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?

34 comments:

  1. I should have known Jessica Chastain would be on this list :) So glad to see Rickman make the cut too!!! and Hunter McCracken was the real star of The Tree of Life for me :)

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    1. Of course she would be - but most of her performances don't really fit into the underrated category!

      And yes, McCracken was the real star of The Tree of Life to me as well.

      Delete
  2. Good call on McCracken, Rickman and Cranston... hell even Sutherland. Even though I'm not a big fan of Potter, Tree of Life or Melancholia, these performances you mention are all definitely very note-worthy! Great list!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I think their performances could be viewed as good by people who aren't fans of their films.

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  3. Love all the picks on this list, but I am especially happy to see Sutherland here for Melancholia. He manages to steal the screen from Charlotte Gainsbourg, which is surprising since she has always had an electric and powerful energy since Antichrist. He gives a surprisingly impressive performance. Loved it.

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    1. Charlotte Gainsbourg was good in Melancholia, but I didn't really get why everyone was saying her performance was the best (after Kirsten Dunst's) when there was Sutherland. He was really impressive.

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  4. Ooh great list. Agree with pretty much everyone here. Man Adrien Brody as Dali, that was quite something else. I loved Haley Atwell. I want her to go on a date with Captain America too. Stan Lee- make that happen!
    Oh and Rickman :'( His Oscar snub hurts the most.

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    1. Adrien Brody was so awesome as Dali! I love him. And yes, Stan Lee should make the Cap/Peggy date happen!

      I am still sad over that Oscar snub :'(

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  5. I agree with Rickman, Sutherland and Ehle, they truly deserved more recognition not only did they deliver the best or almost the best work in the movie they were in, but they are very long overdue for major awards. Great article!

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    1. Gosh, they are so overdue! Such a shame. Thanks!

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  6. I'd never thought I'd ever meet anyone else who loves Hayley Atwell! She is truly underrated.
    Also, I just re-watched Midnight in Paris yesterday and my God, there are so many wonderful and underrated side characters... the guy who played Hemmingway was excellent too.
    And actually I'd like to re-watch Melancholia...

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    1. She is amazing. I think she's brilliant.

      The people who play the 'real' people in Midnight in Paris are all great. I loved Corey Stoll as Hemingway, but I have a soft spot for Tom Hiddleston as Fitzgerald. His character doesn't add much 'wow' like Hemingway, but I thought he was perfect.

      I rewatched it and I swear, never again. It took so much out of me.

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  7. Nice list. The only one I disagree with would be Hayley Atwell, who although not bad or anything, didn't really have anything to do in that mediocre movie that was Captain America.

    And was Jessica Chastain in The Debt really supporting? She probably had the most screen time of all the actors.

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    1. I liked Atwell because she made a character with nothing much to do kinda stand out. I just have a soft spot for Peggy Carter. I think she's awesome.

      I thought about that, but The Debt is one of those movies where there isn't a 'lead' character per se. Plus, most people would contest that Helen Mirren is in fact the lead (even though she has less screen time than Chastain)

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  8. Yes, McCracken was amazing. And i didn't think Penn was bad in Tree of Life, he just didn't really have anything to do

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    1. That's right, he didn't have a lot to do...and he didn't make an attempt to actually do anything.

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    2. I suppose...i'm kind of a Penn fan, so i guess i a just biased in regards to him in it

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  9. Fantastic post matey. It was made awesome for me to see Mr Cranston (he always makes me think of Branston's Pickle for some reason) getting a mention

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    1. Most people tend to forget his performance, but I thought it was awesome!

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  10. Great list! I think The Ides of March had a few overlooked performances. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, etc.

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  12. Great list. Midnight in Paris is almost impossible to pick from. Woody definitely nailed the casting on that one.

    And love the inclusion of Snape!

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    1. He definitely did! How it didn't win Best Ensemble at the SAGs is beyond me (but then again, they didn't include most of the awesomest performers)

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  13. Great post, Stevee. I love these kind of lists, and usually come up with my own "underrated" list once I'm all caught up with my viewings. I agree with a lot of your choices. I didn't love The Debt, but it was my first Chastain film and what a great first impression. She really kicked ass here. I'm been a very big fan of hers ever since.

    I completely agree on Bryan Cranston in Drive; I'm glad you pointed that out. He will definitely make my list when the time comes. I totally felt empathy for his character. (it also helps that I'm just discovering Breaking Bad now, and realizing what a remarkable performer he is).

    And I just have to say one thing about Kiefer Sutherland. I love him, always did. I don't fault his performance in Melancholia, but the truth is, I didn't buy it for a single minute that his character did what he did at the end of the film. That's a very selfish act, and he just never appeared that selfish to me. I don't know; it was one of my many pet peeves about the film as a whole. The characters just did things that made no sense. But yeah, I agree in that Sutherland is wonderful in the film overall.

    Keep up the great work, Stevee. Big fan of your blog. :-)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Chastain is great, no matter what the movie!

      I must watch Breaking Bad one day! Everyone goes on about how great the program is - and I'm sure that Cranston is great in it!

      Yeah, what you're saying there is true. But mind you, he also kept going on about how much the wedding cost him even though he is 'filthy rich'. That doesn't quite align with what he did, though. The characters did do things that didn't make any sense - that's Lars von Trier for you.

      Thank you!

      Delete
  14. Here are my picks.

    1. Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method
    2. Chris Henry Coffey in Trust
    3. Jeremy Irons in Margin Call
    4. Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris
    5. John C Reilly in Cedar Rapids.
    6. Keira Knightley in A Dangerous Method
    7. Cecile De France in The Kid with a Bike
    8. Sareh Bayat in A Separation
    9. Melanie Laurent in Beginners
    10. Catherine Keener in Trust

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    1. I love the mentions of Chris Henry Coffey and Catherine Keener - Trust was really good, underrated film!

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    2. Check out my review of it. x)

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  15. Great list! I am happy that you included Ben Kingsley, as I was quite surprised to see so little recognition for his role in Hugo.

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    1. Yeah, I'm surprised at how little recognition he got too. Especially considering the film itself got a lot of attention.

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