Friday, April 13, 2012

(My) Best of 2011: Actor

5. Jean Dujardin in The Artist

In what unarguably became the most talked about male performance of 2011, Jean Dujardin pulled off the rare feat of actually living up to the hype around him. His suave portrayal of movie star George Valentin defied the odds because it exemplified a contradiction: it was a flawless star turn given by someone who wasn't yet a star. The entire movie relied on his magnetic personality to take us into a world movie audiences had refused to be a part of for decades. How he also happened to be moving and affecting is another miracle in a performance that as corny as it sounds, truly had it all.

4. Mel Gibson in The Beaver

It's a shame that Mel Gibson happened to give the greatest performance of his career as his public life became the center of international scrutiny, leading open minded thinkers to wonder if an artist is his art or is he a projection of audiences' wishes? To dwell on that topic for long would only take us away from celebrating Gibson's turn as Walter Black, a performance that reminded us that beyond the handsomeness, Mad Max-ness, crazy ass-ness, movie star-ness and William Wallace-ness was a true actor who could fearlessly explore the confines of the human soul. His turn as a depressed CEO feels so real that sometimes you wish you could look away. As his performance escalates towards levels of raw pain, we come to the realization that depression isn't something to be toyed with, what's even best is that Gibson does this without entering the realm of preachiness, his performance almost so true to itself that some chose to see it as his way of atoning his public sins.

3. Matthias Schoenaerts in Bullhead

You can't take your eyes off Matthias Schoenaerts in
Bullhead and in a movie where violence becomes alive in each and every scene, it's a testament to his performance that you still want to look. His turn as the damaged Jacky Vanmarsenille is fully alive with a literal kind of animal rawness. Watching him turn into a Minotaur-esque being is perplexing and fascinating because the actor embodies the animal without ever letting go of the human. As he feels something uncontrollable take over him, we watch him fightback and try to find any remains of humanity within.

2. Michael Fassbender Shame

One could call Michael Fassbender in Shame: intense, raw, brave and other similar adjectives without the slightest hint of clichéd irony. His performance as the sex-addict Brandon, is an exploration of the human soul that goes deep into the darkest confines it harbors. His performance is certainly physical and in a way evoked Christian Bale's greatest turn yet as the title American Psycho in the way they both become obsessed with material belongings and collecting (sexual partners or victims). If the film was trying to say something about the perils of our shallow times, Fassbender finds something deeper, he goes straight to the heart of addiction to remind us that every now and then there are things we can't explain. He lets his character get ugly and opens up as few actors have ever done onscreen.

1. Tom Cullen in Weekend

There is something so moving about Tom Cullen's smile, that the very thought of it might just break your heart. The way in which he uses this shy smile as Russell in Andrew Haigh's
Weekend might just have made for the most touching performance by any actor in 2011. Playing the more reserved character in a doomed romance, meant that he had to exteriorize a lot by using gestures and non-dialogue techniques. What he does so perfectly is inhabit the life of this lonely young man without turning everything into an "issue". Russell was raised in foster homes but Cullen never victimizes him, Russell is extremely reserved about his sexual orientation but Cullen doesn't turn him into an angry man. Watching him fall for Glen (Chris New) often feels like watching love being created. The way in which Cullen moves onscreen (see how easily he moves in Russell's apartment, everything feels so personal) has such effortless naturalism that when the time comes for us to see his sperm, it feels like he's allowing us into the most private moments in anyone's life. He doesn't seem to know the camera is around, but after watching him he becomes impossible to forget.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

The write-ups on #1 and #4 are particularly solid. It's especially sad about the lack of love for Mel and that entire film considering how much of a marvel it is (well, to me at least.

And, it introduced me to Yelchin so I'll always be happy.

Jose Solís said...

If it makes you feel slightly better, Peyman Moadi and Asa Butterfield were my runner-ups.

Wait, didn't you see "Star Trek"? Yelchin was awesome in that too!