PGCMAs: Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Cast (2015)

Posted: February 23, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

PGCMA 2015

*The above image represents 2014’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winner; Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman.

Best Actress

Juliette Binoche, Clouds of Sils Maria: Juliette Binoche is such a reliable actress, but she also doesn’t get lead roles too often and thus can be easy to overlook. Her work in Clouds of Sils Maria is a reminder of how excellent she is. Binoche plays a middle-aged actress going through something of a crisis in identity as she struggles with her age and her personal relationship with her assistant. It’s a very subtle performance, but that just makes her success all the more impressive.

Emily Blunt, Sicario: Emily Blunt has played characters who are hardened and strong before, but her character in Sicario also needed a more vulnerable element. Kate Macer is somewhat lacking in experience, and the character also needs to be frustrated and confused. Blunt does a great job capturing these elements while also maintaining Macer’s professionalism.

Brie Larson, Room: It is with some embarrassment that I have yet to see Brie Larson’s breakthrough performance in Short Term 12. On the plus side, this just made me all the more surprised to see her amazing work in Room. Larson has a difficult role in that she needs to play a caring and nurturing mother, a young woman whose growth was stinted, and a prisoner. It’s a wide variety of things that require both broad strokes and a subtle hand, but Larson nails it all.

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn: For and away the most compelling element of Brooklyn is Saoisre Ronan, who gives a really nuanced performance as a young woman trying to find herself. Most importantly, Ronan nails the emotional arc of the character, to the point that by film’s end, one really feels a tremendous growth.

Amy Schumer, Trainwreck: The final nominee spot become a decision between real life friends Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence is very strong in Joy, but she’s done better work in the past and will likely do better work in the future. Schumer’s performance, on the other hand, is something of a revelation. She imbues her role with appropriate humour, but what really surprised me is how strong the emotional conviction of the role as.

And the winner is…

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Brie Larson, Room

Room_Poster

I did strongly consider Juliette Binoche, but the right choice here is pretty clearly Brie Larson. This is a highly demanding role, one which took a lot of skill and grace to pull off. It’s easy to get lost in Larson’s portrayal of a loving and compassionate mother that when she starts to show the character’s vulnerable side it really is emotional. The role is highly demanding and requires a lot of grace, and Larson totally owns it.

Best Actor

Matt Damon, The Martian: Most of the great performances are the ones where actors really sink into a role or deliver serious emotional conviction. However there is definitely merit to “movie star” performances and Matt Damon’s work in The Martian is a great example. Damon is playing well within his star persona, but he’s perfectly cast in that he’s believable as a scientist, as the humour and charisma to carry a move, and the acting chops to nail the emotional beats.

Benicio del Toro, Sicario: I’m a huge fan of Benicio del Toro’s work in Traffic and he returns to a similar role in Sicario. Del Toro plays a drug agent who is theoretically fighting for the “good guys”, but is of questionable character. Del Toro’s does a great job capturing the character’s sense of mystery, menace, and sympathy. It’s not as good as his performance in Traffic, but Del Toro has a knack for bringing subtle nuance to his performances and he does just that here.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant: Much has been made of Leonardo DiCaprio’s physical suffering in the making of The Revenant, but all of this is secondary to his performance itself, which is raw and powerful. DiCaprio has always been at his best when portraying a certain physical intensity and he owns that skill here.

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs: It’s a testament to Michael Fassbender’s talents as an actor that he’s being nominated in spite of being woefully miscast as Steve Jobs. The dude is muscular and handsome, which doesn’t really suit Jobs, but the conviction of Fassbender’s performance and his superb handling of the dialogue overcomes any limitations of the casting.

Michael Keaton, Spotlight: Last year, Michael Keaton won this award for his large and unforgettable performance in Birdman. In Spotlight, Keaton leans the other way, instead giving a very subtle and quiet performance as the head of the spotlight team investigating the scandal of molestation in the church. It’s the kind of performance that can be easy to overlook, but Keaton really does shine.

And the winner is…

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Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

the revenant

I will say, this wasn’t really the landslide one might think. I didn’t immediately think DiCaprio the clear winner and if I’m being honest I think his performances in The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street are better. Having said all that, this is a very impressive performance that does stand above DiCaprio’s peers this year. Beneath the physical intensity of the role are some core emotions that DiCaprio does a great job evoking through simply his physicality. Given how simplistic the story is, DiCaprio’s powerful performance is crucial in really grabbing the viewer.

Best Cast

The Hateful Eight: Quentin Tarantino has been collecting awesome ensemble casts since 1992 and he has once again put together one hell of a troupe for The Hateful Eight. Tarantino regulars like Sam Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Zoe Bell work well in roles which play to their strengths, while Tarantino newcomers Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Bruce Dern also shine. A good deal of the film’s strength relies in just watching all of these people interact.

The Martian: If nothing else, The Martian certainly has the largest quantity of celebrities in its cast. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wig, Donald Glover, and a plethora of other lesser known but still recognizable actors appear. What’s important is no one feels like they were cast just for celebrity. Everyone sinks into their role quite well.

Spotlight: The acting in Spotlight has been uniformly praised yet the individual actors haven’t had the easiest time being nominated for awards, let alone winning. This actually reflects just how good the cast is as no one is attempting to one-up their peers or steal the show. Rather, everyone is working in sync, delivering subtle performances which further the story and drama.

Steve Jobs: Though it’s titled after one guy, Steve Jobs is really an ensemble piece, with great talents like Kate Winslet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, and a surprisingly effective Seth Rogen all delivering compelling performances. At the center of it all is Michael Fassbender, who may be a little miscast, but fuck can that man act.

Straight Outta Compton: Like Spotlight, this is another cast which has struggled to receive individual attention given how much better it works as a whole. To play the members of NWA, the filmmaker opted for lesser known actors (along with Ice Cube’s real son) all of which play their roles well and have great chemistry. Jason Mitchell in particular really shines as Eazy-E and the presence of a veteran like Paul Giamatti as manager Jerry Heller also helps a lot.

And the winner is…

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Spotlight

Spotlight-Poster-27X39-Ang-LR-208x300

This came down to a struggle between the flash of The Hateful Eight and the subtle nuance of Spotlight. Ultimately, there were two factors that really swayed me toward Spotlight. The first is simply that with Hateful Eight, Tarantino is working with a lot of his regulars and most of which are working their classic schtick. Second, not only did Spotlight make great use of name actors like Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams (among others), but the film also has strong turns from lesser known/completely unknown actors. The work from everyone is understated, but very powerful all the same.

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