Sunday, January 4, 2015

Top 15 Male Performances of 2014

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to my list of what I personally feel are the Top 15 Male Performances Of The Year. Let's take a look:

15. Michael Fassbender as Frank in Frank:
What is it that Michael Fassbender can't play? Seriously, he's played a sex addict, a slave owner, an android, and now a man who wears a paper mache head, which allows him to showcase his comedic strengths. He was an absolute riot yet there were moments in which he hardly speaks and yet I was able to sense what he was feeling. Through his low voice and body language, he is still able to convey what goes on in the head inside that head.

14. Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne in Gone Girl:
Apparently, David Fincher picked Ben Affleck to play Nick Dunne because of how he is quite a tabloid or celebrity figure and part of the film deals with celebrity culture. But regardless of the reason he was cast, Affleck gives career-best work as a rather tricky anti-hero who is charming yet has a seething rage boiling underneath and has an unlikable image yet is rather unsure of his own enigma or intentions. Much like co-star Rosamund Pike, Affleck takes us on his character's journey even though we, and Nick, are unsure what it is.

13. Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H. in Grand Budapest Hotel:
After playing the Dark Lord, Ralph Fiennes transports himself to lavish and more colorful Grand Budapest Hotel where he plays arrogant playboy Gustave H.. Ralph Fiennes had me in absolute stitches in this as he demonstrates his comedic versatility while making Gustave H. quite humanistic as well. In some scenes where Gustave and his lobby boy Zero are together, one thing I noticed is while his character is someone you'd want to punch, Fiennes shows off his softer side as his voice softens and gives a deep look in his eyes. While Gustave may be a bombastic character, Fiennes makes him seem more grounded. Hopefully, we get to see Ralph Fiennes do more comedies in the future.

12. Matthew McConaughey as Cooper in Interstellar:
Alright! Alright! Alright! Matthew McConaughey does it again as an astronaut who leads his crew with a rather commanding cool. Yet, when he doesn't have to utter a peep of dialogue, we see him at his most emotionally vulnerable. I liken his performance to Tom Hanks' in Saving Private Ryan except he has a less detached exterior than Hanks' character. But McConaughey's performance is a small reminder as to why and how he became a big star.

11. Edward Norton as Mike Shiner in Birdman:
After a small absence from the silver screen, Edward Norton returns with a vengeance by venturing into the Broadway stage as Mike Shiner, an actor who may seem too arrogant for his own good. Norton's performance is quite comical once he shows Mike's cockiness yet during his scenes with Emma Stone, we see Mike at his most sensitive as Stone captures his heart. Mike may not be the most likable guy, but Norton doesn't just make him a one-note jerk. We're glad to have you back, Eddie.

10. Pierre Deladonchamps as Franck in Stranger By The Lake:
Despite Pierre Deladonchamps being fully nude throughout the entire film, it is mostly a representation of his character's inner nudit and how he opens himself up to the antagonist to the point where he strips down to show his affection as his curiosity increases. As the film progresses, we begin to feel his fear and
anxiety even when he hardly has to express it. Even though he is obsessed with this madman, we never judge him. We become as curious as he does.


9. Brendan Gleeson as Father James in Calvary:
One word I would use to describe Gleeson's performance is honest. He plays a simple priest who quietly acts as a listening ear for those who go to confession. Even as he doesn't seem to have much a reaction, his eyes show how he reacts. Through his eyes, you get the sense that because a man wants to kill him, he is just wondering why it is. But, as the film progresses, his warm external layer becomes peeled and the darkness that he has held in becomes revealed with both dramatic and darkly comical effect. Yet, you still want him to live.

8. J.K. Simmons as Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash:
Just thinking about Simmons' unnerving portrayal of a ferocious drum instructor still gives me goosebumps. J.K. Simmons gives a performance that is as intense as the pounding of a drum yet he never plays the role as a one-dimensional villain. He plays the man as just a man who is unapologetic for who he is. He is a master manipulator but for less evil intentions, someone who will throw drums at his students to make them pound harder, and while his methods are inhuman, there are moments where we see is in fact human. In his already varied resume, Simmons finally gets a meaty role he can sink his teeth into.

7. Ethan Hawke as Mason Sr. in Boyhood:
Much like how we see Mason and his mother grow, despite him appearing in and out of the film, we also manage to see Mason's father emotionally grow as well. We manage to watch Hawke undergo a character arc from man-child to actual man in a way you wouldn't see it. Yet, when the film got right to the "man" part of his story, I actually found myself missing the character's old self like how an adult sometimes wishes he or she was younger. So, Hawke manages to embody just how easy it is to feel young, yet how hard it is to actually "grow up". 

6. Jack O'Connell as Eric Love in Starred Up:
When Marlon Brando first came onto the scene, he impressed audiences with his ability to offer a blend of both actor and movie star. That could be used to describe Jack O'Connell's star turn as young convict Eric Love in Starred Up, which might very well be his Brando moment. O'Connell manages to make his character sympathetic through the use of his charisma and subtle nervous eye blinks to reveal that despite being with the "big boys", he is still just a kid. Eric is really a scared young man and O'Connell tries to mask that with brooding force as if Eric is a battered animal that tries to bite whatever comes near him. Wonder what Jack O'Connell has lined up next because I can't wait to see what the future holds for this young talent. 

5. Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke in Locke:
Hardy's work is an absolute master class. It is quite unique how he was able to mold different layers together as he is spending an entire film driving a car. Locke is a man who comes off as unlikable and is the kind of guy one would think deserves what is coming to him. Yet when he talks to himself in the mirror, Hardy is able to capture his vulnerabilty and motives as he tries to say he has things under control when his constant blinking and cracking voice show how he is hardly in control.

4. The Foxcatcher Guys:
Since I ranked the Ida girls at number 4 on my Female performances list and because the actors from Foxcatcher are collecting ensemble awards, I figured I'd put them all at one spot at number 4. All three actors have rather different styles of acting, in my opinion. Channing Tatum's acting relies on his physicality or his constant thrusting that symbolizes his drive to win yet also his self-destructiveness. Mark Ruffalo does most of his acting with his eyes, which express constant concern about his older brother and switch gears once he invisibly fights John for control over Mark and his eyes get to exude a more quiet strength. But Steve Carell acts with his character's internality as he projects how John is like a watchful bird of prey onto his altered appearance with his fake nose. Plus, because he is playing a person with mental illness, he never overdoes it or go for a "big" scene. Since all three actors play characters that are caught in a subtle tug of war, it would make sense for them all to be recognized together.

3. Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler:
Since Jake Gyllenhaal lost a ton of weight for this role, I figured that he was playing a real life person since many actors who lose a ton of weight for a role play real life people. But it was a nice surprise to learn the film was fictional as with Gyllenhaal's weight loss, he created one of the more complex characterizations of any actor last year. Gyllenhaal's gaunt appearance shows how Lou is like a starving coyote and when he talks all uppity like a salesman, it covers up the rather hideous monster underneath that is revealed once his voice breaks. Once that layer is revealed, we really get to see the whole starving coyote that he appears as.

2. Ben Mendelsohn as Neville Love in Starred Up:
It has been only a couple days since I've seen Starred Up and it still keeps playing in my head, along with Ben Mendelsohn's multi-faceted performance as the main character's father. While he may act as an uncompromising mentor to his son and present himself as a ringleader with his intimidating swagger, behind all that is a concerned father wanting to help his son. He is unafraid to use his iron fist yet you just want to have his shoulder to cry on. Highly underrated performance from a criminally underrated actor.

1. Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in Birdman:
I feel that part of the reason this is Keaton's best performance is because it feels as if the part is made for him. Riggan Thomson, like Michael Keaton, has been unable to shake off the superhero he has been known for playing. So, I felt that Keaton was able to use the comedic elements of the character to poke fun at himself while bringing a good amount of emotional depth to reveal how being practically stuck in one role could have a strong hold on him. Here, it is to the point where his character hears his superhero alter ego speak into his ear while he quietly takes it all in. Yet on the outside, Keaton reveals shades of Riggan's ego and eventually his self-awareness. This isn't just career-best work, but a performance that somewhat takes his most famous role to redefine his career.

So, that was my list of what I feel are the top 15 male performances of 2014. Please feel free to share your own top 15 or top 10 in the comments section. I would be thrilled to see your personal opinions. Thanks for reading!