The 20 Best Acting Performances of Sundance 2014

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Paste Editor in Chief Josh Jackson’s Top Five Performances of Sundance 2014

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5. Aaron Paul in Hellion
In between his stint as the redeemable punk kid on Breaking Bad and his first attempt at blockbuster action hero, Sundance gave us Aaron Paul a depressed widower trying and failing to hold his family together. The desperation of Jesse is present here, as is the sympathy he demands from the audience.

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4. Elisabeth Moss in Listen Up Philip
There’s a scene in Listen Up Philip where Moss’ character gets the courage turn away jackass of a boyfriend. As she closes the door the camera stays on Moss’s face for what must be 20 seconds. In that one shot, she’s proud of herself, she’s lonely, she’s free, she’s sad—the succession of emotions hit her like machine-gun fire, and she communicates it all without saying a word.

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3. Philip Seymour Hoffman in God’s Pocket
We’re still reeling from the news, but Hoffman left behind a couple more brilliant performances. The story was a little scattered, but he held this darkly funny drama together with his steady presence as an increasingly desperate outsider in a late 20th Century working poor neighborhood.

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2. Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood
Richard Linklater  cast Coltrane when he was six, not knowing what a talented actor he would grow up to be. Shot over the course of a dozen years, Boyhood is the story of a child growing into a young man, and we see Coltrane blossom before our eyes. It wouldn’t have worked without such a compelling lead.

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1. Jason Schwartzman in Listen Up Philip
Jason Schwartzman  has played a self-involved author before in Bored To Death, but this time he does so with a complete self-awareness. As the titular Philip, his actions are despicable, but the actor has a natural charisma that makes the attention of those around him still believable. His chemistry with Jonathan Pryce (his equally selfish mentor) is mesmerizing to watch.