The Year of the Lead
Welcome to the sixth annual Awesome Actor Awards! This year's list is comprised (for the first time, I think) entirely of lead performances, and there were many great ones to choose from. You may notice this list diverts almost entirely from the Academy Awards, because their batch mostly sucks, (I'm not mad, you're mad) but that's ok! This is the real awards show, amirite? Don't forget: there will be an after party at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Hope you enjoy this year's list!
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Kicking off the list is the always incredible Saoirse Ronan from Little Women. Her portrayal of Joe was synonymous with the character, (highlighted by the fact that when she heard director Greta Gerwig was making a new adaptation of Little Women, the real life actress went to Greta and said, "I'm going to be Joe.") and perfect for this iconic story.
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
My other honorable mention goes to Adam Driver. Really, it could go to both Driver and ScarJo, but ScarJo seems to think she can do all the cultural appropriation she wants, so..... eh. Love this emotional performance from Driver, arguable the best in his career, in my opinion.
EXTRA Honorable Mention
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
Ah! Can't forget Adam Sandler, who puts in a phenomenal performance in Uncut Gems. It's genuine, always moving, and freaking crazy. Love it. Also, kind of unrelated, but this film is criminally underappreciated.
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Kicking off the top 10 is the always wonderful Tom Hanks. Mr. Rogers was a role Hanks was destined to play, and he did not disappoint with a quiet, emotional, cathartic performance. America's dad finally got to portray America's favorite next door neighbor.
(Also, I keep plugging it, because it's worth it.... if you haven't read the profile on Hanks that came out with this film, do it.)
(Also, shout out to director Marielle Heller in that pic. We do not deserve her tonal genius.)
Kaitlyn Dever + Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
It's impossible to pick one actress here, and honestly I could pick this entire cast. The chemistry these two share was the best I saw all year by far, hilarious yet poignant and charming.
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Following up her titanic rise to stardom in 2019, Awkwafina showed off her dramatic side in The Farewell, turning in a quiet, troubled, emotional performance alongside a strong supporting cast. I wish I had room for Shuzhen Zhao on this list, but hopefully including her in the picture will suffice.
Bartosz Bielenia, Corpus Christi
My first international feature on the list goes to the raw, vocal, and demanding performance from Bartosz Bielenia in the Polish film Corpus Christi. This film will be showing up again in my top 10 best of the year, and it is well worth the watch for this performance alone. Also got to meet Bielenia in person, so that was cool.
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
How this performance was snubbed by the Oscars, I'll never know. I think if you can do some of the things J-Lo does in this film on a stripper pole at age 50, you should be instantly nominated for an Academy Award. But that's just me. It also helps that this performance is as powerful as it is sexy, and signals a return to dominance for the timeless star. J-Lo forever!
Taron Edgerton, Rocketman
Anyone who knows me knew this one was coming. My favorite male performance of the year by far, Taron Edgerton's portrayal of the iconic musician was every bit as flamboyant and celebratory as I could have hoped for. Ah! Rocketman was so good!
The Entire Cast of Parasite
It's impossible to pick one performance from this film, which is a credit to how strong all of the actors are in this film. If I had to pick one, I'd probably lean towards So-dam Park (far right in the pic above) simply because she came off as the mastermind of that family to me, but everyone in the rich family is great too. So glad SAG awarded this film with its coveted Cast Award, becoming the first foreign language film to ever win the prize. And it could not be more deserved!
The Breakout Actor of 2019 Was....
Fails burst on to the scene in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, a wonderful A24 film with a first time director (Joe Talbot) and first time actor in Fails. (He also co-wrote the script.) Search this one out if you can and keep an eye on the career of Fails!
The Breakout Actress of 2019 Was...
In all my years following film as religiously as I do, never have I ever seen a more titanic rise from obscurity to A-list stardom. Two career-defining performances in Midsommar and Little Women, signing on to be a tentpole character in the upcoming Marvel film Black Widow, AND a surprising Oscar nomination for her portrayal as Amy in Little Women. Doesn't get much better than that.
The Feel-Good Comeback Story of 2019 Was...
This one was easy. The former A-lister, relegated to obscurity entirely thanks to sexism in the film industry, returned in a big way with her portrayal of Judy Garland in the biopic Judy. This story will likely be capped with a deserving Oscar win, and hopefully cement Zellweger as an A-lister once again. Please don't screw this up, Hollywood.... (looks at Glenn Close and apologizes)
The Actor with the Worst 2019 Was....
It was actually kind of tough to pick a worst actor this year, so I went with Ansel Elgort solely because he went all-in on The Goldfinch, with disastrous results. He's Tony in Spielberg's upcoming rendition of West Side Story, which will proooobably be a tentpole film of the 2020 Oscar season, so I'm sure he's fine, but..... why did you go all-in on The Goldfinch, man?
The Actress with the Worst 2019 Was...
Kelly Marie Tran
This one frustrates me so much. Kelly Marie Tran makes this list because of decisions made by men, and circumstances that were completely out of her control. (Such a depressingly familiar story.) Her delegation to near total obscurity in The Rise of Skywalker was criminal, a capitulation to the vile and racist members of the Star Wars fanbase, amplified by her disgusting treatment from "fans" after The Last Jedi. Please give her more opportunities, Hollywood. She doesn't deserve this.
The Michael Stuhlbarg Award for Showing Up in Everything Goes To....
I'm giving this to Dafoe mostly so I can remind everyone that he was incredible in The Lighthouse and you should definitely see that, but look at his IMDB page and tell me he doesn't deserve this award. The incredible character actor is at the top of his game right now, and with at least 4 projects upcoming in 2020, isn't going away anytime soon.
The Actor with the Best 2019 Was...
He's baaaaack! After coming to grips with his alcoholism and PTSD from his childhood, LaBeouf returned in a BIG way in 2019 with the release of the film he was arrested / sent to rehab on, The Peanut Butter Falcon, and the film that he wrote while in rehab, Honey Boy. Both are outstanding films and he's outstanding in him, but its the later that has truly resonated with me. Shia's portrayal of his own father, a raw, therapeutic performance if there ever was one, was nothing short of mesmerizing. Welcome back, good sir. If only you had a triumphant song to return to....
The Actress with the Best 2019 Was....
Remember how I said I've never seen a quicker rise to stardom? That also translates to the best year for any actor in 2019 by far, and the first ever double win on this blog with these awards. I'm sure Florence is absolutely thrilled! Right? ......guys?
Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
My best international performance of 2019, Adèle Haenel's emotional power and gravitas in this film has resonated with me loooooong after the end credits rolled. This is the definition of a performance where the presence of the actor is felt regardless of whether they're on screen or not, a cataclysmic portrayal of a fiercely strong and powerful woman in this, my number 1 film of 2019. (Spoiler alert)
Lupita Nyong'o, Us
Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell
A film I saw way back in March? I think? But this performance has resonated with me the entire year. The movie itself is somewhat unorganized and disheveled, but Moss is at the center of it, giving her all in this unpredictable, chaotic, and (frankly) batshit crazy performance that gives true meaning to the phrase, "worth the cost of admission alone."
That wraps up this year's Actor Awards! Thank you so much for reading, and come back tomorrow where I will have my official 2019 film recap! (Goes back to listening to the Us soundtrack.)
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BZDkyNTY4OGItYjhmMC00YTc5LWI4MGEtOWNkMjRmY2FiYTkwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_.jpg (Little Women)
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https://nypdecider.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/last-black-man-san-francisco.jpg?quality=80&strip=all&w=646&h=431&crop=1 (Jimmie Fails)
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https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/foJG-m7lIHHgceSF5GPWbyVEbyk=/0x0:600x300/1200x800/filters:focal(344x76:440x172)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/65996763/57e6826a653751e0ebce6516685277731da7843f.0.jpg (Kelly Marie Tran)
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https://i.ytimg.com/vi/-Ijv37TA9QM/maxresdefault.jpg (Her Smell)
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