1. Jeremy Renner — The Town2. Christian Bale — The Fighter3. Michelle Williams — Blue Valentine4. Colin Firth — The King's Speech5. Rachel McAdams — Morning Glory6. Julianne Moore — The Kids Are Alright7. Sam Rockwell — Iron Man 28. Kirsten Dunst — All Good Things9. Amy Adams — The Fighter10. Mark Ruffalo — Shutter Island*
Dec 10, 2010
PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Renner
This blog does not believe in Great Acting, or at least the kind of sweaty over-exertion that gets celebrated as Great Acting elsewhere. We like performers who hide their work, pull their weight, and steal the show without taking a thing from their fellows — showboats who play well with others. We do not observe any distinctions of gender, class or nationality, although we admit to a slight prejudice towards the kind of performance that gets called 'supporting'. We are not gaga for Brits or their kings. We are not hot for a funny accent or prodigious feats of girth expansion/deflation. Disabilities leave us cold. Likewise famous beauties playing 'ugly'. We like comics when they are funny. We like entertainers when they entertain. We do not ask that they recant or apologise. We are not interested in 'transformations,' 'chameleons', and have no truck with 'disappearing into a role'. The performances listed above all conform, however, to the definition of art once given us, over a bottle of Italian red, by the art critic David Sylvester: a leopard too busy running to notice how beautiful it is in motion. We naturally trust no definition of art, but like this one because we like running leopards. Also, leopards in repose. Pretty much anything to do with leopards, in fact. They are cool creatures. So. We greatly enjoyed John Hawkes in Winter's Bone, Greta Gerwig in Greenberg, Blake Lively in The Town and Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank — leopards all. We liked Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are Alright but preferred his cop in Shutter Island. His performance was an uncanny period piece: he could have slipped into any Bogart picture, third hoodlum from the left, no questions asked. We loved Amy Adams' combination of lily-white limbs and right hook in The Fighter, and felt Kirsten Dunst's dawning horror in All Good Things like a rip in our lower left ventricle. Sam Rockwell was svelte and self-absorbed in Iron Man 2, as if the entire movie was about him; he even got a laugh from a joke about Joyce'sUlysses, the first time I have come across one in a summer blockbuster about robots (all credit to writer Justin Theroux). For us, the real revelation in The Kids Are Alright was not Annette Bening, who's performance felt like an expensive engine just ticking over, but Julianne Moore: skittish, daffy, as loose as Keaton in her prime, her body acting about two seconds ahead of her mind, or morals, or any other bit of her. Rachel McAdams brought Doris-Day-like levels of perkiness to Morning Glory, establishing her as the de Niro of sugarplum moxie, with the best bum in showbusiness. We liked Colin Firth's anger in The King's Speech and the way the stammer seemed to originate in his throat not his mouth: a spiritual, not a mechanical matter. Michelle Williams gets a truly thrilling scene of inchoate rage at the end of Blue Valentine: a black declaration of anti-love that would do the Liz Taylor of Virginia Woolf proud. Somebody put Williams in a Mike Nichols picture. Second place goes to Christian Bale for his an antic, emaciated jack-o-lantern in The Fighter, his metabolism like a candle gutttering in its own wax; that he overwhelmed his own movie is the only thing in his disfavor. Bale could do with taking notes from Jeremy Renner, who powered up The Town without overpowering it, delivering the most infectious bit of daredevilry we have since Steve McQueen passed away. Almost any other actor would have rooted Jem's violence in his fear of going back to jail; Renner tacks in the other direction, tipping fear into glee. The result was both the most purely pleasurable performance of the year, pound for pound, and also the most precisely callibrated to the task in hand — an unbeatable blend of show-stopper and team-player.
* I haven't yet seen True Grit or Another Year