Friday, December 31, 2010

FILM: The Top 10 Performances of 2010

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
Getting into the mind of such a well-known and openly-hated person like Mark Zuckerberg can be considered difficult...especially since it's not like he let Eisenberg shadow him. But through depositions, interviews, and the news, he managed to cobble together a likeness of the guy who entranced millions of people with the prospect of talking to their friends and getting to know strangers through a different medium. He put his bumbling, insecure dork routine aside for a second, and slipped into a role that called for a more calculated and obsessive persona, possessed by the desire to be respected, worshiped, and, ironically, forgiven. He had the difficult task of not just painting Zuckerberg as this backstabbing, friendless, sharp-tongued plagiarist, but also as a brokenhearted, misguided ingenue. He couldn't just be the villain with scathing put-downs and juvenile comebacks. He also had to be the victim. The only way the film would be fair is if everyone saw both sides of the argument, and hearing both sides of the deposition wasn't the key. The key was to also show that Zuckerberg was human, and that he admitted his mistakes, acknowledged his acts of betrayal, and regretted them wholeheartedly. Without Eisenberg's reflection of that during those tense and silent scenes, Zuckerberg's story would've been incomplete.

Emma Stone in Easy A
I'm going to be honest with you: Easy A was just an okay film. Funny enough for a teen comedy, but not exactly ground-breaking. What was impressive, though, was Emma Stone's ability to ooze such a strong personality, complete with impeccable comic timing and strong feminist ideals, a rarity at such a young age. Most comedic actresses don't come into their own until they're old enough to write their own scripts or to be taken seriously as more than a sex object, especially if they're fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to even be considered a sex object. But Stone has been consistently bringing the funny film-after-film, forgoing vanity to get a laugh, and Easy A was the climax of all of her hard work.

Logan Lerman in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Banking on the success of Percy Jackson, Lerman was hoping to parlay his first major role into an audition for one of the biggest franchises in the industry: Spider-man. Unfortunately, he prematurely celebrated before they surprisingly crowned the Brit Andrew Garfield the heir to the web-adorned throne. But the whole year wasn't a wash. While Greek mythology isn't exactly what the kids are into these days, Lerman did prove that he had just the right amount of charisma to carry a film, perfect comic timing, despite the juvenile material, and athletic ability minus the action star body. Taylor Lautner may aspire to become the next Tom Cruise, but it's Lerman that projects the same mischievous grin and rebellious flare in his eyes that Cruise did back in his Top Gun days.

Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt
I know most people find Cera to be as repetitive as a cuckoo clock, but like Jesse Eisenberg, this was his year of reinvention. Had he scored such a buzzed-about film and topic as The Social Network and Facebook, then his life would have changed too. But he didn't because his settings for evolution were the critically-pandered Youth in Revolt and the cult-indie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Hear me out before you cite how immature YIR was and how similar his SPTW character was to his previous personas. Sure, in both films he plays a nerd/geek/dork/loser who falls for a girl who is totally out of his league and he somehow manages to get the girl anyway. But in YIR, he also plays a villain of sorts—an alter ego with a knack for mischief, ranging from arson to seduction. Did you ever think that Cera would one day seduce a woman convincingly? Then in SPTW he fulfilled every pale gawdy teen's dream fantasy and became a comic book action star, complete with stunts and K-Os. Again, did you ever picture Cera knocking someone out successfully without running away screaming like a girl afterwards? That's called progress.

Javier Bardem in Eat Pray Love
I haven't seen many Javier Bardem films. Actually, I've only seen one, No Country for Old Men, where he played Chigurh, the relentless assassin. That means that I've never seen him be romantic or vulnerable. Perhaps he was in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Love in the Time of Cholera, but I've never seen nor intend to see those films. When I signed on for Eat Pray Love, I thought I was going to witness the rebirth of Julia Roberts, but instead I was amazed by how much more emotion he showed. I honestly don't think Roberts is capable of emotion anymore—she's fallen flat many times since her return—like the paparazzi have annoyed her to the point of introversion and robotic acting, like she refuses to give anymore of herself to the Hollywood machine. Not even fake tears. Bardem, however, was a ball of emotion, torn apart by his divorce, the distance of his son, and the rapture that engulfed him when he first crashed into her. I can assure you, if you watch NCFOM and EPL back-to-back, it would be like night-and-day.

Keir Gilchrist in It's Kind of a Funny Story
I love Keir Gilchrist. His incredibly believable portrayal of a closeted preppy gay teen on Showtime's "United States of Tara" is my favorite part of the series. Even though I'm not a gay teenage boy, I could relate to his outsider persona and feelings of unrequited love. So I was eager to see him in his first major starring role and eager to see if he could suck me into the film with this character as he did with the other. The film itself tried a little too hard to be relevant. As a coming of age story, it was a little too tidy at the end for such a serious topic as attempted suicide. But Gilchrist did the best he could with the material that he had and showed signs of a Paul Rudd-like appeal, the lovably awkward boy-next-door who was cool in his own right.

Emily Blunt in Wild Target
A majority of Blunt's roles have been hostile Brits, dainty Brits, or misunderstood Americans. She has managed to skate past the entire rom-com career path that other starlets have adopted to succeed. And even once she did give into the genre with this British indie caper, she didn't go the traditional route of falling for the young bad boy/fixer-up, but instead for an older mama's boy. Blunt doesn't look like your average leading lady and, therefore, doesn't go for your average roles. It was great to see her be rebellious and seductive, and still be a Brit—sort of saying Brits can have fun too...this one in particular.

Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek
Most people know Russell Brand as the sexaholic that was tamed by the voluptuous, pop-singing, bombshell Katy Perry. And, if you're familiar with his acting, you probably think he's a perpetually high/drunk, spirituality-spouting, seductive hippie rockstar. He's a walking, talking joke. Just looking at his frizzy, unkempt hair and hearing his thick British accent makes him seem like a gothic clown. And you would expect that he'd continue—as most comedians do—playing the same character over and over in every comedy. But Get Him to the Greek, despite his character's rockstar status, was a departure from his normal roles. Aldous Snow may have funny lyrics in his songs and a ridiculous lifestyle, but he spent a majority of the film seriously rethinking his life choices and making his first real friend. It was a taste of what he's capable of, and this role was a perfect mix of the two to do so.

James Marsden in Death at a Funeral
He's one of those guys who's always in a ton of movies but has never quite made it as a leading man. He's like Michael Angarano. Who? Exactly! If it were not for the popularity of Enchanted and his 90s career, no one would even know his name. But it's clear that some studio exec took notice of how well he does physical comedy and how willing he is to be the butt of everyone's jokes. I'll admit, when I first heard they were unnecessarily remaking the British dark comedy Death at a Funeral, I was a little skeptical. I was even more skeptical when I saw that Marsden was playing one of the two token white guys in the film, especially since the role was pretty hilarious the first time around. But there was no need to worry. He nailed it. He was the best part of the whole movie—the only part that outdid the original.  

Clark Duke in Kick-Ass
If you've seen "Greek," then you know Clark Duke has the uber dork persona down. But after three years of watching Duke in the role and then seeing him play the shit-talking smart ass in Sex Drive, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Kick-Ass, I think he nearly missed his calling. He's really good at sardonic humor. Chiding his friends and kicking them when they're down seems to almost come naturally. Kick-Ass is the best and most-viewed example of this. Even though he only had a handful of lines, he had the audience's arrested attention every time he spoke them.

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