— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
This has been a great year for movies. Blockbuster hits such as “Inglorious Basterds” and “Star Trek” paired alongside more modest releases like “Cold Souls” and “Lorna’s Silence,” but whether it was in a limited or a wide release, this year had its share of great performances and these actors put their all into the roles they chose to play.
But before I get to the Top 5, here are a pair of actors who deserve honorable mentions for their work in 2009:
Micah Sloat (in “Paranormal Activity”) — Believable performances are a MUST in horror mockumentaries such as “Paranormal Activity” and actor Micah Sloat (and also actress Katie Featherson) delivered, thus fooling thousands of people in the process.
Colin Firth (in “A Single Man”) — Disclaimer: I haven’t seen “A Single Man” yet, but I do plan to see it. However, Colin Firth’s performance is attracting a lot of Oscar buzz and even our own Allison Higginbotham confirmed these claims in her review of the film.
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5. Sharlto Copley — “District 9”
“District 9” was not only a breakout turn for director Neil Blomkamp, but also for actor Sharlto Copley, who played Wikus van der Merwe — a worker for Multi-National United, a private company in charge of controlling aliens that have been stranded in South Africa after their spacecraft malfunctions. During a routine raid for illegal weaponry, Wikus is exposed to a toxin that slowly transforms him into one of the aliens that he despises. In the beginning of the film, Wikus appears to have the “Borat” persona, he’s undeniably clumsy (plus he has the accent) and he has a way of annoying the army personal that work alongside him, but once he begins to transform into a “prawn,” he blooms into something else — a hero. We begin to feel sorry for Wikus, he has a wife and it becomes clear that he just wants to be a good husband and there is one scene where I almost cried out to the screen and that was when Wikus was used as a test-subject by the same company that he was once employed for. Sharlto Copley played that particular scene excellently, but the rest of his performance was no joke either.
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4. Viggo Mortensen — “The Road”
In “The Road,” Viggo Mortensen plays the father to Kodi McPhee’s character. The unnamed duo traveled the ravaged landscapes of the post-apocalyptic United States — hoping for sort of a “last stand” for survivors near the coast. However, to get there, the man and son must survive bands of cannibals while still maintaining their humanity. I really enjoyed “The Road” and I even called it “simply one of the best films — if not the best film — of the year” in my review. The reason that the film is so good is because of the powerful performances. Viggo Mortensen’s excellent portrayal of a protective father that’s just looking for a brighter future for his son makes it easy to cheer him even though his spirit slowly begins to fade.
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3. Nicolas Cage — “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” “Astro Boy,” “Knowing,” “G-Force”
Though he starred in a number of films this year, the reason that he’s on this list is because of his performance in Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” in which he plays a corrupt cop who juggles upholding the law with drugs, gambling and women. Who knew that casting Cage as a hunch-backed drug-addict would result in the most mesmerizing performance of his career? Apparently, Werner Herzog did.
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2. Christoph Waltz — “Inglorious Basterds”
Originally an Austrian television star, Christoph Waltz gained fame through his role as Hans Lander in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.” It is evident in the first scene that Nazi Colonel Lander has a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue when he single-handedly persuades a French farmer to admit that he’s hiding “enemies of the state.” Lander is the perfect villain for the Basterds and Waltz captures his sadistic character perfectly.
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1. Jeff Bridges — “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” “Crazy Heart”
Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors and I think that he is horribly overdue for an Oscar win. Although his performance in “The Men Who Stare at Goats” was good, it is nothing compared to the one he gave in “Crazy Heart.” In “Crazy Heart,” he plays Bad Blake, a world-weary country musician who has had too many wives and too many drinks, but after he meets a young reporter, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, his life begins to change. Jeff Bridges is just fantastic in this movie: he sings, he plays guitar, and most importantly, he feels real. There is already Oscar-hype for his performance and I have no doubt that he’ll win this one.
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Agree? Disagree? Post your opinions in the comments section.
Hmmm… Should Nicholas Cage be rewarded for “G-Force” and “Astro Boy”? I also thought Viggo Mortensen has been much better in better movies. Two big omissions, in my opinion, are:
1. George Clooney – The Men Who Stare at Goats, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up in the Air. This has been the autumn of Clooney, and he’s done very different, great work in all three movies, especially Up in the Air.
2. Matt Damon – The Informant, Invictus. Few big name actors can disappear into roles the way Damon can. I think he may be so good he gets overlooked sometimes.
I’m not rewarding Cage for those roles. I merely listed the fact that he was in those movies. However, his performance in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” earned him the spot. Also Matt Damon might have done a good job in those films but they aren’t very memorable. As for Clooney, he did very good in “Up in the Air” but it rung of a more light-hearted Michael Clayton.