Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller appeared together in the adaptation of Tim Tharp’s celebrated YA novel The Spectacular Nowlast year, and unsurprisingly, they received wildly positive reviews. Now, both of these incredibly talented young stars are awash in Oscar buzz for having delivered equally-if-not-more stellar performances in 2014 films: Shailene in the incredibly successful John Green adaptation The Fault in Our Stars, and Miles Teller in the dark horse contender (and YA Mag’s Film of the Year) Whiplash.
In Fault, Shailene took on the challenging role of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a terminal cancer patient, and she more than rose to the occasion. What could have easily felt pitiful or melodramatic in the hands of a lesser actress felt frank, sincere and conflicted thanks to Shailene. And it must be said, pairing her opposite Ansel Elgort only enhanced her performance, and although Ansel is getting less Academy buzz, he is just as deserving. A special mention also goes to Nat Wolff, who deserves recognition in the supporting category for playing a friend of the star-crossed couple who eventually goes blind due to his own illness. Lets see how he does next year, when his own starring role in a John Green adaptation (Paper Towns) hits screens.
As for Miles, his work in Whiplash is the strongest yet of his career. He more than carries this incredible film, a taut exploration of creative passion and what truly drives us to succeed. As a promising young jazz percussionist studying at the most prestigious music conservatory in the country, Miles communicates a primal need to be the best in his class, even in the face of a terrifyingly strict and unforgiving teacher (the unparalleled JK Simmons, who will most probably get a supporting Oscar of his own).
Outside of this pair of YA Mag favorites, there are a slew of other young adult actors and actresses who may catch Oscar’s eye this year. Just from the trailer alone, Emma Stone’s haywire performance as Michael Keaton’s addled daughter in Birdman might sway Academy voters to include her in the Best Supporting Actress category, and Kristen Stewart has also been mentioned more than once for her work in Still Alice (playing daughter to this year’s shoe-in favorite for Best Actress, the deserving Julianne Moore).
And then there’s The Theory of Everything, a biopic/love story seemingly in the same vein as A Beautiful Mind, starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as a young Stephen Hawking and the woman who loves him. Released just a few weeks ago, the film has earned raves and both leads are being considered as potential nominees for Oscar gold. We’ve loved Felicity ever since her powerful work in the understated Like Crazy, and Eddie was of course fabulous as the dashing Marius in Les Miserables.
Other contenders to look out for: Jack O’Connell, whom we first noticed at Sundance last January in the gritty Starred Up, now playing real-life Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s Pacific war epic Unbroken. There’s also newcomer Ellar Coltrane, whose work in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is particularly strong because we get to literally watch him grow up on screen (Linklater filmed Boyhood over a decade with the same actors, revisiting the film one day per year until the project was complete). Although, it can be argued that this gives Ellar a little bit of an unfair advantage.
Finally, although these two actors skew a bit older than young adult, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader deserve a special mention for The Skeleton Twins, a dark and heartfelt look on how a shared childhood experience can impact a pair of adults who are still trying to grow up. It would be lovely if either of these comedic actors received recognition for their work in this largely dramatic piece.