there's no denying that this is a mesmerizingly fluid performance from age 6 to 18. The movie wouldn't work if it didn't feel like we're watching this person gradually grow through both joy and turmoil. Even for a non-professional, it feels effortless here.
As Gloria in Gloria
Disarray at its finest. Very few have seen it, but this is the best performance I saw in 2014.
As Riggan in Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Rarely has following a character's physical and mental journey for two hours kept me so much on the edge of my seat.
As Mother/Mistress in Moebius
A performance that's as dark, inscrutable and perverse as the film itself.
As Ashley in Listen Up Philip
A lot of actresses can play sweet/innocent in one movie and spunky/wily in another. Moss managed to negotiate both things in one film, and what's more amazing is that she did that in two movies this year: Listen Up Philip and The One I Love. Both movies required her to navigate a lot of extremes. Listen Up Philip isn't perfect, but it's the better movie, and it's the one for which I think she deserves to be cited.
As Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything
I've hated - not disliked - hated every previous performance I've seen from Redmayne. He's been the weakest part of Oscar-nominated movies like My Week with Marilyn and Les Miserables and he's ruined movies that would've otherwise been good, like Savage Grace. While The Theory of Everything is a well-made biopic that should've been much more rousing, Redmayne's performance here is terrific and heart-breaking.
As Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I don't care how much of this is performance and how much is technical wizardry. Few actors manage to give so much life to computer-generated characters, and while I found Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to be disappointingly conventional in comparison to its predecessor, Serkis anchors the whole thing perfectly.
As Fletcher in Whiplash
This is a rabid animal of a performance. What's interesting is that we've seen J.K. Simmons acting similarly to this in other movies, but it's always been used for light-hearted purposes (i.e. as the sardonic newspaper chief in Spider-Man and as Juno's dad). Never did I expect that this kind of shtick could be converted into such bile and malevolence. The best male performance of the year.
As Mason in Snowpiercer
Another rabid animal of a performance, except that unlike Simmons' role in Whiplash, this is the kind of villain one gleefully relishes. If there were any fairness in this world, the best supporting actress Oscar would already have Swinton's name on it.
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