PGCMAs: Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Cast (2014)

Posted: February 14, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” SimpsonPGCMA 2014*The above image represent’s 2013’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

Best Actress

Marion Cotilard, The Immigrant: Despite playing a character that’s a little too saint-like, this really is a strong performance from Marion Cotilard. She depicts Ewa as a caring woman gradually beaten down by an unjust world and she really nails some big emotional moments.

Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nymphomaniac: It must have been tempting to play the sex-addicted Joe in some over the top, maybe even depraved way, but that’s not at all what Charlotte Gainsbourg does. Instead, she plays Joe as essentially a normal person. She bears some regret for the pain she’s caused, but there’s also a sense of pride and self-confidence to her work.

Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin: Amidst big budget action fare, Scarlett Johansson also reminded everyone of her tremendous acting chops with her bold take on such a bizarre character. She plays down her movie star charm to instead emphasize cold calculation and a lack of belonging, before undergoing a journey of self-discovery using little words. It’s an odd yet interesting performance from one of 2014’s most odd yet interesting films.

Keira Knigtley, Begin Again: Keira Knigtley has received a lot of awards attention for her turn in The Imitation Game, but her performance in Begin Again is far and away her best work in 2014. It’s a very naturalistic and likable turn and Knightley is completely believable as an earnest and talented musical artist. She also hits her emotional beats perfectly and has a great repertoire with the rest of the cast.

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl: What can I say about Rosamund Pike’s turn in Gone Girl without delving into spoiler territory? It isn’t easy, but what I can say is that Pike’s Amy is a complex woman with multiple aspects to her personality. Pike nails the multi-faceted character and she’s also clearly having a blast really sinking her teeth into such a juicy role.

And the winner is…

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Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl (spoilers below)gone girl

First and foremost, Rosamund Pike has the most multi-faceted character of any of the nominees. She needs to be a loving wife, a smart independent woman, a child-like spoiled brat, a vindictive victim, and a scheming murderer. Pike is able to take all of these elements and make them all feel organic to a single character. Additionally, Pike just really dives into the part head first. This is a big character, and she milks it for all it’s worth.

Best Actor

Jake Gyllehaal, Nightcrawler: Jake Gyllenhaal has been taking a lot of interesting roles in the last few years, and his performance as Lou Bloom is the best he’s been in years. Gyllenhaal sells the insanity and danger of Lou very well, but also brings the right mix of intelligence and drive. This is also a very physical performance, with Lou’s thin body and creepy smile really sticking.

Michael Keaton, Birdman: There’s no arguing that Michael Keaton was the perfect choice to play the lead role, and I don’t just say that for some of the superficial parallels between Keaton and Riggan Thomson. Instead I’m referring to Keaton’s ability to walk the fine line between amusing comedy and a genuine dark streak. It’s a skill he puts to great use in this very rich performance.

David Oyelowo, Selma: Given how important a figure Martin Luther King is, it’s a bit shocking there haven’t been more depictions of the man. David Oyelowo’s performance does right by the man’s legacy. This is a very strong and intelligent figure who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, but also a human being who wants to be with his wife and kids.

Joaquin Phoenix, The Immigrant: 2014 saw Joaquin Phoenix reteam with Paul Thomas Anderson and while I loved his performance in Inherent Vice, is more subdued work in the lesser known The Immigrant ultimately proved the more compelling performance. This is a character who can be brutal and harsh, but is gradually revealed to actually be quite weak. Phoenix nails the character perfectly and his final scene especially is masterfully well-done.

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything: There’s no denying that The Theory of Everything is boring, middlebrow effort destine to be forgotten in a few months, but even I have to admit Eddie Redmayne’s performance is pretty damn great. The physical aspect of Redmayne’s work is really great, and he also builds an engaging character.

And the winner is…

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Michael Keaton, Birdmanbirdman-click

Many (including myself) have been quick to point out the similarities between Michael Keaton and his character, Riggan Thomson. These similarities are actually pretty minimal, but more importantly this is performance transcends far beyond any connections to the real world. This performance succeeds due to the complex layers of the character and the depth Keaton finds in this role. Keaton creates a fully realized and fascinating character through the big gestures and the subtle details. His line deliveries are fantastic and the physicality of the role is expertly handled as well. This is also a role which deals with dark insecurity, comedy, dual personalities, layers of deceit, and a subtle arc. There is a lot going on with the role and Keaton nails all of it. This is the performance of the year and quite possibly the role Michael Keaton was born to play.

Best Cast

This is the award where I look at the cast as a whole. Having a lot of great performances is important, but so is how the various cast members interact with each other.

Birdman: Much of the fun of Birdman is seeing so many colourful characters collide. In addition to the actors I’ve already nominated for awards here, the film also stars Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Zach Galifianakis. All of these performers bounce off each other very well and the lack of cuts really emphasizes the performances here.

Foxcatcher: Most of the time this award is dedicated to films with large casts, but this isn’t the case with Foxcatcher. The film relies almost solely on the performances of three individuals; Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Marl Ruffalo. However all three are perfectly cast in a way that plays to their strengths while simultaneously subverting their screen personas in interesting ways. Add to that a small but strong turn from Vanessa Redgrave and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Gone Girl: David Fincher always casts his films very well, and often in unconventional ways. Guys like Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Fugit, and especially Tyler Perry seem foreign to a Fincher film on paper, but they proved perfect choices for their roles. Lesser known actresses like Kim Dickens and Carrie Coon also provide memorable characters and the use of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike is masterful.

Guardians of the Galaxy: I’m not on board with the love-fest Guardians of the Galaxy has experienced since released, but god damn is the cast awesome. The characters are the reason the movie works as well as it does and their interactions are awesome. The film also has some small turns from great actors like Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, and John C. Reilly.

Inherent Vice: Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier films were known for ensembles. He moved away from that with recent films, but he brought the ensemble back with a vengeance in Inherent Vice. This is an absolutely stacked cast. Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Hong Chau, Eric Roberts, Michael K. Williams, and a plethora of others all make memorable turns in this movie. These characters are really unique and their interactions to each other are great.

And the winner is…

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Foxcatcherfoxcatcher__span

This is an unlikely choice given the limited cast, but hey, quality over quantity, right? Each of the core actors are perfectly casted and they all play off each other excellently. Though only one of the actors scored a nomination, the whole of all three’s work is greater than the sum of its parts.

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