Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Performances & Cinematography of 2012

There have been many worthy films in 2012 but also many more fine performances and great visuals. So I created a separate entry just to highlight actors & cinematographers prior to publishing a best of 2012 film list.

Lead performances (both male & female) 

Denis Lavant in Holy Motors

Denis Lavant is the perfect vehicle for allowing Leos Carax to explore various film genres in a unique and mesmerizing manner. Easily the best performance of 2012.

Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are an ideal one-two punch that power Paul Thomas Anderson’s devastating film. However, Amy Adams holds the Master’s power (literally) in her hand and in a quiet manner manages to shine through.

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour

Riva and Trintignant put in gut-wrenching and emotional performances as their characters deteriorate in a confined space.

Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Safe to say Daniel Day-Lewis IS Lincoln, not an actor playing the part. But then again, one expects nothing less from Daniel Day-Lewis who completely takes on the persona of every character he plays. It is still shocking to think that he had once retired from acting altogether. 

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Waltz is given plenty of juicy dialogues to flesh out his memorable character.

Manoj Bajpai in Gangs of Wasseypur

Manoj Bajpai has performed many worthy roles in his career but he is still best known for portraying the wild Bhiku Mhatre in Satya more than a decade ago. That is why it is refreshing to see him tap into the same energy in Gangs of Wasseypur. The film also highlights that in the hand of the right director, Bajpai is one of the best actors working in the Indian film industry.

Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar

It is hard to imagine anyone else acting the title role in Paan Singh Tomar other than Irrfan Khan. His relaxed style ensures that his character does not deviate too much in tone when he is happy, angry, sarcastic or just plain innocent.

Nina Hoss in Barbara

Nina Hoss puts in a pitch perfect performance by playing a character required to control her emotions in every instance.

Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe

McConaughey plays slimy variations of a similar character in Killer Joe, Bernie & Magic Mike. But he is truly on the top of his game in Killer Joe where he plays a corrupt cop who oozes evil while delivering precise dialogues.

Aniello Arena in Reality

It is heartbreaking to watch Arena’s character throw his life away in Reality but he has put in performance that has shades of a young Robert De Niro from Scorsese’s The King of Comedy.

Michelle Williams in Take This Waltz

Michelle Williams nicely slips into a character who is easily bored of men and things very quickly. As a result, her character will never be happy in life & Williams’ expressions convey this impending sadness behind every smile.

Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone, Bullhead
Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Matthias Schoenaerts plays a different shade of a tough character in Bullhead & Rust and Bone. In Bullhead, Schoenaerts is a physical force of nature but one who has trouble finding love because of a past which has scarred him for life. His character is still physically imposing in Rust and Bone but he has no trouble getting love and can pick up a woman at the drop of a hat. The Dardennes' style used by Jacques Audiard ensures that Schoenaerts and Cotillard’s characters are properly showcased thereby finding beauty in moments of brutality & pain. Also, the visual style is definite proof that Marion Cotillard is gorgeous without any make-up.

Rodrigo Santoro in Heleno

Santoro plays a footballer prone to self-destruction. Just like Reality, it is painful to watch someone throw their live away but Santoro shines in every moment of joy, misery and anger.

Vidya Balan in Kahaani

For the last few years, Balan has outperformed her male co-stars so it was appropriate that she finally got a film where she was the main lead. And she nicely carries Kahaani on her shoulders.

Best Supporting Actor (Male & Female)

Rishi Kapoor in Agneepath

Rishi Kapoor’s ruthless portrayal of Rauf Lala comes as a real surprize given the warm loving characters that Kapoor has played in the past. Yet, Rishi Kapoor is able to extract enough charm from his past characters and transform it into the sinister Rauf Lala who appears to be trustworthy when needed and is ruthless when he wants to eliminate his enemies.

Tigmanshu Dhulia in Gangs of Wasseypur

It was a real surprize when Anurag Kashyap gave director Tigmanshu Dhulia an acting role but the move has paid off incredibly. If one has to see what is wrong with India and its politicians, then one need not look further than Dhulia’s corrupt and manipulative character of Ramadhir Singh.

Gina Gershon in Killer Joe

Gershon puts in a raw performance for a character forced to take the blows, both emotional and physical.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained

DiCaprio’s smooth yet wickedly evil plantation owner is a masterful performance.

Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

The only thing negative about Brad Pitt’s character of Jackie is that he is not given enough screen time.

Carlen Altman in The Color Wheel

Altman’s character of JR delivers a non-stop flurry of dialogues from the get go and is a delight to watch.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur

Nawazuddin Siddiqui had quite a year by starring in many big named films such as Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani and Talaash. But he gets the meatiest role in Gangs of Wasseypur and he excels in playing a drug addicted gangster thrust into seeking revenge for his family.

Best Cinematography

Gökhan Tiryaki, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Caroline Champetier, Holy Motors
Mihai Malaimare Jr., The Master
Rui Poças, Tabu
Julián Apezteguia, Gone Fishing
Amol Gole, The Bright Day
Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Stéphane Fontaine in Rust and Bone
Lucio Bonelli, Found Memories
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi


Sam Juliano said...

This is an absolutely amazing presentation here Sachin, one that takes on the year's acting with authoritative glee, with a worldwide cope. Similarly you have noted some brilliantly-potographed films in your final round-up!

Levant certainly comes within a hair of the top spot for me, in this multi-faceted turn that leaves the view breathless. I'd only have Day-Lewis ahead of him, but I see I won't get an argument from you on that point. Yes Riva and Trintignant are haunting; Waltz and DiCaprio are DJANGO's heart, Nina Hoss is superb in the oddly unaffecting BARBARA, and Matthew McConaughey is chilling in KILLER JOE.

As far as Michelle Williams, I love her, but I found her over-the-top in TAKE THIS WALTZ. I do think Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are brilliant in THE MASTER, but the film remains problematic, despite some electrifying moments.

Here are some great performances I would add to the round-up:

Anders Danielson Lee (Oslo, August 31st)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Suraj Sharma (The Life of Pi)
Irfan Khan (The Life of Pi)
Tom Holland (The Impossible)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables)
Samantha Barks (Les Miserables)
Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea)
Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Jack Black (Bernie)
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Mohamed Fellag (Monsieu Lazhar)
John Hawkes (The Sessions)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Jennfer Lawrence (Silver Lining Playbook)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

All well-photographed films for sure. Miranda and Deakins score big here. Fred Kelemen for THE TURIN HORSE is another I'd add.

Simply superb work here Sachin!

Sachin said...

Thanks so much for your generous words Sam.

I thought about Levant vs Day-Lewis and in certain aspects it was close, but in the end, Levant had a great selection of diverse roles to portray from.

For a change, I found Williams well suited for TAKE THIS WALTZ and much better than some of her past nominated roles such as BLUE VALENTINE.

Your list makes me think of some glaring omissions on my part such as Anders Danielson Lee & Rachel Weisz. I really liked Irrfan Khan's relaxed style in LIFE OF PI but his PAAN SINGH TOMAR role was far richer.

I felt Sally Field's was a forced performances in LINCOLN as somehow she seemed to be straining too much to get into character.