Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Late-Ish 2013 Retrospective: Top 15 Male Performances

More 2013 retrospective goodness just to remind you that 2013 happened and 2013 was great! Don't really need to waste a whole lot of time explaining this, so here are my favourite male performances from last year...

Honourable Mentions: Bradley Cooper - American Hustle, Bradley Cooper - The Place Beyond the Pines, Ryan Gosling - The Place Beyond the Pines, Dane DeHaan - The Place Beyond the Pines, Joaquin Phoenix - Her, Steve Coogan - Philomena, Dane DeHaan - Kill Your Darlings, James Gandolfini - Enough Said, Miles Teller - The Spectacular Now, Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club, Hugh Jackman - Prisoners, Daniel Bruhl - Rush, Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station, Michael Douglas - Behind the Candelabra, Matt Damon - Behind the Candelabra, Leonardo DiCaprio - The Great Gatsby, James Franco - Spring Breakers, Jude Law - Side Effects, Jonah Bobo - Disconnect.

15. Dwayne Johnson as Paul Doyle in Pain & Gain
Let me preface this by saying that Dwayne Johnson may be my least favourite working actor. That's probably because I can't stand the fact that every single movie he is in, whether it is a cinema release or a straight-to-DVD release, will always rent in truckloads. Sad thing is that they're all exactly the same. I surprisingly dug Pain & Gain a lot against all odds (the Johnson/Mark Wahlberg/Michael Bay factor), but I was most surprised by Johnson's performance. He was obviously taking the piss out of his usual macho beef-cake persona, and in an alternate universe, he would be the perfect buff brother of Jordan Belfort who was nowhere near as smart as him.

14. Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki in Prisoners
We never really know a lot about Detective Loki. We're just offered insights into his existence. I think that's what I admire most about any film who can do it right: a script which only offers insights into a character's existence instead of an outpouring of their life, and an actor who can build that existence into something truly believable. Gyllenhaal hits all the right notes, even when the film isn't necessarily concerned with him. It's all in the scene where he eats this Thanksgiving dinner at a diner alone.

13. Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club
It's been a while since Jared Leto was on our screens, and what a comeback he makes. Sure, you could easily pigeonhole this performance as an easy way to get an Oscar: lose lots of weight, put on a dress and some makeup (which unfortunately didn't work for Cillian Murphy in either Breakfast on Pluto or Peacock which run rings around Leto's performance). Yet, Leto makes it into something that is truly heartfelt and heartbreaking, particularly in the scene where everything is crumbling around her. At any rate, it's just great to have Leto acting again.

12. James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson in Filth
James McAvoy is pretty much the nicest, most harmless guy next to Tom Hiddleston in show business right now. Bruce Robertson was pretty much one of the most vile, repugnant characters to hit screens in 2013. What better showcase is that? The film doesn't completely back him up - it tends to go more for the strange and absurd without having any real point - but he is a little bit terrifying in his drugged up stupor. Plus, I really like it when nice actors play generally bad people. And after studying every single fibre of Atonement for English last year, it was kind of interesting to watch James in this and wonder where my favourite blue-eyed beauty went.

11. Barkhad Abdi as Muse in Captain Phillips
I was surprised that people weren't hyping up Barkhad Abdi's spectacular story of how he went from limo driver to Oscar nominee more. However, this isn't a case of his fairytale being more interesting than the performance that heralded that fairytale. For a person who has absolutely no acting experience whatsoever and can scare the crap out of Tom Hanks and the audience is no mean feat. Hopefully he gets a few more opportunities. Sure, an Oscar nomination is a pretty good way to start, but he can still improve from here.

10. Matthew McConaughey as Mud in Mud
Matthew McConaughey has been having a really good run. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. He may have got the Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club (which was...deserved, I suppose), but Mud was my favourite performance from him last year. It was a role that suited him down to the ground. I guess I should start reserving a spot for Matty M for these lists, because it's really only a fight for which performance I liked the most out of all of them (bring on Interstellar!).

9. Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate
The Fifth Estate is an interesting case. It was the biopic no one really needed to happen just yet, but it held a lot of promise considering the great cast. Somehow, it all went wrong. The only thing that didn't go wrong, though, was Benedict Cumberbatch's performance. I've never fully believed the hype about this guy (but that's because I haven't really watched Sherlock), but The Fifth Estate was a pretty good showcase for his talent. It would have been better if the film was a heckload better and wasn't so first draft rushed. However, I applaud Cumberbatch for his dedication and his fairly good attempt at an Australian accent. If the film had served him better, he would have been the one up there collecting the Oscar. Alas, his transition into the film industry is still a bit stunted - especially considering only five people even saw this film.

8. Ethan Hawke as Jesse in Before Midnight
I love Jesse. He is exactly the kind of man I want to marry in the future (and I'm a bit of a Celine also, so I guess the future is looking...interesting?). Just as Julie Delpy does, Ethan Hawke hits his highest notes in this instalment into the series. Just that look he has when he sees his son off at the airport, to that beautiful final scene. Please can we continue to see Celine and Jesse every nine years forever?

6. Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave
The art of true villainy is a lot harder than some would suspect. But Michael Fassbender is truly terrifying in this film, never verging on self-parody. His eyes are so tortured. Just everything...he needs to make every single film with Steve McQueen forever. Then again, I do find it kind of annoying that this was the film to give him his first Oscar nomination, because I'm pretty sure I spent the entire awards season pretending that it was consolation for that Shame snub that I'll never get over.

6. Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas in The Hunt
Because people suck and Mads does a perfect job of conveying that in his face. There's really nothing else I can say about it.

5. Jonah Hill as Donnie in The Wolf of Wall Street
Sure, "two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill" does sound a little bit weird, but man did he deserve it for The Wolf of Wall Street. So much sass. So many teeth. So many great scenes that he's involved with, from the "emperor of fucksville" to the "I'll chop your fucking credit card, how about that?". Oh, and his part in the Quaaludes scene was pretty great too.

4. Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis in Inside Llewyn Davis
Oscar Isaac needs to start getting some credit for his great work, because it's starting to become a bit of a crime that he's not getting any. Especially for his performance in this film, which is damn masterful. He plays melancholy and down-trodden so well that you just want good things to happen for Llewyn, even though there's no possible way for things to go right for him. Hands up for who's excited for A Most Violent Year? Oscar has set an impossible benchmark for himself, but it is all up from here.

3. Tom Hanks as Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips
Just because that final few minutes is the finest acting I think I may have ever seen. How he even could convey that much emotion which can not be faked (or at least I didn't think it could) is absolutely beyond me. But the performance doesn't rest on those final few moments: Hanks keeps the momentum up throughout the entire film, without ever retreating into the movie star charm that I've found to be somewhat problematic with his most recent films. Let me just end this with one word, though: SNUBBED.

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave
There's a scene in 12 Years a Slave where Solomon is held in a medium close-up, looking off into the distance, then looks directly into the screen for a second and then looks up. This scene in particular has stuck with me since I watched it, simply because of the tortured, battered, soul-bearing look that Steve McQueen is able to capture on Ejiofor's face. His performance doesn't rely on anything he says or does, it is all about the look. It's such a quietly commanding performance, adding to the trio of fantastic lead performances that McQueen has put at the fore of all of his films.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street
There was obviously nothing that was ever going to beat this performance. It is flawless. It is controlled yet out of control. It is vile yet somehow attractive. Leonardo DiCaprio is Jordan Belfort. If you watch interviews with the real Belfort, you can see just how immersed Leo was in the role - it's almost impossible to tell them apart. Jordan Belfort is not an easy sell, but Leo is possibly the best salesman in show business. He's utterly engrossing, maniacal, hilarious...everything. I honestly can't see how he'll top this, but of course, I have no doubt that he can.

What do you think of the actors in this list? Who were your favourite male performers of the year?


  1. I knew who your number 1 was going to be cuz like DUH but it still gave me a lot of joy.

    Wow surprised to see BOTH of the Atonement actors making this list. McAvoy was indeed v. good in Filth (though he's hardly the nicest guy out there. That man has a gutter for brains and I LOVE IT :P) I didn't watch The Fifth Estate but any love for Cumberbatch is good.

    1. You don't need to see The Fifth Estate - even Cumberbatch's fantastic performance doesn't justify spending two hours with it. However, that guy has a lot of talent!

  2. Nice list you have there. Im really glad to see Dwayne Johnson from Pain and Gain on there and thought his role was good Nice comparisons between his character and Jordan Belfort. I loved Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight hell I love everyone of those movies but Im really scared that they make a fourth one. I want that series to end on a good note instead of a bad one

    1. It'll be interesting to see if they make a fourth, because I'd like to spend some more time with Celine and Jesse but I'm very doubtful of where they could possibly take it from there. So I think it's best that they leave it with Midnight!

  3. Great picks! I still need to see Filth, I think I'd kind of dig it.

  4. Excuse me, but I think you've missed the baton. Read this - - if you don't know what i'm talking about.

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  5. Yay! Can't argue with Leo at #1! Also, it's great to see Gyllenhaal and Cumberbatch on your list. They were both overlooked last year, as was McConaughey for Mud.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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