Article By: Dan Clark
Now that my look at the Best Male Performances of 2012 is over its now time to shift focus to the Best Female Performances of 2012. Just like with the Males article I have split it up between the best Supporting and Leading performances. The Female performances of 2012 are just as diverse as the Males, if not more so. The age range alone is a striking variety of very young up-and-coming talent, well established actresses in their prime, and golden age veterans.
Best Supporting Performances:
Imagine the rudest, brash, and most crash person you ever had the pleasure of meeting. That is Shirley MacLaine in Bernie on a good day. You could tell she was enjoying her chance to play up her inner diva. We live in a world where the most vial of our society are celebrated in Reality Shows and Newspaper tabloids. Even those who clamor for Real House Wives of Serial Killers will find MacLaine’s character in Bernie absolutely despicable. It fits the description perfectly of someone you love to hate.
All awards are guilty of the ‘career awards’. That is when someone is awarded more so for their entire body of work rather than a specific performance. Some may argue this is my example of that trope. Truthfully that may be the case, but Judi Dench’s performance in Skyfall can stand on its own. She brings a sense of gravitas to a genre film to the likes we rarely see. She’s played the role for over a decade now and it’s only gotten better with age.
It’s no secret that the majority of stand-up comics have a dark side. There are countless accounts of a comedian shedding their known personas for ones that are far more serious. Sarah Silverman provides another solid example of the positive effect a comedian can have on a serious topic. She portrays an alcoholic attempting to rekindle her formerly flamed out life. Her amount of time on screen is limited but important. She is never putting on an act, which allows her character to feel authentic.
I consider myself a manly man, by that I mean I don’t at all, so I was surprised as anyone by how much I was moved just by the trailer for Les Misérables. (I’m guessing I should just turn in my man card now) Not to be argumentative, but I have never truly understood the praise for the song “I Dreamed a Dream”, but Anne Hathaway’s performance allowed me to understand what all the fus was about. She provided soul to what could have been an artificial role. Egotism was removed to allow our symphony to occur naturally.
The Master is full of bombastic male performances that demand your obedience. Standing silently in the corner patiently waiting for her moment to strike was Amy Adams. While everyone else is talking a big game she bursts in to show how futile all their talk is. Adams has this wicked side to her that all are afraid to cross. The Master has some of the best performances of the year and hers might be the best of the bunch.
Best Leading Performances:
In Take this Waltz Michelle Williams was given a challenge to play a character that was morally questionable. We as viewers have every right to find her actions reprehensible. William’s performance gives us a reason to understand her situation. Even when there is a smile on her face you can tell internally she is struggling. While this doesn’t give her a pass it shows us she is nothing more than a human committing a very human act.
I can’t believe how quickly Jennifer Lawrence became one of Hollywood’s most respected actresses. She broke out in Winter’s Bone and hasn’t looked back since. She has kept her career lively with change, never settling in for one type of role. In Silver Linings Playbook she plays a woman going through some serious emotional and psychological difficulties. Her depiction of this challenged women is right on the money. Luckily it’s not all gloom in doom, as there’s plenty of dark humor to lighten the mood. Lawrence hasn’t really shown comedic chops like this before. At this point I wonder if there is anything she can’t do.
There are actually a lot of similarities between Michelle Williams’ character in Take this Waltz and Rachel Weisz’s in The Deep Blue Sea. (No This is Not A Remake of that Shark Movie with that guy from one of The Punisher movies) Weisz plays a woman attempting to find absolute love. She longs for passion and when it is absent she becomes a wrecked ball of emotion. Weiz is fantastic with every facet of her character. The Deep Blue Sea reminds me of classic films in a number of ways. One of the biggest was how much of the film was placed on the shoulders of the actors. Without Weisz’s brilliant performance the film wouldn’t work nearly as well as it did.
Beasts of the Southern Wild was one of the biggest surprises of the year, and Quvenzhané Wallis’s performance was one of the biggest surprises of the decade. Considering her age (She was five at the time) and the fact that this is her first ever attempt at acting it’s hard not to be shocked by what she was able to accomplish. Being a first time actress may have helped more than it hindered. Her performance does not come off like she is acting. It is not the overused Indie film trope of the child who is wiser than their years. She was a kid who enjoyed being a kid. Even if the situation she lives in is utterly dissolute.
Warning: The rapid age change that just occurred may cause whiplash. We have gone from someone who was only a few years removed from wearing diapers to a woman who was well…er…uh..I’ll refrain from making the horrible oblivious joke and say this provides an example of all the different facets of ‘Circle of Life’. In Amour Emmanuelle Riva plays a woman dealing with the effects of a massive stroke. Through all of her trials and tribulations she stays resilient. Watching how difficult it was just for her to say a simple sentence made your heart break. Riva’s dedication to this troubled soul is remarkable. Mortality is the one aspect of life none of us can avoid. Emmanuelle Riva tragically showed us just how fragile life is, and it is when we are fragile when we show who we truly are.
Honorable Mentions: Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises), Jennifer Westfeldt (Friends with Kids), Juliane Moore (Game Change), Nadezhda Markina (Elena), Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect), Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect),Kara Hayward(Moonrise Kingdom), Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Gurannteed)