Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2008 Diva Cup Awards: Best Actor

Colin Farrell
In Bruges
Like most people, I had been waiting since Farrell's breakthrough in 2000's Tigerland for him to live up to that initial promise. It's been a long, tough eight years, but he finally did it with In Bruges as a remorseful hitman. Farrell is hardly the first person you would think who could handle both the wickedly hilarious side of the role as well as the dark, internal drama and does both jaw-droppingly great. Along with his also great performance in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, it looks like Colin Farrell is fighting to finally be taken seriously as an actor and up his game with each passing role; let's hope for more of this in the future.

Andrew Garfield
Boy A
There's a great little scene in the middle of Boy A that perfectly sums up why Andrew Garfield's performance is not only one of the best of the year, but one of the most exciting and breathtaking breakthrough performances of the past decade. Garfield's Jack is sitting in a restaurant with his girlfriend Michelle when she hands him a little gift. It turns out to be a nice leather wallet- a nice gesture, but nothing earthshattering. Jack, on the other hand, reacts as if he's just been handed the Heart of the Ocean and about 14 different emotions run across his face. The moment is interesting because, for a minute, you have no clue what his reaction is and, consequently, how you should be feeling about it: is he going to cry, laugh, get angry or is he just really surprised? More often than not, women are called on to play these types of emotional roles that demand shading and texture so it's nice to see an extremely young, good looking man not only tackle this but do it so damned effectively.

Richard Jenkins
The Visitor
Jenkins's performance in The Visitor is probably the hardest of the five to talk about because it's hard to put into words what makes it so special. On first glance, it doesn't look like Jenkins is doing much with only one big "moment," but the beauty of the performance lies in the quiet moments of fractured dialogue and deep, soulful looks of contemplation. Jenkins subtly follows the progression of The Visitor's narrative perfectly, starting cold and unapproachable, slowly melting as he becomes tangled up emotionally with a young immigrant couple and building up to that firestorm of frustration and grief before regaining his composure, still quite and reserved but newly open to care for another human being. The acting may not be superficially visible like a certain Best Actress nominee who cried and threw things on her way to a nomination, but Jenkins is able to speak volumes and more clearly with just a few carefully chosen gestures and looks.

Heath Ledger
The Dark Knight
The most buzzed about performance of the year, if not the decade, and somehow all of it (and then some) is completely warranted. Ledger's Joker may not have a massive amount of physical on-screen time, but, just like Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter, his presence so dominates every frame of the film that he feels like a true lead with Bale's Batman. Whenever a long stretch of screentime goes on (and on) without him, the film seems to flounder, but always recovers whenever he decides to cause some drama and show up for another round of "Guess What the Psychopath Will Do Next." And that's probably what makes Ledger's performance so exciting and immediately engrossing: you really have no clue what trick he's going to pull out next (or, as in the film, stick in your eye). Every scene is a jolt and, in my case, makes you sick to your stomach in anticipation of his next diabolical move. Heath's passing early last year was extremely saddening, but how many actors get to go out with a bang like this?

Mickey Rourke
The Wrestler
Like Jenkins, it may not seem like Rourke is doing much "acting" as the past-his-glory wrestling star Randy "The Ram" in The Wrestler, but his quiet character shadings speak volumes about both the character and Rourke's ability as an actor. The fact that The Ram's downfall to obscurity after an impossibly great 80's mirrors Rourke's career in Hollywood is the icing on the cake and one of the most perfect immersions of an actor into a role I've ever seen. The fact that Oscar passed over this subtle character work for some perfectly competent (and, for the most part, admittedly well-done) biopic-ing isn't really that surprising, but I'm thinking that this is the performance more people will still be talking about 15 years down the road.

If Only There Were Six: James Franco, Pineapple Express

Rest of the Top 10: Sean Penn, Milk...Espin Klouman-Hoiner, Reprise...Josh Brolin, W....Sam Rockwell, Choke

And the Diva Cup Goes to: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler


Matt said...

great choices, though I haven't seen "Boy A". I did love the Rourke and Farel so much though.

Vance said...

Are you sure I didn't hire you to ghostwrite this for me? (Except for the Franco part. I haven't seen it yet)

J.D. said...

You must know what my big problem with this is.

But it's still a pretty awesome line-up. ;)

Adam M. said...

Farrell was a bit erratic for my tastes. I just didn't buy his performance in In Bruges, or at least not like I did for Gleeson.

I don't see how you can consider Ledger to be Lead in TDK but Gyllenhaal to be Supporting in Brokeback. Then again, you also thought "Monster-in-Law" was the second best film that year, so perhaps us seeing eye-to-eye is a general impossibility.

I agree with what you say about Rourke's performance. Though Milk was a good movie, it will most likely dissolve into the fog of cinematic history with the rest of the more recent well-made biopics. I too have no doubts, however, that Rourke in The Wrestler will go down as one of the greatest performances of our time.

Also, the complete Frank Langella snub hurts. I know you despised the complacent, manufactured quality of Frost/Nixon, but credit should be given where credit is due, don't you think?

Great job, Dame James!