Clayne Crawford in The Baytown Outlaws (Best Actor):
It’s tough to get awards buzz when the film you participated in comes out so early in the year. Even more difficult is when that early release is universally panned and has such a brief theatrical run that it’s practically seen as a straight-to-video flick. The Baytown Outlaws doesn’t deserve the excoriation it’s received, but it’s not exactly high art either. And yet, who could have imagined that such a little-seen movie would showcase a stupendous performance by a young actor that’s yet to break out? Clayne Crawford has worked as a supporting player in several films and television shows for a while now, but director Barry Battle’s pulpy Western gives Crawford the reins to lead, and lead he does. Crawford exudes Southern Cowboy charm despite his seedy appearance and even seedier line of work. But what really impressed me was the sensitivity Crawford brought to his role as the leader of the deadly Oodie Brothers. Safeguarding a handicapped teenager (Game of Thrones‘ Thomas Brodie-Sangster) from gangsters that want to retrieve him for their boss, Brick Oodie proves to be a killer with a heart. Crawford imbues his protagonist with a kindness not seen in these ultra violent shoot-em-up films, increasing the taste level of this subgenre in the process. Crawford is one of 2013’s great discoveries, an Emile Hirsch meets Matthew McConaughey-type who deserves to star in high-profile films from now on. But for the time being, Crawford at least warrants some awards recognition for his fantastic performance in this year’s The Baytown Outlaws.