Monday, April 09, 2007

Sophie's Choice: Best Actor of 2006

Sure, Forest Whitaker was great and all, but for me, Best Actor of last year was all about these two fine hunks of man. Both were fantastic, albeit in very different ways, and I really don't know who I prefer. First off:

HUGH JACKMAN in The Fountain. Can we say "wow"? As if it weren't already hard enough to be the film's emotional anchor while also being a hovering bald Buddha figure, turning into trees, and fighting off Mayan demon things, Jackman also did it all in a spot-on perfect American dialect... old news for him, but just think about the layers upon layers of work he's doing here, without ever showing the effort. He's arguably the best thing about a film with LOT of great things, and it's indisputably his career best performance (at least on film). Jackman reveals new emotional depths in his three related roles as a Spanish soldier, a contemporary doctor, and the aforementioned bald Buddha figure, and for me, what it all added up to was one of those truly iconic performances... a dynamic and all-encompassing portrait of man in all his frailty, strength, intellect, love, and need. It seals the deal on Jackman as a GREAT actor, and great leading man. And I can't help but give bonus points for all the other fine work he did last year. Think about it: if you include The Fountain as three roles and then add in his three other live action and two other voice-over perfs, that's EIGHT great performances last year. That sure says "actor of the year" to me.

I have of course been raving about Jackman's Fountain perf ever since I saw it, and was shocked upon shocked to learn that it only placed a paltry 5th in the '06 FiLM BiTCH best actor category. I'd thought it had my own personal '06 win locked up... but that was before I saw:

RYAN GOSLING in Half Nelson. Here is a performance that's great in such a totally different way. While Jackman's performance serves a great film, Gosling's elevates a good film into something more. Half Nelson is all about people, their inner lives, and their relationships, and there's no person in it as compelling as Gosling's Dan Dunne. Jackman's performance is epic, operatic, and romantic, but Gosling's is straight out of the Penn/Brando brand of tortured naturalism, and he works that style to perfection. He has nothing but a script and a camera to work with, but still manages to create a fully realized character, one who you identify with and care about even when he does terrible things. His pathos transcends the "junkie" cliché. In the words of many a reviewer: "Dan feels like someone you'd know." Gosling creates a whole universe of backstory and inner torment for this man whose life has fallen slightly off the rails. He too slides effortlessly into a (subtle) dialect, and uses that and every other tool at his disposal to fall totally into the character of troubled inner city teacher Dan Dunne. His nuance and precision are a marvel to behold. Strong chemistry with co-star Shareeka Epps (also great) doesn't hurt either. Gosling may well be the heir to Penn and Brando. His presence onscreen is THAT potent. He has a great career ahead of him.

Now, Glenn managed to find an easy way out, leaving Gosling's greatness out of contention altogether. But I am determined to choose between these two. Or maybe I should just pull a Sophie and choose neither? There's always Forest Whitaker to fall back on.

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6 Comments:

Blogger J.D. Judge said...

Absof*ckinglutely. Both of them are medalists in my awards, and one of them won. I'm not saying who yet, and it could change. Maybe. ...Last...Scotland comes out on DVD next week. You never know...

5:55 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

I would definitely vote for Ryan Gosling, if this was a poll. But if I were you, I might give the gold to Hugh Jackman. Just because I'm pretty sure Ryan Gosling is the future of cinema, so there will probably be many more opportunities for you to give him his dues.

7:55 PM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Ooh, can this be a poll? Everybody leave their preference in the comments.

You know, Scott I am leaning toward Jackman for the same reasons, but then I think about how this kind of thinking is the reason why Peter O'Toole and Kate Winslet have never won, and why Sean Penn had to win in 2003 over Depp and Murray instead of in 1995 for Dead Man Walking. Half Nelson could remain Gosling's best performance for a long, long time. He seems full of promise, but you can't devalue current work for that reason.

I'm sure for most critics awards it was a Whitaker/Gosling thing, with Whitaker winning everything for the reason that "this is the ONE for him; Gosling is just warming up." I myself think it's a Jackman/Gosling thing. But still so hard to decide.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

I obviously can't give my opinion. But I too am trying to decide who takes my gold out of Jackman and two other men.

I don't feel remotely bad about ignoring Gosling though. I mean, it'll be May by the time I had a chance to see it and that's in CINEMAS. If it was out on DVD then I'd wait, but no way am I gonna spent $12 on Half Nelson just so Gosling may or may not give a #1 performance. Tough titties for anyone who thinks otherwise.

3:03 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Well I can't really blame you cause I didn't bother to see Half Nelson in cinemas either. I actually didn't even know about it when it came out. Luckily it's the kind of thing that's fine to see on DVD... doesn't really need the big screen.

There's more to it than Gosling, though... Shareeka Epps and the screenplay are definitely worth attention also.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

I'm sure there is, but it's not a movie I was dying to see anyway, so the lameduck release date really just saved me $12 and gave me the chance to see something else (such as Paris Je'taime which is out this month too).

11:18 AM  

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