Earlier this week, I did my list of what I thought were the best female performances of the year. Now it is time for the boys. Admittedly, I thought it was a stronger year for the girls. But here is what I thought was the best that the male performers had to offer.
Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali as Juan in Moonlight: What Mahershala Ali may lack in screentime, he makes up for in grand presence. As Chiron's surrogate father figure, Ali uses subtle facial gestures to create waves of both warmth and magnetism. His best scene is one where young Chiron asks Juan "What's a faggot?" and Ali handles it naturalistically with grace. His warmth serves as a contrast to his slightly intimidating exterior, allowing a three-dimensional portrait of a drug dealer that in the hands of a lesser actor, could've veered towards stereotype. Bonus points for being so charming in Hidden Figures.
Ralph Fiennes as Harry Holm in A Bigger Splash: What is it that Ralph Fiennes can't do? He's been Voldermort, a romantic lead in The English Patient, a sociopathic Nazi in Schindler's List, a Tony winner for his work in Shakespeare as Hamlet, and now he's proven himself as a comedic star. Harry Holm is perhaps the most outlandish character Fiennes has ever played. Someone who's willing to bare all whether it's his lack of a filter or a lack of clothes. Yet his never ending energy throughout makes the movie even better.
John Goodman as Howard in 10 Cloverfield Lane: Is Howard a savior or a sinner? May he be crazier than the apparent monsters outside the bunker? I was never really sure what really made him tick or what direction he was going in and that is all a testament to John Goodman's performance. With the way he's always standing by a corner and how his eyes are always shifting, Goodman uses his facial and bodily tics to aid in Howard's ambiguity, helping to create one of the most complex psychopaths on screen this past year.
Lucas Hedges as Patrick in Manchester By The Sea: Casey Affleck may be what gives Manchester By The Sea its heft but newcomer Lucas Hedges the film its heart. As the main character's nephew Patrick, Hedges is humorous and magnetic once he shows how Patrick tries to go through the motions and enjoy life's virtues yet he's also heartbreaking once he reveals the grief pounding on him. He has a big breakdown involving a freezer that is not only devastatingly realistic but is sure to warrant him Oscar attention.
Shia LaBeouf as Jake in American Honey: With all the crap that Shia LaBeouf gets as a person, you have to admit that whenever he gets the chance to act on screen, he tends to really bring it. As a sly magazine salesman that takes a young runaway girl under his wing, he could've easily been a 2.0 version of James Franco in Spring Breakers. But he exudes a shy charm that makes him standout from Franco's Alien along with the slow but steady feelings he starts to build up for young Star that make him endearing yet at times dangerous.
WINNER: Lucas Hedges
Runner-Up: Ralph Fiennes
Third Place: Mahershala Ali
Just Missed: Andre Holland owns every frame in Moonlight as an older version of Chiron's love interest, blurring the lines between sensual intoxication and emotional longing; While we may not see his face, Idris Elba helps create one of the year's most terrifying yet complex villains with his Shere Khan in The Jungle Book; Stephen Henderson quietly matches Denzel Washington tit for tat in Fences; In the midst of a veteran ensemble, young breakout Alden Ehrenreich emerges the comedic MVP of the muddled Hail, Caesar!; Michael Shannon uses stillness to create a portrait of a chaotic Texas Ranger in Nocturnal Animals
Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler in Manchester By The Sea: Lee is a very introverted man. Someone who tries to avoid connection from those around him so he doesn't have to feel as he tries to muscle his way from one day to the next. Casey Affleck gives a pitch-perfect portrayal of a neurotic everyman that might not have the type of showboating that demands awards attention. But Affleck still provides plenty of subtle yet gut punching realism with how his hardened broken eyes, that reflect on all he has lost in life, often contradict his sullen deadpan delivery.
Ryan Gosling as Holland March in The Nice Guys: What a return Ryan Gosling made to the big screen. He got to sing, dance, and charm his way through La La Land while demonstrating his knack for outlandish comedy in The Nice Guys. Whether he's letting out a loud girlish scream or acts drunk in a bathtub, Gosling emerges a comedic force of nature while having dynamite chemistry with co-star Russell Crowe that makes the film even better.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield in Nocturnal Animals: At first, we thought Jake Gyllenhaal could hardly top his career-best work as the journalist from hell Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler. But this performance, or these performances, come damn near close. As the main character Susan Morrow's ex-husband Edward, he possesses a quiet charm and sincerity that creates a slow burning mystery as to how their blossoming romance could ever fall apart. But as Tony Hastings, the character within the main novel, Gyllenhaal is a kindly everyman turned agent of vengeance and uses his pulsating anger and bodily sweats to signify his slow descent into madness. Two very distinctive performances from a man who continues to deliver 180 for 180. How does this guy keep topping himself?
Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash in Captain Fantastic: Viggo Mortensen's work in Captain Fantastic has two main layers to it. On the one hand, he is an eccentric yet arrogant survivalist who avoids traditional real world teachings. On the other hand, he is a concerned father trying to offer the best love and support to his children even as those around him don't agree with what he teaches his children. In spite of his slight unlikability, Mortensen's Ben Cash is still incredibly fascinating to watch. Even after he's banned from his wife's funeral, he still quickly says "F**k that" right after seeing the disappointing faces of his children. He's both abrasive and touching in the right places.
Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson in Fences: Denzel Washington gives his absolute best work in years as former Negro baseball player Troy Maxson, running away with the two hour picture through sheer, magnetic star power. His Troy is a walking force of physical intimidation and pathological complexity. He is uncompromising yet has a realistic view of the uncompromising world; mostly relying on his own self yet unwilling to let go of the ones he loves most; arrogant yet brutishly afraid of Death.
WINNER: Jake Gyllenhaal
Runner-Up: Viggo Mortensen
Third Place: Denzel Washington
Just Missed: Colin Farrell continues to prove how at home is in dark comedy with The Lobster; Russell Crowe shows off surprising comedic timing as the slightly more straight-laced half of the Nice Guys duo; In spite of playing a dead zombie, Daniel Radcliffe infuses growing feeling and curiosity as the main Swiss Army Man; Trevante Rhodes shines as the older Chiron in Moonlight, using his chiseled masculine appearance to mask quiet feeling; Chris Pine does career-best work as a reluctant yet persistent bank robber on the run in Hell Or High Water