' Cinema Romantico: The 3rd Annual Prigge's: Top 5 Performances of 2007

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The 3rd Annual Prigge's: Top 5 Performances of 2007

Oh, how excited I was to compose my list this year! I compiled it with whole-hearted glee! And what I found most interesting once I had finished was this - pretty much everyone on it, aside from Javier Bardem, is a relative unknown. Two of them aren't even actors. (I cheat, by the way, and actually have 7 people on my Top 5 but you'll see why soon enough.) I like that. I really do.

The as-usual magnificent Daniel Day Lewis may well win the Oscar for his turn in "There Will Be Blood" but he won't appear on this list. Why? I love the man but his performance just didn't hit me like these and all I can be is honest about it.

It also re-affirms the fact that each and every year I stumble across one performance that seems to leave every other peformance (whether male or female) in the dust, and it's hardly ever the one I expect. I went to see "Gone Baby Gone" because I was really excited to see it and its plethora of great actors but from the very first moment one person in particular showed up onscreen all I could think was.....sweet Jesus, who is that?! And when I left the theater that night I was pretty sure of what I'd seen and it turns out I was right.

Now, onto the overstatements!

1. Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone". There are heavy-hitters aplenty in this film but this actress, with whom I was unfamiliar going in, outdoes them all, and those are the indisputable facts. Absolutely mesmerizing, and if you have no desire to see this movie from what you saw in the preview or already know of it I urge you beyond compare to watch it for Ms. Ryan's turn as the not-so-good mother whose baby of the film's title sets things in motion alone. There is one moment in particular when she dismisses someone's question with a line that is, well, not exactly appropriate for me to type on my blog (it's something Ice Cube might have said - in fact, probably did say - in "Boyz 'n the Hood") but it's so correct for the character and so well delivered that it's one of those too-rare moments when writing and acting converge to create something light years beyond stupendous. It's a cinematic aurora borealis. If the movie gods are just then she wins the Oscar, or if someone else wins the Oscar then that person rightfully concedes onstage that Amy Ryan was better and hands the statue over to her. No actress and/or actor in 2007 was even in the same league.

2. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, "Once". They both earn the #2 spot because A.) I simply don't want to bump one of them down a notch and B.) Each performance is entirely integral to the other. Every decision by each actor at each moment of the movie's entire running time feels accurate and genuine. Yes, in real life they are both singer-songwriters and in the film they're playing, uh, singer-songwriters and so you could argue they're just playing themselves but if that's your argument then allow me to me direct you to Bill Murray who said in relation to his role in "Lost in Translation" (and forgive me in advance as I'm paraphrasing here) that there are certain things only an aging actor playing an aging actor could possibly know.

3. Saoirse Ronan & Romola Garai, "Atonement". Ronan plays the primary player of this film Briony Tallis as a thirteen year old girl and Garai comes in midway through to play her at the age of nineteen. Yes, they both look very much alike but watch how they also exhibit the same speech patterns, the same mannerisms. An example: they both walk with a decided purpose in essentially the exact same way. But then acting isn't just physical, it's emotional. Garai's scene at the deathbed of an English soldier is exquisite. Ronan's reaction to what she views out her window alongside the fountain is something a girl of her age should not be able to do so damn well. And note the way both of them bottle up their emotions, blank faces, staring dead ahead, observing and processing everything around them and storing it away for a later time. Exactly like a writer.

4. Javier Bardem, "No Country For Old Men". There has been a bit of backlash against Bardem's character of Anton Chigurrh recently. It has been said by some that he is nothing more than a walking symbol. A symbol for death, as it were. Perhaps, but what jumped into my mind after seeing the film was Charles Bronson's character in "Once Upon a Time in the West". Remember when Jason Robards says of that character, "A man like that has something inside of him....something to do with death." People want to explain away the character of Chigurrh rather than just letting him exist. A man who wanders, roams, adherent only to his own code. The most terrifying movie moment of the year is when Chigurrh comes face-to-face with Carla Jean. And, oh, the terror Bardem wrings from it without terrorizing. He is so chillingly matter-of-fact about it (and everything else, for that matter) that it gives me the shakes as I type this.

5. Leslie Mann, "Knocked Up". I know people may be tiring of me mentioning this performance but I can't help it. It just smacked me across the face in the best kind of way. Everyone else can chatter on about the movie's abortion issue. Whatever. I'll just revel in Mann's unquestioned foul-mouthed genius. In my portion of the review for this film on Cinematic Arena I likened her to a comedic version of Mark Wahlberg's Oscar-nominated turn in last year's "The Departed". I still agree with that assessment. It's profane, impassioned, and causes incessant laughter. For my money the single funniest cinematic moment this year came during the scene at the kitchen table between Mann and Paul Ruud playing her husband as he does everything in his power to avoid eye contact while her eyes remained locked laser-like on him the whole time as she simultaneously slings insults at him. They say only dramatic acting can be towering. This performance proves otherwise.

1 comment:

Wretched Genius said...

5. Liam Neeson & Pierce Brosnan, Seraphim Falls
Neither performance would be as good without the presence of the other. They only have a few key scenes together, but they each play their characters with a level of determination that can only be described as "Hell-bent."

4. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hoffman had 3 great roles this year, and was excellent in all of them. I list this particular film because it was the most unexpected. I knew he'd be good, but I didn't know he'd be this good.

3. Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Men
Hoffman is getting all the credit for having a great year, but Brolin has been on a role, as well. In Grindhouse and American Gangster he showed his strikingly effective bad side, but his protagonist turn in No Country For Old Men should ensure a lot of choice roles for him next year.

2. Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
&
1. Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
For the exact same reasons you stated.