Mads Mikkelson, The Hunt
Thanks to its delayed release, Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" gives us two consecutive winners of the Cannes' best actor prize in this year's Oscar race. The aforementioned Bruce Dern (who won Cannes this year for "Nebraska") is a near-lock, but his Cannes predecessor Mads Mikkelsen is far from it. But the Danish is mesmerizing in the film, the story a man who becomes the target of mass hysteria after being wrongly accused of sexually assaulting a child in a small Danish village. It's an extraordinarily difficult role that Mikkelson pulls off with so much humanity. Bruce Dern is lovely in "Nebraska" and all, but this is the Cannes best actor winner most deserving of an Oscar nod this year.
Tye Sheridan, Mud
In a nice switch from the norm, Tye Sheridan is being rightfully submitted in the lead actor category for Jeff Nichols' fantastic coming of age story "Mud." Typically, even when child actors are the true leads, they get submitted in supporting. But Sheridan's co-star Matthew McConaughey is going supporting, meaning Sheridan is forced to battle, while, Matthew McConaughy (this time for "Dallas Buyers Club") in lead. There's no way Sherdian will end up in the mix, but the 16 year old has emerged as one of the best young actors around, and "Mud" is significant proof of that (as was "The Tree of Life" a few years back). His heartfelt, naturalistic performance is a complete match for McConaughey (also doing some of his best work), and plays a key role in making "Mud" one of this year's somewhat unheralded gems.
Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
In his debut feature performance, 22 year old Keith Stanfield offers perhaps the most memorable moment in Destin Daniel Cretton's very memorable "Short Term 12." As nearly 18 year old Marcus, he's about to be released from a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers when he offers a heartbreaking acapella rap number to one of the facility's workers. The song he sings -- ""So You Know What It's Like" -- is actually in serious contention for what will likely be the only Oscar nomination that "Short Term 12" receives. But its the man behind who's more deserving.
Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
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