Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Best Actors of 2005 - (Year End Round-up, Pt.2)

The Best Performances of 2005 – The Boys!

As the Oscar ceremony looms ever closer in the very near distance, we thought we would take a moment and reflect on our list of the Best Performances of the Year! And what a nutty mixed up year this has been! From rapping pimps to coke addicts to trannies to closeted cowboys to grand impersonations of famous dead folk. Kooky! In looking over our Top Ten Films of 2005 list . . . you did read our list didn’t you? Bitches, what the fuck are you waiting for! Go read it now! You done? Good. Wasn’t that a perfect list if we say so ourselves? Fine, now that you are caught up with the Best Flicks – let’s take a gander at the talented men and women who make up our Best Performances of the Year list! Today's entry will examine the Best Male Peformances of the Year, in honor of our dear friend, Kokolicious' birthday. Happy Birthday, Koko!

Now, contrary to what many small minded folk will tell you, a great film is not necessarily comprised of great performances. No, no! Pay attention and you’ll learn something. Since the dawn of cinema, some of the greatest acting jobs have come from less than stellar flicks. As phenomenal an actress as the late great Greta Garbo was, she was rarely in a great film. They are certainly watchable due to her stunning thespic talents – but often a great movie relies on all of the pieces coming together in a complete synthesis, and not solely on a grand star turn.

So hello and welcome to the first part - The Best Actors of the Year 2005! (And no, we are not limiting ourselves to strictly five people per category. The Academy certainly didn’t in its early years – there lists would fluctuate wildly from three, four, five to six nominees! And that was before they invented the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories in 1936, a full nine years after they commenced handing out the little bald gold men. (We’ll get back to that in part two.)

Let’s start with the Best Supporting Actors of the year:

We would like to applaud the work done by George Clooney in “Syriana” – and not just for the infamous weight gain. But it certainly did add to his characterization. We have always considered our pal George to be an incredibly charismatic actor, in the fine tradition of the great stars of yesterday. Perhaps it was the added fat, but here was our chubby friend playing against type in a role that demanded a moral ambiguity that George pulled off admirably.

Kevin Costner in a career reviving comic performance as one half of a pair of mismatched over the hill alcoholics in “The Upside of Anger”. We had no idea he could be that funny and self-deprecating. The only other actor whose comeback would have surprised us more would have been Mickey Rourke.

And look who it is! Mickey Rourke as the seasoned and scarred pro in the swirling dervish of blood, bullets, and broads that comprised Robert Rodriguez’ noir-like ode to Frank Miller’s graphic novel extravaganza Sin City.”

Donald Sutherland for his solid masculine calm amidst the estrogen storm of “Pride & Prejudice”. This seasoned pro has yet to receive an Oscar nomination despite glowing reviews and wonderful turns in everything from “M*A*S*H” to “Klute” to “Ordinary People”. For shame, Academy voters, for shame.

And Jeffrey Wright, who is fast becoming the go-to man for rich characterizations. From his deft comic turn as the closet smoking private investigator who sends Bill Murray on his way to discover his lost loves in “Broken Flowers” to the uptight company man who begins to see the darkest secrets behind the multi-national oil conglomerates stranglehold on governments and peoples lives in “Syriana.”

That was our “B” list. Here are the six men who we would have nominated for Best Supporting Actor Oscar Gold:

Clifton Collins Jr. for portraying the murderer Perry Smith in “Capote.” Quietly sidestepping any flashy attempt at audience sympathy, he earns it by downplaying the role of “society’s victim” and for his ability to embrace the darkest side of this brutal man.

Paul Giamatti for his inspired and heartfelt portrayal of the boxing manager who maintains too close a watch on the “Cinderella Man.” Channeling the ghosts of fast talking Lee Tracy and crotchety sidekick non-pareil William Demarest, Giamatti finally scored an Oscar nomination after two previous stellar lead performances. We would not mind at all if the Academy chose to right their previous wrongs by awarding this talented character actor his due.

William Hurt in a career reviving performance as the cold blooded mob boss – well, did you expect cuddly mob boss? Who calls forth his prodigal son (brother) to return to the scene of the crime in “A History of Violence.” Put simply, the best male performance of the year. A carefully modulated near over-the-top performance that displayed bravura without disrupting the near perfect directorial tone set by that maestro of classy gore, David Cronenberg.

Ben Kingsley for his multi shaded and deeply rich interpretation of the king of pickpockets, Fagin in Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist.”

Ryan Philippe as the wide eyed young cop learning the truths of the blue line he is working behind as he comes face to face with the darkest choices a man in his line of duty can make in “Crash.” The only good thing in an otherwise cluttered and corny diatribe about very little.

Peter Sarsgaard for his triple punch as three neurotic men in vastly different circumstances. His outwardly cool headed soldier whose composure snaps under the lack of combat in “Jarhead”, the calmly calculating federal marshall aboard “Airport ‘05” and finally for the widowed screenwriter slowly losing his grip on reality as he simultaneously screws his producer and gets mind fucked by the producers wife in “The Dying Gaul.” We have always admired this young man’s tenacity and bravery to portray any character no matter how flawed, but this year he excelled in three particularly tricky roles that could have fallen apart under lesser talent. Plus, he’s easy on the eyes. It doesn’t hurt.

And now a look back to the Best Actors of 2005.

We admired Russell Crowe for his solid, deeply committed family man who will stop at nothing to protect and feed his loved ones during the roughest times of the Depression Era. Even if it means having to kiss Renee Zellwegger in “Cinderella Man.”

Johnny Depp in yet another one of his off the wall comic characterizations that only he can turn into pure cinema magic. His Willy Wonka in “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.”

Jake Gyllenhaal for his newbie soldier preparing for a non-existent war in “Jarhead”, and also for his twitchy and beguiling turn as the cowboy with a penchant for dry humping in the powerful and poignant “Brokeback Mountain.”

Tommy Lee Jones for his own cowboy love story, between straight men and their vows of friendship. We admired his gritty determination in searching for ultimate salvation in “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.”

Viggo Mortensen for his perfectly balanced father figure turned psychotic killer at the drop of a pin in “A History of Violence.” Plus, it’s Viggo! Seriously, kids. The man could sit on a stump for two hours and we’d show up. Although we'd rather he sit on our faces. But that's another story.

Cillian Murphy who sashayed thru the streets of Ireland and London in a wicked pair of heels better than Quentin Crisp back in the day – for “Breakfast in Pluto.”

We applaud their brave, daring, wholly committed and some should be committed portrayals. Bravo! The following five men would be our choices for the Best Actor nominees come Oscar night.

Philip Seymour Hoffman for his jump-right-in-and-swish-around-a-bit portrayal of famed fey fifties writer and gal about town, Truman Capote who faces the hardest challenge of his artistic career. Waiting around for two men to die, so that he can finish what he knows to be a great book and start cashing in on it! – in “Capote.”

Terrence Howard as the Rap Star wannabe pimp who hustles his bitches by day, sells pot by night, and manages to look ahead to a brighter future for all of them if he can just free his artistic flow in “Hustle & Flow.” Special mention to his uptight Hollywood director feeding into the racist pecking order in order to preserve his Oreo lifestyle of pomp and privilege in “Crash.”

Erland Josephson returning to the character he created over thirty years ago, in the years most touching film “Saraband” by cinematic legend Ingmar Bergman. Daring to embrace the cold hearted patriarch who inflicts nothing but pain upon his only son, and lavish attention on his granddaughter, Erland and his co-star, the great Liv Ullmann showed up the younger generation with their phenomenal talents.

Heath Ledger for daring to unveil a wounded heart underneath the manly cowboy drag in “Brokeback Mountain.” Special mention to his spastic comic timing in the jumbled mess that was The Brothers Grimm.”

Joaquin Phoenix for daring to attempt to portray the Man in Black. Which he did, notably and nobly in “Walk the Line.”

And a Special Oscar should go immediately for actor Andy Serkis for the human template behind the CGI facade that brought us the stunning giant ape “King Kong.” The creature was real, thanks mainly to the work done by Andy Serkis.

And now, let’s hear it for the twinks! A long time ago, in a Hollywood far, far away the Oscars would routinely award juvenile actors a Special Honorary Award for their brilliant prepubescent turns. From Judy Garland to Mickey Rooney, the Academy recognized the talents of kiddies without subjecting them to the competitive process. We applaud this sentiment. As terrific as some child actors have been over the years, we do think it is unfair to compare their carefully controlled work with the acting talents of a more mature performer. And while the little misses – Patty Duke, Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin all ended up nabbing the Oscar gold for their work – some superlative work by such youngsters as Keisha Castle-Hughes, Leonardo DiCaprio to the little dynamo Jackie Cooper failed to score in the end. The Oscars eventually did away with honoring Special Kiddie Oscars, as some juveniles would still nab nominations and the whole routine seemed strangely unbalanced. We think the Broadcast Film Critic’s are correct in separating the tots into their own category, and we would like to echo their sentiment. So here are our nominees for the Outstanding Child Actor of the year:

Barney Clarke whose immensely photogenic face and demeanor perfectly captured the mystery and the melancholy of young “Oliver Twist.”

Brady Corbet in “Mysterious Skin” for portraying the possible victim of child abuse who goes to the ends of Kansas to discover the truth. How brave.

Harry Eden as the Artful Dodger in “Oliver Twist”, the flipside to the quiet charms of young Oliver is the brazen attitude and street cleverness of the Artful Dodger, captured beautifully by young master Eden.

Alex Etel as the Catholic Saint conjuring, lonely child who believes millions of dollars can come flying out of the sky as recompense for his missing mother in “Millions.”

Freddie Highmore, the scene stealing little bint from last year’s “Finding Neverland” returns to prove unequivocally with his masterful and varied turn in “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory” that he is no one trick pony.

As for our final vote, we have taken into account the varying degrees of difficulty involved in casting, creating and perfecting the work of the talented men listed above. While we applaud all these actors fine work, we award our statuettes to the following three talented gents:

Outstanding Child Actor - Freddie Highmore for “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”, Best Supporting Actor - William Hurt for “A History of Violence” and our vote for the Best Actor of the Year goes to Heath Ledger for “Brokeback Mountain.” While many people and several previous awards have lauded the fine work done by Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote”, we have always found that the portrayal of real life celebrities brings with it a built in edge over the competition. Despite the vast talent and giant cranium of Mr. Hoffman, we cannot help but feel that Heath Ledger’s work is the more emotionally effective and accomplished. The outside layer that Hoffman is playing with is the result of research and imitation. And while it may be incredibly realistic and fine tuned, it is still a greater challenge to create a human being out of a bare script alone. Oscar has fallen for the biopic turn countless times. We hope for their sake, that this year they will look to the most layered and gut wrenching work done, and that belongs to Mr. Ledger. If not, we hope the Academy members double lock their doors at night – cause we just bought ourselves a new fangled shotgun and we’re just itching to try to it out. Bless you all! (Next up, we look at the ladies! Part two, coming soon!)


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