5. Robert Duvall in The Judge - This might not be Robert Duvall's best performance but it's an excellent example of a great actor elevating sub par material.
Best Scene: The Judge takes the witness stand.
4. Ethan Hawke in Boyhood - Ethan Hawke gives a strong portrayal of the maturation of one man into being a father, and unlike the rest of the cast makes use of the 12 year structure.
Best Scene: Mason Senior gives advice to his son after the graduation party.
3. Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher - Ruffalo gives a very effective low key performance as essentially the sense and the sanity of the film.
Best Scene: Dave helps Mark after Mark's breakdown.
2. Edward Norton in Birdman - Norton appropriately gives a very entertaining and believable portrayal of an insufferable but brilliant actor.
Best Scene: Mike Shiner's introduction.
1. J.K. Simmons in Whiplash - Good Prediction Psifonian. J.K. Simmons has a great role playing an enigmatic and tyrannical music instructor, and realizes this greatness through his marvelous performance.