Great 2013 Performances the Oscars Will Ignore

00:00 December 22, 2013
By: Fritz Esker
[Courtesy of Universal Pictures]

With occasional exceptions like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive or Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, great performances in comedy, action, or horror films are typically overlooked by the Academy Awards. But good actors in genre films lend them a vital authenticity that the film would suffer without. These actors are the MVPs of some of 2013's good genre films.

The Conjuring is a worthwhile horror film. It features a pretty traditional ghost story and solid direction. However, Vera Farmiga grounds it in reality as one member of a husband-and-wife exorcist team (Patrick Wilson also does fine work as the husband). By showing the audience the emotional and physical toll her work takes on her, Farmiga gives The Conjuring a soul and makes you feel like something's really at stake in the climactic confrontation.

About Time undeservingly fizzled at the box office, probably because marketers didn't know what to make of its mix of romantic comedy, family drama, and time travel fantasy. Bill Nighy provides the film's emotional center as a father who tells his son (Domnhall Gleeson) that the men in their family can travel back in time. Nighy gets many of the best one-liners, but he understands the old adage that humor is often a mask for anger or sadness (for Nighy's character, it's the latter). He makes you sense the pain and grief behind the quips. His final scene is quite possibly the year's most poignant.

Daniel Bruhl's character in Rush would have been purely a villain in most sports or action films (he's not all that different from Val Kilmer's antagonist in Top Gun). Compared to Chris Hemsworth's gregarious, carefree maverick, Bruhl could have simply played his character as a dour sourpuss. But, with the help of a strong script by Peter Morgan, Bruhl makes you realize that his character is often right. He doesn't shy away from showing his prickliness, but you leave the film respecting and admiring his principles and his determination.

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