January 21, 2007

2006 at the Movies Part III: In Front of the Camera

I have to say that this was very difficult to put together, particularly Lead and Supporting Actress. It seems that I missed many of the strong women's roles. This happened not on purpose, it is just one of those things. It also leads into a built in flaw of any list, it is near impossible for anyone to see everything that could potentially contain a great performance. This is especially true for those of us who have to work. I try, I really do, but it is just isn't possible to fit in all the movies and everything else I am interested in. Anyway, on with the show. Read on and see who I thought gave the best performances in the 2006 movies that I saw theatrically.

Best Actor

  • Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. Sure, this is probably more of a supporting role, but Forest cast such a huge shadow over this film, and had such a wonderful performance that it is hard to ignore his importance to the film. His portrayal of Idi Amin is electric. He displays an incredible amount of charisma that it is hard not to be sucked in.
  • Leonardo Dicaprio for The Departed. One of two great performances by Leo this year (the other in Blood Diamond) highlights a strong year for the actor. It is interesting that I always expect not to like his acting, yet I am always won over in the end. His portrayal of the undercover cop with an identity crisis is formidable.
  • Clive Owen for Children of Men. The camera may have attempted to keep you detached from his role as Theo, but it was amazing to watch this man without hope slowly regain his hope the further down the path he goes. Truly an amazing performance.
  • Will Smith for The Pursuit of Happyness. Stepping away from his action hero image, if just for a moment, Will Smith has given what may be the best performance of his career. He has great chemistry with his co-stars and is very believable as a man going to great lengths in order to secure his future.
  • Nicolas Cage for World Trade Center. While the movie was emotionally charged, the direction felt a little generic, but one thing stood out beyond the substantial emotion and the direction, Cage's performance. He was the right man for the role. I may not be his biggest fan, but there is something about his long face, it carries so much weight in this film, the weight of all the woes of the day can be seen on his face. It is subtle, yet powerful.
  • Honorable Mention: There are a couple of roles that just missed the top five, but should be mentioned.
  • Hugo Weaving for V for Vendetta. I was very impressed with his ability to convey range and emotion while never revealing his face. Putting a mask on the actor takes away a lot from the performance, yet Weaving delivers a memorable performance from behind one.
  • Daniel Craig for Casino Royale. Breathing new life into Bond, Craig slipped into the role like a tailor-made suit. He brought depth to the role that has not been seen in many years.

Best Actress

  • Helen Mirren for The Queen. Much like Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren has turned in a great performance as a person from the real world. She brings a touch of emotion to a role that could just as easily been entirely cold and clinical.
  • Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada. Deliciousy evil, Streep gave a wonderful job here. Showing us all that it is possible to mold someone into what they so not wish to be without their knowledge. Quite subversive.
  • Annette Bening for Running with Scissors. I cannot claim to really like the movie, but Bening rose above and literally stile the show out from under everyone else. She plays a mother with a mental disorder that goes through some odd personality changes.
  • Gretchen Mol for The Notorious Bettie Page. Ahh, the innocence of adult themed photographs. Mol gives us Page in glorious manner, giving her this innocence and joy that is positively alluring.
  • Kirsten Dunst for Marie Antoinette. I am probably going to be in the minority on this, but I was seduced by her performance as the young and doomed Queen. It may not be true history, but as a tone poem it is quite effective.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Ben Affleck for Hollywoodland. This is quite possibly the best performance of his career. He perfectly captures the suave handsome Reeves, and the troubles that he experiences leading to his mysterious, and still unsolved, demise.
  • Jack Nicholson for The Departed. Jack in another scene stealing performance. As the crime boss of Boston, he takes his performance to the edge yet never quite goes over. It is a strong part from a strong actor.
  • Djimon Hounsou for Blood Diamond. The role seems to be written slightly to the one dimensional side, with the father trying to get to his family, but Hounsou is such a great presence on the screen. His high energy performance is downright captivating.
  • Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine. This was a fun movie with a crazy little family, but that was highlighted by the loving, yet crazy, grandfather played by Arkin. He brings this controlled performance that has these distinctly adult proclivities, yet has a great love for his granddaughter, although the feelings have a humorous crossing point.
  • Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls. What a surprisingly good performance from Eddie, not that I didn't think he had it, I just did not expect it. The role really kicked up in the latter portions of the film, he had a really moving character arc that had more impact than I had expected.
  • Almost made the cut: Christian Bale for The Prestige.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls. All I can say is "Wow." Her performance floored me. She carries the entire emotional weight of the film, it is much more than strength of her voice (which is considerable).
  • Adriana Barraza for Babel. Speaking of carrying emotional weight, Adriana carries a lot of it in Babel. Her role as the nanny is a strong one, her willingness to give up everything for the sake of the children, despite her mistakes. Quite moving.
  • Geraldine Hughes for Rocky Balboa. It is a very understated role, but a vital one. Rocky is moving on in his life, and she provides a good portion of the motivation. Watching the relationship develop, it was sweet and each beat rang true.
  • Maribel VerdĂș for Pan's Labyrinth. Playing something of a double agent, Maribel gives Mercedes a strength that belies her belief in herself. A strong role in an amazing film.
  • Eva Green for Casino Royale. Has Bond met his match? She has a strength behind her eyes and a quick wit to match the up and coming superspy.

That brings us to the end of the list. How did they match up with yours? I am wondering how many will match what the Academy thinks come Tuesday's announcement.


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