Now we finish up the countdown of the best performances of the year by looking at what the men had to offer. This was quite the strong year for performances as there are number of great choices that didn’t even make honorable mentions.
No one was creepier this year than Jan Bijvoet in Borgman. He reminds me of a more abrasive version of Christoph Waltz. At times he can be an charming fellow, but underneath he has this cold merciless presence about him. No matter what he is doing he is always great at keeping you wondering what exactly is going through his strange mind.
Bill Hader has legitimate acting chops. In The Skelton Twins he does not completely turn his back on his comedic background as he provides plenty of laughs, but he also brings the drama. He fully controls the role and never becomes too cartoonish, which would have been an easy thing to do as this openly gay character who is suffering from depression. Often when comedians try to prove their acting ability they try to0 hard to be overly serious. Hader finds the perfect middle ground to work in.
When I started making this list I pretty much assumed Michael Keaton would be in the Top 5 Best Lead Performances. Then when I finally sat down and made it he was on the outside looking in. Still he deserves a mention with his meta portray of a man trying to escape the shadow of a classic superhero character. A frenetic performance that reminded the world just how talented Michael Keaton is.
Best Supporting Performances:
I know the Academy Awards does not award performance capture, but I am clearly not the Academy Awards. I know Toby Kebbell’s work was dependent upon special effects, but that should not cause us to disregard everything he did . The physicality is obvious as he needs to literally embody this character, but beyond that is the difficulty of the voice performance. I hope soon one day the Academy will realize these performances deserve recognition.
There’s a great deal of tragedy to Gary Poulter. This once homeless man showed he had this true talent and fantastic camera presence, but passed away before he could really be appreciated. He could have been the Barkhad Abdi of 2015. Still, at least he had this one moment to shine. Poulter is a great reminder that you do not have to be a professional actor to give a great performance.
Although Michael Keaton did not make the Top 5 Leading Performances, Edward Norton is here to represent. Norton has been one of my favorite actors for a rather long time. In the last few years he was not getting the strong roles he once did. In Birdman he gets to play on the persona many accuse him of having as this pretentious film actor that takes himself far too seriously. I cannot say if that truly represents who he really is, but I can say I greatly enjoyed seeing him playing the part.
Richard Linklater knows how to get the best out of Ethan Hawke. I am not sure if it’s just the format of his direction or his rich dialog that lets Hawke shine. Whatever the reason Hawke is completely natural and charming when they work with one another. I have always enjoyed him the Before trilogy but he is even better in Boyhood. Linklater gave him a great character to work with and he made the best out of it.
Ben Mendelsohn is one of those ‘That guy!’ actors that is excellent in everything he does. His performance in Starred Up proved to me he could do just about anything. Somehow he was able to play the tough guy in a cast that physically towers over him. He carried himself with such a brazen bravado you never question the power he held over others. Beside this prison tough guy we get to see him attempt to play the part of nurturer to his estranged son. It is this great dichotomy of this man who his completely out of his element.
Beast Leading Performances:
Playing renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is the type of role that has Oscar bait written all of it. Redmayne does not let that hinder him one bit. The physicality of what he was required to do is remarkable. He makes you feel like you are actually watching Stephen Hawking. Redmayne also has a quiet charm to him that makes him more than an exercise in self-pity. He gets to the person behind the disease.
Not all actors can succeed with Wes Anderson’s deadpan sense of humor. Even the greats of today have stumbled. Fiennes gives the best performance in a Wes Anderson movie since Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore. He has that classic comedic timing that you need to make Anderson’s lines zing. On the surface level it may appear highbrow but deep down it is really cartoonish.
If Brendan Gleeson is in a movie I am going to see it. He is one of today’s best actors, yet does not get the attention he deserves. With such a great career it is difficult to say Calvary is his best performance. I would at least put it near the top. It hits all his great qualities–his crash sense of humor, brash attitude, and sympathetic soul. It is a crash course in the greatness of Brendan Gleeson.
Jack O’Connell is having one of the best breakout years I have ever seen, and I could have said that just based on his performance in Starred Up. When you add ’71 and Unbroken to the list he has quickly made himself known to the world. In Starred Up he can be a scary figure when moment calls from it. The type of person that has so much rage he is unable to operate in normal society. However, he still keeps a childlike innocence. Behind the extreme violence is a kid just trying find his place in the world.