Monday, January 01, 2007

Best actors of 2006

Now that the ladies have gone first, it's time for the gents, and you'll soon see that I have a definite preference for good comedic performances. So, without any more delay and with the single proviso that I have yet to see Peter O'Toole in "Venus" (though my mother assures me he is amazing), here are 11 actors in 10 flicks that I just enjoyed in 2006.

Steve Coogan - "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story"
Sure, Steve Coogan has made a living out of playing the arrogant, out-of-touch artist, but his act still works for me. In this latest installment in his fruitful relationship with director Michael Winterbottom, he tempers his performance as the titular character with a big dose of humanity to make it all go down that much sweeter.

Aaron Eckhart - "Thank You for Smoking"
Call this one my official long-shot for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Though the academy did reach out to Johnny Depp's Captain Jack a few years ago, it doesn't seem likely they'll have the sense to recognize this pitch-perfect performance from Mr. Eckhart as tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor in Jason Reitman's very smart satire.

Paul Dano - "Little Miss Sunshine"
Sure, he doesn't have anything to say for about 3/4 of the flick, but even when he's quiet he carries the movie along with young Abigail Breslin, even with the presence of a slew of almost-A-list actors on hand. And when he finally does open up, he and Steve Carell at that hideous pageant are simply hilarious. Keep your eyes on Mr. Dano.

Nathan Fillion - "Slither"
OK, so maybe Mr. Fillion just made this list out of devotion to his role as Capt. Mal Reynolds of the Serenity, but it's my list, so just deal with it. Besides, I know I was only one of about 15 people who bothered to see this horror-comedy flick from Troma director James Gunn, but I still assert that Mr. Fillion was very funny as the sheriff in the middle of a shitstorm of gore and guffaws.

Forest Whitaker - "The Last King of Scotland"
OK, I promise that things will get more serious from here on out as we head into Africa and back again. If not for Mr. O'Toole, Forest would be the hands-down frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar, and he's got my vote. While you're watching his constantly sweaty Idi Amin, you never forget that it was basically a big kid that led Uganda down its road to ruin. A truly chilling performance.

Derek Luke - "Catch a Fire"
Along with Mr. Dano and the upcoming Daniel Craig and Adam Beach, Mr. Luke delivered the other truly breakthrough performance of the year for me. He definitely does have a fire as the oil factory worker suspected of and eventually driven to terrorism by the apartheid policies of the South African government. Besides, he's from Jersey City, New Jersey, and what's not to like about that?

Adam Beach - "Flags of Our Fathers"
Are American-Indian actors resigned to simply playing American-Indian parts? I hadn't seen the great Mr. Beach since his debut (at least for me) in "Smoke Signals," and he was definitely missed by me. His performance as the soldier battling the bottle and other demons after he returned from Iwo Jima was easily the highlight of Clint Eastwood's rather pedestrian war flick. As far as the movies go, I'm expecting much better things from the second chapter, "Letters from Iwo Jima."

Leo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson - "The Departed"
My apologies to Matt Damon, Marky Wahlberg and the other A-listers who contributed to this great return to form for Martin Scorsese, but these two just rose above the rest of the bunch. I've finally had to concede that Leo is a great actor, though giving him two Golden Globe nods (for this and "Blood Diamond") is just sick. And it was clear from his opening monologue that Jack was just having great fun playing the crazy mob boss Frank Costello.

Daniel Craig - "Casino Royale"
Now, in the homestretch, we get the new Bond and the would-be Bond, who many people wanted to see get the part. I admit I too had my doubts, but Mr. Craig just takes over the role of 007, and breathes new life into the franchise that should sustain it for at least another 10 flicks.

Clive Owen - "Children of Men"
Though he missed out on being Bond, Mr. Owen got a great consolation prize by playing the lead in this Alfonso Cuaron flick, which I just managed to see Saturday. He's on a slow burn throughout this one as civil servant-turned-reluctant-revolutionary Theodore Faron, and its his ability to bring us along on the journey that vaults this into contention as one of my favorite flicks of 2006.

Honorable mention: Limiting myself at the outset to just 10 flicks meant snubbing these fine performances: Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland"; Michael Sheen, "The Queen"; Sasha Baron Cohen, "Borat"; Will Ferrell, "Stranger Than Fiction"; and Rudy Youngblood, "Apocalypto." My apologies to all.

And there you have it. Please feel free to add any I may have omitted, or any you just thoroughly enjoyed watching this year, and have a great day full of football.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice!

last year was a good year for DiCaprio!

Reel Fanatic said...

It truly was, tameshk .. I've always run hot and cold with him, but The Aviator and now The Departed make back-to-back flicks in which he just kicked ass

carrie said...

maybe he's finally shaking his teen heart-throb image!

Anonymous said...

Steve Coogan is great. He's one of those actors who looks like he's making no effort at all. I think he's going to have a great career.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think you may be right, Mr. Marquis, especially since he managed to finagle into a family-friendly like Night at the Museum and actually be very funny in it

JMW said...

I liked Clive Owen in Inside Man a lot, too. I can't wait to see Children of Men.

I just saw The Painted Veil. It was uneven, but Edward Norton is terrific (so is Naomi Watts).

Reel Fanatic said...

My parents recommended The Painted Veil very highly, so if it ever plays anywhere near my corner of the world I'll definitely give it a chance

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to point out that Adam Beach is of Canadian First Nations heritage and admit, yeah, unfortunately, like Asian North Americans, he has and probably will continue to be cast based on visual appearance.
I'd like to send out kudos to Robert Webb and Martin Freeman in their improvised glory in "Confetti". They won't win anything but they made me smile.
Happy New Year!

Xtine said...

Cant wait to see Children of Men.

Anonymous said...

A superb list! I was very glad to see that you appreciated Derek Luke's superb performance in "Catch a Fire," which was my choice for best male performance of the year. Not as showy as some of the others, but his mastery of an astonishing range of emotions as he changes from an easy-going, optimistic young man to a furious rebel and then to a mature man who understands the power of forgiveness. I also think Coogan is always terrific, even in that hideously awful "Around the World in 80 Days" or in the surprisingly not-terrible "Night at the Museum." I think my favorite of his appearances is in "Coffee and Cigarettes," but I haven't seen "24 Hour Party People."

Anonymous said...

It's a fine fine list. I have not seen "catch a fire" and your list just reminds me to try to catch it on DVD.
It would be nice to see Adam Beach do something different than just American Indian roles. He was really good in flags of our fathers.

Reel Fanatic said...

You should definitely rent "24 Hour Party People" as soon as possible, Nell ... It's my favorite of Winterbottom's films, and just manages to capture the time and place of Manchester at its musical height perfectly

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you who you all are overlooking: Matt Damon in "The Good Shepherd."

Anonymous said...

Daniel Craig is a good call. He brings humanity to the role of Bond. Before, it felt like it was more of a charicature. Even with Brosnan who I liked very much. Now that I'm not 13 any more, I didn't miss Q and the gadgets either.

Plus Craig can give as good as he gets. With Roger Moore, you never felt that he could really throw down if he had to.

Reel Fanatic said...

I only omitted Mr. Damon in "The Good Shepherd," anonymous one, because I haven't seen that one yet .. There's not much that looks to be of quality coming this weekend, so I may be seeing it very soon

Marina said...

Excellent list! I'm waiting another week or so before I do mine only because I have a few more things that may potentially be added into the list!

James said...

Grandpa was my favorite character in, "Little Miss Sunshine" and LMS is my favorite movie of the year.

James said...

I also liked Djimon Hounsou in "Blood Diamond." DiCaprio wasn't bad either in the flick but Jennifer Connelly was terrible.

ryan said...

Thanks for including Paul Dano. It's hard to make a mark on a movie when you don't have any lines for most of it. Just a really strong, understated performance in a very funny flick.

And you're right ... Eckhart should get a nod from the Academy. He probably won't, but he should. He managed to make the character slimy, sad and sick, and still got you to feel briefly sympathetic. Great stuff.

Linda said...

Your list is great, Coogan did some strong work this year. I'd like to add Ryan Gosling for Half Nelson. Not sure if anyone will buy this, but I was pretty impressed with Vin Diesel in Find Me Guilty.

Reel Fanatic said...

Given all the awards it has received, Linda, I have to count Half Nelson as the one flick I wish I had seen this year but missed out on .. I'm certain that both its principal stars would have made my top 10 if I had managed to catch it

Anonymous said...

Well, if you do catch "The Good Shepherd" this weekend you're in for a good one. And, you'll find out that Joe Pesci has gotten really really old.

Anonymous said...

Good list. I haven't seen the flick with Nathan Fillion but will have to check it out. I'm a big Serenity fan and own the Firefly DVD set.

I completely agree about Eckhart. He is so good in the role that it is almost impossible to imagine anybody else in that role. He has a very nice body of work as a whole also ... Erin Brockovich, In the Company of Men.

Reel Fanatic said...

He does indeed, dbackdad .. be warned before watching Slither, if you happen to check back .. it's a zombie movie, after all, so it's awfully gross at times, but at least to me, also extremely funny

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