The Oscar nominations will be announced Thursday morning, and, though nothing's 100 percent, most of the acting categories are stacked with clear favorites.
In fact, the acting categories are so crowded with contenders that the many terrific performances in the smaller indies of 2013 are almost certainly going to be overlooked. Here are 10 who deserved the Academy's attention.
10. Kyle Chandler in “The Spectacular Now”
Love Kyle Chandler as Coach Taylor. Problem is he's been stuck in that role since “Friday Night Lights” ended, playing the prickly but decent can-doer in “Super 8,” “Wolf of Wall Street” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” But he gets to play against type in “The Spectacular Now.” Instead of buttoned-up and in-control, Chandler plays a deadbeat dad, sloppy, selfish and a let-down to everyone he meets. It's actually kind of disturbing watching Coach Taylor fall off the wagon.
9. Michael B. Jordan in “Fruitvale Station”
Michael B. Jordan was great on “The Wire,” great on “Friday Night Lights,” even great in “Chronicle.” And it was thrilling to see him get the lead of a movie like “Fruitvale Station,” playing a young man struggling to make his life work in the hours leading up to his death. This based-on-a-true-story Sundance darling didn't ever come together as anything more than a sketch of a movie, but Jordan's performance is real and charming, and when he's one of the biggest movie stars on the planet in 10 or so years, this will be remembered as his breakthrough.
8. Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner in “Frances Ha”
Two best friends in New York who drift apart because of love and real estate, one of them a mess, one of them more of a mess than she thinks she is. Gerwig and Sumner (and the screenwriters) capture the insular weirdness of a close friendship and the ache of it falling apart.
7. Shailene Woodley in “The Spectacular Now”
Sweet Shailene Woodley. So great in “The Descendants” and soon to be a big star following “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” And in “Spectacular Now,” as the wallflower-ish high school girl who falls for fun and crazy guy Miles Teller, she's perfect.
6. Bradley Cooper in “The Place Beyond the Pines”
Most of the attention is going to Cooper's performance in “American Hustle,” which very well may nab him a supporting actor nomination. But Oscar voters should take note of his work in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” As a good cop wrestling with his conscience and the consequences of a terrible mistake, Cooper's never been better.
5. Keith Stanfield in “Short Term 12”
In a year less flooded with prestige films, newcomer Stanfield might have received a nomination for his gut-wrenching performance as Marcus, a sweet but troubled youth about to leave the foster care facility that's been his home for several years. In a movie of pitch-perfect, emotionally shattering performances (see No. 1), Stanfield stands out.
4. Simon Pegg in “The World's End”
Pegg twists his usual persona into something a little uglier and a lot sadder as Gary King, an alcoholic, suicidal jerk who tries to relive old glories by dragging his childhood friends through a pub crawl in their old hometown. “World's End” is a hysterical comedy about alien invasion and “smashy smashy egg men,” but it's also about the terrible beauty to be found in the trainwreck of humanity. Pegg embodies that terrible beauty.
3. AdŤle Exarchopoulos in “Blue is the Warmest Color”
For all the ink spilled over its explicit sex scenes, “Blue is the Warmest Color” is just a simple coming of age story about love found and lost. What makes it something special is its almost novelistic attention to the details of its characters' lives. And for it all to work, the movie needed a raw, unaffected actress at its center. It found that in Exarchopoulos. She helped make “Blue's” messy, lovely heroine feel like a close friend by the time the film ends.
2. Amy Seimetz in “Upstream Color”
In Shane Carruth's sci-fi film, Seimetz plays a woman who's lost her memories, her identity, her grasp on reality. The wonder of her performance is that she's not a blank slate. Seimetz conveys a warm, sympathetic person trying to find her way back to herself. “Upstream Color” is dazzling filmmaking and prime cinematic mind-buggery, but Seimetz gives the movie a soul.
1. Brie Larson in “Short Term 12”
Larson, who's mostly known for her work in comedies, gave the best performance of the year in the best movie of the year. As a foster care facility supervisor whose horrific childhood comes back to haunt her, Larson never goes big. Her deterioration is gradual and nuanced, and her performance reflects the achievement of the film itself: Taking an extremely depressing subject and leavening it with life and humor. “Short Term 12” is now on DVD, and, I implore you, see this movie immediately.