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by Peter Knegt
October 29, 2013 11:48 AM
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For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses Who Deserve Oscar's Attention This Year

"Blue Is The Warmest Color"

Instead of dipping into the already repetitive waters of late October Oscar talk, this column will take the next two weeks as an opportunity to discuss a few names that aren't getting as much talk as they may deserve (though here's updated weekly predictions to supplement that).

Every year, a few actors from small films manage to make their way into the Oscar race. Like Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour" last year (neither of whom were sure bets for nominations going into it), Demián Bichir in "A Better Life" (a huge surprise two years ago), Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone," Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger," Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"... The list goes on and on.

So in keeping with Indiewire's indie spirit, it seemed appropriate to make arguments for twenty performances that deserve to be the next Wallis or Bichir or Lawrence or Jenkins. The ladies come first this week, the gentleman next.

Commentators should keep in mind that the list does not include work that looks like a safe bet for a nomination (Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine" and Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years a Slave," certainly, as well as June Squibb in "Nebraska" and Octavia Spencer in "Fruitvale Station" -- both of whom might not quite be locks yet, but most people are reasonably predicting both of them), and that it only includes films currently scheduled for release during the 2013 eligibility period (thus excluding recent Toronto pick ups like "Tracks" and "Can a Song Save a Life?," for example). Keeping that all in mind, here are 10 underdog actresses (whether lead or supporting) for your consideration.

Berenice Bejo in "The Past" Sony Pictures Classics

Bérénice Bejo, The Past
Two years after scoring her first Oscar nomination for not saying a word in "The Artist," French-Argentine actress Berenice Bejo makes clear she can act up a storm when dialogue is involved too in Asghar Farhadi's French language "The Past." The heavily lauded performance (it won her the best actress prize at Cannes) finds Bejo playing a woman who asks her estranged Iranian husband to come to Paris -- where she is living with another man -- to finalize their divorce. What unravels is a complicated portrait of human relationships, and one that allows Bejo to deliver one of the rawest, most affecting performances of the year. Though even with the backing of Sony Pictures Classics (which got a French language performance from Emmanuelle Riva in last year), it's going to be tough for Bejo to break into a category that seems to already have 4 or 5 locked in English language performances.

READ MORE: 'The Artist' Star Bérénice Bejo On Returning to Cannes With 'The Past' and Working With Asghar Farhadi For Half a Year

"Before Midnight"

Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Another Sony Pictures Classics-backed French actress -- though in an English language role here -- Julie Delpy really should be an assured nominee for her work in the third film in Richard Linklater's saga of lovers Céline (Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) "Before Midnight." But she's not. So hopefully voters really consider the rather unprecedented character Delpy has developed over these three films (both as an actress and as a writer), culminating in a remarkable, emotionally devastating performance as a woman struggling within a long term relationship (particularly in the film's third act). While it seems much more likely she'll share a screenplay nomination with Hawke and Linklater (which they did for the previous "Before Sunset"), Delpy -- never nominated before as an actress -- is more than deserving of the double recognition.


  • Bridget | October 31, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    Paulina Garcia should get the nomination 'cause in Gloria she is the perfection!

  • Steve Warren | October 31, 2013 1:43 AMReply

    Though the movie was ultimately disappointing I can't forget Susan Sarandon's performance in The Company You Keep, especially the interrogation scene. It was all downhill after that.

  • Chris L. | October 30, 2013 3:40 PMReply

    Wonderful list, Peter. I'm a bit confused about Gloria's eligibility in this category, though. The only listed release date is January 17, and Roadside Attractions recently tweeted that there would not be a 1-week December qualifying run. Has that now changed? Sure hope so.

  • Steve | November 1, 2013 12:13 AM

    Paulina Garcia is sadly ineligible in the acting categories. Gloria is not getting a 2013 qualifying release, so it's only eligible this year in foreign language.

  • Eli | October 30, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    Don't forget Julia Stiles in BETWEEN US, or Melissa George as scene-stealing supporting actress in it; two powerhouse performances in ensemble cast.

  • roger | October 31, 2013 2:53 PM

    said no one except maybe the filmmaker

  • Jason | October 30, 2013 1:09 PMReply

    Paulina Garcia deserves the nomination and even wins because she's totally amazing in Gloria

  • Daniel Delago | October 30, 2013 7:13 AMReply

    I have to disagree on Scarlett Johansson in 'Don Jon.' I actually felt Julianne Moore's performance blew her out of the water. Don't overlook Amy Adams in 'American Hustle.' She could be the dark horse contender for Best Actress.

  • C | October 30, 2013 8:08 AM

    Julianne Moore was doing her usual in Don Jon but it was her bad usual. The intense crying. The stuttering thing. Things she's done so much better before. It doesn't help that she is a part of what many did not like about Don Jon - the final act. Scarlett refreshes in the role of Barbara and should be the one recognized from the film.

  • MD | October 30, 2013 3:26 AMReply

    Golshifteh Farahani in THE PATIENCE STONE
    Danai Gurira in MOTHER OF GEORGE

  • MD | October 30, 2013 3:23 AMReply

    Zhang Ziyi in THE GRANDMASTER
    Sonakshi Sinha in LOOTERA

  • bob hawk | October 30, 2013 12:57 AMReply

    A very good list, albeit I think that the only two who might possibly be a dark horse nom (for lead) are Paulina Garcia (superb) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Blanchett is the one to beat, but I'd love to see Garcia steal it. I do think with this piece you've already begun a list for the Indie Spirit Awards, with Greta Gerwig and Brie Larson the most likely to be included.

  • cass | October 29, 2013 11:25 PMReply

    Except for Wadjda (Waad Mohamed) all these are mentioned in every pundit's list. Yes not top tier / locks but not surprising either. Where's Elizabeth Debicki who single handedly brought The Great Gatsby to life.

  • Italo | October 29, 2013 9:16 PMReply

    Paulina Garcia has to be nominated for Gloria, amazing performance.

  • draves | October 29, 2013 8:21 PMReply

    Lindsay Burdge - A TEACHER

    Tashiana Washington - GIMME THE LOOT (who I thought for sure would be on this list and was disappointed to see omitted)

  • Bump | October 29, 2013 8:03 PMReply

    Whew, one non-White actress at the end! I thought we were going to go an entire list, as usual, without mentioning the accomplishments of non-White talent. I know Hollywood is a racist place, but come on!!!! Indiewire, let's stop with all the Eurocentric stuff and try to move the needle forward and acknowledge people that don't fit the racist view of life that Hollywood not so secretly peddles to the American public. You can do it. I promise.

  • Peter Knegt | October 30, 2013 10:27 AM

    Who did you have in mind, Bump? And also: We absolutely had no racist motivations when making this list, and note in the intro that Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong'o would have been on this list except that they are pretty close to shoo-ins for nominations (as are Oprah Winfrey and Chiwetel Ejiofor). For once there will very likely be a fair representation of black performers in the Oscar acting nominations (likely 20-25% of nominees). As for this list, we simply offered the 10 female performances we liked the best that didn't seem likely to get an Oscar nomination. Is it Indiewire's fault or society's that the crop we had to choose from was mostly white?

  • draves | October 29, 2013 8:22 PM

    Who are the non-Whites you'd like to see on there? You get very upset about the lack of non-Whites but don't name a single one you'd like listed yourself? Strange...

  • Amanda | October 29, 2013 7:42 PMReply

    "Though Gerwig has shown considerable potential in films like "Nights and Weekends" (which she also co-wrote and co-director), Baumbach's previous film "Greenberg" and last years' Whit Stillman offering "Damsels in Distress," her turn as a twentysomething mess trying to figure it out in "Frances Ha" brought her to a whole new level (and frankly, showed Lena Dunham how it's done)."

    Why can't Greta Gerwig and Lena Dunham both be wonderful in their own right? Because they are, and I don't think either of them needs to show the other "how it's done."

  • draves | October 29, 2013 8:23 PM

    Because Frances Ha is like Girls with maturity, intelligence and wit instead of solipsism, and since the protagonists of both works are similar there will naturally be comparisons drawn between the two. Gerwig is easily better than Dunham at acting, so that's why she should show her how it's done.

  • HARVEY DENT | October 29, 2013 7:31 PMReply

    oscar 2014 snubs

    Dennis Quaid -- AT ANY PRICE

    Lindsay Burdge -- A TEACHER

    Vithaya Pansringarm -- ONLY GOD FORGIVES

  • Ans | October 29, 2013 6:21 PMReply

    It's hardly a travesty that Johannson hasn't been nominated yet. She's proven herself to be a mediocre actress at best. I did like her voice work in the trailer for 'Her' though.
    A nomination for Ghost World? Oh please.

  • C | October 30, 2013 8:11 AM

    Yes, Scarlett has been in some bad movies and some performances are not as good as others. Hardly something you can't say for any other actor. She most certainly deserved recognition for Lost in Translation, Girl with A Pearl Earring, Match Point even A Love Song For Bobby Long. And she showed quality in Hitchcock. Too bad that movie couldn't have been better.

  • rand | October 29, 2013 6:09 PMReply

    Where's Lupita Nyong'o?

  • Peter Knegt | October 29, 2013 6:39 PM

    @Rand, see the intro: Commentators should keep in mind that the list does not include work that looks like a safe bet for a nomination (Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine" and Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years a Slave," certainly, as well as June Squibb in "Nebraska" and Octavia Spencer in "Fruitvale Station" -- both of whom might not quite be locks yet, but most people are reasonably predicting both of them).

  • ECP | October 29, 2013 4:20 PMReply

    My mind?! Increasingly, I find releases/release dates start to blur by this time of year. (Was GATSBY this year? Which Marvel superbeings are in contention?) And that brings me to Dakota Fanning's deeply affecting performance in GINGER & ROSA. Eligible?

  • ECP | October 29, 2013 5:35 PM

    My mind is in worse shape than I thought. A vote for Elle. Thanks Peter. Oh and another longshot--the always luminous Juliette Binoche. (At least I didn't spell it Brioche!)

  • Peter Knegt | October 29, 2013 5:09 PM

    Ginger & Rosa was eligible last year, I believe (and its Elle Fanning, but either way, she was fantastic I agree).

  • Joack | October 29, 2013 4:10 PMReply


  • Helen | October 29, 2013 4:10 PMReply


  • Thornquist | October 29, 2013 2:42 PMReply

    Six of these names were in your Oscar predictions article the other day (, then you added a few more and you still couldn't find room for Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now?


  • RyanT | October 29, 2013 2:33 PMReply

    Amazing list. Sad most of them won't even get their dues. I'd also add AMY ACKER in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

  • Eduardo | October 29, 2013 1:12 PMReply

    What? No love for Loreto Peralta's scene-stealing performance in "Instructions Not Included"?

  • Pat | October 29, 2013 12:35 PMReply

    Go Greta!

  • Pat | October 29, 2013 12:38 PM

    Oh, and Luminita Gheorghiu gives one heck of a performance in 'Child's Pose', which probably isn't going to get Oscar's attention...

  • Laura | October 29, 2013 12:33 PMReply

    No mention of Onata Aprile? I found her far more impressive than either Waad Mohammed or Quvenzhané Wallis.

  • Dave Kelly | October 30, 2013 4:21 PM

    Onata Aprile's performance in "What Maisie knew" was the female performance of the year. It is hard to remember when I saw a more compelling turn - to quote Deborah Ross " I don’t know where the directors discovered Miss Aprile, or how they elicited her performance but, my God, she knocks it out the court. Over and over. The thing is, she seems so utterly natural, and her scenes with Julianne Moore are riveting:" If the academy can nominate eight year old Quvenzhané Wallis they should have no trouble nominating six year old Onata Aprile.

  • arshadfilms | October 29, 2013 12:21 PMReply

    Believe it or not, Indian and Pakistani women can act as well. Please check out Amna Ilyas in 'Zinda Bhaag' and Tisca Chopra in 'Qissa' as well as Nimrat Kaur in 'The Lunchbox'. Why the academy should select overwhelmingly white actresses and ignore Indians all the time is beyond me.

  • Peter Knegt | October 29, 2013 12:07 PMReply

    @Jackie, see the intro: Commentators should keep in mind that the list does not include work that looks like a safe bet for a nomination (Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine" and Lupita Nyong'o in "12 Years a Slave," certainly, as well as June Squibb in "Nebraska" and Octavia Spencer in "Fruitvale Station" -- both of whom might not quite be locks yet, but most people are reasonably predicting both of them).

  • Jackie McGriff | October 29, 2013 12:04 PMReply

    Where's Octavia Spencer for 'Fruitvale Station'? I doubt that the Academy will recognize her for her excellent performance in the film. If they do, that'd be awesome, but given their usual pattern in nominations, I'm going to go with no.