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List Sunday - Best non-Oscar worthy performances

The stereotype about Oscars for performances is that you have to play someone with a disability (Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot) or a real-life person (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote). Also, playing someone of a different nationality (any number of British actors playing American) or going full Method (Charlize Theron in Monster). It’s easy to give awards to people with big Oscar moments in their movies, but often performances that are close to the perception of that actor are overlooked.

Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick

Most people realize that it’s really difficult to play yourself in a film. Nanjiani manages to tap into real pathos and emotional depth while still being funny and witty.

Hailee Steinfeld in The Edge of Seventeen

The fact that we don’t hate Hailee Steinfeld’s character is a testament to her acting ability. Or even if you do, the fact that you believe her means that performance could have been

Greta Gerwig in Mistress America

It’s probably easy to dismiss Greta Gerwig as her character - privileged, a bit daffy and oblivious. But if you’ve ever heard her speak in interviews, that’s far from the case. Also, if you are genuinely oblivious then it’s nearly impossible to play that convincingly.

Adam Driver in While We’re Young

I didn’t know if I wanted to kick Adam Driver’s character or if I understood him. What he does is so subtle: playing conniving with a perfectly straight, innocent face,

Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man

You could be forgiven for thinking Robert Downey, Jr. was Iron Man in real life, but he’s proven that he can act well (and quite differently) in many other roles. His character goes through real, convincing arcs and play perfect foils to characters like Captain America because of Downey’s ability.

 

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