Greta Gerwig, “Mistress America.” Though Gerwig’s character of Brooke is intentionally unlikable, her genuine marvel of a performance, as innocent as it is acidic, is not, often playing like she’s only in the room with herself, listening only in so much as she’s thinking of what she can say next, yet still tuning into her semi-protégé’s frequency just not enough to acutely convey that she understands Tracy (Lola Kirke) just as far as Tracy wants to be understood. You may see right through Brooke’s obvious veneer, but you also see how initially Tracy does not, swept away in Brooke’s bullish charisma that Gerwig so indelibly captures.
Rose Byrne, “Spy.” Dry, haughty and on point with her deliciously comical facial expressions in every single frame, Byrne is spectacularly hilarious and, quite frankly, the best Bond Villain of All Time.
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight.” Ruffalo tamps down his familiar affability and through posture, precise mannerisms and curt speech patterns completely transforms himself into a socially awkward if kind-hearted obsessive.
Joanne Kelly, “Runoff.” Her richly compelling performance, distress born of desperation born of love, embodies the film’s enormous ethical complexity.
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn.” The best parts of “Brooklyn” simply play out on Ronan's face, like the early moment at a dance in her Irish village when she is on the verge of setting sail for the titular location. Ronan watches her character's best friend gallivant off with a boy and then...she lets the smile fade, looks away, gathers herself, and evinces a resolve that is not steely so much as quietly determined.
Katherine Waterston, “Queen of Earth.” It is not really fair to include Ms. Waterston and leave off Elisabeth Moss, her all-important scene partner and who gives a stellar performance in her own right, and yet...there was something about Waterston's passive-aggressiveness and the way in which her body language subtly communicated with each passing moment a frightened inability to grasp or do anything to help her friend's gradual disconnect that lingered with me longer.
Hannah Gross, “Stinking Heaven.” As a woman who may or may not be entering a commune for recovering addicts with ulterior motives, Gross never completely betrays her intentions even if, entirely through attitude and expression, she dismisses the entire set-up as bullshit. While everyone around her is so desperate they can’t keep anything in, she plays it close to the vest, retaining a sense of human mystery that is transfixing.
Kevin Corrigan, “Results.” Perspiring, portly and ill-mannered, a completely committed and peculiarly charming Corrigan jettisoned every single ounce of actorly vanity.
James Landry Hebert, “Two Step.” He takes the stock role of thriller villain and outfits it with a dastardly charisma built on childish insecurity. The 74 routine thrillers Hollywood releases every year would be lucky to have a villain of such quality.
Josh Lucas, “The Mend.” Lucas has always had a quality that no film has ever truly figured out how to harness - until John Magary’s “The Mend”, that is, in which Lucas is positively magnetic as an ornery, ascetic malcontent who seethes at a whole world he seems convinced is invading his dwindling space.