Top 5 Supporting Male Performances
5. John Hawkes - Winter's Bone
I have cooled off slightly on Winter's Bone since seeing it over the summer, but what has stuck with me about the film are the incredible performances that litter the desolate landscape. While praise has been heaped upon Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes' startlingly reserved performance as Teardrop is magnificent. Aside from his gaunt physical characteristics Hawkes captures a pain and torment in his eyes that balances with the quiet power found in the way he carries himself. I find it difficult to fathom that this is the same man from Eastbound and Down. Few supporting characters feel as thoroughly realized as Teardrop, and that is thanks, in no small part, to the way Hawkes brings life to the character.
4. Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
While this year's indie film that could, The Kids Are All Right, turned out far too bland for my taste it does house one of the year's finest turns in the form of Mark Ruffalo. It would be rather easy for Ruffalo to phone in this role, all he really needs to do is be a laid back new-age business man, but Ruffalo turns the character sympathetic. The character itself may have an underwhelming arc, but even with an unsatisfying exit Ruffalo remains a lightning rod on the screen.
3. Jonah Hill - Cyrus
Doubling as one of the year's more surprising performances, Jonah Hill's turn as Cyrus in the film of the same name shatters the comedian's status as a smaller version of Seth Rogen and, for those concerned with that aspect, demonstrates a shocking range. The character plays to many of Hill's strengths, the quiet whisper and the boisterous explosion, but where Hill shines is in his ability to transform from creepy to touching at the drop of a hat. While all the actors in the film do heavy lifting, Jonah needs to sell his presence as both a reality, without going overboard, and menacing, while still remaining human. Not the easiest combination to pull off, but Hill nails it.
2. Zach Galifianakis - It's Kind of a Funny Story
In the past I have not been a fan of Zach Galifianakis, though I suppose I could understand his appeal. While I was most surprised by Galifianakis's ability to sell his comedic parts to me, what shines past the comedy is the way he sells the dramatic moments. Galifianakis's character has seen the worst in life. It would be easy to boil down the character a simple nature and nurture debate, but what is truly important is his determination to press on despite all of the trouble. In many ways Galifianakis transcends performance and begins to showcase humanity, which solidifies him as one of the year's best actors.
1. Kieran Culkin - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
As of late the eldest of the Culkin clan (at least I hope this is the case) has been on a bit of a roll. While he shocked me in last year's Lymelife, I thought I was prepared for his turn as Wallace in Scott Pilgrim, but to say that he stole the show may be a bit of an understatement. Bringing huge laughs to every scene he found himself in, Culkin played the role of Scott's moral compass perfectly without losing the edge and charm that the character demands. With a film like Scott Pilgrim, one packed with talent and bursting with laughs, it is hard for an actor to rise to the top, but Culkin adds another bright layer to Edgar Wright's latest opus.
Banksy - Exit Through the Gift Shop
Josh Brolin - True Grit
Kevin Smith - 220.127.116.11
Top 5 Supporting Female Performances
5. Emma Roberts - Collective Works
I will be the first to admit that this inclusion is probably a cheat. Last year's Best Supporting Actress did not have a stand out role like she did in Lymelife, but in 2010 Emma Roberts as a whole was absolutely on fire. Roberts could be typecast quite easily, filling the role of girl next door love interest, but even when given these roles, as she played in Twelve and Valentine's Day, Roberts still brings humanity to the characters and makes them individuals, not hollow persons. If I had to pick a role to award Roberts this slot I would probably give it to her for the ultra-surprising 18.104.22.168, though her turn in It's Kind of a Funny Story is also equal parts charming and equal parts impressive. Another terrific year from one of the most talented actresses working today, and I have not even seen all of her films from the past year!
4. Helena Bonham Carter - Alice in Wonderland
Come Oscar season I expect Bonham Carter will get a ton of talk for her work as a well known queen, unfortunately those rumblings will be rewarding her for the portrayal of the wrong queen. As the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland Bonham Carter is a force to be reckoned with on the screen. From the shrill calls for heads to the uptight huffs and puffs, Bonham Carter's Queen is a display of theatrical acting at its finest. She strikes a wonderful balance between theatrics and believability, a combination that was not always present in Burton's latest film, but a stylized take on the tale that needed more focus like Bonham Carter's.
3. Keira Knightley - Never Let Me Go
Continuing the trend of talented actors and actresses being found in underwhelming films, Knightley's turn as the quasi-human is the highlight of the movie. While many of the other actors occasionally go too big, and others go too confused, Knightley displays a masterful balance between confusion, conformity, and cruelty. As she hurtles to her heartbreaking conclusion Knightley never loses sight of her character's motivations, still constantly grappling with the world around her while coming to terms with other aspects. She will likely get passed over this season, but the performance is one that should not be missed and demonstrates the woman's talent.
2. Delphine Chanéac - Splice
Delphine Chaneac's performance as the creature in Splice flew completely under my radar for the majority of the year, and without a last minute recommendation I would have never watched the film. Chaneac is asked to run the gamut in her role, balancing recognizable human traits with a savage intensity along with a childlike curiosity along with a yearning for freedom and discovery. If that sounds like a mouthful that is because it is, and behind all the makeup Chaneac turns in one of the most exciting, terrifying, sympathetic, and all around interesting performances of the year.
1. Elle Fanning - Somewhere
I fear that Elle Fanning, even more than Knightley, is going to get lost in the shuffle this year, partially because of her age and partially because of Somewhere's incredibly limited release and mild critical reception. The way her energy and freedom is placed alongside such a mature sense of self awareness that I could swear she has been acting for years. Few performers are quite as mesmerizing while on screen as Fanning. A brilliant display of maturity and sincerity marks what I consider both the best supporting performance and, possibly, the best overall turn of the year.
Taylor Swift - Valentine's Day
Diane Weist - Rabbit Hole
Rebecca Hall - The Town
All in all I feel this year was incredibly strong from supporting actors and actresses, maybe even more than it was for leading roles. Let me know if comments what you think about the choices and who I left out.
Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure. Or if video games are more your thing, I have a blog dedicated to all gaming news, reviews, and opinions.
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© 2011 Richard James Thorne