Friday, 22 February 2013

Encore Awards (2012 in Review): Casts and Casting

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I shall not be finished with this before the Sunday’s Academy Awards. But, then, thoughts on film don’t suddenly evaporate when the Oscars pass, right?

I do love devoting words and more words to wrapping up the year in film in the most gratuitous of ways – case in point, I decide on splitting the typical casting category in two to give me more chance to write about films I liked.

In the quest of finding categories that should be added to the Academy’s slate, ensemble cast often arises but I’d be more interested in an award for the casting directors. It’s a shame the Academy doesn’t recognise the work of casting directors and it’s a talent removed from performance by a cast – hence, my inclusion of both.

Click on images for reviews where available


Anna Karenina
(Keira Knightley, Dominic Gleeson, Jude Law, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Aaron Tyler-Johnson, Alicia Vikander et al)

Easy to forget the ensemble amidst the many other things going on, but the reason the film never loses focus for me is because the cast is as on board with the headiness of the creation as the technical team making everything coalesce beautifully.

HIGHLIGHT: The cast moves in threes often, so I’m partial to Anna and her two men or Anna with Dolly and Kitty but the city scenes allow for great ensemble bits like Dockery and Wilson turning in effective bit turns alongside Knightley.

Damsels in Distress
(Hugh Becker, Adam Brody, Megalyn Echikunwoke , Greta Gerwig, Carrie MacLemore, Billy Magnussen, Analeigh Tipton et al)

This is a classic case of a great ensemble not letting a great screenplay down. Yes, I’d easily extract Tipton as the weak link (imagine someone like Deborah Ann Woll, here) but she’s never truly poor and she’s a great scene partner opposite Gerwig and Becker in some great moments. But that trio of Megalyn, Greta and Carrie is golden.

HIGHLIGHT: Any number of those bar scenes towards the end where Stillman beautifully navigates his camera from one college minutiae issue to another is given more life by the way the cast plays so beautifully off each other. Also, “Things Are Looking Up”.

Killer Joe
(Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Emile Hirsch, Marc Macaulay, Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple)

This smaller cast is no less of an ensemble – the main actors are doing great work making the believability of this grimy family work and then McConaughey steps in and adds to the tension and creates a striking rapport with all the players. When the film threatens to buckle under too much grotesquery it’s the ensemble keeping it on its feet.

HIGHLIGHT: That dinner showdown is a mass of perfection, even if Gina is walking away with the prize for best in show. All the pairings work, and the actors are constantly pushing each other to greater heights.)

Moonrise Kingdom
(Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis et al)

Each bit player, every child is effectively rendering their character as a true person with a story worth telling and when they come together to play off the other the film only sings louder. Comedic rapport like this cannot be easily faked.

HIGHLIGHT: Chase to the church and then a foiled getaway in the storm – one of the film’s highpoints and it’s working on so many great technical levels, but the acting from Tilda’s steeliness, Norton’s embarrassment, to Murray’s disinterest it’s all great acting work among themselves.)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
(Muhammet Uzuner, Yılmaz Erdoğan, NaciTaner Birsel, NusretAhmet Mümtaz Taylan, Fırat Tanış, Ercan Kesal, Murat Kılıç et al)

It’s possible my unfamiliarity with the actors adds to the idea of the ensemble blending into each other in great ways, but even above that… The film puts demands on the men to carry the weight of the drama without being too grand in characterisation but not too plain to be dull. And they deliver at playing against each other to great results.

HIGHLIGHT: The entire first half is a series of ensemble driven scenes, but the blackout scene works best as an example of how much the film depends on each performer contribute in key ways.

FINALISTS: Cloud Atlas for using a group of actors and deftly managing to make them work for a myriad of tales against each other in various registers; Bachelorette for the ace chemistry of that trio but for their chemistry with the bit players too; Killing Them Softly for great dual moments like McNairy and Mendehlson or Pitt and Gandolfini all creating aces in the general ensemble; The Paperboy for a fearlessness in all the actors playing opposite each other; Perks of Being a Wallflower for believably telegraphing the warmth of the essential friendships of the core

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Argo; Django Unchained; Magic Mike; Seeking A Friend for the End of the World



Anna Karenina
 - for Alicia Vikander who with her fresh face, and kind eyes is the perfect manifestation of all the hope and possibility of Kitty.

- for Michelle Dockery whose low voice makes her an ideal projection of Princess Myagkaya but still fitting within the film's very different take on the novel.
-for Matthew Macfadyen cast much less sombrely than usual but with his casting revealing key adeptness at bathetic humour in himself.

Dixie Chassay; Jina Jay

-for Julie Walters who is a genius choice for somewhat creepy but not quite sinister and somewhat loopy, meddling Witch.

-for giving Kevin McKidd a chance to use his accent and knowing he could navigate between divergent characters with good comedic timing.

-for Emma Thompson whose 90s career makes her such an ideal choice for the diplomatic Queen all the while returning her original take on another Elinor. 

Natalie Lyon; Kevin Reher

Cloud Atlas
-for realising that the seventies would be an ideal world for Halle Berry to do some fantastic work in.

-for knowing that James D'Arcy was capable of that much emotional profundity and effect.

-for using Susan Sarandon so well as both a would-be Mother of the Tribe and as a concept of ideal love, and knowing it would be her wheelhouse.

Lora Kennedy; Lucinda Syson

Killing Them Softly
-for Vincent Curatolo who is so well chosen as the con man who sets it all in motion.

-for Ray Liotta, excellently chosen as the washed up criminal which I could only imagine is a deliberate nod to a not so washed up criminal in his oeuvre.

-for knowing that the slickness of Jackie Cogan couldn't be better represented by anyone than Brad Pitt.

Francine Maisler

The Paperboy
-for Zac Efron whose casting as the film's eponymous heartthrob is excellent casting.

-for Lydia Rooks who in only a few moments as Charlotte's girlfriend is a great glimpse of the town. (I suspect she was cast just for her line reading of "Mmmm-hmmm.")

-for Nealla Gordon perfectly embodying the snobbery of privilege.

Leah Daniels; Billy Hopkins

FINALISTS: Cosmopolis; Les Misérables; Killer Joe

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Bachelorette; Moonrise Kingdom; On the Road; Once Upon a Time in Anatolia; Perks of Being a Wallflower

Who were your favourite 2012 casts? Which films were cast to perfection? Who am I missing?


ruth said...

Most excellent post, Andrew! I love musings about casting, I just mentioned in my post yesterday how casting directors are the 'unsung heroes' of film-making process, even more so than even editors as they're at least honored at the Oscars.

I love what you wrote about Emma Thompson in BRAVE. She has played two great Elinors... Elinor and Queen Eleanor :D I rewatched Sense & Sensibility again for the zillionth time and I never, ever NOT cry at the end when Elinor sobbed uncontrollably in front of Edward... it was so moving.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

thanks ruth. haha. i love a good sense and sensibility. sure she's too old for elinor in the real sense, but she's SO good you can't care to be bothered.