2010 in Movies: Best Performances March 9, 2011Posted by Richard Bolisay in Whatever, Yearender.
Since I suck at writing introductions, why don’t I bite into the Oscar burger instead?
The four acting winners are downright predictable. Among them, only one appears on the list, and that’s because he deserves it. Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, and Melissa Leo are fine choices, but I am not crazy about their performances. Like Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, they’re far better when they play roles outside the context and subtext of awards. Their portrayals have that stamp of “please-gimme-that-statue” on them, awesome but riskless and unentertaining.
Which is not to say, of course, that the performances I liked don’t. Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Dianne Wiest in Rabbit Hole are tone- and pitch-perfect. Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network is a delight to watch, so as his archnemesis Michael Cera, in a geeky sexy turn, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Mila Kunis is hot. Andrew Garfield is way better than the other nominees in the supporting category, except for Geoffrey Rush and John Hawkes who are effortlessly suave in The King’s Speech and Winter’s Bone, respectively. And while we’re at it, how come the Academy can’t tell the difference between a lead and a supporting role? Like Christophe Waltz’s nomination (and eventual win) for Inglorious Basterds last year, Hailee Steinfeld is recognized for her “supporting role” in True Grit while in fact she takes up more screen time than Jeff Bridges.
Should I act on a whim, this list will likewise be populated by usual choices, considering my predictable taste. From her manic-depressive turn in Julia last year, Tilda Swinton returns with another unforgettable performance as an Italian matriarch in I Am Love. Almost in the same vein is Isabelle Huppert’s pensive mother in White Material. Also, I will never tire of saying how wonderful William Shimell and Juliette Binoche are in Certified Copy until I manage to convince you to see it. Marilou Lopes-Benites and Lola Creton in Bluebeard are terrifyingly wonderful. RJ Ledesma, Che Ramos, Arnold Reyes, and Ina Feleo appear shortly in Senior Year but they leave charming teethmarks. Ronnie Lazaro in Ishmael is over-the-top, but Mark Gil isn’t. Donna Gimeno lives up to the buzz of Damgo ni Eleuteria; while Angelica Panganiban in Here Comes the Bride is “pak na pak.” I’m sure I missed a lot of good ones, but that’s the downside of listmaking: you can’t have them all.
But here’s a few whom I decided to shine the light on. Feel free to share your thoughts.
12. Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, and Rhys Ifans as Roger, Florence, and Ivan in Greenberg
Greenberg begins as a Greta Gerwig movie and ends as a Ben Stiller movie, and somewhere between, Rhys Ifans makes a sexy “old fart” appearance. But if there’s anyone in the movie whom I totally related to, it’s Mahler, the dog.
11. Will Forte as MacGruber in MacGruber
Thank god for MacGruber’s amusing moments—the celery dance, the Val Kilmer face, the priceless douchebaggery committed to Ryan Philippe, the Kristin Wiig looniness, the Maya Rudolph sex at the graveyard—I’m wont to forgive its lackluster direction (hello Date Night), which is so unlike the original skit on SNL. Will Forte not only saves the day but also saves the entire ninety minutes of the movie’s pointless drag. He may be useless with guns, incompetent and sexist, but he turns MacGruber into Mr. Stupendous when it comes to wallowing in self-pity. At some point, he tells to his boss and Lt. Piper, in desperate plea: “I will suck your dick. I will let you fuck me. I will let myself be fucked by you.” MacGyver, I heard, loves that part.
10. Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Referring to her return as Lisbeth Salander in the second installment of the series, A.O. Scott shares (and he couldn’t have said it better): “. . . Ms. Rapace, tiny and agile, her steely rage showing now and then the tiniest crack of vulnerability, belongs to another dimension altogether. She makes this movie good enough, but also makes you wish it were much better.” Yeah, the Swedish adaptations are bland and literal-minded, pretty good if we base it on faithfulness, pretty bad if we consider thrill and coherence, but Noomi Rapace, with her seductive guise and effortless swagger, is one of a kind.
9. Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy in Buried
A film dedicated entirely to Ryan Reynolds, inside a coffin, dirty, haggard, and sweaty, is no longer a bedroom fantasy. Unfortunately, in Buried, the most important part is missed: he never appears shirtless. But in exchange for that, we get closeups of his mouth and crotch. That he is able to divert our attention to other things—his character’s safety, the ridiculousness of the plot, the infuriating end—is quite, how should I put it, miraculous. (The next Ryan Reynolds movie, I heard, will be set in a falling elevator. And it will be a full-length.)
8. Max as Max in Tangled
Bold, funny, smart, tenacious, cute, and rude: what more could you ask from a royal horse? Well, since you asked: a song and dance number. That would be truly endearing.
7. Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels in Shutter Island
Like I said before, Leo’s eyebrows have more problems than Africa, and he enjoys twitching them querulously, looking distressed to the core. Persistently, he screws the essence of calm and traverses that line between sober and insane, keeping your wits hostage from beginning to end .
6. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as Dean and Cindy in Blue Valentine
To be honest, I never cried while watching Blue Valentine. But something in me, I don’t know what it is, did, the moment the credits started to appear and Grizzly Bear drew the cloudy curtains. It’s one of those rare instances when the two lead performers can never work without the other, when the couple share the screen the way sound and image reflect unspeakable nuances, both of them completing and destroying the film at the same time. It’s not a movie I’d look forward to see again, but Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, in an onscreen teamup that is tender as it is excruciating, are forcing me to reconsider.
5. Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s Speech
He should’ve gotten that much coveted award last year for A Single Man, but Colin Firth, from the time we saw him more than fifteen years ago as the charmingly fatal Mr. Darcy, will never—never ever—elude our fickle taste and earnest flights of fancy. As King George VI, not only he exudes the intimidating resolve of a royalty but he also bares the grace and elegance of a gentleman—an imperfectly beautiful man intent to overcome his weaknesses, despite his own lack of trust in himself. His every stammer is a pinch in the gut, the very sound of his voice like the swish of the human spirit sprinting forward, reaching the finish line and shouting: “Hail to the King! Hail King Colin!”
4. Carla Abellana as Teacher Diane in Punerarya
This is not just a matter of keeping one’s head above the preposterous superficiality of TV tourism, but more importantly, a need to punctuate what is seldom punctuated, a tendency to reiterate oneself for posterity’s sake. Carla Abellana, in a role that she will always be thankful for, is able to reconcile the difference between acting on TV and acting in movies, putting her best foot forward and taking a leap to be good at both. Kris Aquino, the aptly called queen of horrific acting, should learn from her.
3. Ananda Everingham as Rome Rittikrai in The Red Eagle
It must have been the thrill of Ananda introducing the film and knowing that he would be there to answer questions right after the screening that secures his place here. But it could also be that his take on the motor-loving masked vigilante, a character which Mitr Chaibancha first popularized in the 80s, is nothing short of exhilarating. Ananda’s eyes are beautiful windows teeming with charm; and his uncanny sense of introspection—the way his body glides along with the action, the effortless exhaustion of sweaty sexiness—makes Wisit’s Red Eagle, contrary to most farsighted reviews, a bloody riveting experience.
2. Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin and Tommy D in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go
There’s no question that Andrew Garfield is well-endowed. He is gifted with a boy-next-door visage, an attractively gangly built, an unfathomable impression of geekness, and a rare tingle of warmth. But above all these, it’s his ability to surprise—his ability to make his presence indelible—that sets him apart from his contemporaries. With these two tremblingly powerful roles as proof—both Eduardo and Tommy coming from the edges of misery—his footprints already have history (and kissmarks) written (and left) on them.
1. James Frecheville as J Cody in Animal Kingdom
Dysfunctional families have always been the recurring subject of numerous films and TV series. It’s the standard awards bait to make way for grandstanding roles which enable actors to turn their characters into some of the medium’s lowest life forms. In Animal Kingdom, however, despite the cast being its strongest suit, the one that pulls the narrative in and out of madness and swivels it staggeringly, is the quietness of James Frecheville. He stands out amid the stellar performances of his co-actors not because he looks weird or acts funny (hello Christian Bale), but because he doesn’t do anything to pique your interest, which, in the ironic scheme of things, only makes you attracted to him more than anyone else in the Cody household. His brooding passiveness is reminiscent of Tahar Rahim’s Malik in A Prophet (another finely crafted crime thriller), only Frecheville’s face is less emphatic and more troubling. He only has one expression from start to finish: that of a blasé sufferer. Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford, and the great Jacki Weaver are exemplary on their own, but Frecheville, without batting an eyelash and without pulling any trigger, shoots daggers at his miserable fate, failing to escape until his final try.