10 Incredible, Underrated Film Performances From 2014

As the movie year is drawing to a close and every day begets more Top 10 lists and critics awards, it’s becoming easier and easier to take some fairly educated guesses as to how the Academy Award nominations are going to shake out. Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike, Julianne Moore, and Felicity Jones (and maybe Marion Cotillard, hopefully?) will probably get Best Actress noms. Steve Carell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, and Eddie Redmayne will probably get Best Actor. J.K. Simmons may as well pick up his Supporting Actor trophy now; ditto Patricia Arquette for Supporting Actress. And so on. It can all start to seem a little predetermined, with the feeling that we’re just gonna keep hearing these same names over and over for the next few months — and as if there’s nothing else worth discovering or celebrating, which is just plain bunk. So in the interest of year-end spotlighting, your film editor humbly submits a few more great performances that aren’t getting the love they deserve.

Tessa Thompson in Dear White People

Thompson — an endlessly charismatic actor who’s been killing it since Season 2 of Veronica Mars — holds perhaps the trickiest role in Justin Simien’s razor-sharp satire, brilliantly inhabiting the role of the campus rabble-rouser whose allegiances and politics are a little bit more complicated than they seem. Thompson plays the comedy absolutely correctly (dead serious) and doesn’t overdo the pathos, as a lesser actor would. (Plus, there’s something utterly delicious about watching her play the centerpiece “Fuck Tyler Perry!” scene, considering her supporting role in Perry’s nightmarish For Colored Girls adaptation.)