Sunday, April 27, 2008

Addicts 2007: Best Actor in a Leading Role

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Day-Lewis
There Will Be Blood

Enough has been said about Day-Lewis as the dark, ruthless Plainview. He is indeed the frightening, towering everything that people say. When I watched There Will Be Blood it shook me because you just don't see films as volatile, uneven and downright gutsy, and I can't imagine what a strange situation it must have been to be involved in the making of it. Most of the film flows through DDL's character but for me this film does not belong to him, and neither does it belong to director Paul Thomas Anderson, or original novelist Upton Sinclair. The entire film feels untamed and so, really, Day-Lewis' job stretches far beyond that of portraying a literary figure. His Jekyll and Hyde job (the self-evaluative nature if not the compassion of Jekyll) ensures that the random shifts between scheming, meditative oil-man and uncontrollable eccentric monster feel as terrifyingly huge as an 80's power ballad, and a loose and organic allusion to human nature.

Benicio Del Toro
Things We Lost In The Fire

I started to write a review for Things We Lost In The Fire the day after I saw it, but later realised I was only really writing about Benicio Del Toro. The refreshing thing about his performance as a struggling heroin addict is that he doesn't seem to want or need your sympathy. He's visibly troubled but in a way that serves as an acknowledgement of addiction and its power over him. Del Toro gets the balance perfect, sustaining Jerry's potential as a productive long-term presence in the Burke family, juggling the sadness of his best friend's death and the guilt and depression of his recovering drug habit in a way that escapes false theatricality. He's the perfect choice for a character that's perhaps painted a little too cleanly by the film at times -- ironic, I know -- it's that modest effortless charm that makes him 'special' in a way you know he'd never want to be. The biggest weapon in his armery those come-to-bed eyes, which can make me a lovesick teenager and a ponderous wannabe-reformist all at once.

Emile Hirsch
Into The Wild

In many ways Hirsch reminds me of Leonardo Di Caprio's Jack in Titanic; young, fresh-faced, plucky, bold, content to be lost in a world so much bigger than his adventurous aspirations. Perhaps this is why it's easier to accept both their mortal punishments, but Hirsch doesn't have the luxury of a romance (at least an overt one) or a sinking ship to chronicle his development as a character. He is able to imbue so much thought about identity and purpose with his comfortable, reflective temperament, his placid tone a reminder that McCandless was someone eager to shrug off judgement and labels, and even ideology itself. On the face of it it may seem as if this boy was crazy, but things are only 'crazy' if you don't understand them. Hirsch may not have to run the gamut of emotions in every scene, but at the end of it all I felt like I understood him, and for a guy that was roaming the desolate West alone for almost all of his adult life -- that's an achievement.

Shia LaBoeuf

His troubled, misunderstood badboy demeanor forming the basis for Disturbia's continual sense of injustice, Shia's Kale is a 'have-a-go' hero of the most convincing stature, driving our interest through his.
Taken from review
LaBoeuf is undoubtedly the babyface badboy of a commercially-driven, and fascinatingly self-aware project, but while the film takes a lot from Rear Window, it puts a lot more pressure on its star. He has to inhabit the film's ideas about a rebellious, misunderstood generation, while exercising his dynamic hero status to the max. While Stewart's interfering neighbourhood watch was much tamer, LaBoeuf's Kale pushes things too far on more than one occasion and yet Shia emerges as a rash victim more than an unruly teenager. The true 'performer' in this excellent bunch of men, his character, a teenage hero in an action thriller, calls for more flair than Deerfield, Sunborne, Plainview or McCandless, and his boundless energy sells every bit of Disturbia, and makes for a manic and entertaining time. Slick, smart and sexy.

Tommy Lee Jones
In The Valley Of Elah

Paul Haggis' film is one that requires Tommy Lee Jones' Hank Deerfield to become an amateur sleuth in the quest to find the murderer of his son. Elah doesn't achieve any of what it wants to say (which is itself frustratingly vague) through overt, crass symbolism, and so its up to Tommy to hammer some of it home through the grief-stricken ex-Colonel. Jones' work, which somehow manages to come across as poignant, is laden with layers, and transforms a predictable character into someone worth studying. It's all in what he doesn't say; the methodical nature of the military man at the forefront of his character Deerfield is an intent and driven animal for most of Elah, but only to mask his engulfing grief. Jones can express his loss without having to be emotionally open, exposed without knowing it, or wanting to know it. And when called upon to deliver the cracks in Hank's emotional blockade (the main purpose of which is often to further the investigative elements of the story anyway) he does so with such guilt and self-loathing that you feel as if you've done well to obtain anything from this man. A man that gives so little away.

Winner: Shia LaBoeuf - Disturbia
Runner Up: Benicio Del Toro - Things We Lost In The Fire

Sad To Exclude: James McAvoy in Atonement, who has several heartbreaking moments but overall perhaps has less to do than the five men here. Chris Cooper, for a strange but nevertheless enthralling turn in Breach. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, whose performance in The Game Plan is flat-out hilarious. Josh Brolin, Johnny Depp, Glen Hansard, I salute you.


goatdog said...

Wow! What an original pick. I really liked LaBeouf, so I don't think it's totally crazy. Just somewhat. :P But that's why I read your blog. I still haven't seen Del Toro or Jones, which I have to remedy quickly.

I have to disagree about Hirsch, who was, for me, the main reason I didn't like Into the Wild. He never made the character into anything but a conceited, self-destructive kid in way over his head, where the film called for an actor who could make us understand McCandless's actions as something thought-out and considered. I needed to feel like there was more to him, and I never felt that.

Cal said...

Yeah I suppose it's a pretty unorthodox pick but I couldn't see much past Shia this year.

Wow. You really didn't like Hirsch? I thought his performance was really natural and mature. It touched me. I also loved the film so I suppose we just read it and him differently.

Anonymous said...

For me, Emile Hirsch is the principal reason for I like Into the Wild, he gaves a mature and natural performance, doesn't if the central character has a little bit cartoonish (But that the nature of McCandless) Hirsch gaves a human and intersting young boy...

I think he was horrifuied snubbed instead the ordinary and common George Clooney