Last year had few all-time great performances. This year, there’s an abundance. The choices in the drama categories are especially staggering. 2018 also featured my favorite comedy performance of recent times, an absolutely perfect deadpan turn from Jesse Plemons in Game Night, which is such an embarrassment of riches, I had to mention it twice. Many of these characters are desperate – for money, for justice, for acceptance – which is part of why they’re so compelling.
Ensemble in a Drama
Steve McQueen’s all-female heist didn’t get near the attention of Ocean’s 8, but its crew is both more believable and more interesting than the Instagram-ready thieves in the fashion-obsessed reboot. Still, it’s not surprising to see why the latter was more successful. The women of Widows are prickly, desperate and aren’t exactly #friendshipgoals. But, aside from Viola Davis, they’re all (Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo and Michelle Rodriguez) doing the best work of their careers thus far. The men are no less impressive, with Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry’s alderman candidates mirroring each other, trying to keep their volatile family members (Robert Duvall and Daniel Kaluuya) in check. Widows has been unjustly ignored, but its incredible cast will keep people coming back for years.
Actor in a Drama
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
The former Gen X heartthrob has become a model actor: acting in questionable genre fare in order to finance truly independent work in front of and behind the camera. But he’s at the top of his game here as a priest sleepwalking through life until environmental catastrophe snaps him awake. He’s right in his motivations and wrong in his actions, hoping to act as God’s vengeful hand. But so rarely has a crisis of faith felt so palpable.
Actress in a Drama
Rosamund Pike, A Private War
Rosamund Pike’s performance as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl remains a high-water mark for acting this decade. So the fact that I’m even questioning if she’s even better here speaks to how good this turn is. In her turn as Marie Colvin, a dedicated-but-damaged war reporter killed in Syria, Pike plays her without an ounce of pity. The movie is a major bummer, but both women are worth celebrating.
Supporting Actor in a Drama
Steven Yeun, Burning
The trickiest role of the year, the former Walking Dead star plays an insufferable yuppie who maybe – just maybe – is also a serial killer. He has to be charming enough for us to believe Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) would fall for him, disturbing enough for us to believe Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) suspects him, and mysterious enough for us to not have any clear answers at the end. He pulls it off so well, he makes a yawn unsettling.
Supporting Actress in a Drama
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
The beating heart of Barry Jenkins’ achingly sad adaptation, King proves again why she’s one of Hollywood’s most beloved actresses. Depending on the situation, she can be a peacekeeper, a viper, a nurse and a negotiator. There are no lengths she won’t go to for the sake of her daughter, while still being her own person. All this puts her in the pantheon of movie moms.