Friday, August 31, 2012

Top Ten Performers of 2012 (So Far)

The end of August means it's time for me to pick my top 10 favorite performances of the year so far. Of course I haven't seen every film released nor have I even seen films I wanted to see such as Moonrise Kingdom and Take This Waltz so this list is ridiculously incomplete. With that said, out of the 32 theatrical releases of 2012 I did see, here are the ten performances I have loved:


1. The entire cast of The Avengers - I know I'm starting out with a cheat, but it'll be my only one on the list. Now it's no secret how much I loved this film and most of that had to do with the kick-ass ensemble that Marvel assembled and that Joss Whedon made work. As great as Robert Downey Jr. was as Tony Stark, I truly feared from the first trailers that the film was going to be Iron Man and His Posse. Thankfully the film really felt like a true ensemble with some fantastic work from Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson... taking another breath... Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow, et. al. Special commendation to those aforementioned actors who either didn't get a stand-alone film for their characters nor were given much to do here and still kicking ass.

2. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) - Weirdly enough I was one of the few people who thought her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter's Bone was a bit over-hyped and yet I just loved her here as the bow-wielding heroine of this dystopian film. Even though she didn't match who I imagined Katniss to be in my head, she was magnificent all her own making me really believe the character. Her ability to convey so much without words is a true talent.

3. Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold (Hope Springs) - One of the reasons he's in this list and so highly ranked is because I just found this performance so delightfully surprising. I would never in a million years think to cast Jones in this kind of role and yet there he was as open and honest as an actor I have ever seen him and it was truly refreshing. In fact, he practically stole Meryl Streep's thunder in the film and anyone who can do that must deliver one hell of a performance.


4. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket (The Hunger Games) and Frankie (People Like Us) - Like Lawrence, Banks really didn't fit who I had in mind for that particular Hunger Games role and yet she was just fabulous. In fact, even though she had very little to do in the film, she still gave the most memorable movie moment for me this year so far ("That is mahogany!"). Though as much as I love her Effie, her dramatic turn in People Like Us really needs to be more widely seen and praised. Banks can do comedy easily, but this was the first time I had seen her tackle drama and it was pretty revelatory. Hope to see her more in these kinds of roles. And soon!

5. Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild) - Is she really acting or is she just lucky to have a really good director? Why can't it be both? Yes, she's so very young, but I feel that made her performance have that much more impact for me. She's definitely a bright star in the making so evident in my complete enthrallment of her whenever she was on screen.

6. Michael Fassbender as David (Prometheus) - This guy is just too damn talented. He was in this same list last year for two performances. This year, it's just the lone performance of an android gone mad. I couldn't really tell you why I loved him here. Perhaps it's how he somehow pulled off being eerie and charming at the same time. Or perhaps it was how he was able to balance the humanity and inhumanity of his character. Whatever the reason, he definitely stood out for me as the MVP of that cluttered film.

7. Dane DeHaan as Andrew Detmer (Chronicle) - I think this was one of the first films I saw this year and it's a testament to DeHaan that his brutal performance here still registers in my mind. I've seen him in a couple TV shows where he plays the angst-ridden teen so in a way this film role wasn't that different from those other than him having superpowers. With that said, he is just so effective in expressing first the joy and then then pain and anger his powers and actions give him. He helped ground the super-naturalness of the film with his powerful performance.

8. Ewan McGregor as Michael (Perfect Sense) -  In retrospect, it's insane for me to list McGregor for this film without also citing his wonderful co-star played by Eva Green. Both of them together in this film devastated me with their performances as two lovers who grow closer as the world falls deeper into chaos. The film itself left me catatonic in the end and I'm pretty sure most of that has to do with how attached I became with the characters. McGregor especially showed a vulnerability that he has shown in other films, but somehow felt more real here.

9. Rachel Weisz as Hester Collyer (The Deep Blue Sea) - I only saw this film this past week and while the film itself doesn't rate too highly for me, Weisz performance is undeniably excellent. There has been many films where the lead is torn between a life of leisure and a life of passion, but Weisz's particular melancholy was on a whole other level that reminded me of Kirsten Dunst's performance in Melancholia and Michelle Williams' in My Week with Marilyn and y'all know how much I loved those as well.

10. Channing Tatum as Jenko
(21 Jump Street) and Magic Mike (Magic Mike) - You guys have no idea how painful it is to put Tatum on any kind of positive top 10 lists, but with these two performances I finally couldn't ignore him. In the former, he's HILARIOUS and has fantastic chemistry with co-star Jonah Hill and in the latter, he's a natural, a charmer, and just have an easy presence. Of course for the latter it helps that he's practically acting out his life story, but you'd think that would make it harder. And yet he just damn won me over. For now. FOR NOW.

Honorable Mentions: Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike, the cast of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Fran Kranz in Cabin in the Woods, Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises, Luke Treadaway and Natalia Tena in Tonight You're Mine, Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, and Keira Knightley and Steve Carell in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

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