Sunday, April 1, 2012
Underrated Supporting Performances of 2011
I'm still a good few months away from releasing my official list of favourite 2011 films (I still need to see The Artist, Shame, 50/50, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy etc etc etc), but I may as well start getting nostalgic now. I was watching Melancholia last weekend and I was thinking about how underrated everyone's performances were in that particular movie. Which prompted me to look back at all of the performances that were severely underrated for some reason or another. So instead of showcasing one underrated film, let me showcase ten underrated supporting performances in 2011, ranked...
10. Hayley Atwell in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Chances are that I won't have too many people queueing up to agree with me - this is a choice that comes straight from an extremely mainstream blockbuster. However, I've always been a fan of Hayley Atwell, and I found her to be the most awesome thing about an already awesome movie. While her character may be written as a typical tough girl, Atwell brings her an edge that makes her the perfect companion to Cap - actually, she seems a lot stronger inside than he is. If only she could somehow not age and go on that date with Cap in The Avengers...that would make me happy.
9. Ben Kingsley in Hugo.
Let's be honest: Hugo really wasn't an actors film. Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz did a good job being precocious kids, but that was it. However, Ben Kingsley was thrown in the mix to play Georges Méliès, who starts off as a typical mean old man and then transforms into a man plunged into anguish over his regret. In the wrong hands, he just would have been the typical sad old man looking back on his days of yore. But his performance actually brought me to tears, which had to be help back because of my 3D glasses getting in the way.
8. Adrien Brody in Midnight in Paris.
There are plenty of underrated performances in Midnight in Paris - Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates etc etc etc. After much deliberation, I decided to go with Adrien Brody to represent Midnight in Paris on this list. Sure, he's in the film for less than five minutes. But his performance just sticks out in my memory, mainly because he has the task of playing the strange Salvador Dali and he does it with just the right amount of strangeness. But really, his performance can be summed up with four words: "I see a... rhinoceros!"
7. Jennifer Ehle in Contagion.
Contagion is another film filled up with great performances from everyone in the large ensemble. But the one I remember the most is one which didn't get top-billed on the poster: Jennifer Ehle's subtle yet stunning performance as Dr. Ally Hextall, who is responsible for eradicating a global epidemic one medicine dosage at a time. Imagine how great it would be if you created something like that? Ehle shows you exactly what it would be like. Her performance/character doesn't go to amazing lengths, but I was really taken by her. Which is a big deal, considering the star wattage going on in that movie.
6. Hunter McCracken in The Tree of Life.
This could be perceived as a lead role, but I don't think there really is a 'lead' that comes in the form of a human...it is all about the visuals and the metaphors. However, young McCracken, in his only screen role, plays his character like an absolute pro. You can see everything playing out on his face, which is something that you'd expect from someone twice his age. No wonder Sean Penn didn't fare to well in this movie: he had the impossible task of continuing McCracken's greatness on.
5. Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
I will never stop going on about how good his performance is across the entire series, but particularly in this film. And I'm not even a big fan of the series. He made Snape my favourite character right from the very start, but I had reason to say that he is one of my favourite characters ever thanks to his performance in this particular film.
4. Mary Page Keller in Beginners.
Beginners has always seemed like just a Christopher Plummer show. He is great in his role, for sure, but there were some other great performances going on in it as well. One that I truly loved was Mary Page Keller as Oliver's long-suffering mother Georgia. She's bored with life, so she goes around unleashing her boredom with sarcasm and a sense of mental instability. Her performance provides a few laughs, but it also quite heart-breaking to watch. It is a strange mix, which Keller plays with perfectly.
3. Jessica Chastain in The Debt.
Jessica Chastain had a good year. We all know that. When choosing which of her performances is the best, people tend to go between The Tree of Life, The Help or Take Shelter. Which is fair enough - her performances are great in those films. But everyone tends to forget how bloody amazing she is in The Debt. She masters the art of subtlety in her performance here. All is explained in more detail in my review of the film.
2. Bryan Cranston in Drive.
Drive is another film with a great ensemble whose performances went largely unnoticed. Ryan Gosling was great, and everyone seemed to be quite enraged when Albert Brooks didn't score an Oscar nom for his performance. But the performance which I liked the most was Bryan Cranston, playing the Driver's 'boss' Shannon. Cranston creates a true character: a man who has had his pelvis broken, therefore he has a limp; he is kind, yet he is drawn into this criminal underworld; he means well, but it often doesn't get him in the right place. Hell, I would have loved a film just about Shannon.
1. Kiefer Sutherland in Melancholia.
Whilst watching Melancholia, people are either pissed off at how annoying some of the characters are, extremely depressed, or wowed by Kirsten Dunst. So it is fair enough that Kiefer Sutherland's brilliant performance would go by unnoticed. On a second watch, I picked up on how great his performance really is. From being really cheesed off about how 'stark raving mad' his wife's family is, to going on about how much the wedding is costing him, to when he finds out what is actually going to happen to everyone, Sutherland gets it perfect every time. If you ever do revisit Melancholia (which is unlikely, since it sucks the living daylights out of you), take a closer look at Sutherland's performance. It really is brilliant.
What say you? What are your favourite underrated supporting performances?