The 2015 Academy Awards are behind us now and viewership was at a six year low and many have blamed this on the influx of little-seen films that were nominated this year. There seems to be a direct ratings correlation between blockbusters being favored to win (Titanic in 1998 was a ratings champ as was Forrest Gump in 1995) and years where smaller films are vying for the top prize. Given the rich independent backgrounds of many of the winners, we wanted to shine a light on some of the performances that are not as well-known.
In this 2008 film, Redmayne plays the son of New York socialites (played by Julianne Moore and Stephen Dillane) undone by mental illness and dysfunction. Redmayne had been virtually unseen by American audiences at that time and more than held his own with Moore in a crucial, tricky role that could have made the movie go off the rails with a lesser performance.
Far From Heaven
This 2002 melodrama from Todd Haynes has Moore playing Cathy Whitaker- a 1950’s housewife- told through the prism of a Douglas Sirk film. This powerful exploration of suburban ennui and societal strictures made this a companion piece to Moore’s previous collaboration with Haynes, the 1995 film Safe. Moore effortlessly disappears into her numb housewife from the outset and wrings this bittersweet story to its inevitable conclusion. A high-water mark for an actress who already had audiences expecting greatness.
The Vicious Kind
J.K. Simmons has always had great success in authoritarian roles. Both his chilling work as the Neo-Nazi Vern Schillinger in HBO’s OZ and his blustery J. Jonah Jamison in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy showcase this to great effect. However, his role as Donald Sinclaire in writer/director Lee Toland Krieger’s The Vicious Kind makes great use of him in another way. Here he plays a small-town father whose All-American facade masks past sins that are reflected in his estranged, brutally nihilistic older son (Adam Scott) and his overly naive younger one (Alex Frost). An underseen gem.
True Romance (Unrated)
Although this 1993 Tony Scott film hardly qualifies as “little seen”, it is more known for its pre-Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino script than anything else. However, this film is full of career-best turns by Arquette, Gary Oldman, and Christian Slater to name a few. Here, Arquette plays Alabama Whitman and she subverts the hooker with a heart of gold cliche and turns Alabama into a deeply felt character. She has an especially brutal scene in a hotel room and makes the viewer feel every bit of violence visited upon her character through her soul-shaking work.
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Amores Perros (English Subtitled)
What a performance this was. Iñárritu’s 2000 debut feature stunned audiences around the world with his brutal telling of three interconnected stories that all revolve around a single car accident. This was the first film in Iñárritu’s “trilogy of death” and is still his most powerful statement.