Why, yes, it is April and no I’ve not completed these as yet.
On with the celebration of 2013 in film.
Gael García Bernal in No (René Saavedra)
Although René is our protagonist No is about so much more than him, and yet Bernal performance is essential and he makes good playing this man who is something of a question mark but moving through moments of apathy, cynicism and sensitivity.
HIGHLIGHT: Blasé to say that I’d probably single out the scenes with his son? In a way no because René is at his most sensitive in these moments. But, then, outside of his personal life the performance is so humorous, not aggressively comedic but easily numerous in the way he’s not sure whether to be cynical or steadfastly optimistic about the job he’s undertaken.
Daniel Brühl in Rush (as Niki Lauda)
HIGHLIGHT: I need to single out Alexandra Maria Lara here who gives a fine performance. Brühl has excellent chemistry with her and the rapport the two share is a significant reason Lauda’s scenes with Marlene end up feeling as effective and integral as the racing ones. Their first meeting is a lovely for Brühl but it’s acting through the prosthetics, arguing his case for going back on to the track that he is most effective.
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street (as Jordan Belfort)
The time spent on Jordan pre-Wolf-transformation is slight which robs DiCaprio, somewhat, of showing the gradations in Jordan’s journey to debauchery. And, yet, just a bit is enough. That lunch with McConaughey shows a Jordan that’s wide-eyed but maybe not so pure but the hunger on DiCaprio’s face is palpable and it’s that all-encompassing thirst for more which drives the performances occasionally tipping into excess but consistently one with the character he’s playing.
It’s why my HIGHLIGHT: is that final scene of terrifying violence against Naomi. It’s Jordan at his emphatically worst but DiCaprio is on point in the scene tracing the way that the overwhelming thirst for more sets and becomes not just unappealing but disgusting and distressing.
Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners (as Detective Loki)
Gyllenhaal wins major points for carving one of my favourite performances of the year out of a character we now significantly little about. Loki is all work with no discernible aspects of personality aside from his tattoos, tics and hair which offer the faintest hints of something underneath. And, yet, he manages to give one of the most sincere portrayals of a cop just trying to do his job.
HIGHLIGHT: On one hand his solitary moment of complete berserk behaviour seems counterintuitive to use here, although the way Gyllenhaal plays suggests such richness in the character. Still, like Tim, I’m sort of in love with the way he adds deftness to the line reading of “I hear what you’re saying.”
Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis (as Llewyn Davis)
Llewyn is much colder, and harder to love than Anders from Oslo August 31 but they both exist in that same space for me as troubled, young men trying to find their way in life, going around in circles and getting nowhere. I think it was Nick Davis who said that Lleywn feels like someone you know and as much as the Coen’s write a good script a great deal of that is on Isaac who embraces Llewyn’s foibles, his resentment, his pettiness but also his despair and his dejection. You have to look close to see it’s a mask he’s wearing, the performance is deft, but there are nuances throughout.
HIGHLIGHT: The line-reading “I just need a place to dump my stuff. I'm tired of dragging it all around with me” has stuck me with all these months later. A gem.
FINALISTS: Casey Affleck gives my favourite performance in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints carving a character to root for with just a tilt of the head; Alden Elderich gives a performance to stand up and take note of in Beautiful Creatures playing both romantic lead and winsome pseudo-comedic humour to great effect; Nick Frost steals the show in The World’s End pulling focus from Pegg’s also excellent turn; James Gandolfini is an excellent romantic lead in Enough Said giving a sensitive portrayal that’s easy but effective; Ethan Hawke is typically ace in Before Midnight; you're never sure if Jude Law is playing a saint or a devil in Side Effects but the performance is excellent throughout; Joaquin Phoenix in Her is warm and lonely and sad and so sincere
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger; Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave; Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips; Koffler in Free Fall; Mossafa in The Past; Nick Robinson in Kings of Summer
FURTHER JOURNEYS INTO THE BEST OF 2013: Opening Scenes / Supporting Actress / Sound and Music / Costume, Production Design, Editing, Visual Effects, Makeup / Cinematography