Let’s do one more of these prior-year look-back Roundtables before we move on to newer topics. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve discussed both the overrated and underrated films of 2011. This week, we’ll talk about our favorite acting performances of last year.
The best performance from an actor in 2011 was also the most overlooked. Brendan Gleeson wasn’t nominated for any major acting awards, and won’t be, but his performance in ‘The Guard‘ was my absolute favorite performance of 2011. There’s a lot to be said about the ability that it takes to pull off a dramatic role full of very dry humor. His comedic timing in ‘The Guard’ is simply perfect.
I thought there were some great performances from actresses in 2011. One of my favorites was Elle Fanning in ‘ Super 8’. That would’ve been my choice until I saw Michelle Williams in ‘My Week with Marylin‘. What’s great about her performance is that she doesn’t do a straight-up imitation of the famous person she’s playing (like Meryl Streep does in ‘Iron Lady’). Instead, she embodies the role and is still able to make it her own. I thought it was the best performance of the year.
My vote for best male performance of 2011 goes to a certain genius chimpanzee embodied by the one-and-only Andy Serkis. The guy is an incredible performer. As the reigning king of motion-capture, he truly transcends what it means to be an actor. Serkis works his magic again in Rupert Wyatt’s ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘, bringing the CGI ape Caesar to life in a way that nobody else could. The facial expressions, the body movements – it’s amazing. Serkis deserves a lot more recognition than he gets, so I’m giving him some high props here.
On the female side, I’m picking Elle Fanning in J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi throwback, ‘Super 8‘. The talented young actress may have been snubbed at the Golden Globes and now the Oscars, but her acting range is fantastic in that film. Not only does she impress with her zombie tryout for Joe (Joel Courtney), she made jaws drop during the dramatic train scene-within-a-scene for a very good reason. Personally, I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Christopher Plummer was the best part of ‘Beginners‘. If you ask me, that movie was overhyped to the extreme. I couldn’t wait to see it, but frankly, I thought it sucked. Ewan McGregor was perfectly adequate. Mélanie Laurent was mopey and annoying. The overall feel of the movie was that of curling up in a dank bedsheet. But Christopher Plummer was absolutely sublime! Each moment with him was tremendous. Arthur the dog (played by Cosmo the Jack Russell Terrier) also kicked ass. Christopher Plummer and Cosmo – two of the best actors of 2011.
The movie took a couple viewings to grow on me, but both times I’ve watched ‘Bridesmaids‘, I’ve thought Kristen Wiig was just incredible. Funny, of course. Sexy, surprisingly, yes, very. (Those little parentheses at the corners of her mouth just kill me!) And touching, yeah, that too! I always enjoy an unreasonably angry, simultaneously funny character (see Brick Ransom), and Wiig’s turn as the heartbroken and frustrated Annie Walker, particularly when she punches that “stupid f$%&ing cookie” and tells off a male flight attendant, hits all the right notes. It’s a great, great performance.
M. Enois Duarte
I’ve always had difficulty picking the best of whatever, and deciding best actor/actress is a huge challenge. So, I like to think of performances that surprised me most – as in, I never expected anything of such quality from that particular performer. I really enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘50/50‘. Thinking of that little pint-sized kid from ‘3rd from the Sun’ doing such a phenomenal job in a leading role still blows my mind. He was amazing and brought tears to my eyes.
But the one performance that really surprised me most has to be Albert Brooks in ‘Drive‘. The comedian from the first season of ‘SNL’, funny actor in ‘Broadcast News’, and the filmmaker of ‘Mother’ pulls no punches as a terrifying mobster and is completely unexpected. And the dude is actually scary! It’s an excellent performance that in my opinion is deserving of more recognition from the AMPAS.
This may sound totally clichéd and expected, but from the moment that I saw ‘The Artist‘, I knew that I was watching my two favorite performances of the year. I can’t think of any other actors who could have pulled off those demanding roles as well as Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. There have been plenty of actors in the past with the ability to convey emotion without dialogue, but not since the silent film era have we seen this wide a range of emotions without words. Not only could both actors pull off that physicality, they even danced like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers too. Plus – is there anything cuter than watching Bérénice do her Charleston jig?
What Luke said. ^
Really. I feel a little bad about choosing someone who has already received an Oscar nomination (that he seems very likely to win), but from the opening scenes of ‘The Artist’, I could tell that Jean Dujardin was absolutely giving the performance of the year. He is flawless in that movie, a perfect silent movie star. He’s dashing, charismatic, funny and ultimately heartbreaking. The movie wouldn’t work at all without his riveting magnetism. Bérénice Bejo is also quite impressive, if not quite at the same level as Dujardin for me. However, the scene where she puts her arm through his empty coat and mimics his caress was perhaps the most purely sublime moment in all of cinema last year, and she nails it.
That said, the real breakout star of ‘The Artist’ has gone unrewarded in critics’ circles. I’m talking about Uggie the dog, who steals every damn scene he’s in – and he’s in a lot of them! Between this movie and ‘Beginners’, Jack Russell Terriers had a very good year in 2011.
What acting performances did you enjoy in 2011?