Oscar voters have received their nomination ballots. But hear us out: We have some dark horses for them to consider.
The Academy Awards acting field will be announced Tuesday morning, and it will most likely include feel-good comeback stories (Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan), usual suspects (Cate Blanchett and Viola Davis), and those who may finally be getting their Oscar due (Michelle Yeoh and Colin Farrell). What we really loved this year – and would like to see recognised – were those standout performances full of villainous verve, international bromantic flair, and, yes, an old-school need for speed.
Please consider these epic acting showcases, Academy Awards.
Here are ten deserving performances that we hope will be remembered in this year’s Oscar race:
From “Pearl” to “The Batman,” antagonistic portrayals ruled.
“Top Gun: Maverick” took off thanks to an A-lister with plenty of gas left in the tank.
The “RRR” guys made fighting and dancing cool.
RRR (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.)
Is it possible for the Academy to go halfsies on a best actor nomination? Because the two Indian mega-stars in this action-packed musical adventure are what make “RRR” such an audience-friendly powerhouse: Ram Charan’s British army soldier and Rao’s loyal warrior become friends, butt heads as enemies, and then reunite as a fighting force, complete with an all-time bromance and an amazing dance-off. If we had to choose, the charismatic Rao has the edge when it comes to commanding an army of wild animals and juggling a motorcycle with ease.
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ star Tom Cruise
Cruise has two best actor Oscar nominations, for 1989’s “Born on the Fourth of July” and 1996’s “Jerry Maguire,” as well as a supporting actor nomination for 1999’s “Magnolia.” Nothing works. Since then, he’s been in an Oscar drought while ascending to Hollywood icon status, owing largely to his daring action-movie exploits. So why not honour the joy he’s brought to millions with a trophy for “Top Gun”? Despite thrilling a pandemic-weary world and possibly reopening movie theatres worldwide, his performance as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell has yet to garner any awards attention. Is it time for that Oscar?
‘The Batman,’ Paul Dano
It’s perplexing that Dano received a SAG nomination for “The Fabelmans” but not for his best performance in 2022, as the Riddler in Matt Reeves’ reboot of the Dark Knight mythos. With his serial-killing take on the Count of Conundrums, Dano cast an unsettling presence under Saran Wrap, a freaky green mask, and glasses. Most impressively, when the costume is removed, he becomes a traumatised figure intent on becoming Gotham City’s true saviour.
Mia Goth (nicknamed “Pearl”)
Scar voters famously turn their noses up at horror, which means they frequently overlook the risk-taking brilliance of actors like Goth, who creates a new camp icon in “Pearl.” Pearl, like a deranged Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” will go to any length to escape her bleak farm life for the bright lights of stardom. Goth captures her crazed obsession and fragility brilliantly, culminating in one of the most haunting (and memeable) final shots in years.
Tár (Nina Hoss)
Blanchett gives an unforgettable performance as Lydia Tár, an orchestra conductor on a downward spiral. Hoss, on the other hand, plays Lydia’s complicit wife Sharon, a gifted musician in her own right who stands by as Lydia abuses her power. The power of Hoss’ performance lies in her watchful eyes and pursed lips, biting her tongue about Lydia’s personal and professional transgressions until the drama’s explosive conclusion.
‘Kimi’ Zoe Kravitz
Kravitz’s agoraphobic Seattle tech worker works on a company’s Alexa-like at-home voice service, hears a recording she isn’t supposed to hear, and is soon running for her life in Steven Soderbergh’s pandemic-era paranoia thriller. The actress is the cool, blue-haired beating heart amid the Hitchcockian thrills, giving the audience a rousing heroine as well as an immersive exploration of mental-health issues, masked up and leaving us more than a little breathless.
Lashana Lynch (‘Matilda the Musical’ and ‘The Woman King’)
The “Captain Marvel” breakout continues to demonstrate her versatility as one of Hollywood’s most versatile stars. As the gentle Miss Honey in the film musical “Matilda,” she exudes warmth and understanding, and she delivers powerhouse vocals on the heartbreaking ballad “My House.” And in the historical epic “The Woman King,” it’s impossible to look away from Lynch, who plays resilient Dahomey warrior Izogie with effortless charisma. Davis’ stunning performance is the film’s anchor, but Lynch’s electrifying performance is also Oscar-worthy.
‘Aftersun’ Paul Mescal
If there was any justice in the world, Mescal would be a best actor lock for his wistful and aching performance as Calum, a young father who goes on vacation with his 11-year-old daughter in “Aftersun” (a terrific Frankie Corio). The subtle ways in which Mescal conveys Calum’s quiet suffering, putting on a playful face for his daughter even as he wrestles with personal demons, are part of what makes Charlotte Wells’ film so devastating.
‘Nope,’ says Keke Palmer.
The deft sci-fi thriller from Jordan Peele appears to rely on star Daniel Kaluuya’s stoic performance. Nope. Emerald Haywood, Kaluuya’s talkative and fearless sister, is played by Keke Palmer, who arguably steals the show. The actress, who first won our hearts as the young spelling champion in 2006’s “Akeelah and the Bee,” keeps “Nope” on the boil from start to finish, as her infectious enthusiasm and raw fear serve as a proxy for our own.
(‘The Inspection’) Jeremy Pope
One Golden Globe nomination does not appear to be enough to honour Pope’s honest and heartfelt story in the boot-camp drama. Pope is a revelation as a young gay man cast out by his homophobic mother and a Marine dealing with toxic hostility from his fellow new recruits. He brings raw emotion, needed grit, and a strong sense of hope to a timely tale of identity and brotherhood. It’s a sign of many more award seasons to come for a rising star.