Wednesday, March 3, 2010

(My) Best of 09: Actor.

5. Filippo Timi in "Vincere" (read my review)

Filippo Timi is so effective as Benito Mussolini, that when the actual historical footage of Il Duce is shown on the movie, you will wonder for a second or two-despite your best knowledge-if this isn't the actor playing him.
Timi may not really look like Mussolini and he plays him during a part of his life from which few records exist but he does so with such an overpowering energy that you don't dare disbelieve his choices. Whether it's Benito's violent love making or his tempestuous mood swifts, Timi owns the man.

4. Ben Whishaw in "Bright Star" (read my review)

As British romantic poet John Keats, Ben Whishaw has the difficult job of transforming an introverted, sickly man into the ultimate sort of romantic hero.
For how can a man write some of the most breathtaking poetry in English literature and not be a dashing lad the kind of which Laurence Olivier would've played?
Whishaw takes the exact opposite road we would've expected and makes Keats almost as subtle as his work. He wraps himself in the excessive romance Keats wrote about and becomes a figure worthy of Thoreau who is at his best surrounded by nature. His face lights up amidst vast flower fields and he becomes one with a tree he climbs.
His scenes with lover Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) contain such delicateness that it's impossible for us not to sigh without falling into the lustful desire we often attribute to muse/artist duos.
Whishaw's sensitive approach makes you believe that Keats was perhaps too beautiful to remain for long in the mortal world.

3. Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker" (read my review)

"The Hurt Locker" is a wonderful thriller that also happens to be an insightful character study and judging from the raw performance of Jeremy Renner we wouldn't have it be otherwise.
His work as Sgt. William James is so powerful that you don't know if to be more scared of the bombs he works with or his very own explosive nature.
As the kind of smartass who lives by his own rules he becomes a charming jerk but it isn't until we see him lost in a supermarket that we finally begin to see him as a human being as lost and scared as anyone else.
How he manages to go through a whole movie rarely showing sensitive emotion to have him all of a sudden pull the rug from under our feet is a remarkable feat.
That he becomes a mystery anew seconds before the film is over is just mindblowing.

2. Joaquin Phoenix in "Two Lovers" (read my review)

The first time we meet Leonard (Phoenix) he jumps into the bay at Brighton Beach to see if he dies. When he doesn't it's curious to detect a sarcastic disappointment in his face, as if he's saying "next time I'll succeed".
He reaches his parents' house where his mom (Isabella Rossellini) looks at him disapprovingly but used to this sort of behavior. Like a ten year old boy Leonard goes straight to his room as if he knew this was the thing to do when he misbehaved.
In a few scenes Joaquin Phoenix gives us the complete history of this man-child who moves through life propelled by inertia until his existence is defined by his love for two women.
Phoenix, who rarely has been so moving, evokes Dean and Brando while coming up with an internal conflict the kind of which most young actors would only dream of.
If his announcement to quit acting after this film is true he delivered the kind of swan song every artist would dream of by teasing us with all the potential he had stored within.

1. Tahar Rahim in "A Prophet" (read my review)

Story goes that director Jacques Audiard met Tahar Rahim almost by accident when they ended up sharing a car on a movie studio. The director saw something so special in the young man that he cast him as the lead of his planned prison saga and in the process a star was born.
Rahim who is as far from being a movie star as Audiard is from being a commercial director, imbues Malik el Djebena with such naturalism that the raw power of his performance truly takes us by surprise.
Even if he's in almost every scene of the film, he tries not to be there, the actor is like a chameleon who we notice only when he wants us to. He gives Malik all these details and nuances that we fall into that awful way of measuring brilliance and ask ourselves how much of him is in the character.


J.D. said...

BEN!!! ♥

Luke said...

You know, this seemed like a pretty weak year for Lead Actor... but I guess the beauty in that is a very diverse group of people finding themselves in top 5s... Case in point - your list only matches up once with mine... and once with Oscar. Just an observation.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

YAY for Whishaw indeed, although I'm not lusting over him like J.D seems to :) Did you see A Single Man

Jose said...

I know Joseph hahaha.

Luke: You make a very good point. But I actually think it was a great year for actors, I had a hard time choosing my lineup and leaving people like Willem Dafoe and Tom Hardy out.
I do think it was a terrible year for mainstream awards lineups though, the same old Bridges, Clooney and Freeman thing was rather uninspiring.

Andrew: Yay for Ben indeed, so underrated.
And yes I saw it, but Firth didn't make much of an impact on me, at least not enough to bump any of my choices.