' ' Cinema Romantico: The 9th Annual Prigges: Top 15 Performances Of 2013

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The 9th Annual Prigges: Top 15 Performances Of 2013

Each and every year at the movies is stacked with great performances and 2013 was no exception. Young, old, male, female, great movie, good movie, so-so movie, they came from everywhere. These are the ten - well, fifteen - performances from the year in movies that I most dearly loved. They are in no particular order aside from the first one which I am proclaiming whole-heartedly and emphatically as My Favorite 2013 Performance.

Adele Exarchopoulous, Blue Is The Warmest Color. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic (who, me?), Exarchopoulos is truly Day-Lewis-esque in the way her work as the appropriately named Adele simultaneously transcends the film containing it and becomes entirely harmonic with the film. As a young girl who doesn't know what she wants trying to figure out what she wants and succeeding and failing, this is an infallible portrait of the human condition.

Matthew McConaughey, Mud. The ressurected Texan is also fantastic in "Dallas Buyer's Club", ably aiding in lifiting it up into something greater than the sum of its parts, but it his turn in "Mud", equal parts Actor and Movie Star, that is most compelling. The part could easily have nosedived into caricature, a modern-day Mark Twain drifter, but instead McCounaughey imbues the title role with a noble if momumentally flawed soul while also demonstrating a southern-fried charisma that would no doubt make it difficult for the various characters swerving to and fro to want to exit his orbit.

Rooney Mara, Ain't Them Bodies Saints. My friend Vance of The Audient noted the following: "There's something of the feral child about Mara, and I suspect there will be even when she's in her 30s. That makes the theme of maturing into a responsible parent all the more resonant." True that, and she not only formidably utilizes her age to underscore maturation, she employs it to evoke a decided (single) parental weariness.

Ben Foster, Ain't Them Bodies Saints. A full-blooded emodiment of reticent passion, you can literally feel all the love Foster's law-enforcing character has to give attempting to burst forth in every scene he's featured.

Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha. Bumbling through life, unsure of which handrail she wants or needs to grab, self-centered without particularly realizing it, but just earnest enough to still be charming, Frances Halladay is the sum of her fuck-ups.

Robert Redford, All Is Lost. If acting is reacting, as is often remarked, then Redford's wholly solo performance is all reacting. It is a master class in reacting without unnecessarily embellishing, ultimately drawing us in not because of some heightened heroism but the matter-of-factness with which he faces each new development.

Miles Teller / Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now. I remain skeptical that the filmmakers realize Woodley's character is ultimately a clingy mess and, thus, the end wreaks of tragedy. But Woodley knows it. And Teller knows it. I think they know the characters better than the film itself know them. I think these two performances are so natural and affecting and so alternately warm and terrifying that they rebel against the film. I kind of wanted them to go all Tom Baxter and leave the screen and strike out on their own, for good or for bad.

Lake Bell / Michaela Watkins, In A World... Sister Code.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave. A truly harrowing turn in which Ejiofor subtly conveys over the course of the film's entire pulverizing trajectory the manner in which his humanity is stripped away.

Gaby Hoffmann, Crystal Fairy. Her Big Moment doubles as her Last Moment and I have heard (read) it said by some that this Big/Last Moment is nothing more than a deus ex machina - regardless of whether they found it moving or not. I would counter that Hoffman's marvelous performance is so insistently wide-eyed and open to the entirety of the whole universe and all its perceived (by her) wonderfulness that she is purposely masking what only pours forth in the Big/Last Moment. This is no god of machine. This is Crystal Fairy, finally open to the fullest.

Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine. Cate Blanchett will get (is getting) all the attention, and kudos to her because she's quite good. But if Blanchett's Jasmine is the gin, then Hawkins is the vermouth. Which is to say, Hawkins is that which prevents "Blue Jasmine" from being nothing more than an unbearable glass of gin and instead transforms it into an ice cold martini.

Amy Adams, American Hustle. Make no mistake, "American Hustle" is a true ensemble piece and the entire ensemble absolutely kills it. Still, even an ensemble needs its soul, and Amy Adams is the film's soul. Her performance is just a bit more sly, just a tad less flashy (despite the costuming and hair), and the film's pre-eminent embodiment of the theory that knowing who we want to be ain't as easy as it should be.

Brie Larson, Don Jon. The greatest silent performance of the year.


suzyq said...

Some good choices.

Yep agree with you about Adele Exarchopoulos, she became the film & was fearless (supported well by Seydoux). Definitely my favourite performance of the year

Nikhat said...

Adele's definitely the best performer of the year but Gerwig's my favourite.
Oh and I loved Ben Foster so much.

Nick Prigge said...

Suzy: Thanks! And agreed on Seydoux. She was fantastic too.

Nikhat: I've definitely had those years when my favorite and what I think is best don't line up too. But this was one of those magical years when they did. And Gerwig is just so great. I've long been her fan, but this felt like a culmination for her.

Alex Withrow said...

Great list my friend. Awesome to see the double love for Ain't Them Bodies Saints.. and Adele at the top spot is just excellent.

Andrew K. said...

Ben Foster AND Rooney Mara but no Casey? What gives Nick? What gives?

"But if Blanchett's Jasmine is the gin, then Hawkins is the vermouth." is a pretty fantastic line, though. It reminds me of what JA of My New Plaid Pants says: " I'm a little bit sad that Sally Hawkins isn't going to get the credit she deserves for balancing this stormy ship as well as she does with a performance that's matching Blanchett's while existing in that whole other movie as well. She's dancing backwards in high heels, while Cate just levels the world."

(Which is to say that Cate is my Rachel of this year, but Sally is fantastic, indeed. And since everyone seems to be seeing she's good, shame she's not getting recognised it seems as if she is being recognised indeed since we're all talking about it. And, I'm glad to be wrong about that.)

Nick Prigge said...

The answer to why no Casey is........truthfully, I don't really have one. I asked myself that after I made this list. It wasn't as if I didn't like him in it. I did. I loved him in it! The only thing I can think is that the Mara & Foster parts just hit me on an emotional level more than the Affleck part. Which really doesn't have anything to do with the performance itself, of course, but as we know I tend to over-rely on my emotions.

Derek Armstrong said...

Thanks for the shout-out! You know, I think I had you in my head when I watched Don Jon, because I "over-noticed" Brie Larson. Having read your piece, I was very conscious of her not-talking and started to think it was rather too obvious of a bit. However, I agree that it pays off in a good way.

I'll second the words of praise for Hawkins. (Or third, or fourth, or whatever.) I have come to think of Blue Jasmine as a bit more of a mess the farther away I get from it, but both Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay are terrific in it. That's not say Cate isn't terrific, but what ultimately becomes of her character is part of why I have a problem with the movie.

Nick Prigge said...

I would actually kind of agree that 'Don Jon' gets almost too obvious with Larson not talking, but only almost. I liked how Levitt as director kept escalating it. Like, I can vividly remember the audience I saw it with and how the laughter around her character not talking grew each time she was shown. I thought it was calibrated just right to hit that payoff. Then again, like you say, I hadn't already been thinking about her going in, so it's conceivable it could have played differently.

I'm not the biggest overall 'Blue Jasmine' either, despite my affection for Hawkins work, but your last comment intrigues me? What didn't you like about what they did with Cate's character?