When I began theorizing what this list would look like, I first envisioned it including recognizable names that have drawn early awards buzz for next year’s Academy Awards® ceremony. Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Greta Gerwig have been among the awards chatter throughout the first half of the year, and for good reason. They are well-known thespians in the industry (admittedly, Delpy and Gerwig less so) that have their supporters, and their work in films like Mud, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, and The Great Gatsby has been met with deafening acclaim. However, I just find it redundant and pointless to parrot what other bloggers and analysts have been saying these last few days, weeks, and months. Each of these actors will get their deserved campaigns once the awards race is underway — you can count on it. To me, it’s a waste of time to regurgitate the performances and performers you’ve all heard so much about, placing them on a pedestal like so many others do as if they’re Olympian Gods and Goddesses.
An editorial piece last year really shifted my attitude regarding the conduct of awards prognostication. Entertainment Weekly awards analyst Anthony Breznican wrote a heartfelt and inspiring open letter to Ann Dowd last year about how sorry he was for giving up on her when it came to her Oscar® chances for Compliance. He went for what he thought would happen instead of what should happen, and broke off his support for Dowd as soon as he noticed the tide shifting elsewhere. Now, I do think that once it gets down to the wire, there’s evidence you simply cannot ignore if you want to do your job properly. I believe smart, accurate prognostication places facts before feelings, objectivity before personal attachments. That being said, the sentiment in Breznican’s article can perhaps be applied earlier in the year, a time before things really get under way…a time when we, as prognosticators, might be able to make a difference. And so rather than listing the performances that I instinctively know will be backed by the film’s studio, I’m going to mention ones that will have a tougher time getting noticed. The hurdles these performances face are genre bias, gender bias, racial bias, ethnographic bias, age bias, and any other bias you can think of that normally prevents such work from being recognized by The Academy, which as we know is mostly composed of white males in their early 60s with a strong affinity for drama-heavy biopics (although the diverse expansion of The Academy this year gives me hope that such one-dimensional taste will soon vary). And with that said, here are the 10 performances from the first half of 2013 that I feel should be recognized by The Academy, given a proper awards campaign, and against all odds (ain’t that right, Phil Collins?) hopefully find a place amongst the 2014 Oscar® lineup. Do I think any of these performances will follow the yellow brick road to the red carpet? Truthfully, not at all but I couldn’t let the year go by without going to bat for ’em.