5. 12 Years a Slave – Michael Fassbender
For his calculated enticement that crosses the threshold of the restrictions his role is inherently saddled with. Also, the best "drunk" acting in years.
4. The Counselor – Brad Pitt
For an incredible exercise in immediate mood and physicality. So crucial, yet so hidden. Not at any point of the film do we learn anything about this man or who he really is, yet the instant we see him, we seem to know.
3. The Place Beyond the Pines – Ryan Gosling
For doing something incredibly fascinating; without ever overtly evoking affinity, he manages to inspire identification.
2. Short Term 12 – Keith Stanfield
For such heartbreaking empathy. It's one of those youthful performances where the rawness of the instrument overcomes all naiveté. Watch his career closely.
1. Spring Breakers – James Franco
For the year's most fearless turn. Franco is a tower of bravery here, which is a performative prerequisite since Alien is too.
Runner Up: Enough Said – James Gandolfini