Sunday, January 27, 2008

The boys who came in sixth

It feels awful to post anything above that picture of Heath, so I hope I've managed a respectful pause before saying: I know I'm not the first to point this out, but wow, what a great year 2007 was for supporting actors. If this is some indication of how good, Heath Ledger himself was borderline-great in I'm Not There and he still got nowhere my list. My final five took an unusual amount of whittling down this year, so I've been planning to give a shout out to a few more fellas who were jostling for a slot, and who at various times (right after I'd seen their movies, usually) would have made it in. 

I was this close to singling out Vlad Ivanov in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days for playing the anti-Vera Drake, an abortionist less likely to ply you with tea than, well, drown you in it. Sydney Pollack was nearly in, too, for doing his Changing Lanes thing again in Michael Clayton and being so unpretentiously perfect at it that he's the second best thing in the movie. If I had to pick one actor from the I'm Not There ensemble and we weren't counting the ladies, it would have been Bruce Greenwood, whose BBC interviewer, unlike Geraldine Chaplin in Nashville, actually seemed like a BBC interviewer, and visibly relished being an uncool foil to the whole film's studiously constructed Dylan-ishness.

Excellent though Casey Affleck was in The Assassination of Jesse James..., I think it's a pity no one's noticed how good, and how much more genuinely supporting, Sam Rockwell is in the background of half his scenes -- Robert Ford can whinge on about being overshadowed, but imagine being Charley. 

On a second viewing I'll concede that Paul Dano's acting in There Will Be Blood wobbles a little towards the end, but he's not budging from my list, not even in favour of the eerily still Dillon Freasier or -- though it's close -- the shabby, sad-eyed, more-cadaverous-than-ever Kevin J O'Connor, an actor I've long loved, for giving away all his character's secrets in that beach scene while outwardly hiding them and barely moving a muscle.

Two other actors had astonishing moments but not quite enough screen time to crack the big five. I'll find it hard to think back on 2007 without remembering William Hurt's single-shot collapse onto the street at the end of Into the Wild, the single most powerful thing I've ever seen him do. Nor will I quickly forget the year's most inspired line reading, which came courtesy of eighth-billed Benedict Cumberbatch in his big Atonement paedo creepathon: "You have to bite it..."

UPDATE: Oops, and I missed off Devid Striesow, not only a capable lead in Yella but a smiling wonder as the cherubic Nazi officer in The Counterfeiters. Sorry Devid!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

For the record...

Because it's list season, and because Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday, and, well, really, just for the heck of it, I'm going to interrupt my best/worst countdown with acting citations for the year just gone. Those, and one other category -- my favourite in movies last year -- which is Best Original Score. (Incidentally, the way the pictures taper off in size has nothing to do with the stature of the performances. I'm just being lazy and can't be bothered to crop them further.)


Chris Cooper (Breach)
Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)
Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire)

Worst: Ed Harris (Copying Beethoven)


Helena Bonham Carter (Conversations With Other Women)
Marina Hands (Lady Chatterley)
Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)
Laura Linney (Jindabyne)
Anamaria Marinca (4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days)

Worst: Gong Li (Curse of the Golden Flower, Hannibal Rising)


Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood)
Joseph Gilgun (This is England)
Hippolyte Girardot (Lady Chatterley)
Fabrice Luchini (Molière)
Alfred Molina (The Hoax)

Worst: Jeremy Davies (Rescue Dawn)


Seema Biswas (Water)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (I'm Not There)
Deborra-Lee Furness (Jindabyne)
Jena Malone (Into the Wild)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

Worst: Alexandra Maria Lara (Youth Without Youth)


Marco Beltrami (3.10 to Yuma) clip

Carter Burwell (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead) clip

Nick Cave, Warren Ellis (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) clip

Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood) clip

Wojciech Kilar (We Own the Night) clip

(A word also for the year's two best song scores, for Once and Into the Wild...)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Election googling

Want to get the low-down, readers outside the US, on those sinister, grinning Republican candidates all jostling for position in the primaries, and their respective policy ideas? I have an easy google browsing solution. Where the candidate's name is "X", simply type the words "X is scary" into your search engine, and all the facts will be revealed. It really works! I just tried it.

The Best of 2008: #1

I should have known it. You draft your top ten, start the posts... and then finally get round to seeing Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which clearly belongs way in the upper reaches of anyone's list. Technically, the film's UK release date is the 11th Jan, so I could fudge it and wait till next year, or bump another entry to #11, I guess... But it will be easier, I propose, to hold on to a film which isn't scheduled to come out anywhere for a good few months yet -- Tarsem's wonderful The Fall, which I caught last February at the Berlin film festival -- and reshuffle the list to accommodate Mungiu's masterly abortion drama. Consider The Fall a ghostly presence in the backdrop of this top ten: it was way, way up there at #3, and there's no film I'm looking forward to revisiting more in the coming months. In truth, my memory of this haunting fantasy metanarrative could do with a refresh anyway. Let's just say that, for the time being, it occupies my number one slot for the best films officially being distributed in 2008, and it will be a damn fine spring for the movies if it's dislodged any time soon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Best and Worst of 2007: #9

9th best -- Les petites vacances

This year's Red Lights prize for underheralded French drama that I could hardly have liked more goes to Olivier Peyon for his subtly disquieting granny-and-tots road movie. New wave veteran Bernadette Lafont, as the disobedient gran indefinitely prolonging a day out with the kids, offers a smiling enigma of a performance that's calibrated beautifully, and Peyon, a new name to me, has something of that Cédric Kahn/Laurent Cantet/Ray Lawrence knack for creating a kind of abstract unease by letting the camera linger: the sustained rear-view shot of a slow-moving log truck as the movie opens is a case in point, setting up a lot of the film's tensions by both obstinately stalling progress and prompting a dangerous urge to overtake.

9th worst -- Good Luck Chuck

After a grimly appropriate performance as a sleazy voyeur in Mr Brooks, Dane Cook returned to default obnoxiousness in the year's most calculatedly vile -- if not quite its creepiest -- mainstream rom-com. Jessica Alba "broadened her range" by playing a pratfalling penguinologist, and the penguins did not look impressed. They looked vaguely appalled. Worst bit: Cook testing his romantic mojo on the least attractive female he can find, whereby we discover that if you're over a size six in this movie, you lick your own warts, stuff yourself to farting point, and are barely human. This was like an STD infecting multiplexes.