Every year, the Oscars single out many excellent performances. But a few great ones always fall through the cracks for various reasons. Here are some of 2018’s best that the Oscars will probably ignore (although I hope to be wrong about this in one of these features someday).
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
In director Bo Burnham’s highly relatable film about the transition between middle school and high school, Elsie Fisher anchors the proceedings with her touching, grounded performance as the lead. She is awkward without being annoying, and she manages to simultaneously radiate sadness and hopefulness throughout.
Simon Russell Beale, The Death of Stalin
While Eighth Grade’s Fisher played a character who was likable and sympathetic, Simon Russell Beale plays the polar opposite in The Death of Stalin as Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s predatory chief of the secret police. Instead of playing Beria as the embodiment of evil, Beale allows him to be funny and vulnerable at times. He reminds viewers of the banality of evil, that history’s monsters were otherwise ordinary people with fears, petty jealousies, and even flashes of compassion. He also does this without ever letting the audience lose sight of Beria’s cruelty and violence.
Vera Farmiga, The Front Runner
In Jason Reitman's woefully underseen film, Vera Farmiga plays Lee Hart, the wife of 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart. The film is about how Hart’s infidelities derailed what was a promising presidential campaign. Farmiga gives a performance of intelligence and quiet dignity in what could have been a thankless role. The best compliment you can give her is that she isn’t in the film much, but it feels like she is. That’s how much of an impression she makes in her scenes.