As usual, fewer memorable performances/roles in the female-acting categories versus the male ones — 19 runners-up among the lead men, versus just 9 for the women. You know, maybe Catharine MacKinnon is on to something …
Maya Rudolph, AWAY WE GO — Verily did I dislike her character (and her husband) from the start as bubble-headed bohemians, but by the end, she’d won me over, though it is for God alone to know whether this was because everybody the picaresque pair meet is even more annoying (why, Maggie … why …)
Penelope Cruz, BROKEN EMBRACES — Why, Academy … why. If you’re gonna nominate Penelope Cruz this year, why not do so in a role where she shows off something other than her lingerie, her ass and her mascara — like her actual ability to act (at least in Spanish and/or for Pedro)
Michelle Pfeiffer, CHERI — Miscast in the role of Colette’s retired voluptuary Lea, but somehow makes it work for her, most especially meta-cinematically (you have to be thin and obviously sexy even to play a 50-something role, i.e., Pfeiffer’s age) and what that says about female lead roles. Maybe Catharine MacK…
Dakota Fanning, CORALINE — Every year, I make a point of seeking out voice roles in animated films (though only 1 of the 4 I short-listed made the cut this year). It’s a legitimate form of acting that Oscar hardly ever acknowledges. Fanning’s got girlish curiosity and frustration to spare in her voice.
Alison Lohman, DRAG ME TO HELL — Every year, I make a point of seeking out roles in action or genre films, another legitimate form of acting that Oscar hardly ever acknowledges. She both exudes non-obnoxious middle-class entitlement and convincingly sacrifies a kitten.
Melanie Laurent, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS — Where does Tarantino find these unknown (to me anyway) or thought-washed-up actors who somehow give credible performances in the “movie movie” roles. Probably hurt by Diane Kreuger’s even greater awesomeness (in a showier and “movie”-er role).
Robin Wright Penn, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE — Sometimes you just give pity consideration that a good and talented actress found herself stuck with such a ridiculous script and managed to come out not completely sucking. The key is not to overplay the too-many Big Scenes.
Nina Hoss, A WOMAN IN BERLIN — Like in JERICHOW, though not as much, Hoss gives an extremely understated, opaque borderline-wooden performance that might remind one of the young Joan Fontaine (oft derided as “wooden”). But she’s hiding from the Commies, in the only film ever to make me take seriously radical-feminist claim all sex is rape. Maybe Catharine MacKinnon …
Emily Blunt, THE YOUNG VICTORIA — An awards-bait role but at least it’s not a glorified impersonation, as we have no recordings or photos of Victoria from this era (her earliest photo dates from 1844). Blunt’s playing gives us a mostly feminist-anachronism-free portrait of a woman who, because she wields (even-limited) political power, can’t let men take advantage of her. So, nah … Catharine MacKinnon is full of it.
Well, it’s now Skandie time, and Mike is unveiling the Top 20 at his site Listen, Eggroll. So in the next couple of weeks, before posting my entire ballot proper, I’ll be posting a few words about the films, performances, etc., I voted for. And to start with, about those I DIDN’T vote for.
My procedure every year is to devote a day to making a short list of contenders, based on the Eligible Films list, and what has managed to stay with me, as of late January of the next year (all eligible films started to screen commercially in New York during 2009, and did so for at least a week). Then I shuck away, until I’m left with 10 in each of the categories. I’ll start with the acting categories — these are the Lead Male Performances that I short-listed but DIDN’T vote for. In this and other categories, the bold-face and the lead art are from the last one I eliminated — the #11, as it were.
Joseph Gordon Leavitt, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER — So what if he can do the sensitive emo dork role in his sleep? In *this* sensitive emo dork, there’s not a trace of self-righteousness or whininess.
Willem Defoe, ANTICHRIST — When asked at Toronto “how does one prepare as an actor for a scene where you’re genitally mutilated,” he replied “you don’t.” Really — that’s all that need be said.
Lluis Homar, BROKEN EMBRACES — Shows off a late middle-age “this is my last chance” hunger that prevented his character from being either a dirty old man or a petty tyrant. Pedro should work with him more.
Mark Ruffalo, BROTHERS BLOOM — His occasional cocksure self-regard really works well in this role but he keeps it in rein and appropriately artificial, as the however-illogical ending requires (think — or don’t — what Mark Wahlberg would have done here).
Sasha Baron Cohen, BRUNO — Yes, the film as a whole was a misfire, but when Cohen gets a provocation really cooking, with the right audience he can milk it better than the best professional wrestling heel.
Clive Owen, DUPLICITY — Blows away George Clooney’s performance in UP IN THE AIR in the category of Sheer Old-School Glamour Dripping Off His Fingers role of 2009 — playing a rogue.
George Clooney, FANTASTIC MR. FOX — Blows away George Clooney’s performance in UP IN THE AIR in the category of Sheer Old-School Glamour Dripping Off His Fingers role of 2009 — playing a rogue.
Souleymane Sy Savane, GOODBYE SOLO — Here is the very opposite of Sheer Old School … etc. — a performance that feels like (even if it isn’t) a real person playing a slightly-fictionalized version of himself, a la 40s De Sica and Rossellini.
Mark Duplass, HUMPDAY — Here is the very opposite of Sheer Old School … etc. — a performance that feels like (even if it isn’t) a real person playing a slightly-fictionalized version of himself, a la 40s Visconti.
Morgan Freeman, INVICTUS — Went back and forth on this one. Even if it is just an imitation, it’s a damn good one, and good casting too — the man who played God portraying our era’s secular saint.
Benno Furmann, JERICHOW — Probably the least-known performance in this bunch, but it’s a triumph of masculine physicality and mannerism creating a not-black-souled viciousness (Waz isn’t wrong in saying it’s a bit wooden, but also not wrong in saying …)
Kim Yung-ho, NIGHT AND DAY — Probably the least-known performance in this bunch, but it’s a triumph of utter self-absorption and complete cluelessness that somehow doesn’t create a Mister Magoo or (mere) Innocent Abroad
Micah Sloat, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY — Along with Katie Featherstone (not among Actress Runners-Up … hint, hint), he creates something new and exciting — effectively natural performance in a completely self-referential genre (the YouTube home movie)
Dragos Bucur, POLICE, ADJECTIVE — Eve was correct … he is awesome at eating soup, though look for someone even more awesome at chopping wood in the main list.
Viggo Mortensen, THE ROAD — The testimony to this performance is that the film, which pretty much rests entirely on his shoulders and has only the most elemental of plots, is even watchable (in fact, pretty good in my opinion)
Colin Firth, A SINGLE MAN — Seeing D’Arcy as a Christopher Isherwood character was disconcerting, but like Mortensen, he fills out a simple-content movie, though only as far as watchability in his case (the ending is unforgivable, sorry)
Charles Berling, SUMMER HOURS — Among the kids in the family, he’s the audience-identification figure, and Berling has the right mix of idealism and pragmatism (Binoche and Regnier are different shades of pragmatic) to pull off the needed surrender.
Teruyuki Kagawa, TOKYO SONATA — He has the bits I remember best from Toronto 2007 (I saw it alongside NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and so hated its last reel that I’ve never gone back to it) — the pride-shame mix in dealing with his family.
Woody Harrelson, ZOMBIELAND — Remember how awesome Woody the Bartender was. Here’s a completely different type of comic “character role,” sure, but Harrelson shows he hasn’t lost it. He should just do comedy from now on.