Alternate Oscars: Great Performances from 2022 Worth Celebrating

This article first appeared as part of Jenelle Riley’s Acting Up newsletter – to subscribe for early content and weekly updates on all things acting, visit the Acting Up signup page.

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The Academy Awards are this Sunday and it’s actually been a great year for film and particularly actors. So many of them have been recognized with nominations or wins, between the Oscars and the SAG Awards, not to mention BAFTA, Golden Globes, Critics Choice, Gotham and Independent Spirit Awards.

But with every great performance honored by a major group, there are so many more that are deserving, but seem to elude awards recognition. So going off the four existing acting categories, I wanted to suggest some other names from the year 2022 that deserve a look. And the best part is, they’re all currently available to stream so you can check them out yourself.

Supporting Actress – Mariana Treviño, “A Man Called Otto”
At least BAFTA and Golden Globe recognized Dolly De Leon from “Triangle of Sadness” and the Gothams nominated Gabrielle Union for “The Inspection,” but this category was an embarrassment of riches for voters.

Still, I will always wonder how things might have turned out differently if this charming Tom Hanks-starrer had opened just a few weeks earlier. Regardless, the movie was a box office success and a big crowd-pleaser, and that’s no small thing. It is also a film I think people will look back on as a major turning point when talking about the career of Treviño, the wonderful Mexican actor who plays Marisol, the patient neighbor of Hanks’ cranky title character. Marisol is the living embodiment of warmth and kindness, but no pushover. She doesn’t back down from Otto for a second, calling him out when necessary but also there to support him at all times. Likewise, Treviño, is a worthy match for Hanks, and it’s no coincidence he’s at his best in scenes with her.

Supporting Actor – Pedro Pascal, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”
I was tempted to make a case for James Hong in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the legendary actor who is reliably wonderful but was overshadowed by his deserving co-star Ke Huy Quan sweeping this category throughout the season. While Hong didn’t receive any individual nominations, he won a SAG Award as part of the ensemble and truly won the night when his costars used the win to pay tribute to Hong and his career.

Pascal, however, gave a performance of pure delight in the woefully undersung meta-comedy “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” While he’s currently on a roll caring for lovable young wards on TV between “The Mandalorian” and “The Last of Us,” my favorite pairing of the past year was watching him pal around with Nicolas Cage (playing a heightened version of himself). Pascal played billionaire Javi Gutierrez, a Cage superfan who pays the actor $1 million to appear at his birthday party and gets to live out his dream bromance. Pascal is alternately funny, vulnerable and heroic but at his best when he is playing completely besotted – either with Cage or “Paddington 2.”

Lead Actor – Patton Oswalt, “I Love My Dad”
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the beloved comic, who has also emerged as a damn fine actor. He was starring in a small indie film and comedies still have to battle a certain stigma for respect – even one that contains many excellent dramatic scenes such as “I Love My Dad.” In the film, Oswalt plays Chuck, a father who catfishes his estranged son (played by writer-director James Morosini) by pretending to be an attractive waitress Chuck is acquainted with. There are so many ways the story could go off the rails, but Morosini’s script is equally grounded and outrageous and it’s all held together by Oswalt’s high-wire act. Yes, the logline sounds like a joke – a father catfishes his son – but it’s also surprisingly tender and brutally honest. The actor doesn’t shy away from what a jerk Chuck can be, no matter how well-intentioned. But he also doesn’t go for the easy way out, imbuing him with a humanity and empathy that elevates the entire film.

Lead Actress — Anna Diop, “Nanny”
The Senegalese American actor did earn a breakthrough performance nom from the Gotham Awards, but deserved to be in the discussion for lead actress at all the major ceremonies — particularly the Spirit Awards, which recognized “Nanny” filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu with the Someone to Watch Award. Similar to Oswalt, Diop was starring in a small indie in a genre that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves — horror. Diop is a powerhouse as Aisha, an illegal Senegalese immigrant who is hoping to bring her 6-year-old son to America. In order to do so, she takes a job as a nanny to an affluent New York couple and their daughter, Rose (Rose Decker). Diop’s scenes with Decker are flawless and never hit a false note, and the audience is deeply invested in their relationship and Aisha’s journey. But to say more would be to ruin the surprises in store in this gem of a film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2022.

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