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Top Fifteen Performances of 2012 and Their Supporting Players

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. There might not be another actor alive who would devote many months just to find Lincoln’s voice. Fewer still who could take what history told us about him, subtract the multitude of falsely deep Lincoln voices because they sounded “more important” and give us the real Lincoln via his unusual and less familiar voice. He was going to take some shit for this choice, as no one was ready to accept a Lincoln with that voice. Take on its own in isolated clips it might at first have sounded  a little strange, but when you witness Day-Lewis immersed in Lincoln’s totality, the actor vanishes. The voice comes alive with thoughtfulness, and that unmistakable color of sadness that Lincoln carried around with him since he was young, when his mother and then his sister died. Somehow Day-Lewis knew how to capture that sadness. He knew that Lincoln was weary — from the war, from the burden of doing what was a right at a time when there opposing forces seemed insurmountable — and weary from his wife’s mercurial disposition, crying or raging, depending on the day or the haunting.

Day-Lewis has captured so much in one breathtaking turn that this becomes, maybe, a bar to which all others might aspire. His head hung to one side, his tall person’s slouch, his lopsided walk. That any group would award someone else for the prize of best performance only illuminates, in many ways, Day-Lewis’ unequivocal work. They can’t say he wasn’t good enough. They can only say they’d like someone else to have a chance to share the spotlight with him. If Oscars are meant to be given out as career achievements, Day-Lewis would easily and handily win his third Oscar. We all know that the Oscars, despite their intentions, do not always award the best. But history should remember Day-Lewis, whether they give him a gold statue for it or not.

The supporting players: Sally Field – for her astonishing work as Mary Todd Lincoln Field gained some weight and reseacrhed the extensive first-hand historical record, as any great actress would, to find out that Mary Lincoln possessed a fiery intelligence, shared a love for reading with her husband, and didn’t have much else to do back then but stand by her man. Field captures Mary Lincoln’s craziness, unending grief and inner battle with depression so well it makes you long for the days when you had to be this good to get into movies. Tommy Lee Jones brings with him the great memory of Thaddeus Stevens, and perhaps the best moment of his role is the conflicted scene when he has to support the notion of freeing slaves but knows he must withhold his feelings in agreeing that they’re equal in all terms. He does this through his teeth, against everything he believes in — but he does it because he knows that tearing down an old sturdy wall is done brick by brick. Other wonderful turns in Lincoln include James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the great Gloria Reuben as Elizabeth Keckley, self-freed slave who became an author.

2. Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty does not have the showiest of roles. You might not even notice how good she was as an actress if you hadn’t seen her range of subtlety from last year — The Help, Tree of Life, Take Shelter and Coriolanus displayed a kind of versatility I’ve not seen in an actress since Ms. Meryl Streep was introduced in Kramer vs. Kramer. While Chastain has proven she can mostly do it all, and do it well, she carries Zero Dark Thirty in a way actresses just don’t get a chance to do anymore. This is a part only a woman director could have wrung out of an actress because it is a portrait of someone that isn’t viewed through a man’s eye view. She isn’t sexy for the sake of being sexy. She isn’t bait. She isn’t the support net. She isn’t mommy. She is a whole human being out to hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden. It is her job to do so. Hard to believe, isn’t it. It happens so rarely now. Chastain’s is a slow burn. She is focused on the prize and little else embeds. One of her best moments is when the SEALs say they think it’s probably Bin Laden that they’ve found and they point to her and say they trust “her confidence.” Chastain smiles in a way only a superior would smile. She doesn’t giggle or coyly look at her feet. Do women cry? Yes, most of us do. This character, though, like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News or Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs must cry alone. It is a stark, admiral, success.

Supporting players: Jason Clarke is one of the big standouts of the year — how he’s slipped under the radar this far is kind of interesting and after the heartbreak of seeing Anthony Mackie’s contribution to The Hurt Locker overlooked, we don’t dare hope, but Clarke’s turn is a showstopper, stealing every scene he’s in. Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini, and Kyle Chandler also rock the house.

3. Emmanuelle Riva in Amour gives us a richly layered performance, not just any one dimension of the lifelong love of Jean-Louis Trintigant whose turn it is to go out first. Oh, the agony of this beautiful film — the agony of watching two people so much in love on the eve of life’s end. It is so simple and yet so deeply profound. Riva is so good you never doubt the authenticity of her experience. She goes from the alert, attentive wife who is fun just to sit with and talk with to an incapacitated dying woman. All the while she’s being cared for by her husband. It’s called “Amour” and that makes you think of romantic love. And yes, it is so romantic isn’t it? The fire has long since died out but these two are so tightly fused together life simply doesn’t exist for one if the other slips away. What a performance, what a movie.

Supporting player: Jean-Louis Trintignant (co-lead) — it goes without saying that this movie belongs equally to its two stars, and the wisdom and compassion of writer/director Michael Haneke. The end of life can be as cathartic as the beginning when you witness how it could all could go. We hope for that, we dread that.

4. Joaquin Phoenix, The Master.  It is perhaps easy to dismiss Joaquin Phoenix’s work in a film as unique and “difficult” as Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. But Phoenix, here a human stain, physically morphs to symbolize abstract concepts. He is wanting. He is desire. He is pain. He is frustration. Anderson wrote it but Phoenix embodied it. Like Day-Lewis, Phoenix brings his whole physical body to the role so that the actor all but disappears. It isn’t an easy translation to manifest this ugly truth Anderson is ferreting out of the human experience, but there are whole dimensions of life that aren’t colored beautifully. In the end, Phoenix’s Freddie does find salvation, but it isn’t in religion. His master, then, is his hedonist’s trumpet call. We don’t know where he ends up, exactly, but it’s a beginning.

Supporting players: Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a frightening master but as usual, his vulnerability betrays him. Hardhearted Amy Adams has one exceptional scene (“Will you come for me?”) and many more that are perplexing. Who is this woman? Finally, the always underrated Laura Dern stands for all who believe and hope without stopping to wonder why.

5. Denzel Washington, Flight. Maybe it’s that the esteemed two-time Oscar winner is always so good you forget how skilled he really is until you see him take on a role like this. From beginning to end, director Robert Zemeckis pins the camera to Washington’s face as we watch him lie and cheat evading his way out of being held accountable for anything. He saves the plane from crashing but he is all too willing to let everyone suffer as a result of his recklessness. One of the most emotionally moving scenes of the year is when Washington finally stops lying. The circus is brought to an end. Finally. His is a master class in acting, just watching him do nothing so much as walk across the room.

Supporting Players: John Goodman might be better here than he is in Argo, though it’s a toss-up. But in Flight, Goodman is playing someone he himself had to escape when he got clean. He’s exercising those demons by playing that guy. Wounded Kelly Reilly also really wonderful. Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood, and especially Don Cheadle as a hotshot lawyer fill out Zemeckis’ diverse cast so well — and with the money the film’s making no one can really say that casts of color do not make money.

6. Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s hard to know where this movie came from. The combination of Lucy Alibar’s unique writing and co-writer Benh Zeitlin’s raw ambition and a confidence that would not compromise made for one of the most strangely uplifting films of the year. Much of that is due to the film’s pint-size lead. Wallis carries the movie because she’s the future. Scrappy, resourceful, aching but fighting back the tears to emerge queen-like, a triumph, bringing back the spirit of the place. Since Zeitlin co-wrote the music, the film is an auteur’s vision. He knew what he was looking for and he got it. He got in Wallis. Sure, she’s just a young thing but who’s to say Wallis isn’t touched by genius much the way Tatum O’Neal was in Paper Moon? While Wallis isn’t a schooled actress, particularly, she gets it about emotion. Even if you want to believe that the director really did all of the work (you could make that argument about almost any performance, really), perhaps the director’s finest achievement was in recognizing Quvenzhané’s innate magic when he found it.  You can’t escape being moved by this girl, this wild creature who follows the teachings of her father, however messed up they are, as she searches for a better way of life, a renaissance.

Supporting player: There would be no Hushpuppy without her father, played the magnificent Dwight Henry. She adores his unconditionally and follows him without question. But he represents a different time. Hushpuppy knows there’s a new world to be conquered and she’ll have to go it alone. Henry embodies a kind of resoluteness that is as heartbreaking as it sometimes is infuriating.

8. Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook shows what a promising actress Lawrence really is and how she is able to always find the truth in her characters. She leaps off the screen in Silver Linings, as she does in Hunger Games and Winter’s Bone and even The Beaver. She is self-possessed in Silver Linings, a woman who does not suffer fools but whom, perhaps, has a knack for falling for the wrong guys. She’s a fixer and she knows she’s a fixer because she rarely gets anything back in return unless she asks for it. It’s easily one of the best performances of the year and if there is an America’s Sweetheart in 2012 it has to be Lawrence. In the end, we just want Tiffany to be happy and maybe that happiness is with a man. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, we enjoy the ride.

Supporting Players: Bradley Cooper (lead) delivers his most impressive dramatic work to date. Having just won the National Board of Review award for Best Actor he has a decent shot at squeezing into the top five, Robert DeNiro is always good and here we get to see his softer side. The real standout is Jacki Weaver, who hovers in the background but really is the one who holds the whole family together.

6. Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere. Corinealdi carries the whole film on her shoulders, as she tries to figure out what her future might be, with or without the men who keep popping up in her life. Beautiful and smart, ambitious and centered, Corinealdi’s Ruby keeps a lot bottled up inside but she’s such a good actress that we can follow her train of thought as it’s mapped out on her face. She functions both as writer/director Ava DuVernay’s capable muse — exploring the revolutionary notion of a black woman in the inner city contemplating her own existence — and as a modern woman who transcends race. While it might not seem like enough is at stake here, especially not for a single black female of the kind Hollywood is so comfortable with — Ruby’s internal world is complicated. Whom does she please? Her husband who’s in jail? Her mother, who wants more for her daughter than to be someone’s wife? Her sister, who confronts her when she evades the truth? As we watch Ruby break free from the ties that bind her we envision a whole revolution. We see her ascend. It might not happen within the span of time the movie covers, but we the seeds being planted and Corinealdi radiance assures us the buds will bloom. It’s a beautiful thing.

Supporting players: The exceptional Lorraine Toussaint who plays Ruby’s mother can command the screen without saying a single word. Lincoln’s David Oyelowo, Sharon Lawrence, and Omari Hardwick round out the excellent cast.

9. Suraj Sharma  has to carry all of the Life of Pi on his young shoulders, gaining weight then drastically losing it. He must act against a CGI tiger and show us his behavior unravel as though he’s been shipwrecked for a long time. He confronts his faith, his fear and comes out the other end a formidable human being full of compassion and stories he tells to light the darkness for others. Life of Pi is life-alteringly good and much of that is due, no doubt, to the brilliant Ang Lee behind the camera but it is also Sharma’s work. He dug down deep. He isn’t a yet star so that makes him a long shot for the nod, but his newcomer status provides a  tantalizing opportunity for the Academy to launch a major talent.

Supporting players: Richard Parker, and Irfan Kahn, who delivers the film’s most moving monologue.

10. Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables – Hathaway leads the hard-working cast as they sing their hearts out. Hathaway is best at conveying emotion from stage to screen, translating the melodrama of the piece beautifully. Everything stops when Hathaway is on screen. She is equally good in The Dark Night Rises, playing Catwoman as a woman avenging the poor. Hathaway owns both films. In Les Miserables, though it is an intense part, and she gives herself over to it thoroughly. It was the same role played by her mother so in many ways it’s in her DNA. When she says goodbye to her daughter Cosette it is the most heartbreaking moment of the year.

Supporting players: Hugh Jackman (lead) strips it down to display maybe the role of his career. They are ably assisted by Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.

11. Richard Gere, Abritrage. Richard Gere has never received an Oscar nomination. Can he end that oversight this year? Here he plays a slick businessman who is only out for himself. Everything he does helps to get him ahead. He is like a shark who must keep moving or he dies. The moments of humanity that flicker across his face lull you into thinking he might care but really, he just wants to win. That makes it a tough sell for Oscar because Oscar is mostly about rewarding the likable characters. Somehow, though, Gere IS likable in Arbitrage. You want him to succeed no matter what his plan. It is an expertly executed performance and easily one of the year’s best.

Supporting players: Susan Sarandon as the wife is, as always, one of the best things in the movie but also making a splash are Nate Parker, Tim Roth and Brit Marling.

12. Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone. One of Cotillard’s best in her already impressive career. She also had a great part in The Dark Knight Rises as the villain. In Rust and Bone she plays a woman whose legs have been ripped off by a whale who has to work out how to find herself again – - who is she now, what will she be? Can she ever feel attractive again? My first thought was, come on, there is no way Cotillard could ever not look attractive but she manages to do just that.

13. John Hawkes, The Sessions. In one of the best performances of the year, Hawkes finally gets the chance to show us what he is really capable of. He’s given so much of himself in the various supporting roles he’s been given over the years, most notably in Winter’s Bone but here, a tender and vulnerable Hawkes is off the charts.

Supporting players: Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Rhea Perlman.

14. Jim Broadbent and Doona Bae in Cloud Atlas  aren’t given near enough credit for their moving supporting roles in Cloud Atlas. Broadbent plays a range of characters from a ship captain to a wily publisher and finally, to a man trying to seek out old love, and Doona Bae as the woman who would be God is the film’s beating heart.

15. Matthew McConoughey in Magic Mike.  It’s the Year of the McConoughey and if he’s nominated, because of his body of work, and his great work all year, I suspect he has a chance to win it all.

[box] Spotlight: Ann Dowd in Compliance turned in one of the more interesting supporting roles this year. She played a woman who walks the line between guilt and innocence, power and submission. Somehow, this reads on Dowd’s face so that we too start asking ourselves questions about what we might have done in her situation. Was she jealous? Did she know what she was doing was wrong? Compliance is a strange and somewhat disturbing film but Dowd’s performance is a standout, not just in the film but this year. [/box]

Additional ensembles worth noting:

Argo — a flawless group of actors all serving the script, under the adept direction of Ben Affleck. It shifts easily between tones, humor to suspense and finally ends on an emotionally moving note.

Cloud Atlas — say what you will about this movie, but it’s an actor’s dream to be  given a chance to play multiple parts. Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving.

Moonrise Kingdom – a quirky ensemble of big names who bob in and out of Wes Anderson’s mystical romp:  Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bob Balaban, not to mention the film’s two young stars, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.

Anna Karenina — led by a great performance by Keira Knightley, the world of Anna Karenina is a slow-release trigger. Standouts include Jude Law, Kelly Macdonald, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

The Impossible — Ewan McGregor as the father and Naomi Watts as the mother, The Impossible is getting a major push by prominent Hollywood stars in hopes of pushing it into the Oscar race. What sells this movie, really, are the actors. Watts and McGregor do some heavy emotional lifting, while the movie mostly belongs to Tom Holland.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — Judi Dench leads this wonderful cast of characters, with Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy. There aren’t enough movies aimed at the older among us. This one manages to tell a real story without treating seniors like children.

Zero Dark Thirty tops the National Board of Review Awards

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Ann Hornaday’s Ten Best Films of 2012

80 Comments

  1. Mattoc
    December 7, 2012

    Mads Mikkelsen and Denis Lavant and the duo from Amour is what I’ll remember from this year. But that’s just me. I also found Guy Pearce beautifully grotesque.

  2. DCIJB
    December 7, 2012

    How about Skyfall?

    Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Naomi Harris, Ben Wishaw, Albert Finney all on the top of their game.

  3. Yvette
    December 7, 2012

    Sasha,
    With the reviews less than rapturous for Les Miz, does Sally stand a chance in Supporting?
    From the reviews, Hathaway’s performance of one song is the best thing in the film.
    Can she beat Sally on the strength of one song?
    I love Hathaway, especially in Dark Knight, but I really want Field to own this category…..
    A true supporting actor SUPPORTS the rest of the film as that is what Field did. Hathaway was, apparently, the only good thing in a film. I’m grasping because Im rooting for Field…..
    Do they look at stuff like this?

  4. Film Fatale
    December 7, 2012

    Ann Dowd in Compliance would be right near the top of my list. Hers is a completely original character, a lived-in and immediately recognizable woman minimized by mid-level managers, mouthy suppliers and by a pretty younger employee. She makes us believe in Compliance as an unmistakably good woman in over her head and preyed upon at the right moment of her life and career where her judgment is clouded. Her compassion for her young charge even in the extremities of the interrogation is all Dowd. Her final scene is nothing short of the stuff of great tragedy — rationalizations nakedly stripped from her on camera just as she has allowed to happen to young Becky. It is a supreme, doozy of a turn that fascinates right up to the final shot. She deserves an Oscar nod — and god willing, I hope she gets that acknowledgment.

  5. Sean
    December 7, 2012

    Sasha how do you mention the ensemble of Cloud Atlas without mentioning Ben Wishaw who arguably gives the most heartbreaking performance in the entire piece??? He is right up there with Doona and Broadbent.

  6. December 7, 2012

    Excellent line up of the year’s best with one small quibble, the reviews for Les Mis are not “less than rapturous” RT is getting push back with people posting links to great reviews that aren’t being included. It is almost as if there is an agenda to take down an excellent movie. Jackman carries this three hour film with a beautifully understated performance that supports all the other actors around him. It is almost a history of his career that he makes adequate films acceptable, mediocre films good, and now a good film great just by being a truly excellent performer. Everyone who works with him says the same and it is past time for him to get the praise he richly deserves.

  7. steve50
    December 7, 2012

    They can put it on as many “worst” lists as they like, but the most exhilarating time I had at the movies this year was watching the ensemble in Cloud Atlas.

    Bae/Broadbent/Whishaw/Weaving/Sturgess/David/D’Arcy/Grant/Hanks/Berry/Sarandon deserve a medal of some kind because they were a joy to watch, esp. heartbreakers Bae and Whishaw.

    Nice shout-out to Suraj Sharma, too. Without his strong and vulnerable performance, the whole film could have fallen apart.

  8. Film Fatale
    December 7, 2012

    Jamie, it’s true that there have been less than stellar Les Liz notices — doubt there is a holiday conspiracy at hand. The movie is simply not going to win the Oscar — and I adore it myself.

  9. I don't get it
    December 7, 2012

    Why do people continue to make these lists without seeing Django Unchained, Promised Land, etc.?

  10. Mattoc
    December 7, 2012

    RE – Jason Clarke is ZDT. I have not seen the film but he was pretty menacing in Lawless – making Hardy’s character rather tame in comparison.
    If Terrence Malick ever decides to remake The Hills Have Eyes, I would recommend Clarke, along with Hawkes.

  11. December 7, 2012

    Did you see Django yet? Because I saw it last night and I don’t see any list without DiCaprio on their for his outstanding performance as Calvin Candie. He is a slow burning fuse that only blows when it comes to business, but when he blows it is epic. There is so much depth to his character that I can imagine him and Tarantino explained so much about his back history that we never see. Easily one of the most multidimensional characters I’ve see all year. Everyone in Django is outstanding. Sam Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Christoph Waltz delivers the Tarantino dialogue like a great Shakespearean actor delivering Shakespeare. Yet, he is also so multi dimensional. I will be seeing this multiple times before it’s release because it is easily one of the years best.

    Other than that this is a really good list. I just saw Rust and Bone today. Cotillard is outstanding in it and so is her male counter part Matthias Schoenarts. It’s also a great film with a lot of cinematic prowess.

    I didn’t feel the same about Amour. Emmanuele Riva is fantastic in the film and deserves the attention she is getting, but I don’t believe it is the best foreign language film of the year. I feel like Haneke is less a filmmaker than an observer. He sits a camera in a random spot and just captures what happens. Sometimes that is someone just cleaning something for minutes on end. Many people don’t mind this and I can certainly sit through it as I do quite often (I review all the foreign films released in Dallas, TX), but it should not be confused for talent. Haneke is a great writer, but I think he is a fairly weak director. So, because of this Amour is a good movie with great performances, but I personally thought Rust and Bone was a better film.

  12. moviewatcher
    December 7, 2012

    I LOVE that we’re getting to see your top performances. Will you do top movies as well?

    I haven’t seen Lincoln yet or ZD30 and this only makes me want to see them more.

    Pheonix should be above Riva, I think (but Riva is also amazing, of course, who could deny it?).

    Also really glad you mentioned Bae and Broadbent from Cloud Atlas. That is a superb ensemble. Hanks, Whishaw, Sturgess, Weaving, Grant… what a cast (I thought Halle Berry was the weakest of the main ones, but still solid, and doona bae was mesmerizing to watch).

  13. December 7, 2012

    Well I haven’t seen most of those movies, but I’ll put my top 15 performances for fun.

    1. Guy Pearce, LAWLESS – so smarmy, so good. An incredible creation that will be remembered by those who love the film, and there are many and will be many more. If you read the book it was very bland. Imo, he made something spectacular out of nothing. Pearce’s Rakes pops off the screen with such a slick and delicious evilness. His final scene in the film is the stuff of the golden age of crime films.

    2. Daniel Day Lewis – Everybody knows.

    3. Salma Hayek, SAVAGES – Another great baddie. And she’s really heartless. She thinks she’s not but she is. She plays a really complex character and it’s her best role, imo. Yeah, I saw FRIDA.

    4. Benicio Del Toro, SAVAGES – the kitchen scene esp. the sandwich

    5. John Travolta, SAVAGES – the kitchen scene (really it’s my favorite scene of the year)

    6. Christian Bale, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – he doesn’t get any credit for this role and it’s a shame. How can everyone bounce off of him if he isn’t the rock at the center who allows it to happen? When I cried at the end it wasn’t because of anyone but Bale.

    7. Dane DeHaan, LAWLESS – The polar opposite of Pearce’s Rakes was DeHaan’s innocent Cricket. Many people who saw the film made a point to mention this breakthrough performance. When my attention was starting to drift in LINCOLN, he popped up and I thought “HEY! It’s Cricket!” Woke me right up.

    8. Michael Fassbender, PROMETHEUS – The movie pissed me off. I thought it was dumb as dirt. Which is always unfortunate when there is a good performance in it. I thought Fassbender was great. It’s not like I’m a fangirl either. I still haven’t seen SHAME. If someone extracted his performance and sent that as a screener maybe that would have helped.

    9. (tie) Hugh Grant and Hugo Weaving from CLOUD ATLAS – Grant and Weaving play more than one unrecognizable character in the film. Grant’s cannibal Kona Chief was my favorite and a far cry from stammering RomCom Hugh. Weaving has elevated evil to an art form and it was after this film that I realized he’s solidified himself as one of the great character actors of all time. Like Peter Lorre great.

    10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, LOOPER – He did a perfect Bruce Willis to Bruce Willis’ face, with Bruce Willis’ face. Enough said.

    11. Matthew McConaughey, MAGIC MIKE – was he a good guy or not? I don’t even know. I know that I rooted for this character against the lead even though he didn’t seem much more highly evolved than a pimp.

    12. Brad Pitt, KILLING THEM SOFTLY – This is the kind of role he should be getting nominated for. I really doubt he’s remotely as cold as this killer for hire. And yet knowing all about him, I still believed it. And he left some of those Brad-isms and ticks behind.

    13. Tilda Swinton, MOONRISE KINGDOM – I loved the hell out of Social Services. She’s always a hoot, but here she’s like a thinner version of Madame Medusa from THE RESCUERS. lol

    14. Tommy Lee Jones, LINCOLN – very nearly stole DDL’s movie just be being awesome. I mean he was himself in a wig, but so what? lol

    15. Tom Cruise, ROCK OF AGES – Yeah. So. :P It’s a goofy movie. It’s a sung film with the typical story of the girl just off the bus and all the rock and roll clichés. That’s the whole point. And Cruise plays a great clichéd aged rocker who is so the polar opposite of the Tom Cruise we’ve come to know over the years. The man does the work and immerses himself into the character. He sang and played guitar in the film. Does anyone play guitar in LES MIS? lol

    My top 5 ensembles in order (so far): CLOUD ATLAS, SAVAGES, LAWLESS, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

  14. Bryce Forestieri
    December 7, 2012

    I anticipate liking someone in DJANGO UNCHAINED, and at least Eddie Redmayne in LES MISERABLES. Maaaybe Garrett Hedlund in ON THE ROAD, I’ll try not to let that sexy voice and else blur my judgement when I see it. Also have to catch up with all the foreign movies as they haven’t been shown where I live yet. Other shit I liked:

    -Michael Fassbender was fucking perfect in PROMETHEUS
    -Robert Pattinson in COSMOPOLIS. I know, shoot me dead!
    -Logan Lerman & Ezra Miller in PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Rocky Horror Show)
    -Jim Sturgess in CLOUD ATLAS, might be biased just because he’s so fine…
    -Joseph Gordon-Levitt mostly in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES & LOOPER, he did the job in LINCOLN
    -Anne Hathaway in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES; wasn’t a fan of hers before, but she was electrifying!
    -Michael Peña in END OF WATCH
    -Patrick Wang in IN THE FAMILY. Astonishing, heartbreaking tho I’m not sure if that’s from last year
    -Matthias Schoenaerts in BULLHEAD. That’s from last year but I saw it just this year plus he’s the definition of stud <3

  15. Sebbers
    December 7, 2012

    Wallis is my #1 this year, by far. I truly do not think we will ever have another performance like this ever again and, with time, will become more understood and appreciated. She is able to understand her character emotionally, and even in her silent scenes, her facial reactions and responses support how much she knows what she’s doing. She is able to help bring forth a character that grows throughout the entire film, and at the end is able to face ever lesson she’s been given head on, without ever compromising Hushpuppy’s spirit.

    The final 2 scenes should not only be enough to get her nominated, but should be enough for her to win in my opinion. The entire encounter with her “mother” is filled with so many subtle moments, and the dance is incredibly emotional. However, the final scene is easily the best acted scene in film this year, thanks to both her and Dwight Henry. What could have been such a sad, sappy ending, became something enlightening, uplifting, and inspirational.

    The film in general is massively misunderstood, every single comment that I see that dislikes Beast reeks of “I didn’t fully grasp the film”, which I hate saying because of sounding pretentious, but I cannot understand how ANYONE who watches this film and is not deeply moved by it truly understands it.

  16. Film Fatale
    December 7, 2012

    Nathan-

    I SO AGREE ON DICAPRIO in Django. I’ve seen it and his performance us, in my view, absolutely inspired and lunatic and wildly inventive — the accent, the flash in his eyes, his wagging, flamboyant fingers — it is an astonishing piece of comic acting that turns abruptly savage, all cloaked in the coat of a “civilized” southern gentleman. Unforgettable and my favorite DiCaprio performance ever — that is saying something…

  17. December 7, 2012

    I anticipate liking someone in DJANGO UNCHAINED

    Me too. It’s very Sagittarius heavy and since those are my peeps, I should love it. Unless it goes completely tits up. That’s why I’ve been saying “so far” all year.

  18. Bryce Forestieri
    December 7, 2012

    @Antoinette

    I’m digging the love for SAVAGES. Always thought the 3 veteran actors brought their A-game, but master Oliver Stone executed poorly. I, admittedly, happen to be a Stone fanboy…

  19. Lars
    December 7, 2012

    Nathan, absolutely disagree on your view on Haneke. I don’t think he just put the camera at a point and let it record. If you look at “Cache” and his other works, all the stationary camera work forces us to be complicit in the whole experience and we cannot look away because the director doesn’t allow us to escape. It’s an aesthetic position (not just Haneke, but also other directors as well, if you look at “The Turin Horse”, it’s even more stationary.) The last scene in “Amour” with Huppert is devastating to me because it shows her sitting in the left room (I believe we usually see the parents in the right room…I need to rewatch this again!), trying to recapture or experience the love that the parents have for each other. But now it’s only going to be in her memory. She is possibly wondering if her marriage will mend and can last as long as her parents’.

  20. steandric
    December 7, 2012

    “….a remarkable visual achievement, made more affecting by the depth the actors bring to their characters…in particular the layering Naomi Watts brings to her leading role is an acting triumph.”

    - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

  21. steandric
    December 7, 2012

    P.S.

    - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, Review of “The Impossible”

  22. Harmonica
    December 7, 2012

    You mispelled McConaughey’s name. But it’s a great list.

  23. Zach M.
    December 7, 2012

    Interesting that you list Anna Karenina as one of the honorable ensemble mentions, because I thought the film was a bit of a failure in part because of the ensemble. Specifically, I thought Kiera and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were miscast pretty badly as the leads; the only real standout among them was Jude Law.

    I’d have just as soon replaced it with Skyfall.

  24. Kennedy
    December 7, 2012

    I’m finally on the Jennifer Lawrence bandwagon. She’s phenonenal, as an actress and person. I thought she was fantstic in Hunger Games and carried a blockbuster as such so well. However, she gave her career’s best performance (to date) in Silver Linings. She’s beautiful and talented. I see a major moviestar and actress in the making.

    Also glad Sasha included Suraj Sharma. It was his first film but he did a damn good job acting opposite a CGI tiger.

  25. Gia
    December 7, 2012

    I’m probably the only one who thought Silver Linings Playbook was lame. I think the reason people loved it so much was because of the acting by the cast. Everyone was fantastic, especially Jennifer Lawrence. I definitely see her getting a nomination and even winning a bunch of awards. Can’t believe she’s only 22!

  26. helios
    December 7, 2012

    In Rust and Bone she plays a woman whose legs have been ripped off by a whale and how she has to work to find herself again – who is now, what will she be? Can she ever feel attractive again? My first thought was, come on, there is no way Cotillard could ever not look attractive but she manages to do just that.

    I found this part a bit offensive. A woman without her legs can be one of the most attractive women in the world and you may not even notice her disability. Ever heard of Aimee Mullins?

    Cotillard is beautiful, with or without her legs.

  27. Bryce Forestieri
    December 7, 2012

    @Nathan Ligon

    “Sometimes that is someone just cleaning something for minutes on end”

    What in the hell? LOL You must be confusing HANEKE with that hack CHANTAL AKERMAN…Feeck! and whose bright idea was to put you in charge of reviewing foreign films?

  28. rufussondheim
    December 7, 2012

    Gia, it doesn’t get much lamer than the Silver Linings Playbook.

    By the end I started hating the performances since I felt like they were bringing far more emotion to the story than the dialogue or script allowed. By the end everything rung so falsely for me. The second half of the film was just terrible. The more I think about it the more I hate it.

  29. kasper
    December 7, 2012

    There’s still a few movies I need to see that hasn’t come my way (Amour, Les Miz, Django, ZD30, Frances Ha) but here’s my list so far…

    1. Denis Lavant. And if people are saying Anne Hathaway’s gonna win with her one song, then why not Kylie Minogue?

    2. Joaquin Phoenix (and PS Hoffman, Amy Adams). If he and Denis Lavant were on my ballot, it would be hard for me to decide.

    3. Rachel Weisz (and Simon Russell Beale & Tom Hiddleston). I don’t care if she was the compromise win for NYFC, it’s a damn great performance. Davies’ literary adaptations might not have the power of his autobiographical films, but they sure make their leading ladies shine, like Gena Rowlands, like Gillian Anderson.

    4. Thur Lindhadt (and Zachary Booth). Dependency and codependency never looked so ugly by the two male stars in Keep the Lights On.

    5. Ann Dowd (and Dreama Walker). They are better than the movie itself, but the two women are that good.

  30. Mattoc
    December 7, 2012

    “and whose bright idea was to put you in charge of reviewing foreign films?”

    Hahaha.

  31. Jack Traven II
    December 7, 2012

    Couldn’t agree more on the cast of Argo. Subtle but effective ensemble acting. Furthermore I would also definitely add The Intouchables’s François Cluzet and Omar Sy. To me it’s nothing short of a dream team performance.

  32. André
    December 7, 2012

    I really don’t see all the fuss about Matthew McCounaghey’s work in Magic Mike -or about the film in general. Granted, as a straight young male, I’m the opposite of its target audience. I did find the film fun to watch, even as it dealt crippling blows to my physical self esteem (=P), but I just thought it was an OK movie. I know I’m the minority though… In fact, I don’t even HAVE a particular favorite Supporting Actor so far, now that I think of it. I DID, however, love James Gandolfini in killing them softly, so he’d have my vote right now.

  33. TOM
    December 7, 2012

    Odds & Ends: Saw The Sessions…kind’ve had some of the most squirming dialouge I’d had to listen to in awhile. Wasn’t really bowled over by Helen Hunt. If I was Hawkes, I’d be wanting Jennifer Lawrence for my 6 sessions…

    Skipped Magic Mike over the summer…completely seemed way too ‘chick flick’/boystown type of movie. For anyone who’ve seen it, is Matthew M really any good? Tell me what he does that would make me want to view it.

    Amy Adams in The Master – I wouldn’t be shocked if she didn’t make the cut. She didn’t do anything to substantial (except horrify me by shouting the ‘C’ word. :( …Wished that Laura Dern’s part had juice to it. But I found PSH & JP both to be equally spellbinding in their own ways.

    TLeeJones in Lincoln – he had my interest with his speeches. You could tell that his soul was divided about making the right decisions for all humans. I felt that he tainted the movie when he returned to his homestead and leapt into bed with the housekeeper.

    AHathaway in LesMis – I will go see this knowing that the play always dozes me off. I am just hoping that her performance lives up to the hype. Her ‘one song moment’ better be on par with JHudson’s ‘one omg unbelievable song moment…’

    Robert De Niro in SLP – Supporting….Yes

  34. superkk
    December 7, 2012

    just saw compliance and would have to add ann dowd to this list as well. helluva performance. it would be a travesty if she didnt receive at least a nomination. deserves as much recognition as possible.

  35. danemychal
    December 7, 2012

    Off topic: latest review on metacritic for Les Mis really torches it. Slant Magazine with a 25.

  36. PJ
    December 7, 2012

    Haven’t seen any December prestige picks but from what i have seen, in no particular order

    SLP – Lawrence is getting all the praise and rightly so but Cooper was a revelation here by all sorts of layers of crazy. Add in a dash of funny of tucker, powerfully strong enigmatic turn by De Niro, and an understanding bravura of Weaver and you have a winner.

    Cloud Atlas – Tom Hanks and Halle Berry anchor the best ensemble inside of an ensemble. Broadbent almost steals the show in a quirky subplot.

    Lincoln – Anchored by the great DDL’s Lincoln, underrated bad guy turn by Lee Pace, simply showstealing performance from Jones and kooky from Field lead a very strong cast in an interesting film.

    TDKR – Yes it’s a big blockbuster but from Michael Caine to Anne Hathaway all the performances were stellar. Tom Hardy’s Bane is batman’s most lethal foe and he handled the part with intelligence and vigor.

    Perks of Being a Wallflower – Rarely has a coming of age movie reached such heights. Ezra Miller steals the show. Emma Watson grows up. And Lerman doesn’t embarrass himself!

    The Master – Two equal combatants in Phoenix and Hoffman. Supported by an eerie turn by Adams. While the two leads hog most of the scenery there was still room to fit in Dern.

  37. Sasha Stone
    December 7, 2012

    ACK! I forgot Ann Dowd!!!!! ACK! I will add it – I hope it isn’t too late. FOCK.

    “With the reviews less than rapturous for Les Miz, does Sally stand a chance in Supporting?
    From the reviews, Hathaway’s performance of one song is the best thing in the film.
    Can she beat Sally on the strength of one song?”

    I think it will depend going in on how much their movies are loved on the whole. Maybe there is no one in the Academy more popular than Sally Field so she, and Lincoln, are forces to be reckoned with.

  38. danemychal
    December 7, 2012

    Sasha, your list goes 6, 8, 6, 9…I’m sure there’s room to fit another 6 in there for Ms. Dowd. ;)

  39. Jerry Grant
    December 7, 2012

    Suraj Sharma for Best Actor nomination! He so deserves it.

  40. December 7, 2012

    Great post, beautiful writing, fabulous choices, this can’t be questioned. Wonderful to see Sharma in there too!

    I would pose here to add Rachel Weisz to this mix. In my opinion she was the top female lead of the year (I haven’t seen Chastain yet) and the NYFCC award shows she wasn’t forgotten in Davies’ poem of a film, THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

    Denis Levant’s performance in HOLY MOTORS recalls Alex Guiness’ work in KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS. It’s spectacular.

  41. deej
    December 7, 2012

    Is it crazy that I’m rooting for Jennifer Lawrence to win best actress? I love her so much as an actress. She’s extremely talented and I fell in love with her performance in SLP. She’s the best actress of her generation right now.

  42. Keil S.
    December 7, 2012

    Hire me as an editor and I’ll teach you what number comes after 6. I’ll also teach you that you won’t reach 6 a second time when counting 1 through 10.

  43. Roger
    December 7, 2012

    Actually, Meryl Streep was introduced before Kramer VS Kramer. She was nominated for Supporting Actress for The Deer Hunter the year before winning for Kramer. That was her introduction.

  44. MTLmarc
    December 7, 2012

    Someone asked if Anne Hathaway can win an Oscar for just one song. Let’s ask Jennifer Hudson!!!!

  45. Question Mark
    December 7, 2012

    Some of my favourites from the year…

    * Jack Black, Bernie. I’d vote for him in a heartbeat if I had an Oscar ballot. Black gives a great, mannered performance that was completely unlike anything he’s ever done and, frankly, a performance that I thought was beyond him. Just great work.

    * Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed. Another take on alcoholism that is just as powerful as Denzel’s work in Flight.

    * Tom Hardy, TDKR. Faced with the impossible task of having to follow Ledger, Hardy creates a completely original villain and (even looking at the comics) a fresh take on the Bane character itself.

    * Christopher Walken, Seven Psychopaths and A Late Quartet. Two very different performances (one a modern ‘goofy Walken’ role that nonetheless has a real emotional wallop) and one great outing as the heart of a very strong four-person ensemble.

  46. jmasterj
    December 7, 2012

    Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) – an exceptional film and performance, and so far the highlight of 2012 for me. Scob & Minogue are also great in their small roles.

    Also:

    Joaquin Phoenix, Hoffman, Adams (The Master)

    Scoot McNairy, Pitt, Jenkins (Killing Them Softly)

    Jack Black, McConaughey (Bernie)

    I am aware that this leaves me with few women, but I’ve not really noted any strong performances from female performers this year (yet). Although Hathaway, Cotillard and Watts’ all look strong.

    Wallis in BOTSW is most certainly overhyped. Great work for a young one, but I am surprised at all the Oscar talk.

  47. Casey
    December 7, 2012

    My list so far would be:

    1. Ann dowd … Compliance
    2. Dennis levant … Holy motors
    3. Michael fassbinder … Prometheus

  48. Sylvia
    December 7, 2012

    I don’t mean to be a downer but I didn’t really love Jessica Chastain’s performance in Zero Dark Thirty the way I loved Jennifer Lawrence’s in Silver Linings Playbook. Her performance is where my heart is at. But I do think Chastain gave a far better performance in The Help than in 0D30 and she’s a great actress. I would like to see Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence win next year.

  49. Robert A.
    December 7, 2012

    “Wallis in BOTSW is most certainly overhyped. Great work for a young one, but I am surprised at all the Oscar talk.”

    As a counterargument to this, I will re-quote Ben Affleck from the December 7 issue of EW: “The girl from Beasts of the Southern Wild is unbelievable. That is a level of acting you cannot do once you reach the age of self-consciousness. It was staggering.”

  50. danemychal
    December 7, 2012

    Great quote from Mr. Affleck! Thanks for sharing that. Just goes to show how much Ben knows about film, and why he’s been so good at churning out his own.

  51. i love awards season
    December 7, 2012

    For me, the best female performance of the year was Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. No matter what her age, she gave the most moving, the most captivating, the most brilliant performance by a leading actress this season bar none. As a young girl, she was given a task that many actresses in Hollywood can’t do (carry the bulk of a movie with their performance). Not only did she perform that task with flying colors, but Quvenszhane also created a character in Hushpuppy that no one that sees this movie will forget anytime soon. and let’s not forget that it is also one of the the true leading performances of the year (i.e. there is no co-lead like in Silver Linings Playbook). This girl is in nearly every frame of the film. And she owns it.

    Beasts of the Southern Wild is appearing (and will continue to appear) on many Top 10 lists. The academy, and the critics groups for that matter, need to take this performance seriously, fully grasp how truly wonderful it is, and recognize Quvenzhane with the awards she deserves.

  52. Dion Blackler
    December 8, 2012

    Denis Lavant! You really must watch Holy Motors, Sasha, as soon as you can! Great choices above, particularly Cotillard. Looking forward to seeing those performances above I haven’t seen yet.

  53. Yvette
    December 8, 2012

    MTLmark,
    But JHudson was a powerhouse throughout the whole film….Hathaway has the one big song. Like someone said: if shes going to win for one song, why not give it to Kyle Minogue…
    Sasha,
    I like that answer. There seems to be genuine affection for Sally among her peers….and I generally hate Oscar wins like that, but I dont care in this case.
    Anne Hathaway is liked, but not so sure she is quite beloved yet. If its finally going to come down to that ….Cmon Sally

  54. December 8, 2012

    What a year for actors! My favourite was Thure Lindhardt in Keep the Lights On, but you mention so many great performances in your list alone, Sasha.

    I couldn’t mention Marion Cotillard in rust and Bone, though, without mentioning Matthias Schoenaerts, who was equally good, I thought.

  55. December 8, 2012

    I’m so surprised at the love Guy Pearce is getting from some of you for Lawless (not Antoinette, though. Not surprised at all)! I haven’t seen such bad acting in years! Worse even than Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis, which also gets a mention in these comments! FML

  56. Houstonrufus
    December 8, 2012

    Wonderful list, Sasha, and beautifully argued.

    Antoinette, you are the most distinct and enjoyable read in the house. I always love getting your unique perspective. Great list.

  57. Bryce Forestieri
    December 8, 2012

    Chill, stop fretting and enlighten me with your choices. It’s probably a combination of the critical consensus in the US and Europe in which case it wouldn’t fuck my life

  58. AD
    December 8, 2012

    Wonderful review of the actors this year, Sasha. So many great films (who said it was a weak year?)
    For those who are interested a wonderful interview by David Poland with KK on her caree choices and theater: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mue2Umvdp_M

  59. Radich
    December 8, 2012

    Great list, Sasha – Thank you for putting a smile on my face and placing DDL on top. Yeah, I have no shame :D.

    I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet, but since I’ve been posting here and hearing such great things about it I cannot wait to see it.

    I agree with those choosing Fassbender for Prometheus. The movie was a mess and my biggest disappointment of the year. Notwithstanding, he is a fabulous actor and deserves to be remembered for delivering another great performance.

  60. Nic V
    December 8, 2012

    I too want to echo the sentiments of the exceptional writing of this piece. I’m not even going to comment on the individual commentary as I think at this point the piece you wrote Sasha stands on it’s own. Very nicely done.

  61. Bella
    December 8, 2012

    I mostly agree with this list. I rank Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the best of the year, period. Yeah, Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing as Lincoln (he always is), but I don’t know… Joaquin Phoenix’s performance left such an impact on me. It stayed with me the longest. It was more than just riveting… it was haunting. Uncomfortable.

    And of course, Denis Lavant. I don’t know how you can compile a list like this without him…

  62. micahs
    December 8, 2012

    Uhhhh…what about Dicaprio in django unchained? does he not stand any chance??? This is a very different role for him and from the trailers alone, he looks astounding.

  63. Jerry Grant
    December 8, 2012

    Great list! But it will change for all of us after we’ve seen “Django,” I’m predicting.

  64. SK404
    December 8, 2012

    LOL at Day-Lewis being #1. Most overrated performance of the year. Not having Phoenix at #1 is objectively wrong.

  65. Bryce Forestieri
    December 8, 2012

    “Not having Phoenix at #1 is objectively wrong”

    the fuck? LOL and who are you to make that call?

  66. Jackson
    December 8, 2012

    I’m thinking that either joquain phoenix or Daniel day-lewis will take the top prize.
    I liked lawrences performance in SLP but wasn’t sure if it was enough to propel her to the top. Chastain seems to have some buzz on her side and from what I’ve read, there have been no bad reviews about her or the film. She’s in my number one spot as of now followed closely by riva.
    Although I liked pheonix’s performance, I wasn’t overly excited of Adams who I usually love. She was a bit bland and one dimensional in my opinion! But I do understand why some liked the performance.
    I haven’t seen BOTSW yet or deep blue sea so I can’t comment on those.

  67. peterson
    December 8, 2012

    Anne Hathaway deserves a lot of credit for pulling-off Catwoman, especially, when previous ladies portrayed this character. Anne was absolutely astonishing ( and she brought so much star power to her role ) , and she owned every scene. It is not easy, look at Jennifer Lawrence in X-Men: First Class, she was lightweight with no screen presence throughout that movie.

  68. December 8, 2012

    Enjoyed this article… I think it will be a big night for Day-Lewis at the Oscars. It will be fun to watch.

  69. Mayukh
    December 8, 2012

    Streep “introduced” with Kramer v. Kramer? Sounds like someone’s rewritten history…

  70. Bridget von Hammersmarck
    December 8, 2012

    My list, so far:

    Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
    Sally Field (Lincoln)
    Thure Lindhardt (Keep the Lights On)
    Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea)
    Seann William Scott (Goon)
    Diane Kruger (Farewell, My Queen)
    Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi)
    Jack Black (Bernie)
    Jake Johnson (Safety Not Guaranteed)
    Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
    Kelly Reilly (Flight)
    Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike)
    Michelle Williams (Take This Waltz)

  71. Sasha Stone
    December 8, 2012

    Streep “introduced” with Kramer v. Kramer? Sounds like someone’s rewritten history…

    Someone thinks someone writing about someone’s own personal experience is “writing history.” But let’s talk about how Viola Davis should have won.

  72. Uncle Jay
    December 8, 2012

    Where’s Leo?!?!

  73. VVS
    December 8, 2012

    1. Joaquin Phoenix. It’s hard to explain what I felt watching this performance as an actor. I can imagine it must have been what Pacino and Deniro felt the first time they saw Marlon Brando. It’s indescribable and unprecedented. Difficult for me seeing anybody top that this year, or in the coming years, unless it’s by Joaquin’s own sword.

    (2**. DDL. I haven’t seen the film yet, but knowing his work, I’ve saved a place for him on this list in the meantime)

    2. Tom Hardy. His Bane is a large collection of brave unconventional choices that we had never seen on the big screen. It’s funny to think that an actor who is trained to perform Shakespeare on stage, gave us one of the most memorable Hulking Brutes on screen. Brilliantly rounds out the depth of his character in his last few moments on screen.

    3. Fassbender in Prometheus. Fassbender shows a lighter playful, cheeky side, while maintaining a strong characterization. It’s not his strongest work, which the material didnt allow for, but it gives us a glimpse at his transformational capability, and the ease and totality with which he can use his body.

    4. Hoffman.

    5. Javier Bardem. Bizarre characterization met with a send off that revealed a Shakespearean personality complex.

    6. Tom Hardy, Lawless. Again very surprising choices. Hardy refuses to shape his characters with obvious, straight forward characterization.

    That about it so far, folks

  74. CB
    December 9, 2012

    “Wounded Kelly Reilly also really wonderful.”

    That’s all she gets? Kelly Reilly turns in a brilliant performance, the true highlight of the film. The way her mouth twitches, her eyes move, her sensual vulnerability, her voice. She’s absolutely astonishing in this movie, Denzel’s equal (he too gives a fantastic performance). I predict she’ll be nominated for supporting actress, same as Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart and Marissa Tomei in The Wrestler, because Academy voters watch their screeners and say, ‘Hmm, that woman next to [enter male star] held her own, she’s on the ballot, too.’

    Sally Field, though. Man, that was some awful histrionic misery.

  75. julian the emperor
    December 9, 2012

    Any list of this kind that omits Denis Lavant – for one – is wrong to begin with. Why not be honest and just call it for what it is? A list of Oscar contenders…(which is ok, this is an awards site, after all)

  76. December 9, 2012

    What about Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in Hitchcock? They were terrific, especially Hopkins.

    And (risking a chorus of boos), I would withdraw Quvenzhane Wallis from the running. Yes, I loved that performance, character and movie – but – I don’t think anyone should reach the peak of their career by what they did at the age of 5. She will always be expected to come up with something as good, and she may not be able to because she is a little kid, still growing, and still changing.

    I also think her performance could not be due to any special understanding of Hushpuppy and her life. She does not have the life experience for that and her brain would not work that way at the age of 5. I think Benh Zeitlin saw special qualities and special abilities in her and directed every scene she was in to bring out those qualities. I can’t believe QW had any idea how to create a character based on a screenplay and she was probably playing herself most of the time.

  77. James Harris
    December 9, 2012

    I’m surprised and saddened that people do not appear to be getting it with Quvenzhané Wallis. This is a superb performance that deserves a Best Actress nomination and all others as well. Hopefully, they will find a way to overcome the SAG issue,as it can be done, as she deserves a SAG nomination as well. It has been some time since we’ve seen such greatness from a child and it should be praised. I was hoping that LA would award her. They made a good start, picking Henry, so maybe the National Society of Film critics. Who knows. Also, I find it interesting that we are talking about two great French performances by Riva and Cotillard, and in Marion’s case, she’s even better than in La Vie, if that’s possible, but in a difficult role to support. It is a very uneasy performance to watch, but it is great. The same is true in the case of Phoenix. Then, there are two French performances that will go nowhere here in the states and it’s sad. Those would be the performances in The Intouchables, with last years Best Actor Ceaser winner Omar Sy, and the brilliant Denis Lavant in Holy Motors. Note that Jean Dujardin lost Best Actor to Omar Sy before winning last year’s Oscar in America.

  78. Kane
    December 10, 2012

    I know I’m late to the party.

    Although his performance didn’t affect Denzel’s that much, James Badge Dale, in my opinion, had one of the strongest cameos of the year. It ranks alongside Alec Baldwin’s in Glengary as someone who walks onscreen, you get a feel for who they are in a handful of minutes and they sort of set the theme for the film. I believe, with James Spader, it’s one of the least talked about supporting performances.

  79. December 10, 2012

    Better late then never.

    Here are my top 15 performances of the year so far:

    (Haven’t seen: Les Miz, Zero Dark Thirty, Middle of Nowhere, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Magic Mike, The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Promised Land)

    1. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
    2. Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
    3. Denis Lavant – Holy Motors
    4. Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
    5. Jean-Louis Trintignant – Amour
    6. Marion Cotillard – Rust & Bone
    7. James Gandolfini – Killing Them Softly
    8. Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
    9. Keira Knightley – Anna Karenina
    10. Matthew McConaughey – Killer Joe
    11. Ann Dowd – Compliance
    12. Matthias Schoenaerts – Rust & Bone
    13. Dwight Henry – Beasts of the Southern Wild
    14. John Hawkes – The Sessions
    15. Richard Gere – Arbitrage

  80. December 11, 2012

    The performances listed are all deserving but so are these:
    Omar Sy and François Cluzet in the Intouchables
    Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey in Bernie
    Rachel Mwanza and Serge Kanyinda in Rebelle (War Witch)
    Michelle Williams, Luke Kirby and Seth Rogen in Take This Waltz
    Emily Blunt, Rosmarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass in Your Sister’s Sister
    Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and Jake Johnson in Safety Not Guaranteed
    The Ensemble in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
    The Ensemble in Moonrise Kingdom

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