Digital Polyphony

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Best of: Part Two (Performances)

Posted on January 2, 2011 at 5:42 PM
Best of: Part Two (Performances)

My favorite performances of the year.

Natalie Portman

The shoe-in for the Oscar as far as I'm concerned. Portman finally lives up to what she's capable of in Black Swan. It's a daring role and she absolutely sells it, especially towards the end. Just imagine all that was asked from her, not least of which learning ballet and how to perform Swan Lake, then throw in losing her mind and the sex and drama with the mother...fantastic stuff.

Colin Firth

One of the best actors out there today, and the second year in a row I've put him on my favorite list. Probably my favorite male performance, though there are others I enjoyed a lot as well. His scenes with Geoffrey Rush (equally as good) in the King's Speech are amazing, drmatic and moving and the moments when he loses his temper are both funny and endearing at the same time. We see all aspects and emotions from him and he brings out a great human side of Royalty.

Jeff Bridges

Another great actor and consistently so for thirty or so years. His transformation into Rooster Cogburn in True Grit will go down as one of his best ever, if not his best ever. He becomes utterly lost in the role to where you truly believe Rooster is a living, breathing old coot we're observing, not an actor simply playing him. That's the sign of a great actor, though, and one of the best performances ever.

Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling

You can't have one without the other here, both are amazing on screen together in Blue Valentine. Their interchanges and dialogue feels true, honest and heartbreaking at the same time. Subtle, believable, they speak as real people speak and you can sometimes forget they're even acting. They truly feel like a married couple on edge. In contrast, Rabbit Hole (admittingly, a far different film and tone) feels like actors acting. It works for what that film needs, but lacks the realism that you find in these two.

Andrew Garfield

No, not just for the Social Network, Garfield was also amazing in the very underseen Never Let Me Go, both roles drastically different to each other and he hits both perfectly. Never Let Me Go in particular demanding quite a bit from the guy as he deteriorates over time. Mulligan is great here also, and yes she is the lead character, but I really took notice to Garfield who has consistantly been working great roles for years (Boy A, the very underrated Red Riding Part One and soon to be Spider Man)

Mark Ruffalo

My choice for best supporting actor this year, though Geoffrey Rush and the King's Speech is always on the list it seems. Ruffalo in The Kids are All Right was one of the best aspects of the film, though the film is full of amazing acting and any actor will tell you, you're as good as the people around you.

Andy Garcia

City Island was a film that really came and went, but Garcia just owned it, especially at the end as everything boiled over in this nicely done family drama/comedy. You know how this story is going to end, but Garcia's character is what keeps you completely on edge as you route for him and fear for how it's all going to affect him in the end. Turns out, it's as big an emotional breakdown as you can imagine.

Jeremy Renner

The Town is probably going to be overshadowed by a lot this year. It's a great crime thriller that has a lot of competition out there. Renner's emulation of a Bostonian scumbag is not only spot-on, I've had Boston people tell me they know at least a dozen guys just like him. A personofication of the lowest form of socital garbage, but at the same time you can't completly hate him because it's really just who he is.

James Franco

You just have to put him on a best list by default. He's pretty much the only guy on screen for most of 127 Hours. Like Portman this year, Franco really lived up to what he's capable of (along with Howl, another standout performance from him earlier this year). We've seen flashes of what he can do, but this year he's really shown a more dramatic side that works amazingly well and that I don't think I've really completely seen since James Dead Story (and the few bits he's in Milk, I suppose).

Christian Bale and Mellissa Leo

The Fighter is chalk full of great acting, but Bale (as usual, really) and Mellissa Leo standout above the rest. Leo in particular as I swear they had to have plucked this woman off the street in New York. Her costuming adds a lot to it as well.

Edward Norton

Leaves of Grass really came and went, but Norton playing dual roles really has him showing what he's best at. Little movies like this that are actors' pieces are perfectly suited for him and he plays the two brothers nicedly. On a side note, Leaves of Grass was a pretty overlooked film that I really enjoyed. I haven't quite done a review of it yet, but you should check it out or rent it. Being from Oklahoma (and a personal film for fellow Oklahoman Tim Blake Nelson), it really brought back some nostalgia for me. He also had Stone up earlier this year...but that felt way overacted.

Casey Affleck

Which reminds me, another movie that just came and went was The Killer Inside Me. Affleck, yes related to Ben in case you don't know by now, portrays a very complex character that, as days go by, just begins to enjoy beating and killing and destroying lives. The thing is, he does so casually that you completely buy it. He's cold, emotionless, and even though the film itself had a ton of issues, his character was amazingly realized and performance even moreso bringing it out. Not an easy role for anybody to pull off, Affleck does.

Noomi Rapace

Just a balls out daring role across thee films. If you haven't seen them all, do yourself a favor and do so. The first Dragon Tattoo is the best, though.

Javier Bardem

Biutiful is entirely on Bardem, much like Franco was for 127  Hours. Sure the directing helps and all, but one central character in every single scene to run it all? Bardem shows he's one of the best out there in this Spanish tragedy. Possibly the best role the man has ever done, and considering all he's done, that's saying quite a lot.

Jennifer Lawrence

Last but not least is the astounding performance by Jennifer Lawrence (hey, that rhymes!) in Winter's Bone. Like select other films this year, The Kids are All Right and Blue Valentine for example, there's a sense of realism and natural comfort to what she brings as she and thus us become lost in the story and, in this case, atmosphere and world of backwater poverty-stricken criminals. 


Honorables include Sally Hawkins, Ben Affleck, Leslie Manville, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore (for both Chloe and The Kids Are All Right), Amy Adams, Michael Douglas (For both Solitary Man and Wall Sreet 2, but more Solitary Man), and Tom Hardy.

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