January 24, 2008

2007 at the Movies, Part III: On Screen Performances

If you have read parts one and two of my look back at the movies of 2007, you will know that it has had its share of good and bad movies. However, if you look at the year as a whole, it was most definitely a good year for the cinema. Anytime that the alternates to the top ten list reaches twenty, you have to believe it was a good year. The same goes for the performances. As many good movies as there were, there were performances that were its equal. This column is me paying tribute to the best performances I saw on the big screen last year. In some ways it is similar to the recently announced Oscar nominations, but it is considerably different in many others.

Best Actor
  • Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood. Talk about a charismatic and captivating performance. I can honestly say that I have not been drawn to the screen for any other character more than Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview. He delivers on all fronts in this tour de force performance.
  • Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Can Johnny Depp sing? Sure. He is not the best, but his limited singing ability combined with his tremendous acting talent made for the most hauntingly tragic character to appear this year.
  • Samuel L. Jackson for Black Snake Moan. Jackson proved just how good an actor he is by pulling out all the stops in this performance. He plays a man haunted by his past who finds a way to redeem himself. It is a raw performance that truly works.
  • George Clooney for Michael Clayton. Another strong performance from the former television star. He plays a "fixer" for a big law firm. The story pushes his character to his limits as he struggles to hold on to his humanity.
  • Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises. Viggo plays a driver for a Russian mob boss in London. His performance is intense, quiet, and stylized. It is punctuated by violence, but softened by a hidden heart. He also delivered one of the best all-out fights in years.

Best Actress

  • Ellen Page for Juno. Hands down, Ellen Page delivered the finest performance of any actress this year. She brought a quick wit and intelligence to Juno, not to mention a vulnerability that lurks just beneath the sarcastic surface. This may not be her year to win, but she has arrived and is a force to be reckoned with.
  • Christina Ricci for Black Snake Moan. Ricci gives us a fractured portrait of a woman is sinking into the darkness. It is a brave role and she really puts herself out there, emotionally and physically stripped raw to the world.
  • Amy Adams for Enchanted. Here is a star making turn if there ever was one. In a role that could just as easily have been a joke, Adams completely buys into and makes you believe she is this animated character sprung to life.
  • Ashley Judd for Bug. Much like Christina Ricci, Judd's performance is brave and raw. It is not the usual role you see from her, and she completely disappeared into her role of Agnes. She threw herself into the role with reckless abandon; the result was emotional and scary.
  • Belen Rueda for El Orfanato. A late addition to the list, Belen Rueda gave a performance that is filled with emotion and fear. She was captivating as a woman sinking into her obsession following the disappearance of her son. She plays it to the hilt right to the climax that is emotionally devastating.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men. One of the most frightening villains to appear on the big screen in years. Walking around with the stun gun and the silenced shotgun, the man was frightening. His unstoppable determination and his Grim Reaper-like presence makes him the strongest supporting role of the year.
  • Ben Foster for 3:10 to Yuma. Another villain in the category. Foster was creepy and determined as the right hand man to the captured outlaw played by Russell Crowe. Charismatic and weird, there is something about him that will haunt you. He also had a strong supporting role in 30 Days of Night as a Renfield-type character.
  • Samuel L. Jackson for Resurrecting the Champ. As if Black Snake Moan wasn't enough, Jackson put his stamp on the role of a homeless former boxing champion. He disappears into a compelling character that does not fall prey to tearjerker clich├ęs.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson's War. Talk about a fascinating character. Hoffman plays Gust Avrakotos, an FBI agent with a sarcastic wit, broiling temper, and the ability to get things done. The performance is fantastic, you will wish there was more of him to go around.
  • Chris Cooper for Breach. Cooper is excellent in his portrayal of the traitorous Hanssen. He is deliciously creepy, terribly charismatic, and just plain wacky. No reasoning is offered up for his actions, and they didn't need to.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Imelda Staunton for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The film may be decent, but there is something about Staunton's performance that was simply fantastic. She gave a performance you want to love while playing a character you love to hate.
  • Marcia Gay Harden for The Mist. Harden takes Ms. Carmody right over the top and keeps going, she never looks back. She plays a religious zealot who slowly wins people to her cause within the confines of the mist shrouded grocery store.
  • Helena Bonham Carter for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Playing counter to Depp's Sweeney, Carter's Mrs. Lovett is unflinching in her pining for the killer barber, helping in his quest for vengeance while secretly longing for his affections. Not a great singer, but she sells the role beautifully.
  • Jurnee Smollett for The Great Debaters. There is something about the way she holds the camera's attention as the sole female debater at an all black college that fought for respect in the Jim Crow South. She brings an emotional honesty to the screen that is strong and captivating.
  • Tabu for The Namesake. This is the first I have seen of the prolific Bollywood actress, but she gave a wonderful performance. It is beautifully subtle and filled with emotion and meaning, very impressive.

That about wraps up the on screen performances for 2007. Yes, there are a few that I have not seen, but of the ones I did, these were the tops. I was a bit surprised to go back and see how many villains made it to the list!


Post a Comment