Jessica Chastain, The Debt- Chastain was in a crap ton of films last year. However, I only got to see a few, and of those few, she most impressed me in The Debt. She plays a young agent assigned a daunting mission. You feel her inner pain as she struggles to keep her composure under the pressure of the Nazi doctor.
Viola Davis, The Help- Speaking of struggle, nobody made you understand there inner pain this year quite like Viola Davis in The Help. I’ll admit, I’ve been annoyed with all the awards people are bestowing on The Help, a film which I don’t think deserves it. But Davis really was fantastic and deserves every bit of praise.
Liana Liberato, Trust- Liberato creates a character with a lot of personality even before the plot really kicks in. She’s confident, but starting out high school, she’s nervous about if she’ll be able to fit in. Later in the film, she goes through a lot of complicated emotions and brings all of this to the screen seamlessly.
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo- Mara throw herself into the role of Lisbeth Salander. She’s character which feels near unstoppable, but also strangely vulnerable. Scary, but sensitive. But above all, mesmerizing. You can’t take your eyes off her.
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn- A front runner for the Oscars, Michelle Williams delivers an awesome performance as the late Marilyn Monroe. Williams emits an abundance of sex appeal, and plays the part with an aura mystery. Is she scared and confused, or is she an excellent deceiver.
And The Winner Is…
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
All these leading ladies were absolutely fantastic, but none of them became their roles quite like Mara. Mara transformed herself to become Lisbeth Salander. But this isn’t just being given because Mara pusher herself, but also because Mara created a character. A character that’s intriguing, a character I felt emotionally attached to, and a character I can’t wait to see her again.
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar- Though everyone bashed the film, most people agreed that DiCaprio was excellent as the title character. Though coming off like a proud and intelligent man, you can feel that deep down he’s very insecure. He’s a very interesting guy, and I also give him props for reminding me of Charles Foster Kane and Norman Bates, which is a pretty awesome combination.
Michael Fassbender, X-Men: First Class- Fassbender’s had a great year, but unfortunatley I wasn’t able to see all the films he was in (Shame). At any rate, Fassbender really impressed me in First Class. He plays Magneto as a complicated character, someone who isn’t really bad but has lived through a lot of really bad things. Fassbender brings this pain to the screen very well and also does a good job living into what Ian McKellen did in the previous X-Men films.
Ryan Gosling, Drive- At first glimpse, the Driver seems relatively simple. But as the film goes on, Gosling begins to reveal a lot more depth and complexity that was seemingly there. Even though he speaks less than 20 sentences in the film, Gosling leaves an unforgettable impression as the enigmatic and cool Driver.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50- Levitt creates one of the most likable characters of the year. He’s just a really nice guy. After he gets cancer, Levitt needs to play a character struggling in life, and debating giving up. I like the way Levitt slowly breaks down. Most of his pain comes to the screen in subtle ways until near the end. He’s a character we like a lot, so his moments of happiness also have a much bigger impact.
Clive Owen, Trust- Owen starts out by being just a very likable dad, but after about halfway through, he goes through something that turns him into an almost obsessive maniac. It’s easy to feel sympathy for Owen because you understand why he feels the way he does. Owen also goes through two interesting revelations, both of which I found fascinating.
And The Winner Is…
Ryan Gosling, Drive
There were a lot of great actors up for this award, but at the end of the day I was looking at character creation. Gosling makes a very enigmatic character. He seems a nice guy, but eventually reveals himself to be a violent psychopath. He seems to be caring, and yet unable to feel. It’s a fascinating character. Ultimately, no character (except maybe Lisbeth Salander) has stuck with me this year has much as Ryan Gosling’s Driver.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two- The Harry Potter films have always had great casts, and this is very true of the latest film, where almost all the old favourites return for the most emotionally draining entry in the series. Special props to the three leads, Ralph Fiennes, and of course Alan Rickman.
Hugo- First, you have the two leads. Child actors are always a risk, but Scorsese went with two experienced child actors who both delivered colourful performances. Then you have the supporting cast. Ben Kingsley is great as the broken down old man George, and I like the way Sacha Baron Cohen gained more depth as the film progressed. You also get actors in small parts like Jude Law and Christopher Lee. Overall, no single performance stands out, but they all come together as a cohesive whole.
The Ides of March- Leading the film you have Ryan Gosling with a terrific performance (which would have been nominated had he not been better in Drive). Gosling is great, and I like the slow descent into dishonesty he goes though. The film is also rounded out by an excellent supporting cast. George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and PGCMA nominees Evan Rachel Wood and Paul Giamatti.
Midnight in Paris- The cast here is basically divided into three groups. Group one is Owen Wilson, who may not be pushing himself, but is quite good here. Group two is the people of the twenty-first century like Rachel McAdams, who do a good job being boring or annoying. And group three is the people of Paris in the 1920s. This where the likes of Marion Cotillard, Tom Hiddleston, Kathy Bates, Corey Stoll, and Adrien Brody shine.
X-Men: First Class- While I enjoyed the other X-Men films, this is the only one where I liked the entire team. I’ve already talked about Fassbender and McAvoy at great length, but there’s also Jennifer Lawrence, Ross Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, and Caleb Landry Jones, among others. And then there’s Kevin Bacon as the villain, who’s just awesome.
And The Winner Is…
The Ides of March
Some films had better performances by individuals, some had bigger casts, but no film could be enjoyed purely for the actors this year as much as The Ides of March. It’s the one-on-one confrontations that really stand out here. Such as the last scene between Gosling and Hoffman, and the last scene between Gosling and Clooney. But probably my favourite scene in the film is the final confrontation between Ryan Gosling and Paul Giamatti.
The PGCMA’s are almost over. Next post, I reveal my top ten films of 2011.