' Cinema Romantico: The 5th Annual Prigge's: Top 5 Performances Of 2009

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The 5th Annual Prigge's: Top 5 Performances Of 2009

Often I find myself more or less in line with the performances, male and female, getting award buzz, even if they do not win anything. But 2009 was different. No one seems to seeing the same things I did (not that I'm right and their wrong, though they probably are).

I tried to campaign for one of these performances, as you might recall, to utterly no avail. (I guess blogging can't change the world.) Slate's Movie Club - far and away my favorite film related read every year - started out with a couple passionate Oscar pleas for Tilda Swinton in "Julia", and she was good, but, seriously, can't Kelly Macdonald get even the slightest bit of love? The anti-Swinton folks stated they essentially wanted Performances Where You Don't See So Much Performance and, well, that's Kelly Macdonald in "The Merry Gentleman". Wake up and smell the Glenfiddich.

The finest male performance I saw all year fell by the wayside almost entirely because of the actor's (was it real or wasn't it?) breakdown on a talk show. Two were by non-Americans (Ivory Coast and Dominican Republic), one of whom had acted only once before and one of whom had never acted at all. And the fifth....well, you'll see. It's lofty pronouncement time, people.

1. Kelly Macdonald, "The Merry Gentleman". I am reasonably certain this goes without saying.

2. Joaquin Phoenix, "Two Lovers". Tragically this film made its debut in theaters the exact same week ol' Joaquin went on David Letterman to promote it in an infamous appearance which was either a meltdown, a hoax, or something else entirely. Thus, what was lost in the endless commentary on his marbles possibly having been lost was the greatest performance of his career (a sentiment on which I'm not alone - Dana Stevens of Slate said the same thing) as a staggeringly emotionally unstable young man torn between two young women (or two lovers, as it were) - one, who wants to take care of him and another who is possibly even more emotionally unstable than he. This is physical acting of the highest caliber. His scene in the restaurant booth alone is an aria of uncomfortability that nearly a year later I still can't shake from my mind. Breathtaking stuff. As far as I'm concerned you can do whatever you want offscreen if you give performances like this one on it.

3. Souleymane Sy Savane, "Goodbye Solo". As moviegoers we all differ on our notions of what constitutes a cinematic hero. I do not necessarily believe a hero has to fight villains and scale the sides of buildings nor give passionate speeches to factory workers being laid off, or some such thing. I think Sy Savane's Solo is a true blue movie hero.

4. Algenis Perez Soto, "Sugar". During the course of its two hours the filmmakers require first-timer Soto to undergo significant character development and they ask him to express his myriad of change with 1.) Minimal dialogue (most of it not in English), 2.) No helpful voiceovers and 3.) Facial expressions and body language. He rises to the challenge.

5. Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air". I still feel the primary reason "Up in the Air" works as well as it does is due to George Clooney but what is a man if he does not follow his heart? There are probably "better" performances out there but I thought Kendrick was 100% pitch perfect. Like I said in my review, I've seen this woman, this woman that you just want to shake while screaming, "Why are you so frickin' driven in such a listless office environment when it's obvious there's another layer to you?!" She captures this person in her totality. She's also garnering Oscar talk. I will be rooting for her.

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