2011 in Film (Best Actor)

This was a good year for actors, as you’ll see in the below performances. It was rather hard to rank all of these, and the amount of inspiration I got from these performances was immense. Below is my comprehensive look at the best of the best.

RUNNER’S UP

*Lucas Pittaway* in Snowtown
*Brad Pitt* in Moneyball
*Ryan Gosling* in The Ides of March

These 3 performances could easily appear on any top 10 list. Newcomer Pittaway tackles a tough role in a tough movie and comes off turning in one of the most realistic performances of the year as a wayward kid roped in by a serial killer. Brad Pitt had an amazing year with this and Tree of Life (which he ranked #1 in my best supporting actor list). His work in Moneyball is just as solid. Ryan Gosling proved again this year he is one of the best young actors out there. The fact that he didn’t get nominated for Blue Valentine still irks me. He was the driving force behind Ides of March and held his own with a cast of greats.

#10 – Antonio Banderas – The Skin I Live In

What an insane movie, what an insane character! This is the best performance of Antonio’s career. Reuniting with long time collaborator Aldmolovar – this is pretty tough stuff to stomach. Somehow Banderas make’s you understand the characters journey – no matter the disturbing his acts in the film. This is must see.

#9 – Ewan McGregor – Beginners

Christopher Plummer put this picture on the map – but the work done by its other actors is truly special stuff too. Thankfully Plummer always thanked McGregor in his speeches – and rightfully so. His performance would not have been as powerful without the support and brilliance from McGregor as his son. I am rather shocked that he didn’t get more accolades. I truly think he should have been in the mix.

#8 – George Clooney – The Descendants

I really enjoy this Clooney performance. I think he sometimes rests of his laurels, but here he truly is up to something new. He sheds that charming handsome guy image as the rather pathetic husband and father who has just found out his invalid wife has cheated on him. He has moments of true brilliance in this film which more than warranted all of the attention for the film.

#7  – Michael Shannon – Take Shelter

Michael Shannon, like this film, is a force of nature. I believe he is one of the most underused and always perfect actors. He never turns in a bad performance. I believe he should already have an Oscar for Bug, which got little to no attention. He tops himself here and finally has been given a role that is not a “character role” – but a living breathing flawed person – albiet an eccentric one. This performance will shake you to your bones.

#6 – Ryan Gosling – Drive

In a year with 3 great performances (Crazy Stupid Love and Ides of March) – this is the one that I feel was the best. With so little dialogue, Gosling turns in a multi-faceted performance that’s central power lies within his control as an actor. It’s hard when an actor is this good looking to be taken seriously, but this is a performance that is truly brutally real. He is the only one who could have taken the role to this place – brilliant.

#5 – Demian Birchir – A Better Life

I am so happy that this performance was nominated – or I may have never seen it. I did find flaws in the movie itself, as I do not believe the film or the other performances rise to the level of Birchir’s acting. However, his performance is an instant classic. We don’t get to see movies about this character – and I am so thankful that he was so convincing and so inhabits his character that it was nominated and will now see the light of day.

#4 – Jean Dujardin – The Artist

I was so overjoyed that Dujardin won the Oscar, as he was brilliant in the film. People in the U.S. needed his presence up on that screen. It’s a performance that is truly something special. With uttering only 2 words in the film (and a couple of breaths) he conveys so much emotion. More than that he fills audiences with a certain joy and excitement that very well could have been missing since the silent film era. Bravo and welcome to the US!

#3 – Michael Fassbender – Shame

This is the performance I was most shocked that wasn’t announced on nomination morning. Because it was that good! Fassbender has had a breakthrough year as well – however here he really strips it all away (literally and figuratively) and gets to inhabit a character that surely will make you a bit uncomfortable. Finding the humanity in a character who so desperately is afraid of love and true affection – makes this a hard to watch performance – but nonetheless a brilliant one. Everyone who has seen this knows he was robbed.

#2 – Michael Fuith – Michael

When I saw this movie at the Chicago film festival I knew this would be my favorite male performance of the year. Which just shows you how much I loved my number 1 choice. That being said, it really is a tie – as this performance is brilliant. Playing a child molester must be tough, but playing it in such a way that you feel for the character and question your own thoughts and beliefs on the matter (yeah that’s so sick but right) is quite a feat. I want to see this man in more movies and I want it now. This is acting at its rawest form. Brilliant.

#1 – Peter Mullan – Tyrannosaur

This is a performance unlike any I have seen. His co-star Olivia Colman gives the best performance of the year, and Peter Mullan is right there with his devastating performance in this tough and beautiful film. There are many flawed characters on all of my lists, but none perhaps portrayed so brutally than Peter Mullan. This performance, and this film, was overlooked and that is a crime. From the first scene Mullan scared me, then I felt pity, then I felt regret, then I felt love, and that was within the first 45 minutes of the film. You stick with him every step of the way. A brilliant film and a brilliant performance.

Now it’s your turn!
What do you think of my choices?
Who’s your pick? 

2011 in Film (Best Supporting Actor)

There have been better years for supporting male performances, that being said – the Oscars got it all wrong. Some of the nominated performances were huge misses for me – and the fact they left some of these off really offends me quite bit. Here’s my comprehensive look at the best supporting male performances of the year.

RUNNER’S UP

*Hunter Mccracken* – The Tree of Life
*Keifer Sutherland* – Melancholia
*Phillip Seymore Hoffman* – The Ides of March
*Ezra Miller* – Another Happy Day
*Stellan Skarsgaard* – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

All of these fine men turned in wonderful performances this year. As the center of the family in Tree of Life, Hunter McCracken turned in the best teen performance of the year. Keifer Sutherland proved he is back in business with a stark and subdued performance in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Phillip Seymoure Hoffman proves again he can do no wrong as a cutthroat political strategist in Ides of March (he was also great in Moneyball). Ezra Miller had a stellar year as well turning in a performance as the sons from hell in both We Need to Talk About Kevin and the under seen Another Happy Day. And finally the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo wouldn’t have contained as much of a tense punch if it weren’t for the terrifying work from Stellan Skarsgaard (also great in Melancholia).

#10 – Albert Brooks – Drive

Uh-oh, here comes trouble. The comedian couldn’t be found anywhere in Albert Brooks threatening performance in Drive. An excellent movie all around, Brooks brought a level of danger to an already dangerous film. Some of his one-liners in this film rank among the best lines of the year.

#9 – Sasha Baron Cohen – Hugo

In a role which screams typical Baron Cohen quirkyness – Sasha turned the tables on us. His character in this film has as much heart as the adorable children, or the recluse old filmmaker. Bringing the movies big laughs is easy for him, but making the villainous character lovable and  likable takes true talent. I loved a lot about this movie, but I believe I may have loved him most.

#8 – John Hawkes – Martha Marcy May Marlene

Following his stunning performance in Winter’s Bone, Hawke’s returns as another backwoods character you won’t soon forget. Here he channeled his inner David Koresh as a dangerous cult leader. The miraculous part about the performance is that he provides the audience with the charm needed to prove the point of why people followed this man. Also his song which he performs, is the best scene in the film.

#7 – Nick Nolte – Warrior

This performance is one which could get Nick Nolte back in the mix. It seems to be a performance which hit quite home to the man himself. Nolte is well known for his struggles with drugs and alcohol – so playing the father who is struggling to stay sober I am sure was quite a painful experience. But from pain comes moments of true perfection – of which Nolte gives in spades. His best work in years.

#6 – Patton Oswalt – Young Adult

This movie was criminally overlooked! In a shockingly funny yet mean script, there was a lump of gold sitting right in between all of the selfishness of the characters – and that was comedian Patton Oswalt. Building upon what he started in the film Big Fan, Oswalt really shows he has dramatic chops. Who would have ever thought of him next to the glamazon Charlize Theron, in a romantic-ish relationship? Well it works – to a heartbreaking level.

#5 – David Henshall – Snowtown

Out of all the “dangerous men” on this list .. no one holds a candle to Henshall’s John Bunting. This is the performance I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, because I do not know if everyone could handle it. I’ve seen many films that try to delve into showing us a realistic portrait of a serial killer – I doubt there’s been one in the last 10 years that feels as realistic as this. Watch at your own risk – but it surely is a brilliant performance.

#4 – David Rauchenberger – Michael 

11 year old Rauchenberger turns in a performance that many will never give in their entire career. As the captive of pedophile Michael (the title character), Rauchenberger handles insanely difficult and mature material in a sensitive and mature way which highly surpass his age. I am hearing this movie is getting a wide release very soon, and my hope is that you will hunt it out.

#3 – Michael Parks – Red State

Here we go, another nutter! But this is something altogether different. Growing up in the South I have come into contact with many a nutty preacher – none hold a candle to Abin Cooper. A replica of the true life Phelp’s family clan – Abin is like all of them wrapped into one. This is a no-holds-barred over-the-top insane performance – and it works oh so well. I am honestly shocked that he didn’t get more attention. I think people ran away from this movie because it assaults religion, because Kevin Smith may not be “the cool guy” he once was, and it was billed as a horror film. I beg of you to give it a shot – its a great film and this is an award worthy performance. His opening sermon alone deserves an award.

#2 – Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Oscars pretty much got it right here. Plummer is a fantastic actor, and has been for many of his 82 years. However he truly has given his career best performance in Beginners as the newly out father. After his wife’s death, he is now able to live the life he has always wanted – as a gay man. Plummer brings his own life experience to a role that couldn’t be more different to himself on paper. The character and Plummer mold into one and the performance is one that won’t keep a dry eye in the house. Bravo to you Mr. Plummer!

#1 – Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life

Speaking of turning in career best performances, Brad Pitt did just that this year. No, not in Moneyball, but in The Tree of Life. As the father of the world’s “first family” Pitt made me think of my own father. Those moments where he loved me so much, those moments he tried to make me tough, those moments he made me mad, those moments he made me proud, etc. And the fact of never being able to “be the man your father is” was all there. With very little dialogue and elongated screen time – Pitt gets across emotions that have taken a lifetime to build. This performance is a marvel.

Now it’s your turn!
What do you think of my choices?
Who’s your pick?