Originally, I was going to title this Top Ten Performances, but frankly, I’d want to limit those to the Best and Worsts lists. Instead, these are just a bunch of performances from actors that I really enjoyed. You’ll notice once I post my Top Ten list that some of the names and titles listed below are seen in the that list.
Felicity Jones, Like Crazy – For my money, no actress dazzled and captivated me more than the 89 minutes I spent on a Sunday morning watching Jones in Like Crazy. It was one of those performances where you watch an actress take the jump to the next level and I’m eagerly anticipate seeing what’s next for her. Well, we know three projects are confirmed to have her on board, two currently in post-production – Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (a British dramedy) and an untitled Drake Doremus drama co-starring Guy Pearce. The third project is The Invisible Woman, currently in pre-production and slated for a 2013 release with Ralph Fiennes directing.
Nick Nolte, Warrior – Over the years, Nolte’s career and personal life slowly devolved into a series of punch lines. His performance, from the opening bell (pardon the pun) all the way throughout Warrior is one of the unsung supporting performances of the year. Granted, he’s earned a SAG nomination for the performance and fingers are crossed that the Academy recognizes this fine performance.
The cast of 13 Assassins – I can’t single anybody in particular out here. Part of the awesomeness of this movie is due to the direction from Takashi Miike, but if he were to swap the 13 assassins in this movie with a bunch of K and J-pop idols, it just wouldn’t have the same effect. In fact, it’d probably turn into a barely watchable comedy. While Miike builds up the tension in the first hour of this movie, the success and yes, awesomeness of the final 40 minutes of this movie rest in the performances from the ensemble cast of assassins as all hell breaks loose.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Fast Five – Yes, The Rock. The mere prospect of seeing Vin Diesel and The Rock face off on the big screen was reason enough for me to plant my butt in a screening. This was the first movie of the year where I just kicked back and let the over-the-top balls to the wall action sequences take me for a ride. Fast Five is nowhere near perfect and you won’t see it on my Top Ten list, but with The Rock delivering punchlines with bad-ass vigor, this franchise got the shot in the arm it so desperately needed.
The cast of Margin Call – Like with 13 Assassins, Margin Call is a superb ensemble effort. Take the actors in this movie and swap them with a bunch of no-names and it may be a decent but unmemorable indie hit. But with Spacey, Baker, Quinto and Beatty in the lead and Jeremy Irons in a fine supporting role, this becomes one of those unsung movies of the year. Nobody in this movie, aside from Stanley Tucci, is likeable and your gut instinct will be to root against these guy and cheer as they wallow in the mess that they created, but at the same time, you’ll futilely want Spacey to succeed and make the right decision. Does he? I’m not going to spoil that for you. Go watch the movie.
Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil – Horror movies tend to be carbon copies of one another. Grisly violence here, some nudity there, add in a gruesome climax and release the thing on DVD. What’s often lacking in horror movies is any personality. A majority of the characters are often these bland, boring objects waiting to be dispatched in some bloody sequence. While an occasional bloody kill sequence is fun to watch, this movie has the added bonus of excellent comedy, led by Labine and Tudyk. These are two guys, especially Labine, who you’ve seen in countless movies and TV shows, but may not know their names. Trust me when I say that Tucker and Dale is worth the time to watch. And if all else fails at least you have Katrina Bowden in her underwear.
Jason Segel and Amy Adams (and Fozzie and Animal), The Muppets – The feel-good movie of the year. Oozing with so much nostaligia and sweetness it would make a diabetic baby boomer go into shock. Segel did a masterful job in bringing the franchise back to life and Amy Adams returns to that sweet charming young lady we saw in Enchanted. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Muppet fan out there, but I can say that I enjoyed this movie from start to finish with its catchy songs, Fozzie jokes and Animal.
Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March – Sure, Ryan Gosling and George Clooney do a great job and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood give great supporting performances, but for my money, the stand out was Giamatti. I always love it when he plays these characters that are on the edge, where one misguided comment could send him postal. I love the delivery of his dialogue, that menacing bark of a tone that he uses. I can say this much, I ‘m not looking forward to see him in Rock of Ages though. Oy.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Source Code – I kind of debated on this one. Was it that I liked the movie overall and the masterful editing or was it Gyllenhaal’s performance? Because if I’m going to give props to Gyllenhaal, I have to also give mini-props to Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga for their supporting performances. In the end though, when you say Source Code, that image of Gyllenhaal trapped inside that metal sphere thing pops up in my mind. As well as the final scene where his mouth is moving. Yea, cryptic, but I can’t go into this performance without giving away a few spoilers.
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter – A simmer followed by a boil. I hated the ending of this movie, but everything leading up to it, spear-headed by Shannon’s fine performance, was a joy to watch. The ubiquitous Jessica Chastain dials in another fine performance as well, but frankly, she’s going to get her awards over the next couple of months. Shannon on the other hand has a good chance at being edged out by bigger names and bigger movies. Which is a shame really, because his performance in this movie makes it the must see indie that it is.
Michael Fassbender, X-Men: First Class, Shame – Overall, I wasn’t a fan of First Class. I know I’m in the minority as most people enjoyed that movie. I will say that the one thing I enjoyed about this movie (aside from watching Zoe Kravitz flirt with the camera in every damn scene) was Fassbender’s performance as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. So good and pinpoint wonderful to watch. Then, on the flip side, there’s Shame. I didn’t know what to make of Shame when I first went in to watch it. I knew that there was going to be lots of nudity and sex but the comparisons to Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris had me somewhat uneasy. (I hated Tango) But that’s where Fassbender’s acting chops kick in and blend with Steve McQueen’s ambiently paced directing.
Johnny Depp, Rango – I could put Capt. Jack Sparrow in here but it isn’t 2003. Rango was a pleasant and refreshing surprise. Great humor and silly dialogue throughout, it could very easily land itself on my Top Ten list.
The Turtle from Turtle, The Incredible Journey – I’m a sucker for anything with a turtle in it. Honestly, that’s the only reason this movie is on this list. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to start a Harvey Weinstein-esque Oscar campaign for the turtle…. although the awards acceptance speech would be mercifully short. And awesome.