The Fifties for 2010: Best Actor
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 isvery possibly his crowning achievement.