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2010's 25 Best Performances That Won't Win Oscars


With only one week to go til Christmas, and having already recorded the critics' accolades for films released in 2010 (and probable Oscar contenders), we present a New York magazine slide show of those film performances which have not seen laurel wreaths laid at the feet of the film's respective actors and actresses, but whose 'stars' were noteworthy in their stunningly effective portrayal of their characters, for all of us adding to the sum total of our experience inside our local multiplex this past year.

Left to right, top to bottom, in 2009 Chloë Grace Moretz impressed in a small role in 500 Summer Days, but in 2010 she became a star on the rise in two breakout roles, as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, and centuries old vampire, Abby, in Let Me In. Needless to say, the pint-sized Ms. Moretz now has a full Hollywood dance card, with no fewer than five films set for release in 2011, and a sequel to Kick-Ass announced and in the works for 2012.

Dale Dickey, the unheralded centre of Winter's Bone, gives as chilling a performance as the dead-faced mother of a group of Ozark meth heads as you'll see onscreen this year. Dickey is the noir figure of violence and threatening menace, the opposition to Ree Dolly's (Jennifer Lawrence) questing backwoods daughter in search of her father. At every step her performance is mesmerizing, and should be celebrated. If you haven't seen Winter's Bone, it's available on video and this Christmas it's a must-rental.

In one of the year's best movies, Roman Polanksi's dense political thriller The Ghost Writer, Olivia Williams plays the deliciously elegant, dagger-sharp wife of a former British prime minister who seethes at being miles from the action, when in fact she's right in the centre of the political chicanery. Smart yet bitter, Olivia Williams effectively projects the air of a political wife who is committed to her husband in more than expected ways.

The following is our capsule review of Mother, which we reviewed at the 2009 Vancouver International Film Festival ...

Just your average, run-of-the-mill Korean psychosexual thriller, replete with blood and violence, taboo schoolgirl imagery, raucous consensual sex involving a very young girl, and a mother who will go to any ends to rescue her son from the clutches of the judicial system, including ... well, that would be giving it away, wouldn't it? The most audacious film of the year, from director Bong Joon-ho (The Host), Mother offers a taut tale of murder and suspense that moves slowly in its first half, and in its second half grabs you by the lapels, throws you around, and just doesn't let go.

And who is the mother in the film?

Hye-Ja Kim, winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics' Association's Best Actress award. As is the case with most of the films reviewed in this post, Mother is on video ... which, of course, makes it another must-rental.

Ciarán Hinds has starred in everything from Roger Michell's Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion, to Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, and everything in-between, but he's never been more effective than he is in Conor McPherson's Eclipse, in which he brings to life the role of a widower who sees and hears peculiar things in his house. Crossing paths with an author of supernatural fiction (Iben Hjejle), the two set about to create one of the most appealing character-based dramas to be released in 2010.

Katie Jarvis is absolutely riveting in Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, a gritty urban drama that was everything last year's Oscar nominee Precious was not: honest, real, raw. As Claudia Puig wrote in her review of Fish Tank ...

Jarvis' debut performance is a bracingly authentic revelation. She was discovered by filmmakers in a train station as she fought with her boyfriend, and brings just the right blend of feisty forcefulness and awkward tenderness to the part.

Winner of a 2009 Cannes' Jury Prize, Fish Tank is yet another must-rental.

Oliver Platt has been a fixture on the indie movie scene since the early 90s, and has never been better than he is in Nicole Holofcener's brilliant Please Give, playing a fumbling, grasping at intimacy antiques dealer whose sheer ebullience provides the movie with a welcome sense of ease. "We buy from the children of dead people!" he chirps when a customer asks where he and Kate get their inventory, and his wife (Catherine Keener) looks on, mortified. Platt has simply never been better. Here's another must-rental.

Mia Wasikowska is a find, our favourite actress to emerge in the past three years, not least because we were swept away by her performance as Sophie in HBO's very fine shrink series, In Treatment ...

Not too difficult to see why Tim Burton chose the luminous Ms. Wasikowska as the lead in his March 2010 release, Alice in Wonderland. Note should be made, too, that Ms. Wasikowska provide the heart in Lisa Cholodenko's about to be Oscar nominated The Kids Are All Right, a calm voice of sanity amidst the sometimes crazy machinations of the film's adults. Keep an eye on this particular young thespian: Oscars are most definitely in her future.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at December 18, 2010 8:11 AM in Cinema


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