Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Super Late 2012 Retrospective: Top 10 Male Performances

2012 was very much an 'actors' year. Before I begin, I didn't want to put Daniel Day-Lewis in this list because yes, his performance is beyond the call of duty of anything but we all know he can act - and act well. Plus, I'm not a huge fan of those 'imitation' performances. It's okay, Daniel has his Oscar and is off researching Jesus or something for his next Oscar winning role. My list was quite easy to make, even though it was really hard to rank actors who were in the same films. Damn, there were some great ensembles last year.

Honourable mentions: Eddie Redmayne - Les Miserables, Hugh Jackman - Les Miserables, Ewan McGregor - The Impossible, Tom Holland - The Impossible, Sam Riley - On the Road, Jean-Louis Trignant - Amour, Jason Clarke - Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Strong - Zero Dark Thirty, Suraj Sharma - Life of Pi, Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln, Ben Whishaw - Cloud Atlas, John Hawkes - The Sessions, Pierce Gagnon - Looper, Joaquin Phoenix - The Master, Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master, Tom Hardy - Lawless, Guy Pearce - Lawless, Matt Whelan - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying, Dane DeHaan - Chronicle, Liam Neeson - The Grey, Ralph Fiennes - Coriolanus

10. Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano Jr. in Silver Linings Playbook
Just for the record, I thought that Bradley Cooper gave the best performance in this film - a film which I've come to appreciate a lot more over time. I've long been a fan of Cooper, even to the point of putting myself through All About Steve for him, so I was pleased that he got a prominent role like this one that could easily show off his talents. In this film, he has such energy and confusion - and he's just the kind of guy that you want everything to work out perfectly for. Much like the rest of the film, he's able to find that perfect balance between having great comic timing and also presenting a realistic portrayal of a man who has lost his mind. I hope this kickstarts a career for Cooper where he can leave behind The Hangover franchise and focus on these smaller projects, because that's where he works best.

9. Denzel Washington as William 'Whip' Whitaker in Flight
I felt a little bit sad when I couldn't fit Liam Neeson into this list for his brilliant work in The Grey, but my fondness for his performance largely stems from the fact that it was his first great performance in a long time. After all of the Taken movies and their copiers (ahem Unknown ahem), it was good to have him in a character study. Such is the same case with Denzel Washington's work in Flight. After Safe House and the rest of the films that were pretty much exactly like that, Denzel proves that he is still a formidable actor and not just a formidable movie star. His work in Flight is extraordinary, anchoring the sometimes meandering script and performing a very precise portrait of addiction. It's hard to say exactly what Denzel does to elevate his character's story above your average addiction affair, but I'm sure glad that he's back in the game.

8. Michael Fassbender as David 8 in Prometheus
Surely it would be easy to play an android - no real emotions to convey, none of those layers that make a performance like, say, Denzel Washington's work. However, Fassy makes David 8 quite a layered android, even if basically all he does is touch things which just stuff everything up. There's quite a lot of beauty in simplicity and restraint, two things which helped his masterful performance in Shame immensely, and here he displays a masterclass of those two things. Sure, it is a fine line between being a boring human and an android, but Fassy works wonders and makes David 8 anything but boring. He's been the source of many of my jokes about Prometheus, but he was the best thing about it.

7. Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained
I suddenly remembered as I was putting this list together the reaction I had when Christoph Waltz won his second Oscar for this performance. I was in class, trying to hook up the Oscars so we could watch it for last period, and this by the time I'd hooked it up his name was called as the winner. I cried a little bit. No, his performance is not my favourite of the year, or even my favourite from the film, but I was quite excited because a) I don't think I even bothered to put him as a nominee in my final Oscar predictions and b) because Christoph Waltz is probably the most awesome person on the planet and c) this is a performance based on charisma. I don't see anything particularly special about it - there's no real tense moment - but this whole performance is so charismatic it just hurts a little bit. And if there's anything that Hollywood lacks a bit of, it is charisma.

6. Jack Black as Bernie Tiede in Bernie
Just a wee side note: I'm having a huge phase of loving Richard Linklater. Before Midnight is absolute perfection. Okay. I find it a little bit strange that Jack Black, an actor who I generally can't stand, is on this list. However, his work in Bernie is absolutely amazingly fantastic. I genuinely felt so sorry for the poor guy, who only ever wanted to do good until somebody broke that all up for him. My heart ached for him. And this is Jack Black we're talking about.

5. Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty in On the Road
It is a bit hard to judge if Hedlund does his character justice, since On the Road is still sitting on my dresser waiting to be read (doubt I'll get around to it this year though - too into Fitzgerald), but I'll judge it on it's own merits. Out of the mostly dull, meandering film, I found that Hedlund always had this magnetic energy about him. He was constantly moving at a frenetic pace when the rest of the movie seemed to be at a stand still. His story was the only one that really moved me. While Sam Riley did a good enough job in the lead role, Hedlund kept me interested the entire time. Such a shame that most people would only watch this because of Kristen Stewart trying to break out of the Twilight zone.

4. Ezra Miller as Patrick in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Remember that huge phase I had with Ezra Miller this time last year? Well, I'm a little prouder to say that I love him because of his work in The Perks of Being a Wallflower than I was with We Need to Talk About Kevin (which is still a totally amazing film, by the way). There's really not many ways I can put how much I love Ezra in this film, other than to say that he's the perfect Patrick. The perfect Patrick. The perfect Patrick. And that's all I really have to say about that.

3. Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie in Django Unchained
Even though I was over the moon that Christoph Waltz won the Oscar, it is still so far beyond me as to how Leonardo DiCaprio didn't get nominated. He's playing against type, isn't he? He did it well, didn't he? In fact, it is a little terrifying that, after so many thrillers, biopics, movies about dead wives etc, Leo could play such a narcissistic, evil human being so well. Just look at that scene where he cuts his hand. I don't even know how he held that for so long. If this performance couldn't win him an Oscar, then I'm not sure what could. Probably a real life version of 127 Hours.

2. Logan Lerman as Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I just so much as have to look at him and I'll want to cry. Which made for some very emotional times during May when the trailer for this movie rolled around every 45 minutes at work. Charlie is such a difficult character to understand, even moreso as the book follows an epistolary format which is always a little hard to translate to the screen, but Lerman nails everything. Just from a desperate or confused or even a happy look, my heart just breaks for the guy. Sure, Lerman is not that far out of his teens, but he plays a 15 year old so convincingly, and that's one of the biggest reasons as to why this film is probably the best teen film I've ever seen.

1. Matthew McConaughey as Killer Joe Cooper in Killer Joe
No surprises here - my number one performance is still what it has been since early November. I've never been so dumbfounded and thrown by a performance - up until watching this, I had been under the impression that Matty M was only ever destined to take his shirt off and make movies with Kate Hudson and the like. But this is the kind of career turnaround that doesn't often happen. Sure, an actor will have that one great performance but then they'll return to the way they were. This performance may be great, but this is just the start of something. Considering he also hit the bullseye with two brilliant performances in Bernie and Magic Mike (which I love almost equally to this performance), and is following it up with the likes of Mud and Dallas Buyers Club and Interstellar (!), Matty M is just getting started. Thank goodness for that.

What do you think of these choices? Who were your favourite male performers of 2012?


  1. Brilliant list. Love that Lerman got so high a spot. I totally agree. It was a tough role, to be that vulnerable, and he nailed it. I actually was annoyed with Charlie many times in the book but in the movie- oh, my heart.

    And I totally think Cooper gave the best performance in the film too. The way he just reacted to everyone- ahmazing.

    And of course, it was McConaughey's year.

  2. McConaughey in the top spot= cannot be denied. Used to avoid movies simply because he was part of them, now I go see them because he's in them. I have YEARS of words to eat, apparently.

    Love that Jack Black makes the grade too, and Leo is sneaking up higher than Waltz!

  3. Great list yet again. Though Perks wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it wasn't a bad film, and you've listed some very great performances here. I can't really think of many others I'd add. Fantastic post, looking forward to the next one.

  4. Matthew McConaughey ruled ass in Killer Joe. Truly a performance for the ages. I would put in Denis Lavant for Holy Motors. Fuck Daniel Day-Lewis. That's right, I fuckin' said it. Denis Lavant can act circles around him.

  5. One of the three performances I haven't seen yet wins - wow, that's better than a movie recommendation! I'll hunt down Killer Joe as soon as possible.
    Also, I agree with Nikh on Logan Lerman, so happy he's even on this list and then in such a high spot. As well as Ezra Miller.
    Great list. I also like that you didn't include DDL.

  6. Great choices. I love that you included Lerman, DiCaprio and Hedlund so high. For me, Denis Lavant (Holy Motors), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) and Anders Danielsen Lie (Oslo, August 31st) gave the best male performances last year.


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