3. Sam Rockwell
Movies: Jojo Rabbit; The Best of Enemies; Richard Jewell
Sam Rockwell is an actor who is finally getting the credit he deserves for what seems like a lifetime of fantastic though often underrated performances, the lead actor of the likes of Moon coming off the back of Oscar nominations in both 2018 and 2019.
In 2020, the very best of Rockwell’s work in 2019 is comparable to anyones, his role in Richard Jewell in particular being one of distinct quality; the controversy surrounding the film itself being more a reason for his omission from the Supporting Actor discussion than his actual performance, which could rival many if not all of this year’s nominees.
The Best of Enemies saw Rockwell personify a character not too dissimilar to a few of those he’s portrayed in recent years, the redemptive villainous figure; his talent for creating empathy towards someone despicable being the focus of his talents here, as well as in Jojo Rabbit where Rockwell walked a line between despicable and loveable, radiating the sense of his character not being all that he at first seems; his impressive comedy chops coming to the fore in important moments, with dramatic twists to his character feeling as powerful as many of those in his recent films.
Recommended for you: 1917 Is Not Nationalistic
4. Scarlett Johansson
Movies: Marriage Story; Avengers: Endgame; Jojo Rabbit
Nominated for Oscars in 2 categories this year (Supporting Actress and Leading Actress), Scarlett Johansson’s 2019 could arguably be seen as the year this former child actor finally reached her potential.
The standout performance she had in 2019 was her leading role in Marriage Story. Johansson brought to the role such a strong and relateable embodiment of dwindling hope, not to mention the almost apathetic strength it takes to leave grief and pain behind. Starring in very much an actors movie, alongside Leading Actor nominee Adam Driver, certainly helped her cause in terms of critical acclaim, but also made the task even more monumental from an artistic perspective, the weight of the beautifully written material well and truly resting on the shoulders of the actors at the centre of the piece, Johansson finding the strength to surpass expectations even in such an environment.
In Jojo Rabbit, the task was very different but equally as impactful, her supporting role as the lead character’s loving but grieving (and quietly stressed) mother was one of profound warmth and affection. Playing a role reportedly written for her by writer-director Taika Waititi, Johansson felt like the sort of person a mother should be, her arc being vital to the impact of the film as a whole, and the performance demonstrating different aspects of Johansson’s work than was on offer in much of Marriage Story, the actress getting to be truly funny for the first time in quite a while.
Even in the massive ensemble of Marvel superheroes and acting megastars she shared the screen with in Endgame, Johansson managed to knock her performance out of the park, her portrayal in the early moments of the movie expressing the overall grief and tragedy that had befell the whole group in the previous film, and her later importance to the overall narrative being worthy of what she gave in a relatively limited role.
Johansson’s 2019 was nothing short of spectacular, and by making history as a nominee in 2 acting categories it could also be a year remembered as the beginning of a star persona known and lauded for being one of the industry’s top character actors.
– Adam Driver: Marriage Story; The Report
– Tracy Letts: Ford v Ferrari; Little Women
– Jonathan Pryce: The Two Popes; The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
– Margot Robbie: Bombshell; Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
– Tilda Swinton: The Souvenir; The Dead Don’t Die; The Personal History of David Copperfield
5. Shia LaBeouf
Movies: The Peanut Butter Falcon; Honey Boy
After several years out of the spotlight and inside rehabilitation facilities, Shia LaBeouf made a huge return to acting in 2019; starring in equally as affecting dramas The Peanut Butter Falcon and his self-penned Honey Boy.
In The Peanut Butter Falcon LaBeouf excelled as a troubled, rough and tough, takes what he can get, masculine male with a heart of gold, his performance being one portrayed with such a distinct honesty and underpinning of grief that makes it simply unmissable.
It is, however, his performance in Honey Boy that is taking most of the plaudits, and understandably so. Acting in a film he had written as a form of autobiography, LaBeouf played his own father – a figure in his life he hadn’t spoken to in 7 years prior to filming – and took the pain, abuse and exploitation of his youth as a child actor and rooted it in an empathetic portrayal that seemed almost like an exorcism for one of Hollywood’s most openly troubled souls. Not only was the performance truly spectacular, but it seemed important to LaBeouf as a person outside of the movie too, giving it all the more power.
LaBeouf seems like he may have better years yet to come, but 2019 certainly offers a strong launching point and one featuring a performance that will be tough to top.
These are, of course, just 5 potential nominees for this hypothetical award, so who would you vote for? And who should we have included? Let us know in the comments below!