1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street- A career-best performance for DiCaprio in his thrilling latest collaboration with Martin Scorsese. He gives off machine-gun bursts of energy as Wall Street crook Jordan Belfort and shows an amazing knack for both physical and verbal comedy that his often-serious portrayals don’t let him bring out. It’s both loud and rambunctious and deeply nuanced. (Added Dec. 30)
2. Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha- This fantastic turn is the stunning result of Greta Gerwig’s New Wave collaboration with director Noah Baumbach. While also serving as co-writer of the movie, Gerwig captures a rocky period of this 27-year-old dancer wannabe’s life with a contagious charm. The movie is very much built around her unpredictability, and she captures the pain and anxiety of post-college youth without overplaying her hand. She is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl whose dreams are her own.
3. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen’s latest simply wouldn’t have been as good without this thunderous performance from Cate Blanchett. She manages the difficult task of creating a loathsome woman that also elicits pity. After a long string of privileged existence, Jasmine is finally forced to confront the depths of her mental instability when her Madoff-esque husband is caught. Blanchett gazes unflinchingly into the abyss of depression with raw feeling and crucial sympathy.