Monday, January 29, 2018

In Character: 2017 Oscar Nominees

Following the announcement of the Oscar nominations last week, I offer my thoughts on my favorite work each nominee has delivered. Be sure to share your favorite roles from all the nominees as well!

Sally Hawkins  The Shape of Water
Notable Roles: All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine, Paddington

Best Role: I absolutely adore her work in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, but her silent strength in The Shape of Water wins out.

Frances McDormand  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Notable Roles: Blood Simple, Mississippi Burning, Almost Famous, North Country, Olive Kitteridge

Best Role: It’s hard to think of a time that McDormand was anything less than stellar. Ultimately, her best work remains Fargo’s Marge Gunderson.

Margot Robbie  I, Tonya
Notable Roles: Neighbours, The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, Suicide Squad

Best Role: Her work in The Wolf of Wall Street was an announcement of arrival, but her work in I, Tonya is a statement that says, “I’m here, and I’m not fucking around.”

Saoirse Ronan  Lady Bird
Notable Roles: Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brooklyn

Best Role: Ronan is so good at making us believe she is the character she’s playing, which makes choosing her best role so hard. Briony from Atonement is close, but Lady Bird wins the day. For now.

Meryl Streep  The Post
Notable Roles: Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, Adaptation, The Devil Wears Prada, Doubt

Best Role: As I say seemingly every year, you could list damn near any Streep performance as her best. But I’m still stuck on her quiet work in The Deer Hunter. I mean, those eyes.

Timothée Chalamet  Call Me By Your Name
Notable Roles: Homeland, Lady Bird, Hostiles

Best Role: Call Me By Your Name, certainly. But something tells me we’ve just been given a taste of what Chalamet has to offer.

Daniel Day-Lewis  Phantom Thread
Notable Roles: My Left Foot, The Last of the Mohicans, In the Name of the Father, Gangs of New York, Lincoln

Best Role: I say There Will Be Blood, but hell, take your pick.

Daniel Kaluuya  Get Out
Notable Roles: Skins, Black Mirror, Sicario

Best Role: Get Out, no question.

Gary Oldman  Darkest Hour
Notable Roles: Sid and Nancy, JFK, Dracula, True Romance, Leon, The Dark Knight, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Best Role: Christ, who’s to say? I have to stick with his chilling and ruthless turn in The Contender. Watch it now if you haven’t seen it.

Denzel Washington  Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Notable Roles: Glory, Philadelphia, The Hurricane, Training Day, American Gangster, Flight

Best Role: Malcolm X, always.

Mary J. Blige  Mudbound
Notable Roles: Other than a few amusing cameos as herself, nothing of mention.

Best Role: Mudbound.

Allison Janney  I, Tonya
Notable Roles: The Ice Storm, 10 Things I Hate About You, Juno, Away We Go, The Help, Masters of Sex, Mom

Best Role: Movie: American Beauty, TV: The West Wing. It’s hard to believe this is Janney’s first Oscar nomination. 

Lesley Manville  Phantom Thread
Notable Roles: Topsy-Turvy, All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Mr. Turner, Maleficent

Best Role: Painstakingly difficult to call. Right now, I have to stick with her heartbreaking turn in Mike Leigh’s Another Year. 

Laurie Metcalf  Lady Bird
Notable Roles: Uncle Buck, JFK, Leaving Las Vegas, Scream 2, Horace and Pete, The Big Bang Theory

Best Role: Movie: Lady Bird, TV: Roseanne. But holy shit, her monologue in Horace and Pete was something else.

Octavia Spencer  The Shape of Water
Notable Roles: Bad Santa, Coach Carter, The Help, Snowpiercer, Hidden Figures

Best Role: Fruitvale Station remains her finest work. It’s so odd to me that her performance in that film is rarely discussed.

Willem Dafoe  The Florida Project
Notable Roles: Platoon, Wild at Heart, The English Patient, Affliction, Shadow of a Vampire, Auto Focus, Antichrist

Best Role: The Last Temptation of Christ, but this is not an easy call. Dafoe is always great.

Woody Harrelson  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Notable Roles: Cheers, White Men Can’t Jump, The People vs. Larry Flynt, No Country for Old Men, The Messenger

Best Role: Film: Natural Born Killers, TV: True Detective. I love that Harrelson is getting offered great roles again.

Richard Jenkins  The Shape of Water
Notable Roles: Six Feet Under, North Country, Burn After Reading, Let Me In, Killing Them Softly

Best Role: His star making turn in The Visitor. What quiet empathy he put into his character.

Christopher Plummer  All the Money in the World
Notable Roles: The Sound of Music, Syriana, The New World, Beginners, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Role: Mike Wallace in The Insider. Not an easy choice, but every time I watch that film, I am so taken with Plummer’s effortless charm and subtle power.

Sam Rockwell  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Notable Roles: The Green Mile, Heist, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Matchstick Men, Snow Angels, Moon

Best Role: This is insanely difficult. A few years ago, I chose Matchstick Men, but today I’m going with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. That was the role that turned Sam Rockwell into Sam Rockwell.

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  1. Damn I am in desperate need to set you all straight and write and entire post about Sam's work in Jesse James. Mettel hasn't watched it yet, even in her frenzy and you didn't even list it here :) It's in my top 20 of all time, I only saw it once, years ago but I still remember that shame and sadness painted all over his face in titular scene

    1. haha do it! I love everything about that movie, including Rockwell's work in it. Picking his best role was the hardest of these 20 nominees, simply because the man is never anything less than great.

    2. Co-signed. One of my regrets (for what it's worth) is not including Rockwell on my best-in-film roundup that year. Of course, 2007 was such an incredible film year with so many masterful performances.

      Honestly, I wasn't as taken with his work in Three Billboards. It's solid work, don't get me wrong, but not much of a stretch for Rockwell at this point in his career.

    3. Oh yeah, there's no denying the strength of Rockwell's work in Jesse James. I honestly could've listed every role his done in his Notable Roles section.

  2. Shit, the acting nominees are incredible so I'm going to give it a shot although I haven't seen some of the films the actors are nominated in so far...

    Best Actor

    Timothee Chalamet-Lady Bird (only thing I've seen him so far)
    Daniel Day-Lewis-There Will Be Blood (I drink your milkshake)
    Daniel Kaluuya-Get Out (I can't believe he's British, he was convincing as an American)
    Gary Oldman-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (this was tough to pick as he's so fucking awesome)
    Denzel Washington-Malcolm X (another tough pick as he's one of the best

    Best Actress

    Sally Hawkins-Happy Go Lucky (such a joy to watch)
    Frances McDormand-Fargo (obviously)
    Margot Robbie-I, Tonya (her break-out performance and I can't get ZZ Top out of my head)
    Saoirse Ronan-Brooklyn (I just love that performance in that film)
    Meryl Streep-The Devil Wears Prada (still waiting for her to be in an action film franchise)

    Best Supporting Actor

    Willem Dafoe-Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Klaus gets no love)
    Woody Harrelson-Natural Born Killers (Mickey Knox motherfucker)
    Richard Jenkins-Step Brothers (one of the most underrated performances ever)
    Christopher Plummer-Beginners (tough choice to pick as he's so fucking good as there's a lesson to all of this mess. When a filmmaker wants to cast Christopher Plummer as his first choice, YOU FUCKING STICK WITH THAT CHOICE AND NOT GO FOR SOME OVERRATED, OVER-ACTING BULLY WHO IS FUCKING FULL OF HIMSELF!!!! Christopher Plummer is $$$$$$$$$$$$$ He was in the fucking Sound of Music for fuck's sake)
    Sam Rockwell-Moon (one of the best actors... ever)

    Best Supporting Actress

    Mary J. Blige-TBA (I've only seen Rock of Ages which is just atrocious but I don't want to diss Queen Mary)
    Allison Janney-I, Tonya (she is great in this as I just love anything she does)
    Lesley Manville-Another Year (one of the best actresses working today)
    Laurie Metcalf-Lady Bird (very underrated and fun to watch)
    Octavia Spencer-Fruitvale Station (another great actress working today)

    1. Great work. Love your pick for Dafoe. I need to watch that movie again. Jenkins in Step Brothers fucking rocks. Absolutely hilarious.

      Also love that we share the same Manville pick. And yes, if you want to cast Plummer, CAST CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER!

  3. Love your picks. I got a lot of the same ones myself. This is one of the few years where i pretty much agreed with all of the nominations. The only one i really missed was James Franco for The Disaster Artist, but i figured that even with winning a Golden Globe, the recent allegations against him would would ruin his chances. But yeah, other than that they got it surprisingly right this year in my opinion.

    Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water (I absolutely loved this movie and her performance in it. I definitely need to check out Happy Go Lucky now.)
    Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada (Since she seems to get nominated every year i try to change my pick up from time to time. I recently watched this movie and she was really good in it.)
    Frances McDormand - Fargo (She was fantastic in Three Billboards, but Fargo will always be my favorite. It's one of my top 10 favorite movies.)
    Margot Robbie - I, Tonya
    Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird

    Daniel Day-Lewis - Gangs of New York (I just love Bill The Butcher. I can't get that character out of my head.)
    Timothée Chalamet - Lady Bird (I still need to watch Call Me By Your Name.)
    Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
    Denzel Washington - Training Day (But his performance in Fences still sticks with me today. Truly a powerhouse performance.)
    Gary Oldman - Léon (EVEEERRRYOOONE!!!)

    Lesley Manville - Another Year (Still need to watch Phantom Thread)
    Allison Janney - I, Tonya
    Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird
    Mary J. Blige - Mudbound (I personally thought Carey Mulligan was better in the movie, but Mary J. Blige was surprisingly good as well.)
    Octavia Spencer - Fruitvale Station (She definitely deserved a nomination for this movie as well.)

    Sam Rockwell - Moon (He is always great, but this was by far my favorite. This is the one he should have won his Oscar for.)
    Woody Harrelson - True Detective
    Christopher Plummer - The Insider
    Willem Dafoe - To Live and Die in L.A. (It was a really tough choise between this and Platood for me.)
    Richard Jenkins - Bone Tomahawk (The one bright spot in an absolutely brutal movie.)

    1. GREAT work. Highly recommend Happy-Go-Lucky. It's a different kind of film, but Hawkins is lovely in it. Nice picks for Streep, DDL and Dafoe. And I love that we agree about Spencer's best work.

      I too agree that Carey Mulligan was great in Mudbound, perhaps better than Mary J. Blige.

  4. No mention of the Toy Story trilogy (as the voice of Mrs. Davis, i.e., Andy's Mom) in the list of Laurie Metcalf's notable roles?

    1. Oh she's fantastic in those films, no question. I usually give the edge to live action parts over voice parts.

  5. Love these roundups every year. I'll bite with my picks.

    Best Actor

    Timothee Chalamet- Interstellar (only thing I've seen him so far)
    Daniel Day-Lewis-Lincoln (he was great in TWBB, but he WAS Abraham Lincoln)
    Daniel Kaluuya-Get Out
    Gary Oldman-Leon (so many great performances, though)
    Denzel Washington-Malcolm X (as you said, always)

    Best Actress

    Sally Hawkins-The Shape of Water (blew me away)
    Frances McDormand-Fargo (obviously)
    Margot Robbie-I, Tonya (I would've had Suicide Squad before watching this one. Whether you like SS or not, she was awesome in it)
    Saoirse Ronan-Byzantium (I'm not her biggest fan, but she was perfect here. Besides, I hate Brooklyn and haven't seen Lady Bird, yet)
    Meryl Streep-Sophie's Choice (toughest choice of the bunch, for me)

    Best Supporting Actor

    Willem Dafoe-Auto Focus (so perfectly slimy)
    Woody Harrelson-Natural Born Killers (another with lots of good stuff to pick from)
    Richard Jenkins-The Visitor (I never think of this as "star-making" though because as great as he is, he could in my house and slap my wife and she wouldn't know who he is. And we just watched The Shape of Water a couple weeks ago, lol)
    Christopher Plummer-Inside Man (he was excellent, but I'm disappointed in myself, here. Looking over his imdb page reveals that I've somehow missed most of his filmography. I don't even know how that's possible. I've got work to do)
    Sam Rockwell-Moon (amazing piece of work)

    Best Supporting Actress

    Mary J. Blige-Mudbone
    Allison Janney-I, Tonya (she stole every scene she was in)
    Lesley Manville-Maleficent (only thing I've seen/remember her in)
    Laurie Metcalf-Toy Story Trilogy (of her few movies I've seen, but her real best is in Malcolm in the Middle)
    Octavia Spencer-Fruitvale Station (so sadly overlooked)

    1. Love your picks! DDL really WAS Lincoln. It was uncanny. I agree about Robbie, SS isn’t my kind of film, but she chewed the shit out of that movie.

      Byzantium is a very good pick for Ronan. Great call there. Sadly, that’s a fair point you make about Jenkins. I guess I meant that his performance in The Visitor is the one that allowed him to start booking more significant roles.

      And dude, I LOVE Plummer in Inside Man. “Would you like me to arrange one for you……. oh….. I’m sorry…. I misunderstood. I’ll just…. sit down here.”

  6. Here goes my list (unfortunately I haven’t watched the films they’re nominated for so gotta have to go with my favorite previous performances):

    Best Actress

    Sally Hawkins - I’ve only watched her in Blue Jasmine and I liked her in there. I’m eager to watch The Shape of Water.
    Frances McDormand – Tough one… I love this woman’s acting… I’d go with Hidden Agenda and the one I remember more fondly is Mrs. Pell from Mississippi Burning. I loved her relation with Hackman’s character, one of my fave actors. Also, I think Almost Famous wouldn’t have been the same without her and she rocked – literally – in Laurel Canyon.
    Margot Robbie – I’d choose Suicide Squad. The film was a disaster but she was the perfect Harley Quinn.
    Saoirse Ronan – Atonement. I would have given James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch and her every award for their performances. Saoirse is truly talented.
    Meryl Streep – I think I already told you how much I adore that film. My favorite Meryl performance too. Those eyes, indeed…

    Best Actor

    Timothee Chalamet – He didn’t really catch my attention in Homeland or Interstellar. Gotta watch more of him.
    Daniel Day-Lewis – The Boxer. It’s very hard with Day-Lewis… but I felt, literally haha, in love with him in The Boxer. Couldn’t believe he was the same guy who played Cecil in Room with a view. In the name of the father, There Will Be Blood and Gangs have to be some of my faves too, followed closely by The Crucible and My Left Foot.
    Daniel Kaluuya - Funny how he’s the only one alongside Dev Patel from Skins Generation 1 who’s received a big nom like this even though his character wasn’t big. I have only seen him in there and Sicario… have to watch this one.
    Gary Oldman – Oldman was my fave vampire being a kid so I always had a soft spot for this talented man. In fact, hard to believe he hasn’t received a big award already! Never watched The Contender, adding it to my list now. I’m gonna go with Leon. He looked evil as hell just by the way he moved around… terrific actor.
    Denzel Washington – Has to be Malcolm. He was Malcolm, perfect acting.

    Best Supporting Actress

    Mary J. Blige – Need to watch Mudbound.
    Allison Janney - From the ones I’ve seen, 10 things I hate about you.
    Lesley Manville - Really happy for Lesley being recognized. Lately I saw her in the series River and I remembered how good she is. My pick has to be her role as Maria Hale in North & South.
    Laurie Metcalf - Can’t really pick one as I don’t remember watching her in anything in particular… my bad.
    Octavia Spencer - The Help. Need to watch Fruitvale.

    Best Supporting Actor

    Willem Dafoe - Another fave. I’d chose the same one as you, followed closely by Antichrist, Mississippi Burning, The Boondock Saints (his scenes are gold) and Platoon.
    Woody Harrelson- Ok, another tough one… The People vs. Larry Flynt or Natural Born Killers, can’t choose. Love the fact that you’ve given credit to True Detective. I loved that Martin almost as much as Kim Bodnia’s Martin from Bron/Broen. I saw many similarities between the two cops. I felt like both Matthew and him should have won more awards for the series. It seemed like because McConaughey won the Oscar that year they forgot about the series. If you ask me, Harrelson could have won an Oscar even for his performance on that U2 video he starred in recently.
    Richard Jenkins – Haven’t watched The Visitor. Gotta go with his Nathaniel Fisher.
    Christopher Plummer – I remember watching him hundreds of times as von Trapp when I was a kid. My pick has to be his role as David in Ararat, as that film and his performance really moved me.
    Sam Rockwell – Hard to pick one too… probably the same as you, Confessions.

    1. LOVE that you chose The Boxer as DDL’s best. Perhaps his least seen performance of his great roles. So effective in that film. YES to Denzel!

      Haven’t seen North & South. Need to track that one down because I love Manville. Great picks all around here!