Thursday, April 12, 2018

My 25 Favourite Performances of 2017

My final post commemorating the cinematic year that was 2017 is my favourite: the acting!

This list is judged from two factors: acting quality, and my heavy, unrepentant sense of favouritism. I like to think that I wouldn’t put a bad performance on the list, but it would also be inaccurate to claim every performance listed was one of the 25 best acting performances of 2017 (for example, I’d have a hard time arguing that Gal Gadot was better in Wonder Woman than Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes, say).

Warning: the following blog under the cut is gif heavy! (To paraphrase Hamilton, ‘We rendezvous with Rochambeau, consolidate their GIFS!’)

25. Will Poulter as ‘Krauss’ in Detroit

Fun fact: one of my friends works in the same building as Poulter's father (who's a very big dog in his field of science). Thus, whenever I see the BAFTA Rising Star winner in a film, I feel like we're mates (by three degrees of separation, but still. 😂)

24. Gal Gadot as ‘Diana Prince’ in Wonder Woman

23. Brooklynn Prince as ‘Moonee’ The Florida Project

22. Naomi Ackie as ‘Anna’ in Lady Macbeth


21. Aneurin Barnard as ‘Gibson’ in Dunkirk
So much sadness and hope in his huge green eyes, and as the gif above attests to, I loved the magnetic, wordless bond he shared with Tommy. Gibson deserved better!

20. Josh Gad as ‘LeFou’ in Beauty and the Beast
'Gaston' was my favourite musical scene in a 2017 film (allow that awful La La Land homage in Baby Driver), and Josh Gad's exuberance is a huge factor as to why I adored it so. Read more of my praise for this terrific scene (in an otherwise turgid and uninspired reboot) here.

19. Harry Styles as ‘Alex’ in Dunkirk 
Alex was a bit of an a-hole (Gibson deserved better!), but fair play to the boyband member for not softening his character's uglier qualities. After all, war brings out the less fragrant side in people.


18. Beanie Feldstein as ‘Julie Steffans’ in Lady Bird 

A clever performance, Beanie never steals the limelight away from Lady Bird (as in Lady Bird's mind, it's her story and her story only), but rather, supports her as the loyal, long-suffering best friend (until the self-centred Lady Bird ditches her for the cool girl, of course). Beanie, like her brother, has a very nice screen presence and bounds of preformative joy. I can't wait to see what she'll do next.

17. Sam Rockwell as ‘Dixon’ in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Sam Rockwell's Oscar-winning performance was one of those instances where the charisma and talent of the actor was enough to overcome a badly written character. Even the way Rockwell's character, the schlubby 'Dixon' cross the road, was a masterclass in acting.


16. Mark Rylance as 'Mr Dawson' in Dunkirk 

I'm not actually the biggest fan of Rylance's laconic acting style usually, and I think his Oscar win for being so unresponsive in Bridge of Spies was extremely generous, especially as he beat superior performances from Tom Hardy and Sylvester Stallone. But his placidity in Dunkirk is perfect for the part of Mr. Dawson, a man who needs to keep a level head in the face of danger, to prevent precarious situations from escalating.


15. Lesley Manville as 'Cyril Woodcock' in Phantom Thread 

14. Regina Hall as 'Ryan Pierce' in Girls Trip

13. Robert Pattinson as 'Connie Nikas' in Good Time 

12. Frances McDormand as 'Mildred Hayes' in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

11. Barry Keoghan as 'Martin' in The Killing of a Sacred Deer 

Keoghan's chilling performance fuses Gone Girl with King George from Hamilton (the plight he inflicts upon Colin Farrell in the film is basically the embodiment of the lyric 'And when push comes to shove, I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love' from 'You'll Be Back', haha), via the Greek tragedy of Agamemnon, with a sprinkle of Barry's singular brand of dead-eyed staring.

Slight sidebar, but I'm glad to see Keoghan and Barnard didn't let the fates of their characters in Dunkirk stop themselves from bro-ing it up adorably at the film's premiere!


Dunkirk OTPs for life!

10. Vicky Krieps as 'Alma' in Phantom Thread 

09. Michael Stuhlbarg as 'Mr Perlman' in Call Me by Your Name 

The best dad of 2017 was given a performance that the character deserved. Stuhlbarg excelled at conveying Mr Perlman's personality attributes (geeky, engrossed in his work, open-hearted and very perceptive), before hitting a home run with that sensational monologue. A perfect instance of an actor delivering their lines so well, you truly believe they've lived that experience.

08. Florence Pugh as 'Katherine' in Lady Macbeth

The film Lady Macbeth was overall a bit evil for me, but Florence Pugh was magnetic in it from start to finish. I particularly liked how her character's arc goes from an innocent ingenue, progressively towards defiance, froideur, and then full-blown cruelty by the end.

07. Fionn Whitehead as 'Tommy' in Dunkirk 


Christopher Nolan noted that Fionn resembles a young Tom Courtenay, which I can definitely see. His performance in Dunkirk chiefly consisted of reaction shots, and his physical responses were captivating and convincing. There was so much pressure on this 20-year-old Londoner's shoulders, but Fionn completely embodied 'Tommy', the every-man on the beach, and the audience's sense of dread and panic were reflected in his every move.

Also, his bromance with Harry Styles on the Dunkirk press tour totally brings out the fangirl in me!!!
That's what makes them beautiful! ❤️

06. Daniel Day-Lewis as 'Reynolds Woodcock' in Phantom Thread 

British men called Daniel have talent...

05. Daniel Kaluuya as 'Chris Washington' in Get Out 

... unless they're football writers for The Guardian. 😂😂

Speaking of football, Daniel Kaluuya deservedly won the BAFTA Rising Star award this year, which is voted for by the general public. My good mate Will Poulter won this award in 2014. Both chaps are on my favourite performances of 2017 list for convincingly playing Americans, even tho they're actually Londoners.

The similarity between these two boys doesn't end there; they're both big Arsenal supporters. As we know, Arsenal fans love an online poll. So the boys being Gooners certainly didn't hurt them in this competition! (It's fine, they're talented Gooners so I'm allowed to stan for them. Not like Kaya Scodelario. #ForeverPettyLikeMilesTeller).


04. Saoirse Ronan as 'Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson' in Lady Bird 


My insanely gifted Irish queen gave my favourite performance of 2015 as 'Eilis' in Brooklyn (she's kind of a reverse-Cara Delevingne, given her prolific appearances in my favourite performances list, whereas Blahra constantly shows up on my worst lists). In Lady Bird, she deftly navigates a potentially irksome character, imbuing her with wit and joie de vivre.

03. Sally Hawkins as 'Eliza Esposito' in The Shape of Water 

Stripped of her voice, Sally instead uses her eyes, facial mannerisms and expressive way of conducting sign language to conveys years of longing and loneliness, and how meeting 'The Asset' uncovers something deep within her that she didn't know existed. Beautiful, moving work.

02. Timothée Chalamet as 'Elio Perlman' in Call Me by Your Name

Such a well-rendered turn, where Chalamet wears his heart on his sleeve, climbs all over Armie Hammer and passionately thumbnails the highs and lows of falling in love for the first time. His unbridled lust in the way he leans forward for his first kiss with 'Oliver' is physical acting at its most raw (and randy).


Another sidebar: Tim Tam, Sally and Sersh mark three consecutive performances on this list which contain self-love (or, as it will now be known thanks to that infamous peach scene 'Chalameting'). Timmy, Sally and Sersh all got Oscar nominations this year for their performances, which marks 2017 the most masturbation-ccentric set of Oscar nominations! The more you know!

01. Willem Dafoe as 'Bobby' in The Florida Project 

The moral centre of The Florida Project, Dafoe reflects the audience's sense of paternal care for the residents of his motel, counterbalanced with prudent citizenly duty and not being walked over. He doesn't show it, but 'Bobby' can bare his teeth when needs be.  

Everyone in the film other than Dafoe and Caleb Landry Jones (who was also seen in Get Out and Three Billboards...) were inexperienced performers, yet Dafoe's understated acting style both blends well with the young cast's, as well as enhancing the performances around him. His natural interactions with the motel residents and their kids is a big contributor to the authentic experience of watching The Florida Project.

It is because we see these kids through Dafoe's compassionate gaze that they are likeable, and their plights so affecting. 

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My chief hobbies these days are swooning over the Dunkirk chaps, quoting Hamilton and analysing films via their BBFC ratings. I’ve done plenty of the former two in this post, so time for some of the latter!

Performances decomposed by BBFC rating
15: 19
12: 5
PG: 1

Breaking the performances down into Oscar categories (Note: I consider Fionn in Dunkirk lead. I know Warner Brothers campaigned for him as supporting but that was cynical gamesmanship rather than them placing him in his true category (see: Viola Davis for Fences, Rooney Mara for Carol and Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl, to name a few for other examples of category fraud))

Male leads: 5
Male supporting: 9
Female leads: 8
Female supporting: 3


The supporting actor field was so rich in 2017. There were several notable performances that I had leave off the list, including Barry Keoghan in Dunkirk, Josh Gad in Murder on the Orient Express (I decided to omit these two men, partly because they were represented for other films), Leslie Odom Jr in Murder on the Orient Express (okay, I just wanted to give him a shout-out because he played Aaron Burr in Hamilton!), Benny Safdie in Good Time (who did a marvellous job behind the camera as co-director too), Luke Evans in Beauty and the Beast, and so on.

Good on the supporting males!

Willem Dafoe being crowned my favourite performance of 2017 is the first time since 2011 that I've chosen a supporting performance as my favourite of the year.

Here are my winners from previous years (click on the year numbers to see my full top ten performances from those years):

2016: Isabelle Huppert, Elle
2015: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
2014: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
2013: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Colour
2012: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
2011: Alan Rickman, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

Ha, as the Hall of Fame attests to, I quite like my French actresses!

Finally, Jesse Eisenberg made my blog history last year when he graced the favourite performances  of 2016 list (for his sweet turn as a hopeless romantic in Woody Allen's Café Society), and the worst performances list (for his cartoonish baddie in Zack Snyder's Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice). No such actor achieved this dubious honour this year.

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