Let the festivities begin! I look forward to this post every year. As usual, 2017 was a great year for the world of acting. There were some terrific performances from some established stars, as well as some unexpected ones. We saw the "retirement" of one of the all-time greats in Daniel Day-Lewis, but, as one fell, two more rose to take his place in Timothée Chalamet and Daniel Day-Lewis's own on-screen partner in Phantom Thread, Vicky Krieps. These two skyrocketed to the top of the A-list world, and you can certainly expect to see their names mentioned again in the future. Seeing meteoric rises like that are one of the many reasons I am hopelessly in love with cinema. But, enough yapping out of me, let's get to the Fourth Annual Awesome Actor Awards!
For my individual reviews of the films mentioned, click on the pictures.
Honorable Mention: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Leading off this stellar list is the GREAT Willem Dafoe. He executes the brilliantly written hotel manager, Bobby, with exactly the kind of grace and poise you would expect from someone who's been in the game for almost 4 decades. I absolutely loved this character! He's a wonderful father figure for the main characters, and made himself a pillar for the newcomers in this film to bounce off of. Something like The 15:17 to Paris could've learned a thing or two from director Sean Baker's The Florida Project. By having someone like Dafoe so heavily featured, it gave the other members of the cast, almost all of which were staring in their very first film, a veteran to work with and bounce ideas off of. And, yes Oscar, his actual character was pretty darn good, too.
Honorable Mention: Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Next up on this list is the legendary Christopher Plummer. (Speaking of people who have been in the business for a long time) He showed the studio executives just how wrong they were when Ridley Scott came to them initially and wanted Plummer to play the oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, but the execs wanted "a bigger name" like Kevin Spacey. But after the allegations of Spacey came out, Plummer came in with six weeks before the nationwide release and scrambled through 9 days of shooting to get all of the oil tycoon's scenes down, oftentimes learning the lines for his character minutes before shooting the actual scene. (Can you do that, Oscar? Didn't think so.) Afterwards, his performance was considered by many (myself included) to be the best part of the entire film. He was menacing and powerful, and ate up the screen every time he was on it. Not bad for 9 days of shooting, right?
10) Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman
Kicking off my top 10 performances is my first-ever performance from a superhero movie. But, if there was ever a time to include a performance from someone playing a superhero, it would be for Gal Gadot's iconic rendition of Wonder Woman. While there were a good amount of issues with the film itself, (from the sounds of it most came from the studio execs trying to alter the vision of director Patty Jenkins) Gadot is the reason this movie was as successful as it was. Her performance was incredible! Gadot portrayed Diana with such a charming child-like innocence, and she also matured as a character right before the viewer's eyes. It was lovely to watch, and very refreshing to FINALLY see a woman have her own superhero movie. She just might've become my favorite superhero in the process as well. Too bad the DC Universe around her is a dumpster fire.
9) Jessica Chastain, Molly's Game
Coming in at number 9 on the list is Jessica Chastain for her smart and sexy performance as the lead character in Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut, Molly's Game. I wish this film had received more love from the Academy, but I had a blast watching Chastain rattle off Sorkin's unique dialogue style like it was child's play. She was always the smartest woman in the room, and brushed the men around her off like they were flies. The film was a wonderful female-led power story, and no doubt Chastain held it all together. I really hope Chastain and Sorkin do more things together, because she meshes with his style as well as any actor I have ever seen. What aboss of a character, and what a boss of a performance from Jessica Chastain.
8) Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
You know it's been a great year for actresses when the favorite to win its category at the Oscars only comes in at number 8 for me. Even though it's not at the top of my list, I can see why the Academy is partial to her performance. She (plus Sam freaking Rockwell) is the reason this movie was as good as it was. She's a total boss, (like Chastain, but on steroids) and she also has to display a pretty wide range of emotions throughout the film. Her character arc is awesome, and she executes this arc masterfully. Watching her go toe-to-toe with people like Sam freaking Rockwell and Woody Harrelson was awesome. This is certainly the best performance I've seen from this accomplished actress since her legendary role in Fargo. Check it out!
7) Christian Bale, Hostiles
Next up on the list was a performance from one of the last films I saw this year, Christian Bale in Hostiles. Bale is a master of the craft, and it's amazing to think that this performance is just another notch on his impressive resume. Bale combines intimacy and power flawlessly - his character is quiet and reserved, yet manages to control a room every time he's in one thanks to his commanding presence. I think this comes from Bale's demeanor, which he pulls off incredibly well. Sadly, there wasn't much else to like about the film, but Bale's dominating performance was more than enough to keep me invested single-handily.
6) Saoirse Ronan + Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan is no stranger around here: her performance in Brooklyn landed her in the top 3 in my Second Annual Awesome Actor Awards. This year, though, it didn't feel right to only include her and not include Laurie Metcalf. The two of them are the centerpiece of the charming and WONDERFUL Lady Bird, and it's impossible to talk about one without mentioning the other. This pairing is exceptional! Their chemistry is fantastic. One second they're arguing, the next they're talking about a beautiful dress they just found. They bounce off one another SO well, and they hit nearly every note on the emotional spectrum at one point or another. If you want an example of how great these two are on screen, look no further than their hilarious opening scene. This scene sets the tone for the movie and their relationship, and Ronan/Metcalf play it like they really are mother/daughter. Also, Saoirse Ronan is quite possibly the most talented young actress out there. The ceiling for her career is limitless at this point!
5) Bill Skarsgård, It
Wow, Oscar, seriously? This performance is only number 5? Alright, then. Guess it's safe to say the top 5 here are in a world of their own. From the first scene of this film, I knew we were in for a terrifying performance from Bill Skarsgård, the man behind the makeup of Pennywise the DANCING Clown. This movie was awesome for a lot of reasons, (did it really get no love from the Academy, Oscar? Seriously? Alright then) but I'd argue the biggest was for Skarsgård's haunting portrayal of Pennywise. No disrespect to Tim Curry, but his portrayal of Pennywise in the 1990 TV miniseries felt a little over-the-top. Skarsgård keeps the menacing clown grounded (as much as he can) and sells the roll with his mannerisms and body language. This performance reminded me a LOT of Heath Ledger's Joker, (which, coincidentally Skarsgård said was his biggest inspiration. See, Oscar? I can get one or two things right every so often!) and anything that reminds me of one of the greatest performances ever seen in cinema is DEFINITELY a good thing. If you can brave the horrors of this film, Skarsgård's performance as Pennywise is worth the cost of admission alone, and definitely makes me hopeful that the inevitable sequel is gonna be good, too. No doubt this was my easy best supporting actor performance of 2017.
4) Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Now we're into the thick of it. Sally Hawkins, man. She is asked the WORLD in The Shape of Water. And she delivers it all while not being able to speak. How do you convey emotion when you aren't able to use the complexity of your voice? Just ask Sally Hawkins. Her performance with this handicap was simply incredible. Many are calling it the performance of her career, and I can see why. There's one scene in particular, where she's trying to recruit her apartment-mate, played by Richard Jenkins, to join her in doing something illegal that just blew me away. I felt the pull of Hawkins all the way through the screen. There is so much passion, so much emotion, so much depth behind the eyes and arms of Sally Hawkins in this performance. It leveled me as much as the eyes of Nicole Kidman did in 2016. It is one of the best displays of acting I have ever seen, and one of many reasons why her performance is my number 1 performance from an actress in a lead role in 2017. (Here's another phenomenal scene where she conveys so much emotion with her eyes and arms) Seriously. Go see this movie for Hawkins performance alone, ESPECIALLY if you are a young aspiring actor. She puts on a clinic if I ever saw one. Wait, Oscar, you mean to tell me I have 3 more performances to talk about? Wow. This year was absurd.
Alright, friends. Before we get to the top 3, let's take a moment and hand out some "awards." This is the Annual Awesome Actor Awards, after all! What else would you expect?
The Breakout Actor Award Goes to....
Many of you may still be saying "Who?" as I hand this award to Billy Keoghan. But, if you haven't heard this name already, you soon will. After being the best thing about the surprisingly good The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Keoghan landed a major role in Christopher Nolan's massive blockbuster and Oscar-nominated Dunkirk. This dude can act. His deadpan performance in The Killing of a Sacred Deer chilled me to the core, and was the moment where I realized this guy's real potential. He doesn't have much on the calendar yet, but I suspect you will be hearing his name a lot more in the future. Plus, landing a major supporting role in a Christopher Nolan film always helps.
The Breakout Actress Award Goes to....
I'm going to do something a little unorthodox here, but Greta Gerwig is my spirit animal and I can do what I want so I'm going to give an award within the Annual Awesome Actors Awards to someone who didn't actually show up on screen at any point in 2017. But, for this wonderful, charming, and eccentric human being, 2017 was a great year. See, for those that don't know, Greta Gerwig directed/wrote the massive critical hit Lady Bird. Gerwig has been mulling around the indie section of Hollywood for over a decade now after getting her start in the mumblecore movement of the late 2000s, but hasn't gained that much notoriety over the years. To the point that you can still see her raw, unpolished emotions in her interviews/acceptance speeches (just look at her Golden Globes acceptance speech) as she gains a TON of notoriety for writing/directing Lady Bird and gaining two Oscar nods in the process for both. And a Best Picture nod for the icing on the cake. It's almost ironic that this amazing actress goes 10+ years in the business without making as much waves in acting as she should, then in her directorial debut she nabs two Oscar nominations. Well, I think it's safe to say after the massive success of Lady Bird, she can do whatever she wants. I don't think we're in the land of small-town indies anymore!
The Feel-Good Comeback Story Aaard Goes to...
Hong Chau has been in Hollywood for over 10 years. But, she has only starred in 2 films during that time, the disappointing Inherent Vice, and the (unfortunately) disappointing Downsizing. HOWEVER, her role in Downsizing was EASILY the best part of that film, and it has earned her a couple of Best Supporting Actress nominations along the way. She's received a lot of press over the past few months, most notably a major piece in the New York Times, as well as a coveted nomination from the Screen Actors Guild. For someone who was thinking about quitting acting after not receiving any audition requests for over a year, that's not a bad turnaround! It's unfortunate that Chau has been delegated to type-cast roles over the years, because she is an exceptional actress. Here's to hoping that the notoriety she's gained with these high-profile nominations carries over into 2018 and beyond! Please don't quit the business, Ms. Chau. You're too talented for Hollywood to lose you!
The Worst Actor of the Year was...
It's been a rough year for Matt Damon. Not only has he starred in two REALLY bad movies in Suburbicon and Downsizing, he was also bad in them. When the best thing a top-of-the-line A-list movie star has done in a year is an uncredited cameo in a Marvel movie, thaaaaaat's.....not good. He just wasn't very good in either of these films! I mean the material he was given wasn't all that great either, but....it's not like Matt Damon is a bad actor, so I don't know if he was just cashing in a few paychecks or what, but his movies were bad, and he was totally sleepwalking through them. That, coupled with the fact that he and his publicist couldn't get on the same page when it came to the #MeToo movement until JANUARY (apparently he knew Harvey Weinstein was harassing Gwyneth Paltrow and did nothing) are why he is more than deserving of this award. OSCAR! WHY WOULD IT TAKE ALMOST THREE MONTHS TO APOLOGIZE FOR SAYING SOME TERRIBLE THINGS? Oh. Because you're a jerk and don't have any respect for women? Ahhhhhhh.....you're so wise, Oscar.
The Worst Actress of the Year Was...
(Ok, so, gonna throw in a quick aside here. I'm listening to the Phantom Thread score right now as I write this because it's beautiful, and RIGHT when I scrolled over Chloë Grace Moretz photo, and I realized that I now had to talk about her, [which I've been dreading for a while now] the dramatic rendition of the film's theme, the one with the full orchestra at its loudest point in the entire film, started. IT KNOWS, MAN. Who says listening to movie scores in everyday situations doesn't have its benefits?)
No. NO GOD PLEASE. I DON'T WANNA. I LOVE Chloë Grace Moretz. I've been a HUGE fan of hers ever since 2010's Kick-Ass. She's a GREAT young actress, but.....what are you doing??? Moretz starred in three films in 2017. Two of them are ACTUALLY my bottom two films of the year, and the other....well, just click on the IMDB link for Red Shoes & the 7 Dwarfs and tell me, with a straight face, that that looks like a good movie. How could she be this desperate for work? She should be in the prime of her career, and she already has an established a very proven track record. But she slept-walked through both of the roles I saw her in in 2017, and the second of which just had to be I Love You, Daddy. Now, I don't fault her at all for being in this film: I'm sure she got paid well for it, and all of her lines/the presentation of her character comes to you courtesy of the sick, twisted mind of Louis C.K. But, as a simple matter-of-fact, she's still in the film! There's no way around it. I hand this award to her hoping that she gets better work. She REALLY deserves it. I'd put her right up there with Saoirse Ronan for some of the best young female talent Hollywood has to offer. She just needs to hire a better publicist. PLEASE find a good movie again!!!
The Best Actor of the Year Was...
You knew I was going to mention him sooner or later, (YES, I know I mentioned him in the introduction, Oscar!) but rare do you see a man with the level of talent and tenacity as Timothée Chalamet burst on to the scene in Hollywood. He tore our hearts to pieces in one of the best films of the year, Call Me by Your Name, and he added a rich and meaningful performance in Lady Bird just for good measure. Oh! And he was in Hostiles, but only briefly. He was good there too, though! His heart-stopping performance in Call Me by Your Name is the main reason he's receiving this "coveted" award. His character is one of the most complex characters I have ever seen in a film, and Chalamet played him with such courage and zeal, all while being sure to emotionally destroy you at one moment or another. The final scene of the film, in particular, is one of the single most devastating performances I have ever seen. AND he's forced to hold this scene over the course of the initial credits sequence, which means he's asked to hold these looks over the course of minutes, not seconds. In the hands of someone else, this scene would've fallen apart. (Little shot at Tobey Maguire there) But, in the hands of Timothée Chalamet? He knocks your heart out of the park. Combined with the rest of this phenomenal film AND his great performance in Lady Bird, he is easily the best actor of 2017. AND he's already being called a "Once-in-a-generation talent." There's that.
The Best Actress of the Year Was...
This one was EASY. No one went from 0 to 100 more in 2017 in terms of celebrity status than Vicky Krieps. Before she landed her career-defining role in the best film of the year Phantom Thread, she wasn't really a known entity to anyone, let alone me. Personally, I had never seen her in anything before: she mostly kept to German films outside of a brief supporting role in a film I never saw and know little about (other than the fact that it stars Emma Watson) called Colonia. But boy do I know the name Vicky Krieps now. All she had to do in Phantom Thread was go toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis. Maybe you've heard of him, Oscar? Maybe? Well, to further add to the stress of having to perform alongside the greatest method actor in the history of cinema, Krieps wasn't able to even meet DDL until the first time you see them on screen together. I know I can't even begin to imagine what that would've felt like seeing Daniel Day-Lewis for the first time. But....wow. Not only is she on equal footing as her male counterpart, I think she may be better. Her character arc is definitely going for this, but....sweet baby Jesus does Krieps look like a veteran A-list movie star along side a legend. There's a scene in Phantom Thread where Krieps makes dinner for DDL, and, during which a frustrated Lewis says to Krieps "Do you think I don't need you? Because I don't." To which, Krieps replies, "That's very predictable to you." OHHHHH! What a boss response, and Krieps delivery of that line sells it. Her simple look back at Daniel Day-Lewis speaks volumes, and is Exhibit A for why she deserves to be at the top of the A-list in Hollywood. And that's one of seemingly a million examples of Krieps masterful performance! She's so freaking good! Now, I will admit I'm giving her the award of "Best Actress of 2017" for a single performance as something of a cop-out. But, as I said in my review of Phantom Thread, as one actor retires, another rises to take their place. Welcome to the big leagues, Vicky Krieps. Oh ya, and remember the part where I said she put in a better performance than Daniel Day-Lewis. Not to foreshadow anything.....
The Michael Stuhlbarg Award for Showing Up in Everything Goes to...
Michael Stuhlbarg! Did you think I'd give this award to anyone else in its inaugural year? Michael Stuhlbarg has been EVERYWHERE in 2017. I've been a fan of his since he played the towering Arnold Rothstein in HBO's Boardwalk Empire a few years back, but he has enjoyed a true emergence into becoming "that guy you see everywhere" in 2017. He too was in Call Me by Your Name, but also showed up in the hugely successful The Shape of Water and The Post. Oh! And he was a major character in the TV rendition of Fargo. Because of course we all have the time to throw a TV series on top of three movies, right? While he was excellent (as usual) in all three of his films, I particularly liked him in (you might be detecting a theme here) Call Me by Your Name. He's just such a cool character in this film! He has several amazing monologues littered throughout, including one at the end that was simply incredible. Not to mention he was great in his other two films too! Let's see if he can ever match this level of productivity again.
Alright, guys! So, now we're down to the top three. It's past midnight in my world, so let's just dive right in, ya?
3) The Cast of I, Tonya
I could not decide on one actor to single out in this film. Allison Janney is the big one, (and my overall best performance for an actress in 2017) but it just didn't feel right to single her out and leave Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, and of course Margot Robbie in the process. All of these stars play off each other better than any other ensemble did in 2017. Leading the way is Margot Robbie and Allison Janney. These two are INCREDIBLE together as Tonya Harding and her mother, LaVona Golden, respectively. Every one of their scenes (like the one below) was gut-wrenching and had me on the edge of my seat because you didn't really know what they were going to do next. Then, when Robbie/Stan take center stage, (Stan plays Tonya's husband Jeff Gillooly) Janney comes back and "politely" reminds us that she's frustrated about her story disappearing in one of the best fourth wall breaking jokes I have ever seen. Yes, while the overall cast is excellent, Allison Janney steals the show as the dominant and forceful mother LaVona. She goes all-in to play this role, and I freaking loved every second of it. I was so engrossed by her character because it felt like she was constantly trying to one-up herself. When Tonya says, "You cursed me." You know what her reply is? "Spilled milk, baby." That's something only LaVona could ever dream of saying, and Janney delivers it with the conviction and poise it deserves. And Margot Robbie's labor of love to play Tonya was pretty darn good, too.
2) Ross Lynch, My Friend Dahmer
I'm going to be completely honest with you: most years, a role like this would be my best performance of the year. Ross Lynch, man. He puts in a career-changing performance as the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in this little-known indie film. He is simply haunting in this role, showing an attention-to-detail in his method acting that would make even Daniel Day-Lewis proud. He does everything Bill Skarsgård does as Pennywise, but he does all of it without the MAJOR crutch that full makeup provides. There is a SCARY presence to him in this film. Everything down to his walk is calculated, and it allows for some pretty haunting moments that aren't necessarily meant to be scary. There's a scene where Dahmer's "fan club" are discussing Satanic witch cults, and Dahmer comes up behind in a way that INSTANTLY draws your attention to him. Nothing happens, and afterwards you feel silly for feeling a bit of terror as he's walking towards the kids, but it's all there because of the performance from Ross Lynch. (OSCAR! Are you SURE that's the same Ross Lynch from the Disney channel?) This role hit me several months ago, but it has resonated with me more than any other role has in 2017. This film will seriously mess with your consciousness, but it is well worth the watch just for Lynch's performance alone. Were it not for Daniel Day-Lewis, this would be the best performance of 2017.
1) Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
We're finally here. The best performance of 2017, and I must say: it almost feels like a cop-out on my part to give this award to Daniel Day-Lewis. But he and Vicky Krieps were in a league of their own in 2017. DDL is arguably the best method actor in the history of cinema, and he reminds us all with his incredible portrayal as Reynolds in the latest from P.T. Anderson. His meticulous attention-to-detail is unparalleled, and the emotions he displays are all across the spectrum. But that's just the easy part for him. Everything about his character, all the way down to how he draws a dress, or holds his glasses when he talks, or how he crosses his legs and holds his arms when he speaks, is a deliberate choice from DDL, and how he feels Reynolds would act in any given situation.
It's a rare thing for A-list stars to be completely sucked into their roles. (I've mentioned this many times before) When I'm watching Tom Hanks + Meryl Streep in The Post, I am very aware that I am watching Tom Hanks + Meryl Streep. Now, that doesn't mean that they're performances are bad, it just means that I don't feel absorbed into the characters that they are playing. But no one, and I mean NO ONE, is absorbed into their characters better than Daniel Day-Lewis. I go into a movie like this eager to see DDL's latest role, yet somehow I walk out of it thinking, "Man, Reynolds Woodock is such a fascinating and complex character." How does this happen every time? His transformation is as complete as any I have ever seen, and it is certainly on full force here in Phantom Thread. It, as well as the performance from his female counterpart Vicky Krieps, are the best performances of 2017, and are represented in the best movie of 2017 Phantom Thread.
Well, folks, that's it. It's almost 1 AM in my neck of the woods, (talk about running over time, am I right?) and I can barely think straight, but I still gotta take a second and say: if you are still reading at this point, I appreciate you. Even if you aren't, I appreciate you! But really, if you are reading this far it means a lot to me that you would stick around to hear my thoughts and see me do my (silly) "awards ceremony." I wouldn't stay up until 1 AM doing this if I wasn't having fun, right? I'll be back again tomorrow with my final list of 2017 where I'll cover the best films of the year. Stay tuned!!!! Hello, bed. Is it me you're looking for?.....
https://www.maxim.com/.image/t_share/MTUxMDkyODY4OTg1OTg4NjM5/i-tonya-7.jpg (Allison Janney)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTA0NjQ0MTk5MDReQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDM1OTUyMTQz._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_.jpg (Timothee Chalamet)
https://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/daily/vulture/2018/01/11/11-greta-gerwig-lady-bird.w1200.h630.jpg (Greta Gerwig)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMzgzNzg2MDg1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE0ODczMzI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_.jpg (Michael Stuhlbarg)
https://assets.movietimes.com/v1/movie_images/159075/jU0P3CKOW7unc75cXl8RalLyo5i.jpg (Vicky Krieps)
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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/2017/12/10-_jeff_gillooly_sebastian_stan_tonya_harding_margot_robbie_and_diane_rawlinson_julianne_nicholson_in_i_tonya_courtesy_of_neon_-_h_2017_0.jpg (I, Tonya)
https://format-com-cld-res.cloudinary.com/image/private/s--lZ2jGkLn--/c_crop,h_1700,w_3230,x_0,y_0/c_fill,g_center,h_1200/a_auto,fl_keep_iptc.progressive,q_95/v1/9e4c0ad5b5b9c578cccd4c0ad9318e63/Ross_Lynch_as_Jeff_in_My_Friend_Dahmer.jpg (Ross Lynch)
https://theplaylist.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/phantom-thread-paul-thomas-anderson-daniel-day-lewis.jpg (Daniel Day Lewis)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BOTg2NTE4NzYzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTMyOTUzNDM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_.jpg (Hong Chau)
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