Thursday, 1 March 2012

Encore Awards (2011 in Review): Actor (with an addendum)

Last year I came into some difficulty in deciding on a Best Actor winner. All five performances seemed to exist on such a similarly good plane that it wasn’t after much (perhaps unnecessary) debate among my selves that I decided on Aaron Eckhart’s work in Rabbit Hole (2010 ballot). This year I came about my winner much easier, and yet the entire ballot of men – and the four runners up – are all such fantastic performances that I’d love to reward them all. It’s been a solid year for the men (much more so than the women) and I’m so pleased to have so many excellent performances to choose from, and the nine at the top are something special - at least, I think so. Even as I continually think that the pickings in terms of films this year were only “good” the performances have collectively been excellent. So, here goes my ballot. (Again, like the Actress ballot, nary an Oscar nominee in my top 5. Make of that what you will).

 Joel Edgerton in Warrior (as Brendan Conlon)

With a screenplay so rooted in the basic and a director so rooted in the extraneous Edgerton must provide (and, do so immediately) that emotional wallop which the film so wants to deliver on. Navigating through the generic waters of affable teacher, loving husband, angered son, wounded brother and so on he adds glorious individuality to the character creating – almost from scratch – a profoundly moving man.

(Key Moment: Hokey, and much too mawkishly directed but he slays me at the ending, “I love you Tommy!”)

Woody Harrelson in Rampart (as Dave Brown)

Like Theron in Young Adult he embraces his character’s most disgusting tics and offers not so much a defence of them (that’d indicate something apologetic) but a searing belief that his cause is the right one. He nails the bombastic swagger of Dave and makes the film that much more piercing when he KEEPS that same grandiloquence in offsetting those brief scenes where he’s doing good…almost daring us to like him.

(Highlight: A final plea for understanding from his daughters, or a meltdown opposite Linda.)

Ewan McGregor in Beginners (as Oliver)

The already excellent use of the voice-over narration works so much better because Ewan is so game about it. He connects the deliberately vague dots connecting the melancholy Oliver. He dials back that easy charm which has marked his most memorable screen creations for a hard-to-read character whose reticence (oddly) becomes intriguing, sad and appealing. He is the solid rock on which all the performances are built.

(Highlight: “Maybe because I, I don’t really believe that it’s gonna work. And then I make sure it doesn’t work.”)

Peyman Moaadi in A Separation (as Nader)

Hands down, the most ambiguous character of the narrative and in a film of ambiguity this is a good thing. He succeeds in presenting the extreme frustration of a man with his back against the wall, unwilling to relent even if it contributes to his own loss. He’s at once selfishly and foolhardily holding on to his ideals and still trying (perhaps, faultily) to do what’s best for his family – uncertain though he may be of what that is

(Highlight: Trying to make his daughter understand his inclinations.)

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter (as Curtis LaForche)

A notoriously wise actor (just rewatch Revolutionary Road to see the choices he makes in his acting) Shannon knows that what establishes Curtis as a man worthy of our attention is not his idiosyncrasies but his normalcy in the light of all that is idiosyncratic. So, when things get particularly cacophonous it’s even more devastating watching him try to hold on to the normal which makes it all more disturbing.

(Highlight: A virtual embarrassment of options to choose from, but the fear, horror, disgust and worry which comes with that bed-wetting incident impresses.)

FINALISTS: Colin Farrell has long fascinated me as an actor and watching him underplay his character’s sensibilities in London Boulevard is a thrill; Mel Gibson for a career-best performance in The Beaver succeeding at the unhinged spiral as well as the sad bathetic bits; Ryan Gosling for trudging through somewhat familiar territory in The Ides of March but shattering us as Stephen moves away from us; Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy who, in his quiet way, nails the sadness and danger which is inherent to Smiley.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Jean Dujardin in The Artist; Michael Fassbender in A Dangerous Method; Ryan Gosling in Drive; Thomas Horn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; Clive Owen in Trust; Brad Pitt in Moneyball; Anton Yelchin in Like Crazy

ADDENDUM: Yikes, I missed the C's when I was writing up my ballot and forgot two significant performances that should be billed as finalists. First off, there's William Shimmell in Certified Copy, who makes a stunning film debut playing the annoying exasperation and occasional pretentiousness of his character up as a perfect foil and ally for Binoche; and Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus for directing himself to a searing turn, like a wounded animal dangerous and fearless, but still not completely free. It was remiss of me to leave them both off, even if it was inadvertent.

Shannon wins it easily, but I love the entire ballot? Would he make your list? Which leading actors ruled the year, for you?

8 comments: said...

I think Shannon hands down he was amazing in Take Shelter.

Paolo said...

Yay for Woody Harrelson making this list! Id anyone is due it's him.

Nick Prigge said...

"He is the solid rock on which all the performances are built." Ain't that the truth? Not unlike Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter last year who also helped a certain Supporting Actor to a win, eh?

Also interesting that you note Colin Farrell in London Blvd. I've been DYING to see London Blvd. (Finally just came out on Netflix here!) but everything I hear about it has been bad. Your words give me hope!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

threeguys1movie i do, too. glad you agree.

paolo please, rampart, its awful release strategy and its lack of appearance from awards' is such a sore issue for me. poor woody.

nick london boulevard is an impossibly strange film. very bizarre, and quirky but at times honest and effective. i think my review was "nice day, if you're into that sort of thing." and it's weird, but it is something you could like.

Paolo said...

I think Rampart is the reason why i don't feel bad about seeing Margaret because I have my own cult iconic all-star movie with a terrible release strategy. In four words, Rampart is my Margaret.

ruth said...

Glad to see Joel Edgerton's name on here! People seem to always think of Hardy but I think Joel is equally compelling. The fact that none of these actors are shortlisted by the Academy is a travesty, really.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Joel didn't really do it for me - largely because I didn't buy the character.

Definitely need to catch up with Take Shelter. Everything I hear makes it sound so good.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

paolo hee. but i really do want to see margaret. i adore anna paquin.

ruth incidentally, i really did not care for hardy in warrior.

ben you MUST see take shelter. the film has been seared into my brain and it has so many facets i'd be interested in hearing what people make of it parable roots.