Saturday, July 21, 2012

Best of 2011 - The Performances Part One

     For those of you who did not read my Apologetic Amphibian post last Wednesday, I apologize that everything here at The Movie Frog wound up running a week behind, but starting today I hope to keep everything running back on track.  If you are unfamiliar with the format I'm using in presenting the Froggy Awards for 2011, please refer back to my former post Best of 2011 - The Techs to aid in your understanding.  Any film title that appears as a link will take you to my review of that film if you click it (I only made one link for any particular film).  Beyond that, I am rushing to get this out on time, so let's get started with...

Breakout Performer
     Some of these names were completely new to us this year.  Others were actors and actresses we were already somewhat familiar with who in one way or another boosted their careers in extraordinary ways.  ALL of them left the year 2011 far more established as practitioners of their craft than they began it.  And they are...
  20. Alex Schaffer
        Win Win
     This was young Mr. Schaffer's debut feature performance and he did an extraordinary job of portraying Kyle as the sort of realistically troubled young man we all felt like we could easily have met in our own lives.  If the film had gotten just a LITTLE more exposure, he would be much higher on this list.  Next on his plate:  second billing in the forthcoming film Land of Tomorrow.
  19. Elle Fanning
        Super 8
        We Bought a Zoo
     Sure, she debuted last year impressively in Sophia Copolla's Somewhere but only the biggest film snobs (guilty) even saw that movie.  Her appearance in Super 8 gave her FAR more widespread exposure.  Her role had fairly limited screentime, but in the two scenes where she is captured on film within the film, I got chills that were the real highlight of the whole piucture. Zoo was just gravy.  Next up: Vivaldi, Maleficent (with Angelina Jolie)
  18. Shailene Woodley
        The Descendants
     So maybe she didn't get the Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars that everyone expected last year, but she made enough of an impression on critics and audiences for there to be a good deal of surprise that she didn't.  I didn't know her name in 2009.  Next up:  The Spectacular Now
  17.  Chris Hemsworth
    The very model of a beefy blond thunder god, Chris made audiences (and this Movie Frog) dig this second string super hero a lot more than we expected.  Next up: Well, he's already been in The Cabin In The Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman, and some little movie called The Avengers  this year with the Red Dawn remake close on the horizon.
  16. Berenice Bejo
        The Artist
     For the meantime, she does not appear to intend to ride her Academy Award nomination to English language crossover success, but she does seem poised to become the new French actress who can help you get American distribution and box office.  Next up:  French language film Populaire
  15. Andy Serkis
        Rise of the Planet of the Apes
        The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn
        Arthur Christmas
        Wild Bill
        Death of a Superhero
     Yeah, he's been around for years and does great work whether it be live action, voice over or motion capture and there was (at the time wild) speculation about a nomination for his work as Golem in The Lord of the Rings.  But 2011 was the year that he became the undisputed Laurence Olivier of motion capture performance.  His work in both Tin Tin and especially in Apes gave virtual characters a SOUL.  He may well become the man that inspires the AMPAS to create a category to honor this sort of work.  Next Up:  Back to Middle Earth in The Hobbit.
  14. Emma Stone
        The Help
        Crazy, Stupid Love
        Friends With Benefits
     Yes, her initial breakout was last year for Easy A, and that's why she's fairly low down on this chart.  Still, this year she went from leading a well regarded little indie comedy to leading a hugely successful film cast with some truly brilliant and seasoned ladies.  Keep breaking, Emma.  Next up:  She's already in The Amazing Spider-Man and will be appearing with Sean Penn in Gangster Squad later this year.
  13.  Adepero Oduye
     As all five of you who read my review know (I'm not even kidding, five freaking pageviews, click over there now and make me feel better about writing it) I found Miss Oduye to be absolutely amazing in this role.  Not a lot of people saw the film, but we're about to see a lot more of her.  Next up:  The made for TV all African American version of Steel Magnolias, followed by Twelve Years a Slave with Steve McQueen.
  12. Elizabeth Olsen
        Martha Marcy Mae Marlene
     The film may not have been as big of a box office success as many had hoped it would, but it definitely got Ms. Olsen a lot of attention in Hollywood.  Being so much better than her sisters helped.  Next up:  Peace, Love & Misunderstanding with Jane Fonda and Red Lights with Sigourney Weaver and Robert DeNiro.
  11. Ezra Miller
        We Need To Talk About Kevin
        Another Happy Day
     Not that many people saw these films so call it a hunch I have, but this kid is GOOD.  If he can pick projects that show range beyond EXTREMELY troubled young man, he could have a brilliant future.  Kevin will be seen as the film that made him.  Next up:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  10. Matthias Schoenaerts
     This performance made this Belgian powerhouse an overnight international sensation.  Next up:  Director Audiard (A Prophet)'s Rust and Bone with Marion Cotillard already earned the actor raves out of Cannes.
  9. Hunter McKraken
      The Tree of Life
     In his acting debut, this young man gave the central performance in one of the most moving films of the year.  One can only hope he sticks with it.  Next up:  ?
  8. Tom Hardy
      Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
     Warrior may have underperformed significantly but critics took notice of Hardy's performance which proved he could lead a cast effectively.  Tinker continued to prove his amazing skill within a strong ensemble.  Next up:  He's already appeared this year in This Means War and The Dark Knight Rises.  Still to come is Lawless.
  7. Demian Bechir
      A Better Life
     Mr. Bechir was best known to me from Showtime's Weeds before 2011, but his nomination for Best Actor at last year's Oscars gave him exposure he had never known.  Next up:  He's appearing in theaters now in Oliver Stone's Savages.
  6. Rooney Mara
      The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
     She went from a bit part in The Social Network one year, to a nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards the next.  Not a lot more to say.  Next up:  Projects with Spike Jonze and Terrence Malick.
  5. Chris Evans
      Captain America:  The First Avenger
     Besides leading the best super hero movie of the year, this enterprising young actor also gave an impressive and heavily nuanced performance in Puncture.  Keep up that kind of balance and he should have no problem having whatever kind of career he wants.  Next up:  More of both faces of
Chris Evans (starting with the third highest grossing film of all time).
  4. Jean Dujardin
      The Artist
     Winning an Oscar is a very good way for a European actor who is a star is their own country to become a star to the world.  Mr. Dujardin just might.  Next up:  More work back home followed by The Wolf of Wall Street with Scorsese and DiCaprio.
  3. Michael Fassbender
      A Dangerous Method
      Jane Eyre
      X-Men: First Class
     Talk about a well rounded resume, especially for one year.  He was very good in all four films, but Shame was probably a career best for this highly talented actor.  Next up:  He is widely being haled as the standout performance in Prometheus even garnering a bit of awards chatter.
  2. Ryan Gosling
      The Ides of March
      Crazy, Stupid, Love
     Gosling was everywhere.  He was the celebrated star of one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year that also proved he could play one hell of an action hero. He also proved both his comedic chops and his viability as a major sex symbol in one of the best and most successful romcoms of the year.  Then there was high profile political intrigue drama directed by George Clooney.  No one gets that much work without being typecast.  No one but Gosling.  Next up:  Gangster Squad, Only God Forgives, The Place Beyond the Pines, Terence Malick, and a possible remake of Logan's Run.
  1. Jessica Chastain
      The Help
      The Tree of Life
      Take Shelter
      The Debt
      Texas Killing Fields
     No actress has ever had such a dramatic debut year as Jessica Chastain.  First off, she appears in six films, playing VERY different characters in each.  Then two of them get nominated for Best Picture by the Academy and she gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination herself for her role in The Help (and had serious awards buzz for both Tree and Take Shelter).  Up next:  A high profile 2012 with Hillcoat's Lawless, Malick's To The Wonder, and Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty which is already gaining her Oscar buzz for this year.
  Tin Toadstool:  Nicholas Cage
                            Season of the Witch
     I figured this one should go to the once celebrated performer who continued to exhibit the greatest ability to completely destroy whatever credibility they once had.

Juvenile Performer
     It's hard for a kid to get a break when working with much more experienced and well known adults.  That's why I figured I would give them their own category so they can bask in a little glory before child stardom completely ruins half of them.  This year's honorees are:
  15. John Boyega
        Attack the Block
     This little sci-fi gem didn't do a lot of box office in the U.S. but its delightful ensemble was led ably by this virtual unknown.  His interpretation of gang leader Moses had the makings of cult classic anti-hero.
  14.  Maggie Elizabeth Jones
         We Bought a Zoo
     I feel like a bit of a sap who gives awards just for precocious cuteness here, but while these qualities are much of what her role consists of, young Ms. Jones is somehow the one member of the cast who never seems buried by the schmaltziness of this production.
  13. Khomotso Manyaka
        Life, Above All
     Although this film got a little cheesy in the end, we are propelled through most of the story effortlessly by the stellar performance of the young lady who stars in it.  Chanda, the character she plays, is such an old soul, and I imagine that Ms. Manyaka must be as well.
  12. Kerris Dorsey
     Her role is very limited, but there is a moment with a guitar, and a little song, and its the most charming part of the whole movie.
  11. Seo-Hyeon Ahn
        The Housemaid
     In this ensemble melodrama full of capable actresses playing strong women, it would have been easy for this young actress to get lost in the mix.  She did no such thing, serving instead as the capable moral center of the film.
  10.  Chloe Grace Moretz
     Before this year we knew Moretz as a child actor who played monsters and pint sized assassins.  Impressive that she can do those roles so well and still be as lovely and charming as she is in Hugo.
  9.  Cameron Spurr
     Playing a helpless young child facing the end of the world and trying to be brave would be a challenge even for someone with life and acting experience to draw upon.  Young Mr. Spurr had neither, but he was magnificent.
  8. Elle Fanning
      Super 8
     Young Ms. Fanning has the two best moments in the film and they are truly magical things.  In one of them, she's a flesh eating zombie.  She really has a rare sort of screen presence. 
  7. Asa Butterfield
    Hugo was really one of the most ambitious and impressive films of 2011 and it all rested on the shoulders of the young actor playing the title role.  Nuff said.
  6. Melusine Mayance
      Sarah's Key
     This film seemed a bit forced in the modern day segments, but this young actress kept me captivated and enthralled during the scenes set in the Holocaust.  It is totally worth watching just for her.
  5. Alex Shaffer
      Win Win
      This slightly obscure indie dramedy may not have launched this debut teen actor to super stardom, but his talent is clearly visible.  His character Kyle is a many sided conundrum of a young man, and Mr. Shaffer nails every facet.
  4. Saoirse Ronan
     Ms. Ronan has been turning in such mature performances for long enough now that it seems impossible that she could still be young enough to appear on this list, but she is, just barely.  When you are a sixteen year old girl and you somehow come off as the most believable action hero of the year, you deserve a little credit.
  3. Sareh Bayat
      A Separation
     In one of the strongest ensemble acting pieces of the year, I found her to be the strongest piece of the puzzle.  It is through her eyes that we see the situation of her crumbling family, and it is her our heart breaks for.
  2. Hunter McKraken
      The Tree of Life
     I have never seen a child actor give a performance that truly reminded me as much of what it feels like to be a child in quite the same way as this one in this film.
  1. Ezra Miller
      We Need To Talk About Kevin
    As brilliant as Tilda Swinton is in this film, I think I would gladly watch it just for this performance.  Utterly brilliant, chilling, and all the scarier in the parts when he seems most human.  Check it out.

Motion Capture or Voice Over Performance
     See, Academy, that wasn't so hard, was it?
  5. Antonio Banderas
      Puss in Boots
     Yeah, we've heard it all before, but Banderas is still really great in this role even if the material he is given has seen better days.
  4. Jamie Bell
      The Adventures of Tin Tin:  The Secret of the Unicorn
     Bringing a much beloved character to life is always challenging.  Doing it with motion capture animation and making it all seem (almost too) real is even tougher.
  3. Ashley Jensen
      Arthur Christmas
     In a very delightfully wacky film, her gift wrapping obsessed elf character Bryony is the very heart and soul of these qualities.  "Three pieces of sticky tape!"
  2. Johnny Depp
     If only Depp's live action roles of recent years reflected as much of the zany yet debonnaire young actor of yesteryear as this voice effort did.  Still, it was a little like running into an old friend.
  1. Andy Serkis
      Rise of the Planet of the Apes
     Surprise!!!  See, not that hard at all.
  Tin Toadstool:  Archie Rice
                            Red Riding Hood (voice of the wolf)
     Amazingly, this is the first and only acting experience to Mr. Rice's name.  I could have sworn I'd heard sinister lines delivered with those exact inflection patterns a million times before.  I could have sworn it was him.

Best Supporting Actor
  15.  Corey Stoll
         Midnight in Paris
     In a fantastic ensemble cast full of quality supporting turns, his Ernest Hemingway easily stands out as the best of the bunch.
  14. Ye Liu
        City of Life and Death
     The cast of this Chinese film was such a huge sprawling mass of characters that it was not easy to stand out in. Mr. Liu did, most dramatically when he was completely silent.
  13. Ezra Miller
        Another Happy Day
     As Elliot, young Ezra was completely insufferable yet was the character the audience most closely empathized with.  Neat trick if you can do it.
  12.  Christoph Waltz
      This adaptation may have failed to recreate the resonance of its source material to an extent, but Waltz definitely comes closest to pulling it off.  And his accent is more believably that of a New Yorker than is Jodie Foster's.
  11. Jonah Hill
     If we're going to give points for effectively playing against type (and we always do), then you cannot ignore the usually clownish Mr. Hill's skill in handling something a little more dramatic.
  10. John Hawkes
        Martha Marcy Mae Marlene
     This film was not all that I had hoped for, and I found myself wishing that they had given Mr. Hawkes a little more to do.  Still, the man is an exceptional actor, and one must applaud what he did with what he had.  The serenade gave me chills.
  9. Noe Hernandez
     Miss Bala
     His performance as cartel king Lino Valdez was equal parts frightening and charismatic.  He was a very hard man, but somehow still more man than monster.
  8. Ryan Gosling
      Crazy, Stupid, Love
     We knew that Gos was a very talented actor.  We didn't know that he could be so funny.  We also didn't realize quite how sexy he really was.  Now we do.
  7. John Goodman
      Red State
     You know, its about time that one of America's greatest and most beloved character actors got some awards recognition for something and he was really great in this, as he was in the Artist.
  6. Brad Pitt
      The Tree of Life
     Like all the actors in this movie, Pitt had to both embody an archetype (the stern, and emotionally distant father figure) and still create a real person.
  5. Alex Shaffer
      Win Win
     I don't know what I haven't already said here.
  4. Albert Brooks
     Another funny man being deadly serious.  I utterly bought it.
  3. Christopher Plummer
     He was great, but I don't have umpteen decades of snubs to make up to him, so I can't give him number one.
  2. Chris New
     It wasn't as flashy or extreme as most of the performances on this list, but it was poignant, vulnerable and utterly real.  I felt like I knew him.
  1.  Ezra Miller
       We Need To Talk About Kevin
     I don't know what else to say except that this kid is scary as hell!!!
  Tin Toadstool:  Bobby Cannavale
                            Win Win
     I think there is a Sex and the City diminishing returns curse and that's all I really have to say about it.

Whew!!!! In order to get this up today like I promised (and to give you a break, this is long) I am going to have to split the Froggies for performance into two posts.  I will return with the other four categories either tomorrow or Monday.  In the meantime, it is good to be back.  Please feel free to rip me a new one in the comments section.



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