My apologies to Sigourney Weaver for omitting her from the Actressing List. Had I seen Avatar before making the list, she would have been on it. I'll be making it up to her and the film later.
And the omissions by virtue of not having seen the film: Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Invictus, Sam Rockwell in Moon, Stanley Tucci in Julie and Julia or The Lovely Bones, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, and Colin Firth in A Single Man. Joseph Gordon Levitt and (500) Days of Summer will be recognized elsewhere; same with Woody Harrelson and Zombieland. I did not like Up in the Air and especially did not like George Clooney in it.
Today is the obvious counterpart to Actressing: Outstanding Achievement in Actoring. It was a strong year (for once) for Actoring, even if the awards bodies and best-of list would convince you otherwise. Let's get right to it.
We have two honorable mentions. The first is only placed here because I'm still processing the film: Sam Worthington in Avatar. His accent is inconsistent at times, but he gets his character. There is a subtlety to his highly physical role that might have been missed by another actor. His work is strong, sharp, and appropriate. You go from feeling sorry for him as a lost soul to actually caring about him to actively rooting for him. It's a great performance that is obviously overshadowed by the technological advancements in the film.
The second honorable mention is placed here because most people have not heard of the film and will not see it anyway so what difference does it make? I struggle to describe Patton Oswalt in Big Fan. It's a strange film with an even stranger character where basically only one thing happens in the entire plot to set off a character study of a lonely little man no one should care about. Oswalt makes you care.
Our first honoree is an outstanding newcomer in a film that will probably go ignored except for technical aspects: Sharlto Copley in District 9. Yes, people are rightly talking about the effects and to a lesser extent the screenplay. Do you know what sells all those effects and allegorical screenplay? Sharlto Copley. As the appointed head of a government mission to relocate an alien race to a new location who just doesn't know when to leave things alone, Copley shines in a thankless, emotionally draining role. He runs the full gammot here and never feels artificial. The following scene is a game-changing moment for the character.
Obviously, things aren't going to go well from here. You know things are going bad five minutes into the film. And it's all because Copley sells it so well. He truly demonstrated an Outstanding Achievement in Actoring this year.
Our next honoree's film built in buzz for months and then evaporated upon release: Matt Damon in The Informant!. The film is a bit of a mess, but what works only works because Matt Damon does strong work as a complicated character. The narrative issues are a direct result of the character Damon portrays and everything clicks into a confused focus because he sells it so well.
For a possibly crazy but not outrageous, histrionic-driven crazy performance, Matt Damon deserves to be recognized for an Outstanding Achievement in Actoring.
Our next honoree is horribly miscast in a film about Italy, yet makes it work for him: Daniel Day Lewis in Nine. He has a good, clean singing voice and makes the watered down psychology of the adaptation work for a more subtle mental breakdown. DDL sells the charm like no one's business but doesn't oversell the fact that it's a musical. It's a tricky balance and he hits it well. He also gives hope to all of the obviously Irish actors out there that we, too, can overcome set casting boundaries.
Truly an Oustanding Achievement in Actoring that may or may not sneak in at the Oscars. It should, but Nine is confusing people overall more than I expected.
Our next honoree is really great in the best film of the honorees: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. What could I possibly say about this powerful film and Renner's performance that hasn't been covered elsewhere? The film is easily one of the best of the year and Renner does remarkable things in it.
Imagine acting through a helmet like that and still standing out? Wonderful work.
And now for the winner. I'm going with my gut instinct after changing my mind for a simple reason: my blog, my rules. Our winner is a newcomer in a film that might be recognized in the music categories and possibly for costumes: Max Records in Where the Wild Things Are?. Max plays the the young boy who cannot control his emotions and winds up journeying into a far away land populated by vicious monsters that only want to be friends, play, and sleep together in a big pile. It's a great film that will age well, in no small part because of Max's performance.
He's made me cry again from a short clip. Sniffle.
Only a few scenes are really wow moments in the performance (and this isn't one of them, but the greatest moments are unavailable online, like the vampire story). The true impact is from the sum of all the parts. Max does everything right, leading to a truly Outstanding Achievement in Actoring. I look forward to his career and hope he doesn't fizzle out like other child actors.