Ezra Miller in We Need to Talk About Kevin
Arguably a cartoonish portrayal of a villain, but never atonal as the movie itself operates on a certain level of hyper-reality from first frame. Extremely well cast in his almost otherworldly androgynous beauty, he is a formidable scene partner for Tilda Swinton. Bonus points for his final scene. He absolutely nails it by not trying to humanize Kevin in any obvious or cloying ways.
One of the best portrayals of a man in the winter of his life. Much of the film's success can be attributed to his humanity, his register and the way he takes what could have easily been a larger, more outwardly showy role (even in this film) and anchors it in a deep well of years of emotion. Bonus points for the way he asks about house music.
Patton Oswalt – Young Adult
Plays a needy, desperate man without any of the usual, predictable beats. In a character study full of ugly people and even uglier behavior, Oswalt understands the temptation to play the film's ethical compass. He instead opts for the more difficult, but much more interesting route of showing Matt's moralizing as the result of a man with clear vulnerabilities and limitations. Bonus points for the scene in the woods. He gets the best out of Theron and himself in these scenes.
Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life
Malick's film, accomplished as it is, contains not so much characters, but markers and guideposts for larger concepts. Pitt manages to eke out an accomplished, career-best performance as the stern yet emotional Mr. O'Brien. His age and wear, something most roles try to suppress, are his greatest asset here as he employs them to a past his prime, unwilling to face it, flawed yet loving patriarch. Bonus points for the lighter scene. The way he asks for a kiss from his son is both character-deepening and fascinating.
Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris
Plays not just Gil's (Owen Wilson) idea of Ernest Hemingway, but what many perceived him to be. Stoll's Hemingway is thinly written, but masterfully elevated. Every line-reading, mouthfuls they may indeed be, seem to roll out of him effortlessly with gruff humor and fierce intensity, unmatched by any of the imaginary figures in this piece. Bonus points for the eyes. So expressive, never relenting, never ceasing to pass judgment, even in silence.