Here we are with my 3rd edition of of my 'Best of 2010' post series. For this post (if you couldn't tell from the title) I will detail the actors I thought gave the best performances this year. This is where you will probably start to see some real divergence between me and the usual "awards circuit." Things that I value in a performance; subtlety, nuances, idiosyncrasies, emotion, are sometimes not the flashier things that the awards generally favor. The awards system is getting better at recognizing truly great performances but still has a ways to go, in my humble opinion. Acting is usually the most subjective of the categories, does the movie make the acting better or is the other way around? Some people get credit they don't deserve and others don't get enough credit. Either way, here is my vote for who deserves the most credit for their performances this year:
Best Actor - 2010:
5 – Ryan Reynolds –Buried – This was truly unexpected. Going into this movie, hearing this premise, and knowing that it would be Ryan Reynolds in the box, it makes one a little weary. I like Reynolds, but the question is if he’s right for this role or not. At first, most would say he’s not, but after seeing the film, he truly is. It is an extreme challenge to take on this kind of a movie being the only character in the movie (basically) and being in every scene. There is nobody to act off of, no scenery to add to his performance, just him, a box of wood, and a cell phone. These types of situations can bring out the best in actors and definitely brought out the best in Reynolds.
4 – Jeff Bridges – True Grit – This performance was pure entertainment. At first I wasn’t really sure if the character was going to be able to sustain interest through the movie and make us all care. I was pleasantly treated to a surprise to note that not only was Bridges able to do this, but he was able to bring more humor, more life, more humanity to this role than I ever could have anticipated. The film is not as ambiguous as most Coen Brothers movies but it shares their same deadpan humor and expert delivery. The Western has been a dying genre for about 30 years now and I am not sure if this will save it, but if it does it will because of Bridges. His performance in this movie only makes it clear that no matter what the movie, western, sci-fi, modern, if there are interesting, likeable characters abound, then it will be a good movie.
3 – Kodi Smit-McPhee – Let Me In – It is rare to get a truly emotionally heartfelt and nuanced performance from a child actor. Smit-McPhee is in that group. Often times when there is a good performance from a child actor the child is a ‘one-trick pony’ so to speak. It is rare to see an instance like Smit-McPhee’s in which the young actor is able to show both range and emotion. It is usually hard for someone of limited age to grasp a situation and truly see the emotion in the words on the page. Part of this can be attributed to the director for getting it out of him, the rest is all contributed to the actor themselves and Smit-McPhee deserves to be recognized for his performance.
2 – Colin Firth – The King’s Speech – It will seem cliché by the time you read this to say that Colin Firth gave one of the best performances of the year but there really was some excellent work here. When playing a character with some sort of impediment, whether it be blindness, loss of hearing, paralysis, or in this case a stammer, you run the risk of having that impediment become what defines the character instead of the obstacle the character must overcome. Firth does the job that is tough, which is to not focus on this portion of his character, rather accept it is not what makes him who he is but just another piece of the puzzle. It is through this ability that his performance is able to transcend into one of the best performances of the year. It is my opinion that his performance is not as good as Eisenberg’s but that Firth will come away with the Oscar. Sometimes that’s just how it works.
1 – Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network – Occasionally you come away from a film where you can’t seem to shake somebody’s performance. In a film full of good performances Eisenberg overshadowed them all and really embraced the essence of Mark Zuckerberg (at least the essence of Zuckerberg from ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ book the movie was based on). It is really quite amazing to watch Eisenberg in this movie. His subtle facial expressions are amazing. I was unaware he had the acting skill he displayed in this movie. His ability to slightly change his tone of voice or facial expression was amazing. He didn’t make it obvious what his emotions were and go over the top trying to be “an a**hole” rather he made his emotions acutely aware to the audience, yet was able to influence the entire scene.