Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top 25 Film Performers of 2008 Part I: A-H

There was some very fine acting this year. Some roles that met expectations and some that really surprised me in movies where I didn’t expect it. Now this is the only list I make that I’m not going to rank. Why? Because I don’t want to, okay? Don’t judge me; I’ll do what I want. Now this isn’t a list of performances, but performers. For I started thinking about this list and realized there’s a bunch of actors who kicked a lot of ass multiple times this year. Who are they you ask? You sure are asking a lot of questions during this intro. Well, let’s just check this out then! Here’s my Top 25 Performers of the Year

Amy Adams (Doubt and Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day)
I love Amy Adams. (When my sexuality comes into question later on in this article, please come back to this post.) She is insanely beautiful and also I truly believe she is one of the best
 working actresses today. I can easily see people complain that she just plays the same role, but I say NAY. Her looks make it seem like she ought to be the naive young girl, but look on how she approaches the material. It’s the little things that make everyone of her characters different. It has come to the point where I will see every thing that she’s in.

Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)
There are a few characters who you miss when there’s scenes without them. Aldous Snow is one of those characters and it is entirely because of how awesome Russell Brand is. This slot has been done before. The new boyfriend who’s a total jerk and that should make the girl realize how great the old boyfriend is. Yet no! They actually made a character who is very cool. Sure he’s not the smartest or the most moral, but he still is so very cool. I think a lot of it is who Brand is in real life, but I truly don’t care for he made the movie even more fun.

Josh Brolin (Milk and W.)
Remember when this guy just known as the guy from The Goonies? I barely do either for he has been amazing this decade! Seriously, did everyone decide at once that he needs to be in the biggest movies. This year he gave two of my favorite performances as two different politicians. I think he’s one of the only ones in W. that truly stood out and in Milk he was the best of the bunch, which is impressive when you look at his company. It’s very different performances but both of them show how well Brolin acts when he doesn’t have something to say.

Francois Cluzet (Tell No One)
Who? What movie is that? Calm down and listen. There’s a great American mystery book called Tell No One that was adapted into a great French thriller. Cluzet plays the main character has he searches for his wife who he thought was dead for many years. Yet the reason he works so well is how he handles multiple emotions at the same time. He is very confused for a lot of the movie, but also emotional, sad, and overwhelmed. He pulls it off very well.

Penelope Cruz (Elegy and Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

Here’s someone else that has really surprised me this decade. For the longest time I just saw her as an actress who is banking on her beauty (Hello Jessica Alba!). Yet now I am amazed by her choices and her performances. Elegy is the movie that, apparently, only I saw this year. Yet she was marvelous in it. She was so raw and complex in it. Then in Vicky Cristina Barcelona she was so unhinged and loud. She is so good that I hope she continues to get these really powerful roles where she can continue to shine.

Robert Downey Jr. (Charlie Bartlett, Iron Man, and Tropic Thunder)  
Hellz yeah. This is the comeback kid of the century. This guy was down and out and now he’s considered one of the best working today. In each of these movies he is the guy who you wish is always on screen for RDJ is just fascinating. I’m writing this before the Oscar nominations come out and I’ll be so happy if he does get nominated for Tropic Thunder for what he does as he goes from all of these different personas is fantastic. Comedy actors never seem to get proper respect, but RDJ is providing a bridge and I can’t wait to see all of his next films. (Also if any of you haven’t seen Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang run to your library or DVD store. He’s hilarious in that.)

Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)
This man is cooler than all of you combined. I don’t think I need to write anymore. He has always been the epitamy of cool and he further proved this. This is a movie about an old geezer grunting all the time. That’s pretty much the movie. Yet everyone of any age will want to see him for every second of the movie. He has said this is his last role and I’m actually glad it is. For he created such a great character that this makes this a very worthy swan song. 

Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight and Towelhead
This guy’s got balls. People are starting to figure out who he is and being in one of the highest grossing movies of all time is going to jump start that a little bit. He’s an actor who could easily get typecast for being that smooth guy (a la Thank You For Smoking) yet he’s been choosing such interesting roles. In Towelhead, he plays a terrible person. Truly horrific human being. It’s not easy to do that role and jump in with two feet. He never does anything to let the audience think what he’s doing is okay and even redeemable. That’s some great acting.

Colin Farrell (In Bruges)
I’ll admit it. I didn’t know this guy could act. For years I have cast him off as talentless and then this movie came out. I truly don’t know how he did it and why he’s been hiding this talent over the years. He plays a fun, but very complex character that he makes his own. For a short movie there is a whole lot he has to do and a whole lot he has to make the audience care about and he really does it. Why didn’t I mention his role in Cassandra’s Dream? For he wasn’t good in it. That’s why.

Ralph Fiennes (The Duchess, In Bruges, and The Reader)

I think it’s common knowledge that this guy rocks. He can play villains and sympathetic characters. This year he did them all. If Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince would have came out last year he would have done every variation of evil. He has a set of characters here whose actions are definitely up for moral debate. Especially in The Duchess, which is my favorite of his roles this year. For there is the true enigma to me. I first just set off the character as a complete jackass, but Fiennes made him fascinating for there’s something that he’s hiding from us. He’s lying to himself and to others about certain beliefs. We don’t get anything truly answered about the character, but the way Fiennes presented him was just great. 

Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon and Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
I have the feeling that she is going to be very awesome. She doesn’t really do much in Frost/Nixon but she still has this level of presence on the movie. Yet in Vicky Cristina Barcelona she is great. She has the least showy role but that’s what makes her interesting. I dismissed her character early on because I figured I fully understand her. Yet here is another performance that is driven by a level of confusion but in a different manner. I really want to see her in more movies for I know that’s she’s really close to getting that role where everyone will know her name. Until then…

Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Who actually thought that she was going to be a good actress? The star of The Princess Dairies? Yet she has really started to pull it off. This is a great chance to show her range with a character that really shouldn’t be at this wedding. Yes she’s supposed to be there and whatnot, but she is such a destructive character that she is a tornado in this mess. That’s a big role and if that’s now handled properly it will be seen as cartoonish or overwhelming. Hathaway finds a great balance and runs with it.

Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
She’s really charming. Really. This sort of performance is probably annoying to some people, but it worked for me. She was such an interesting character and I can tell that Hawkins brought so much to it personally. I hope that she’s going to be able to be in more films so I can see the comparison of her roles. For I can tell she has range. For most of this movie she has to be like the title, yet there are these little and subtle moments when something slips through the character’s defenses. She’s just great.

Dustin Hoffman (Kung Fu Panda)
This guy may just be my favorite living actor. For even now he’s still making interesting choices. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro seem to have a clause in their contracts that they must only be in bad movies, but Dustin Hoffman is still amazing me. I loved him in Stranger Than Fiction and Perfume this decade and now he surprised me yet again in Kung Fu Panda. You heard me. For he was the one celebrity voice actor who not only changed up his voice, but also really tried in this role. He didn’t just pass it off or phone it in (Hello Angelina Jolie!). He really was great in this.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt and Synecdoche, New York)
Thank you Capote. That was the movie that officially put this guy on the map for everyone. He has always been that great character actor in independent films, but now he is able to do so many things. Here he gets to play two characters who are very contradicting in nature and it’s important for Hoffman to be able to lead us through where the character is and what he’s feeling during those times. These are not easy roles. In fact they are incredibly difficult, but he really made them work.

Part Two of this list is coming soon. Hold your horses. Or something.

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