Thirteen seems like an agreeable number, innit? I like its unlucky associations. Let's go with that. After all, luck's something that eludes many of these chaps, whether they're getting final-moment ominous phone calls from their doctors or getting sprayed with outer-space goo or... nah, I'm not gonna do that "All these performances have some random thing in common which I will connect for you now!" spiel. They are all men and presumably have man-pieces. That's probably about as close as I can get all 13 of them. Also, their man-pieces moved me more than all the other man-pieces this year. That's true, too. So fellas, strap on your Pantys, you're all winners in my book.
Colin Firth, A Single Man - That clip pretty much sums it up, eh? Mostly I try to use this space for spotlighting performances that the awards bodies have ignored - because it all gets so redundant to the point of excruciating boredom, doesn't it? - but usually there are a couple guys and gals I can't help but give some affection to along with the crowd, and Mr. Firth's the big one in this regard. I haven't seen Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart yet - and Bridges is fine by me but not enough of a draw to see a film on his own so it was only when I found out very recently that Colin Farrell's in the film AND HE SINGS that I decided CH is a movie that I will definitely see at some point - but in the Oscar-crowd man-wise it's all about Firth for me. And why? Just watch that clip already. God.
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds - Yup, another instance of me following the pack, but what can be argued? He's even gonna win (unless Plummer affection topples the deck but really, has anyone seen that movie? Or wanted to see that movie?). But ya can't argue with "That's a bingo!" There's no getting in his way. I even almost gave this spot to Michael Fassbender for his work in the film just to snub my nose at the consensus (and also just write the name Michael Fassbender one more time - Michael Fassbender, Michael Fassbender, Michael Fassbender! -but I knew it weren't right. Waltz owns.
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker - Okay, this is the last one that's on the Academy's radar, I promise. But I been singing Renner's praises for a few years now and I can't help but think this is all my doing. I better get mentioned if you win Jeremy! (You're not gonna win Jeremy.) Still, shower-breakdowns aside, this is amongst some of his finest work and he's a deserving fellow and I am happy he's caught on at last. Viva Renner!
Michael Shannon, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done - Michael Shannon made my list last year with Revolutionary Road and he woulda made my acting list in 2007 for Bug if I'd have made a list of Actors that year (I did name Bug my favorite horror film of the year). Anyway it's obvious I have a liking for what he's doing. And here we have my most favorite thing of his doing of all. It's of the same school as he's gotten himself known for - crazy dude who sees under the skin of things for the things that are, or more often are not, there - but the edgte bringing this one down here is the humor. This is insanity writ hysterical. Yessir, Mr. Oatmeal Man, it's all coming up flamingos.
Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen - I re-watched some of Watchmen earlier this week. I didn't have time to watch the whole thing so I fast-forwarded around. And I discovered that my finger detached itself from my brain and hit play every single time Haley was on-screen. (It also did that every time Patrick Wilson was naked.) I think that Watchmen get more right than it doesn't, but nothing's gotten righter than Rorschach. When his mask is ripped off and he roars, "Give me back my face!!!" it makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. And his finale wrenches out tears, despite how clear the monster has become. Or rather perhaps because of how clear Haley makes him.
Matt Damon, The Informant! - Even though I don't remember there being any scene where Damon danced around in rotund glee in the movie, that's how I picture him when I think of this performance. Chuckling his way past all the suckers, his too-thin mustache barely concealing a grin. But that's probably just my brain reshuffling what we get to know about Mark Whitacre as the film goes on with how we view him in real time - Damon's performance is a wonder in that this real human being (real crazy human being) actually makes complete sense in the end. In the sense that he's nonsensical. But it sure makes sense!
Willem Dafoe, Antichrist / My Son My Son... - While Willem's fully and amusingly on board with the craziness in Herzog's Son, this love's more geared towards his work in Lars Von Trier's literal ball-buster Antichrist. Maneuvering his way effortlessly from the closed-off yet well-intentioned papa bear at the start through to the barren Grand Guignol finale, his grief sears as deeply as the more violent sort that Charlotte Gainsbourg summons forth, only to find itself finally stuck in the turtle-shell of its own impotency. What can a man do with a wheel for a foot anyway? He can roll himself straight to Hell.
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man - Unlucky in love, lucky in.. well, um? Unlucky in love, uh, unlucky in work, and children, and church, and health, and driving down the street, and in siblings, and in neighbors, and in television reception. Really you name it. But Stahlberg anchors the Coens' dyspeptic suburbia with a stepped-back performance that's delightfully infuriating in its reluctance to dial it up to 12 where it belongs. Oh god does it belong there! His eyes do the panicking for him, and his pursed mouth reels it all back in. The universe baffles.
Sharlto Copley, District 9 - I refuse to believe that Mr. Copley had never acted before acting in the short that became this feature film. It's insanity, and I do believe it's a plot propagated by every level of society in South Africa to fool us all. It won't work on me, South Africa! You bunch of lying liars! This movie works - and it really does, for the most part - because Copley makes it work. He is a bright and shining star, and I do hope that Mad Murdock doesn't dull that luster.
John Krasinski, Away We Go - Maybe it's the fact that I don't watch The Office (the US version that is - I'm a total snob for Ricky Gervais' one), but I certainly haven't grown tired of Mr. Krasinski's goof-ball charm. There's a scene in AWG where JK falls over a planter while talking on his cell phone that's the immediate moment I conjure when I think of his performance in this film, and it charms. me. Charm. Look it up. You'll see this shit right here. But even beyond being the textbook definition of "adorkable," his interactions with Maya Rudolph in this film just glow.
Sam Rockwell, Moon - How does this essentially one-man-show feel so densely populated? Well it helps that the one man is more like, well, several. But mostly it's that every one of these several is being brought to life by
science Sam Rockwell, a man that can make an entire globe of space-dust stuck in a bowl of black night seem like a happening. What's happening, aye there's the rub. And the clickety-clack of the pieces coming together snap ever so neatly in tune with every hinge of Rockwell's performance(s). Oh, we say to ourselves, of course that's it. Sam made it so.
Édgar Flores, Sin Nombre - It's all in those eyes, isn't it? Even when he's carting around his little protege in the start of the film, those eyes are tugging at you. And then everything starts turning to shit, and those eyes seem to grow bigger, sadder, as if they might engulf the entire screen. But not from rage, or despair, but more like they want to protect, and shield, us all.
Max Records, Where the Wild Things Are - I know, I know, we never know how much of a kid's performance is from a wise director channeling a kid's actual self into a role and capturing that magic, or the actual efforts of the kid himself, but to an extent that's true of any actor - like George Clooney said recently, his performances in Batman and Out of Sight were only separated by a few months and he didn't learn that much between them - it has to do with the outside factors, again to an extent, for all actors. And in Max Records, Spike Jonze found someone fully capable of hitting all the notes and capturing an on-screen magic that moved me beyond words. See? Here I am, beyond words. Magic..