tongue-tied lightning

Best Actors of 2009
March 30, 2010, 1:03 AM
Filed under: film

10. Michael Fassbender (Fish Tank, Inglourious Basterds) Two great unique performances. On the heels of last year’s performance in Hunger it almost feels like a coming out party for Fassbender, even though he’s been acting for quite some time. Let’s hope he continues to deliver memorable performances on this level in the future. Though Jonah Hex and Centurion don’t seem very promising.

9. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) In my opinion, the best of the academy’s best actor nominees. The Oscar may have meant more to him than Jeff Bridges, but then Jeff Bridges is fucking Jeff Bridges, and that’s cool. Let’s hope his riveting performance in this year’s Best Picture winner will open up some opportunities to get some demanding roles in the future. As we now know he’s capable of knocking them out of the park.

8. Jeremie Renier (Lorna’s Silence, Summer Hours) These two performances are on opposite ends of the spectrum and both are really good. One a desperate junkie trying to clean himself up, the other a young man taking advantage of the opportunities capitalism and globalization offer him, even if it alienates his family a bit. Lorna’s Silence is probably the more impressive performance, but the other is effective as well if not quite as showy. Tremendous range.

7. Red West (Goodbye Solo) Known to most people as Elvis Presley’s best friend and bodyguard, he proves here he’s also capable of giving a moving performance. As William, an old man intent on commiting suicide he conveys the emotions with nuance and poise. Never resorting to histrionics, his cold stoicism makes for one of the more tragically memorable characters of the year.

6. Sam Rockwell (Moon) A film I really didn’t care for, I was impressed with Rockwell’s performance. You have to consider the fact that he’s acting by himself, for the entire film. And even when he’s joined by a second character, he’s acting by himself. The ability to portray two separate characters with distinct personalities so well is something you rarely see outside of Eddie Murphy films. Commendable.

5. Matt Damon (The Informant!) Already been discussed. The voiceover is fantastic. Matt is very convincing as a manic depressive. It’s believable, not really showy. That he put on a significant amount of weight for the role surely helps this. Without a convincing performance from him, the film would not work. It would devolve from societal criticism to caricature. He manages to convey the humor without undermining the gravitas.

4. Joaquin Phoenix (Two Lovers) It would be a shame if this was Joaquin’s last performance, but then, it is his best performance, so what better way to go out? I’ll be selfish and say I want to see more work on this caliber from him. As a depressive overanxious manchild, perhaps I related to his character more than is healthy, but regardless, I think it’s one of the leading performances of the year.

3. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) The supporting performance of the year? I certainly think so. The ease with which Waltz conveys himself in three languages is awe inspiring. Landa’s menace is never in question, but he’s also somewhat likable or perhaps attractive is a better word, suave basterd that he is. He brings the audience in with his allure just like the farmer in the marvelous first scene. One of the year’s great discoveries.

2. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) Speaking of great discoveries, where the hell did the Coen’s find this guy? What an expressive face he has, and that is where much of the film takes place. He’s very adept at comedic delivery and… Wait a second, he was Oscar nominated too right? Forget what I said about Renner, Stuhlbarg deserved the prize. What a boon to his career that would’ve been, though the nomination may help him regardless. I like this guy and hope he gets some great roles in the future.

1. Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) I feel Nic Cage is unfairly maligned as an actor. Alot of this is due to miscasting, he generally has one thing he can do, and he does it well, when he tries to go outside of that comfort zone it is sometimes embarassing. However, with roles such as his in Leaving Las Vegas and most notably Adaptation he’s proved he does have range. Note that all his memorable performances come at the hands of a talented director, Lynch, Figgis, Scorsese, Jonze. It’s possible Cage gives too much of himself to his directors, trusting them to make the performances. I’ve read interviews with Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, with Penelope saying Pedro is one of very few directors she completely trusts with her performances. Perhaps Cage’s greatest flaw is that he’s too trusting? But, has there ever been a better director for Nicolas Cage than Werner Herzog? I really don’t think so. He is the reason to see Werner’s wacky satire of American film. And only in Werner’s film could his bizarre crippled Jimmy Stewart on meth performance work. It is the performance of his career.


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