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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Best Performances of 2010: Actor and Actress

Continuing my look at the best performances of 2010 with the lead categories. There are some great ones this year, and I lined up very closely with Oscar this year.


Almost Made It:
-Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
-Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
I didn't love the movie, but all the power I felt from it certainly came from Bardem's soul-stirring performance as Uxbal, a single father battling cancer and problems with his black market job. After Before Night Falls, No Country for Old Men, and now Biutiful, I don't think there's a better actor at portraying the inner turmoil of death and decay.

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
I've been a big fan of Eisenberg in all his work, from his debut in Roger Dodger to his teen in The Squid and the Whale. Eisenberg and Mark Zukerberg are a perfect marriage of actor and role. Eisenberg absolutely masters the Aaron Sorkin's fast-paced dialogue and creates a very specific character that audiences will be arguing over long after the movie is over.

Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Firth is moving, sad, and funny in his lived-in performance as King George VI, the monarch who stammers. Firth's commitment and intelligence in the role make sure it never feels one-note. He is especially impressive in the head-to-head scenes with Geoffrey Rush that form the core of the movie.

James Franco, 127 Hours
Franco's acting task is perhaps the most intimidating. Carry a whole movie? Check. Mostly while being stationary? Check. Provide a harrowing story with moments of humor and energy? Check. This seems to be Franco's year to shine, and he is amazing as adventurer Aron Ralston.

Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
For my money, the best performance of the year, lead or suporting, actor or actress. As Dean, a charming high school dropout who falls in love with the more ambitious Cindy (Michelle Williams), Gosling digs very deep to show both falling in love and its tortured aftermath. You can see the soul of his character bared in every scene of this great movie. How the Academy failed to recognize it is beyond me.

My favorite: Ryan Gosling
Runner-up: James Franco
Matches with Oscar: 4/5, I swapped out Jeff Bridges for Ryan Gosling. Good work Oscar, although the exclusion of Gosling still stings. I liked Jeff Bridges in True Grit, but it also felt very familiar after his Crazy Heart performance last year.

Best Actress

Almost Made It
This category was a plethora of greatness this year. I'll just include a runner-up 5, any of who would be worthy additions to the line-up.
-Greta Gerwig, Greenberg
-Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
-Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
-Ruth Sheen, Another Year
-Emma Stone, Easy A

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
What I love about Bening's performance is the specificity of every moment in the film, from judgment to love to anger and back. She provided so many of my favorite film moments of the year: the passive-aggressive grilling of Mark Ruffalo at their first meeting, her rant about organic food while drunk at a restaurant, and, of course, her rendition of Joni Mitchell.

Patricia Clarkson, Cairo Time
Clarkson has long been one of my favorite actresses (also turning in a great supporting performance this year in Easy A). In Cairo Time, a beautiful, atmospheric movie set in Egypt, Clarkson is the master of the slow burn. As Juliette, a quiet American becoming enthralled and opened up by travel and her friendship with an Egyptian man, Clarkson gives a beautiful and moving quiet performance.

Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Ree Dolly is a true original, a tough, responsible, no-nonsense 17-year-old caring for her mother and siblings in a wasteland of meth production and economic depression. Lawrence never makes the acting choices that leads the audience towards pity or easy sympathy. Her tough exterior is such a constant presence throughout the movie that, when she finally breaks, the moment is immensely powerful. 20-year-old Lawrence is certainly an actor to watch.

Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Portman is in every scene of director Darren Aronofsky's twisted ballet movie, and she has to make a tremendous character arc. Portman is absolutely up to the challenge, carefully threading the needle between innocence, delusion, passion, and madness, not to mention learning a whole lot of ballet. A performance that will live on in film history.

Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
As the quieter half of the relationship, Williams has perhaps the less immediately sympathetic role to play. I think Williams is one of the best modern actresses at portraying inner pain and sadness, and her character Cindy certainly deals with her share of it in this movie. If you want to see great acting, watch what Williams does in her scene at the doctor's office. Astonishing.

My favorite: Annette Bening
Runner-up: Michelle Williams
Matches with Oscar: 4/5. Fantastic job, Oscar. I swapped out Kidman for Patricia Clarkson, but Kidman was probably my sixth choice. This is the best actress lineup in a long while.

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