Friday, January 04, 2008

Men of the year: The best male performances of 2007

Lest anyone who just happens by here thinks I'm somehow slighting the ladies, they got their day yesterday, so please feel free to scroll back and see who made that list too.

As I tallied up a year full of great male performances, there were three glaring omissions in my viewing calendar that rose to the top; you won't find Sam Riley from "Control," Casey Affleck from "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" or, most embarrassingly, Don Cheadle from "Talk to Me" simply because I haven't seen those yet.

With those conditions in mind, and the further one that I limited my choices to one from each movie (except in the honorable mention), here are my ten favorite male performances from 2007 (and, as always, please feel free to add any I may have overlooked.)

Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Picking just one dude from this epicly good movie seems like a crime, but those are the rules I set going in, and I do think he rose to the top of this amazing cast. To me, his portrayal of Anton Chigurh is just the essence of evil, and best expresses the complete abhorrence of violence that is at the core of the Coen brothers' admittedly very violent (and stunningly beautiful) movie.

Michael Cera, "Superbad"
I'm still waiting for the time that George Michael Bluth will be too old to play the straight-laced teen, but it hasn't come yet. He was almost as good in "Juno," but as the sounding board/punching bag to Jonah Hill in the funniest movie of 2007 (hint: that means you will very likely see it in my best of 2007 movie list coming Monday), he's just pitch-perfect. Though I don't know in the world he's going to pull it off, he's set to (possibly) play a 14-year-old as Nick Twisp in the film adaptation of one of my favorite novels, C.D. Payne's "Youth in Revolt." Here's hoping they at least start filming soon!

Chris Cooper, "Breach"
I've seen this one twice now, in fittingly different circumstances. I didn't fully appreciate it during my private screening of one during its one-week-or-so run in Macon, but it was just the perfect movie to watch while crammed on a very long flight to South Africa this summer. The movie is at times just as suffocating as that experience, but Cooper just manages to draw you in anyway with his absorbing portrayal of uber-spy Robert Hanssen.

Robert Downey Jr., "Zodiac"
Despite being handicapped by its early-calendar release and length (which you'll never hear me complain about), this flick seems to be building some possible dark-horse buzz as a Best Picture contender, which would make me very happy. Of the trio of stars at its core, Mr. Downey's journalist just best epitomized the obsession behind the drive to find the Zodiac killer.

Idris Elba, "Tyler Perry's Daddy Little Girls"
The better of Tyler Perry's 2007 movies somehow gets only a 3.3 out of 10 in the user rating at the IMDB. 3.3? Sheesh. I know his fairy-tale flicks aren't for everyone, but they're almost as smart as they are funny, and Idris Elba, a k a the late Stringer Bell on "The Wire," steps comfortably into his world as a mechanic who's also trying to care for his titular "Little Girls."

Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
I'll only confess to crying once in a movie theater this year, and it came when Emile Hirsch's Christopher McCandless turns his back on the world for the last time, rejecting the fatherly love of Hal Holbrook's Ron Franz. No actor made a bigger impression in a shorter time in 2007 than Holbrook did in this flick, and to me that's just the textbook definition of a great supporting actor.

Daniel Day Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
I'm still not sure how exactly I felt about Paul Thomas Anderson's epic take on the Upton Sinclair novel "Oil." It's certainly amazing movie making, but it would have left me more than a little cold if it weren't for the incredible performance of Mr. Lewis, who only seems to emerge every three years or so. Here, you'll find it hard to take your eyes off his face as he slowly devolves from enterprising oilman to a madman consumed by greed and other vices. Easily the best performance of 2007.

Peter O'Toole, "Ratatouille"
The closest thing to a true moment of grace in 2007 came when O'Toole's Anton Ego finally takes a bite of the titular "Ratatouille," and it's one of the many charms that has made this Pixar flick linger as my favorite flick of 2007. A true dark horse for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, but he's certainly got my support.

Simon Pegg, "Hot Fuzz"
I like to laugh, and I'm not going to start apologizing for that anytime soon. I suppose this nomination should be split between Mr. Pegg and his partner in crime, Nick Frost, but it was Pegg's channeling of David Caruso and other demons that just made Edgar Wright's spoof of '80s actions flicks work so well.

Reece Thompson, "Rocket Science"
I almost typed "Superbad" instead of "Rocket Science," but even though I did see those two flick on the same weekend in Minneapolis this summer, they couldn't be more different entrants in the arena of great teen flicks. As the alter ego of director Jeffrey Blitz, young Mr. Thompson stammers his way to easily one of the most memorable performances of 2007.

Honorable Mention (and be warned, this will be a bit long): Irfan Khan, "The Namesake"; Glen Hansard, "Once"; Emile Hirsch, "Into the Wild"; Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"; Titus Welliver, "Gone Baby Gone"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"; J.K. Simmons, "Juno"; Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd"; Paul Dano, "There Will Be Blood"; Josh Brolin, "No Country For Old Men"; Jonah Hill, "Superbad"; and Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, "American Gangster"


Fletch said...

Why did you set a rule (no more than one per film) that you yourself didn't like? It seems arbitrary.

Haven't seen them all yet so I can't comment across the board, but I'm liking the ones you pointed out. I'm with you on the Michael Cera boat - I could watch him play the awkward teen into his 40s.

The only glaring omission (for whatever reason): Tommy Lee Jones from "In the Valley of Elah."

Alan Bacchus said...

Idris Elba was indeed very good in Daddy's Little Girls. His part in American Gangster was unfortunately too small.

Alan Bacchus said...

Idris Elba was indeed very good in Daddy's Little Girls. His part in American Gangster was unfortunately too small.

Reel Fanatic said...

Not sure why, Fletch ... but as I treat most rules, made by me or anyone else, I certainly would have broken it if I felt any of the performances were strong enough to put two actors from the same movie in the top 10 ... and I liked Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" much more than I did the movie overall, so I probably should have let him at least sneak into the honorable mention

Mercurie said...

I definitely have to agree with you on Robert Downey Jr in Zodiac. I am still mystified why this film isn't sweeping up awards (I can only figure it was the early release date). And if there was an award for voices in animated films (there may be for all I know), I think Peter O'Toole would definitely warrant a Best Supporting Voice award...

Bob said...

Good choices! Especially Michael Cera. I can't wait to see "There Will Be Blood." 99.9 percent I'm getting to that and "The Savages" this Sunday. Once I see just a few more things I'll be able to put together the nominations for the Bob Awards. After a year filled with so many great movies, performances, and scripts it's going to be very hard for me to narrow it down. I can only hope that '08 is even half as good.

Marina said...

Great list. If I'd bothered to put the time into a male performances list Irfan Khan would definitely be on my list for both "The Namesake" and his small but excellent performance in "A Mighty Heart".

BTW - Happy New Year!

Linda said...

Mmmm the men of 2007, good topic, good list! I enjoyed Kal Penn in The Namesake, I fell in love with Idris Elba this year and Jonah Hill was everywhere and ever-fantastic...the kid can deliver a line. Great list, thanks!

J. Marquis said...

Chris Cooper was amazing in Breach. His self-righteousness just chilled my blood.

Keith said...

"...[Bardem's] portrayal of Anton Chigurh is just the essence of evil..."

Which is precisely what drove me nuts about it, and the reason I was disappointed by the movie. He's just the essence of evil, and nothing more. Bardem hasn't been given a character to play; he's been asked to play an abstract symbol: Evil.

Reel Fanatic said...

That clearly didn't bother me as much as it did you, Keith ... Perhaps the beef as you describe it is how the part was laid out for him by the Coens and maybe (I have to say maybe because I haven't read the book) by Mr. McCarthy ... Either way, it was still one of the best performances I saw all year

Nell Minow said...

That's an outstanding list, closer to my own views than any other I have read and including a few performances overlooked by the awards groups. I especially like what you wrote about Hal Holbrook and your inclusion of Irfan Kahn (who was also great in "A Mighty Heart" and "Darjeeling Limited"). I would add two more in addition to the ones you kept space for because you have not seen the movies yet: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "The Lookout" (equally brilliant were co-stars Jeff Daniels and Ben Goode) and Paul Schneider, who left me breathless in "Lars and the Real Girl" and was also terrific in "Jesse James."

P.S. I'll be at the Critics Choice awards on Monday, so try to watch it on VH1 and look for my update on by blog!

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't know how in the world I managed to overlook both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels, Nell, because like you I would have to list "The Lookout" as one of my favorite movies of the year (though I don't think it will make the top 10 I'll finally unveil Monday morning) .. And I'll definitely tune in for the Critics Choice Awards and check out your coverage of it, because critics certainly need much more respect than they seem to get nowadays

Ashok said...

"The Lookout" is a sleeper movie which many missed. It made my list of the best films. I would really appreciate if you could find time to check out my list for 2007 in my blog and give your views.

Invisible Lizard said... of my favorite novels, C.D. Payne's "Youth in Revolt."

Ouch. Youth in Revolt was one of the worst books I ever read. So bad that I couldn't keep it. Embarrassed to have it on my shelves, but equally embarrassed to give or donate away. Thus, I have to confess, it's one of the only books in my history of book loving that I ever threw in the trash.

Reel Fanatic said...

Really? I guess I just have a much lower standard for absurdist comedy, Mr. Lizard ... I laughed through every page of that book, and though I certainly can't call it anything approaching fine literature, that's enough to make me give a book a big thumbs up

Invisible Lizard said...

No worries. I already gave you a pass on that one.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Mr. Lizard ... It's one of the true joys in doing this that I can, so far at least, express almost all my often-twisted opinions and never get too much grief

M said...

I don't think there is a better moment in any movie this year (or in any more that I can remember) than when Anton takes the bite of "Ratatouille." As cheesy as it sounds, I have chills just thinking about it! Brilliant filmmaking. God that movie is so good.