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One of the parts of my job as a filmmaker that I love the most is discovering new work that inspires me….or even makes me curious. And I must admit, the burgeoning film snob in me loves to appreciate work that has not yet appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly or People magazine.

So here are 10 incredible performances that may have slipped under your radar this yet. If you’re curious, check out the trailers, then do a little legwork to figure out how to see them…

1. Juliette Binoche – Clouds of Sils Maria. Binoche gives a master class in acting as an aging actress challenged to play “against type” as a victimized, closeted lesbian opposite a much younger and much more “industry relevant” rising star. Binoche’s character Maria Enders initially shies away from the role, but eventually can’t turn down the challenge to play a character as downtrodden and burdened as Enders is celebrated and free-spirited. Perhaps as she fears, exploring this new creative terrain brings up unwelcome truths and unresolved conflicts in Maria’s life. Binoche got plaudits at Cannes and AFI Film Festival for her role, but somehow the film has not gotten traction Stateside. That’s too bad – it’s an incredible film anchored by Bionche’s layered, dare-I-say flawless portrayal of Maria.

2. Pierre Deladonchamps – Stranger by the Lake. Mr. Deladonchamps gives a haunting performance of a young man drawn not only to a cruise-y, secluded beach but to its most dangerous, seductive visitors. His palpable sexual desire, vulnerability and drive to align himself with a power player in the community of sorts are all well-drawn and deeply realized. At moments, you want to scream at the character that he’s acting against his own best interests, but Deladonchamps’ embodiment of youthful sexuality that’s progressed from blossoming to all-consuming makes you understand…and relate.

3. Valeria Golino – Like the Wind. Collaborating with the visually innovative director Marco Puccioni, Golino delivers a realistic, satisfying portrayal of an Italian prison warden. The exhaustion of her responsibilities and their toll on personal relationships meets Golino’s inherent resilience for a worthy exploration of the human spirit under duress.

4. Jeremie Renier – Waste Land. Renier has already made his mark in international cinema with a role in Olivier Assayas’ brilliant and understated Summer Hours and returns to top form as a somewhat masochistic detective in Waste Land. Renier bulked up for the role, but his masculine appearance is interestingly commingled with a self-cutting habit when his character Leo struggles to solve a homicide while at the same time convincing his pregnant girlfriend not to abort their baby.

5. Zhong Lu – Red Amnesia (Chaung ru Zhe). Perhaps it’s fitting that we have to turn to China to find the most layered portrayal of an elderly person in cinema in 2014. So often, the depiction of older folks on screen in the United States relies on either a half-baked sentimentality or our own Western culture’s terror of the aging process. But in Red Amnesia, Zhong Lu brings to life an aging woman who wants to resolve her own moral culpability before it’s too late, only there’s a problem. She can’t shake her own inherent survival instinct, which may be threatened if she truly admits to herself and others the scope and breadth of the damage she’s caused. A brilliant and totally underrated contribution to film acting.

6. Oscar Isaac – A Most Violent Year. There’s clearly a reason why Lucas and Co. have turned to Mr. Isaac for the next Star Wars iteration. He’s a purist example of an actor inhabiting a role without judging the character he’s playing, so much so that it’s very hard for the audience to reject his character Abel Morales, despite questionable behavior.

7. Raphael Personnaz – The Gate. In 1970s Cambodia, the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge sweeps up a French researcher into their prison camp, with a suspicion that he’s supplying information to the enemy. Personnaz’s character Bizot benefits from an unlikely friendship with his prison camp’s leader Douch (Phoeung Kompheak), who prides himself on administering the Khmer Rouge form of justice even-handedly (no matter how warped that system operates or how many it kills). Bizot is bewildered by his special treatment by Douch and has his life to thank for it, but many others are not so lucky.

8. Scarlett Johansson – Under the Skin. Obviously, Ms. Johansson needs no introduction. She’s spooky good here.

9. Julianne Cote – Tu Dors Nicole. If the movie industry operated out of Quebec, Julianne Cote might just be in Shailine Woodley’s shoes. She’s great in this coming of age film.

10. Leila Hatami – What’s the Time in Your World? Hatami gained a lot of fans with her work in the Academy Award-winning film, “A Separation.” What’s the Time in Your World? is a much lighter film that nevertheless allows Ms. Hatami to act as a stand-in to Persian audiences who are open-minded, curious and nervous to reconnect with their roots. She’s delightful.

Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker and actor living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink. His current feature film Guys Reading Poems is touring film festivals and this blog is dedicated to the process of making his second feature film, “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).

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