Monday, August 30, 2010

The Fifties for 2010: Best Actor

Maybe it was just the weekend, but I could sense you all getting a little drowsy over the directors, cinematographers, and screenplays. I figure I ought to throw an acting category your way, although I hope this still means something in a world where Kyra Sedgwick has an Emmy.

Once again, we mostly have 2009 to thank for the bests of 2010 in the U.S., but that's par for the course in the first half of the year for commercial exhibition. And clearly, these perfs were worth waiting for...

Louis-Do de Lencquesaing for The Father of My Children, who looms as large in death as in life, not by acting overly grand, but by capturing the rising, tragic tide of an almost mundane anguish;

Lars Eidinger for Everyone Else, for nursing his regrets as a hen guards its eggs, and quietly goading his girlfriend to fall out of love, even when he acts silly or tender;

Michael Fassbender for Fish Tank, for wearing the character as close to his skin as a pair of tight jeans, keeping you seduced and at sea even when all arrows point one way;

Tahar Rahim for A Prophet, less because he sustains a mighty arc from fledgling to kingpin than because he's so assured, he never flaunts the scale of that evolution; and

Mark Ruffalo for The Kids Are All Right, for the undisguised duels of shyness and smugness he radiates around "his" kids, admiring them while relishing how they make him feel cooler.

I know some people will justifiably consider Fassbender's and Ruffalo's to be supporting roles. Still, most readers know by now that, under the Hannibal Lecter Rule, I'm usually inclined to promote roles that are completely pivotal to the feelings and ideas of their movies into the lead category, even when they have slightly less screen time than other "leads" in the film. I do grasp that these are borderline cases, but I can't imagine even a one-line synposis of either Fish Tank or Kids that doesn't incorporate Connor or Paul. Though it helps that I write such long sentences!

Honestly, I didn't have much trouble arriving at these five, but a few honorable mentions anyway, most strongly to Cyril Descours, a young guy who brought edgy, spontaneous, charismatic life to the character who begins Accomplices as an unidentified corpse. It's spry work that augurs well for the young actor. Ewan McGregor may not redefine the art in The Ghost Writer but he reminds us what an underrated stalwart he is: a pre-eminently skilled audience surrogate, even when he's making eccentric errors in judgment, and a dab hand at playing peevish incredulity without getting ornery. Speaking of ornery, Ben Stiller does well by the lead role in Greenberg, even if the hairpin turns in Roger's temper exceed his grasp just a bit. It's my favorite kind of part to see him play, even if Joan Rivers's witheringly terse dismissal of him hangs implacably over his head. Joining him in the category of hard-working and ideally cast actors whom I can't quite love, Tom Hanks shows again in Toy Story 3 what a marvelous creation Woody is—very possibly his crowning achievement.

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Blogger tim r said...

Great roster. I had Rahim on last year, as you know, and de Lencquesaing is an absolute cert for this year-end. I wonder if the Ruffalo-for-lead argument is a bit stronger than the Fassbender one? It obviously can't just be a matter of pivotality (if that's even a word) or you'd surely need Mo'Nique in as a lead as well. In the case of Fish Tank I regard the whole forcefield of the movie as belonging to Mia, so literally everything else is supporting her, even when she gravitates more towards Connor than anyone else. Whereas The Kids Are All Right divides its time between three leads fairly democratically, if you ask me: the second Ruffalo has his own scenes with the kids, he's getting virtually equal pegging. Anyway, this is a total technicality! Like Guy I am desperate to see Everyone Else and will not rest until I have.

4:08 AM, August 30, 2010  
Anonymous Guy Lodge said...

I rather agree with Tim that the supporting category is a better fit for Fassbender's performance, otherwise he'd probably top my ballot quite easily. Have been struggling a bit with lead actors all year -- even through the festivals, very little has wowed me. (Picking a "should win" for my final Cannes predictions piece some something of a Shirley MacLaine/Postcards From the Edge moment: "These are my choices?!"

Anyway, like Tim, I can happily co-sign on Rahim (this year or last), de Lencquesaing and The Scruffalo, but from there on, I start to struggle a little: in terms of honest first-half releases, Dieter Laser in The Human Centipede would probably make my list, and it's a pretty schticky performance, as much fun as I had watching him.

From the festival circuit, Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine looks very likely to make my year-end ballot, and while I like them all and currently have them on standby, it'll be a pretty feeble year if Jakob Cedergren (Terribly Happy or Submarino), William Shimell (Certified Copy, Mathieu Amalric (Tournée or, er, Ryan Kwanten (Red Hill) end up making the cut.

By the way, please don't take my infrequent response to your posts for the next two weeks as a lack of interest!

5:26 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger James T said...

Your inclusion of Rahim and Fassbender would make you seem like the Academy (young, hot best actress nominees) if they weren't so deserving. ;)

"a pair of tight jeans"? Really? As if only a picture of him didn't make the post pornographic enough :p
I love it, naturally!

6:48 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim and @Guy: I concede that Fassbender is a shakier "lead" than Ruffalo, and if I see Fish Tank again, which I am bound to do, I might pull a Mimi Kennedy and pull him back down. I may be at risk of over-compensating for the big awards shows' constant jamming of clearly-lead performances into supporting races. I do think Fassbender is in more of the movie than Mo'Nique was in hers, and maybe in the absence of an Each One, Teach One that involves Mia in another strong center of gravity of its own, Connor sticks out all the more to me as half of a dominant relationship in the film. Lecter > Connor > Mary. Whatever. At least we all agree he's brilliant!

@James: My little gambit to stick up for Fish Tank's total exploitation of Fassbender's beauty as more than a turn-on for Mia and a gift to the audience. All he ever seems to do is disclose himself, to include barely clothing himself or unclothing himself, but the character is hiding more than anyone is, etc. You work with the metaphors the film gives you!

9:35 AM, August 30, 2010  
Anonymous iluvcinema said...

Fassbender was very good in Fish Tank. I had the pleasure of attending a Q&A screening with him and Andrea Arnold earlier this year. It was a great evening. I also hear good things about A Prophet. I really must get around to watching this!

Glad I found this site.

8:17 AM, September 02, 2010  

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