Tuesday, 17 February 2015

“Do I look like a double fucking rainbow to you?!”- MY FAVOURITE PERFORMANCES OF 2014

         There were a ridiculous number of great performances in 2014. It has honestly broken my heart to leave some of them out of this list (especially looking at you, Rose Byrne and Antoine-Olivier Pilon). I do like how this list has more women than men proving yet again why I loved last year so much from a cinephile's point-of-view. So without further adieu, these are my 25-ish ('cuz there are actually 31- you'll see) favourite performances of 2014:



25.
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
The number of times I had to remind myself that this is an actor acting and not a real person was insane. Though it is supposed to be Mason's story, I was most interested in what was happening to Arquette's character, partly because of the story and mostly because of her fantastically layered performance. 


24.
Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
I know Redmayne is probably walking away with the Oscar for his performance in this movie *shudders* but I honestly believe the only awards-worthy work was done in the film by Jones. She was the heart and strength of the film for me. Her work is very subtle yet completely heartbreaking.


23.
Jesse Eisenberg in The Double
Eisenberg is known to play the vulnerable nerd or the cocky asshole. In The Double, he plays both. However, it does not seem like he's relying only on his strengths because it is the moments of quiet desperation and simmering anger in between these two personas that constitute some of the best acting of last year and they are the reason why he's here on this list.


22.
Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I don't want to sound like a broken record by saying how good Serkis is because it's just a fact. This is arguably his best work. It's Kebbell who was more astonishing. He brought such terrifying viciousness to the character of Koba and almost outshined even a seasoned artist like Serkis through his performance.


21.
Stacy Martin in Nymphomaniac
I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was Martin's first film. She's not here only for her bravery but also for completely being this very unique woman, embodying her aloofness, her horror over losing her ability to feel pleasure, her pain over her father's condition, her dry humour and so on. Can't wait to see what else Martin does.


20.
Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer
Apparently the role of Mason was meant to be played by a man. Needless to say, no man or woman could have done what Swinton did with the role. Taking inspiration from the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Adolf Hitler, Swinton flawlessly turns into this living, breathing political cartoon who is a riot every time she's on screen.


19.
Keira Knightley in Begin Again
Around the same time last year, when I saw Last Night for the podcast, I was first made aware of how good Knightley can be in modern roles. I always thought she's best suited for period films but it's the present day which brings a relaxed, confident air to her performances and I think her work in Begin Again is her best to date. From her singing to her effortless chemistry with everyone around her, she shines the most here.


18.
Anne Dorval in Mommy
There are just so many shades to Die. She's loud, angry, sexy, confused, vulnerable, bitter, loving, sad and the list goes on, and Dorval portrays all of these. It's a complicated role and a complicated performance. Much like the film, she is on the edge of being overly-dramatic but she never goes overboard and in fact makes Die someone painfully and beautifully human.


17.
Michael Keaton in Birdman
Keaton is someone I only associated with his Batman films and even in those, other actors outshone him completely. Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that he can do a role like this. The movie is basically in his character's head and a lot of it is totally nuts but Keaton makes it all believable. His frustration, his self-doubts, the pain caused by the various relationships he has, the madness and confusion of his inner and outer lives, the quieter moments of resignation and sadness- it's a truly fantastic performance and one I hope he wins an Oscar for.


16.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights and Belle
God, where did she come from? She's awesome! And she couldn't have played two more different roles in one year, BOTH of which she was excellent at. On one hand, she was this Rihanna-esque rising music star battling with insecurity and on the other, she was a mixed-race 18th century English woman slowly gaining confidence and understanding of the world around her. I prefer the first a little bit more because it could have been such a one-note, predictable performance but instead Mbatha-Raw found such raw and genuinely emotional places to take it to. The same could be said of her performance in Belle as well. Truly, a revelation.


15.
James McAvoy in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
He's been so overlooked in people's best performances list and I don't understand why. Chastain had the more showy role of the two and she delivers completely (more on that later) but, like fellow and similarly ignored Scotsman, Ewan McGregor, McAvoy here is the quieter yet stable counterpoint to her performance and he is just as heart-rendering, if not more, at the end.


14.
Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars
I love her whole performance but it's really the scene in the toilet that made me put her here. How can someone be so absurd and normal at the same time? I dunno, ask Moore. She's done it before with Boogie Nights (one of the greatest performances of all time) and she did it again here. I am completely, 100% going to pretend it is her performance here that she's actually winning her Oscar for.


13.
Jessica Chastain in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
I would have put her performance in A Most Violent Year here too but her complete work over the two Eleanor Rigby movies has totally wiped it off my mind. This is the best she's ever been. Like Die earlier, Chastain's Eleanor also goes through a gamut of emotions but she's so much harder to read. There is a resistance to show how she feels but the beautiful thing about Chastain's work here is that you can see that as well. Since the films are named after Eleanor, she's more or less the axis around which both the stories turn and Chastain is able to portray that. Of course, she is tremendous in Her but even in Him, where she is playing a colder, more aloof version of Eleanor, she makes her presence felt throughout the film.


12.
Tabu in Haider
Tabu showed in Haider why she's considered one of the best actors of Indian cinema. Sure, the film is about Haider (who is based on Hamlet), but it is Tabu's Ghazala who steals the show. I must give props to the director Vishal Bharadwaj as well for creating a character like her, a middle-aged mother who is completely driven by her passions no matter how unorthodox they may be, a rarity anywhere but especially in Bollywood. However, it would all have been for nought if Tabu hadn't given such a daring and unforgettable performance in that role.


11.
Jenny Slate in Obvious Child
Kinda like Moore, Slate fully won me over at one point in her performance- it is when the *SPOILERS BUT NOT REALLY* abortion is finally taking place and the close-up is on Slate's face. It starts out as funny because she looks stoned almost but then her eyes well up and tears stream down the side of her face and you feel so much for this woman. Of course, there is a sadness in the film but there is also life and happiness and Slate embodies both those parts so well. It is a very sweet performance.


10.
Jack O'Connell in Starred Up, Unbroken and '71
I have been raving about O'Connell everywhere on the internet. I have been a fan since his Skins days but I too was amazed by the caliber of performances he's given this year. Of course, Starred Up has his best performance. He's almost like an animal. His physical acting is only matched by his raw, emotional sensitivity. As for Unbroken, I think he really elevated the film as much as he could. He has such charisma. Finally, in '71, the whole film is so gritty and intense and O'Connell is a major reason for that.


9.
J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
I almost just want to write that I will never see Juno the same way again and leave it at that. There's such vehemence in this performance. It blows one away until they're left quivering, even more so because, just like with the Miles Tellers' character in the movie, we are constantly taken in and manipulated by it and we are surprised at every turn.


8.
Brendon Gleeson in Calvary
Remember what I wrote about McAvoy earlier- just take that and like multiply it a thousand times and that's how appalled I am at everyone for not giving this performance its due attention. There is such inner turmoil in Father James' life that Gleeson is able to portray. He is supposed to be stoic because he's a priest but we feel the anger, the sadness, the frustration of this man who is still, after all, just a man. It is a finely tuned and deeply human performance.


7.
Edward Norton in Birdman
Norton in Birdman reminded me why it is I fell in love with him in the first place. He is totally unpredictable. Every time I thought I had this character figured out, he went and did something completely opposite to what I was expecting and Norton not only performs the different facets of this character's personality brilliantly, but also those tiny moments of when he's transitioning from one to another. 


6.
Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night and The Immigrant
Similar to Arquette, watching Cotillard in Two Days, One Night was a constant series of "Oh crap, she's acting here!" She became Sandra so completely that it was baffling to think that this is not a someone who really exists whose life we are following and who we are witnessing actually go through clinical depression. Cotillard is completely immersed in her role. She is very good in The Immigrant as well, delivering a nuanced and oftentimes surprising performance 


5.
Tom Hardy in Locke
Seriously, when was the last time you were interested in listening to someone talk about concrete? I'm gonna go with never (no offence meant to anyone who works with concrete and reads this blog). But listening to Hardy talk about it, I was completely riveted, enthralled, spellbound, rapt! Locke was sold as the movie with Tom Hardy in a car and it's an excellent movie mostly because of the Tom Hardy part. I love one-man movies because it must be so difficult to act on your own and not having someone to react to, and Hardy faces this challenge head on. He explores so many sides to this character in such a short movie with such a constricted setting. It's a masterclass in acting.


4.
Essie Davis in The Babadook
Of all the performances in this list, I have a feeling I will grow to love this one the most over the years. I was already more impressed with it when I rewatched the film. The way Davis goes from meek and tired to ferocious and unhinged over the course of the film is just staggering. It's not just her face or her physicality but also her voice that changes. There is such control in this performance. It is definitely going to go down as one of the best roles in horror history.


3.
Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Like Leo last year, seeing an established "dramatic" actor tackle a funny role has brought me great joy. Obviously, Fiennes already gave us a taste of comedic chops in In Bruges, but he's just spectacular in The Grand Budapest Hotel. From his proper mannerisms to the delectable way words just flow from his mouth, to the fact that though this is a comedy performance, there is such a poignant undercurrent that runs through it that Fiennes brings out in the way he acts and speaks, it is simply a delight to watch him in this role.


2.
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler and Enemy
At one point during Nightcrawler, I remember thinking to myself "THIS guy played Bubble Boy." It is mental to think about how far Gyllenhaal has come as an actor. Though I thought his work in Nightcrawler was better than both his roles in Enemy, the fact that one actor in one year has managed to give these absolutely crazy yet disturbingly believable performances, all of which are so varied and complex in their own ways, needs to be lauded by one and all. I am fully on board with whatever Gyllenhaal tackles next.


1.
Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
And then there was one. And what a performance at that!
More than anything else, it is Pike's voice as the real Amy that has stuck with me. As incredible as it is to watch her transformation from pretty waif into psychotic mastermind on screen, the fact that she manages to even lace her voice with that creeping madness is what blows my mind. It gets under your skin.
Though of course, it is the expression her eyes too that can be so innocent in the first scene and completely predatorial in the last that makes her performance the best of the year.
Plus, I can't leave out talking about how multi-layered her work is. She is funny, ethereal, terrifying, manipulative and so much more. She did something I didn't think was possible- outdo the book Amy. I don't remember the last time the cinematic portrayal of a literary character not only matched my expectations, which in itself is rare, but also brought out sides and depths that weren't in the book.
Basically- Amazing Rosamund is amazing.


What were your favourite performances of 2014?

Also in Best of 2014:

14 comments:

  1. So many great performances here, and I love that Dorval is here...but where is Pilon!?!?!?! Like, what a brave, incredibly honest and organic performance!

    But, this list as a whole is pretty incredible, so ignore my bitching. Cotillard, Gugu, Gleeson, Fiennes, Gyllenhaal...such an incredible year for actors!

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    1. Pilon *just* missed the list. He was very good.

      It was an ab fab year for actors.

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  2. OMG yay Rosamund! She's definitely my favourite performance from 2014 by faaaaaar. Man there's so much I still need to see, especially Eleanor Rigby and the two Cotillard films. Also - so glad to see a little love for Tom Hardy in Locke, he was so damn good in that movie it hurt. And concrete doesn't interest me at all.

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    1. We always love the same awesome best-of-the-year performance. I love it :D
      Yesss Tom Hardy was sooo good!
      I hope you get to check out the Eleanor Rigby and Cotillard films soon. I think you'll love them.

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  3. I love this list! And Queen Rosamund at the top is perfect. I'm so annoyed she won't be walking away with that Oscar.

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  4. So awesome to see Ros top this many lists! I really need to see Eleanor Rigby

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    1. She's brilliant, I have no choice! :P
      Yes you do.

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  5. Arquette's performance in Boyhood is one of the most overrated in recent history. I was definitely rooting for Rosamund Pike (but we all knew she was the long-shot to win)...but she gave the BEST performance.

    Essie Davis in The Babadook also gave a badass performance. The Babadook deserved some recognition didn't it?

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    1. Agree to disagree? ;) At least we both loved Pike and Davis. The Babadook totally deserved some recognition!

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  6. Loving Rosamund Pike as your no.1

    Very happy to hear you preferred Jones to Redmayne. I did too. Her "I did my best" scene broke me haha.

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    1. Trust me, there was no one else :)

      That scene broke me too.

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  7. YES! Love so many of these, especially Dorval, Gleeson, Cotillard, Hardy, Mbatha-Raw, Keaton, O'Connell, Chastain, Knightley, and Pike. Great picks!

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    1. Thanks! They were all amazing.

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