With the announcement of the Oscar nominations just around the corner (February 2), I thought it an opportune time to bring attention to a few fine performances from last year that are likely to be shut out of the running. Some of these performances stand an outside chance of grabbing a nomination (a hunch tells me Anthony Mackie might steal a spot in the Supporting Actor category); others are clearly nowhere near being in the race, by virtue of appearing in “lowbrow” or strictly commercial fare. All together, the following comprise ten of my favourite male and female performances of 2009.
Alison Lohman in
Drag Me to Hell
Provided a blessedly soothing, sweet-tempered presence amidst a maelstrom of blood, flames, and witch vomit. ______________________________________________
Me and Orson Welles
Proved his ingenuousness (already traceable on his always-flush, emotion-stained face) by way of a beautifully poignant vocal and ukulele number. ______________________________________________
Made fiery, fierce red hair iconic; upgraded her fierceness with a rousing (if ideologically loaded) defense of domesticity by fisticuffs.
Manifested post-traumatic stress with paranoid, spectral eyes; scared the hell out of me and broke my heart, often in the same scene.
Went to the limits for a no-class director; transcended his bullshit by channeling rage and madness on an almost super-human level.
Next Day Air
Rendered a potentially trite drug kingpin character fully dimensional, with humour, style, and moral complexity to spare.
Did justice to Keats’s effusions in her beauty and charm; clarified Fanny Brawne’s own passion in moments ranging from tranquil to devastating.
The Hurt Locker
Unforgettably expressed a soldier’s anxieties in his final, heart-wrenching breakdown in front of Jeremy Renner’s (seemingly) unflappable bomb defuser.
The Brothers Bloom
Rather amazingly shaped a ludicrous mess of quirks into a tolerable, even beguiling character.
Eschewed his recent streak of commercial showboating in favour of a more refined, fascinating intensity; redeemed a misguided gangster narrative with movie star charisma.
Honourable mentions: Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; Zoe Kazan in Me and Orson Welles; Sam Rockwell in Gentlemen Broncos; Shoshana Bush in Dance Flick; Richard Kind in A Serious Man; Edith Scob in Summer Hours