Guest blogger Brian, a University of Minnesota freshman and cinematic studies major, had these rankings on the best of 07. I am going to make comments in addition to Brian's picks, but that's only for the chance for some point-counterpoint and to encourage further discussion. Credit for the post is all Brian, though:
Tops in the last Oscar Year:
Tommy Lee Jones (in No Country For Old Men): Jones’ performance in the Best Picture Winner Film, has been totally overlooked, and should have at least gotten more attention with in the Cinematic Community. Jones’ performance is simple, yet chillingly haunting, providing the foundation for the film’s now famous ending.
Daniel Day-Lewis (in There Will Be Blood): Lewis definitely deserved the Best Actor award: I can’t think of another actor that deserved the award as much as he did. His performance in There Will Be Blood may very well have been the most amazing performance I have seen in years. From beginning to end, Lewis’ acting filled the screen and sent shivers down my spine. His performance during the famous baptism scene will forever be remembered as masterfully powerful.
Johnny Depp (in Sweeny Todd): Depp provided an extremely intense performance of the infamous musical star. And who knew that Depp could sing?? His singing provided an even deeper depth to his already intense performance.
Glen Hansard (in Once): From this “little film that could”, which even won Best Original Song at the Oscars, came his amazing performance. Hansard’s simple, yet powerful performance is extremely natural and life-like, and, like Depp in Sweeny Todd, provides intensely beautiful singing to his character. From his trademark “t’anks” to his trademark costume of jacket, scarf, and short beard, Glen Hansard will always be remembered as “The Guy” (The name as it is stated in the credits). Unfortunately, Glen Hansard has publicly stated that he is going to concentrate on his music career rather than his acting career.
Jonah Hill (in Superbad): Despite the fact that Superbad is anything but a cinematic masterpiece, Jonah Hill’s performance was what made the film so enjoyable to watch. Hill’s acting, albeit mostly improvised, is hilarious. It was the improvisational style to his acting that really brought out the humor in the script of the film. For a film like Superbad, you need someone who can really act out a funny script and ad-lib at the same time; and Jonah Hill was that man.
My opinion: Tommy Lee Jones is my #2 for best supporting actor behind Tom Wilkinson, so aside from a different category placement, I am pretty much in agreement on that. "Chilling" is indeed a good word to describe Jones' stoic style and blank stares into space as he seemed so consumed by the threat of Anton Chirgurh. I agree as well on Day-Lewis: Samuel L. Jackson once said that Oscars (for acting at least) are won not by movies but by moments, and the baptism scene is the clincher for Day-Lewis.
I'm pretty much on the other side of the fence on Hill, mainly because I didn't find Superbad particularly enjoyable because he's right, it takes a great actor to rescue a mediocre comedic script and bring those jokes to life (think Tom Hanks with Ladykillers or Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels with Dumb and Dumber), and at the end of the day, it still felt like a mediocre script to me. I basically have Superbad as hovering around 2 1/2 stars which in other words, is a mixed bag. I thought the dialogue wasn't particularly anything of note despite setting the record for most 4-letter words per minute (according to the claims of writer Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) and it's saving grace was the turn of events in the storyline and its larger themes.
Ellen Page (in Juno): Ellen Page is Juno. She was perfectly cast as the part. Page’s performance was way beyond her years, and was definitely worthy of the Oscar nod, and most likely should have won the award, despite the fact that she is so young and that this was her first widely successful film. Her performance was so lifelike that I thought I was watching one of my friends in real life. Page’s acting style is such that she seems to take the script and make it her own and in doing so, she lights up the screen. I was smiling throughout the whole movie (with the exception of the crying scene of course) because it was so enjoyable to see her act.
Evan Rachel Wood (in Across the Universe): Similar to Johnny Depp and Glen Hansard, I am huge fan of the singing-performance. I believe that if you can sing on screen or stage, then you can most likely act as well. This is certainly true of Evan Rachel Wood in Across the Universe. Wood’s singing provides a beautiful backing for her beautiful performance. Her acting reminds me of a stage performance, which, in some cases can be construed as more authentic acting, since stage acting is non-stop on stage (whereas films stop for each take).
My take: I have another Oscar nominee, Cate Blanchett from Elizabeth and the Golden Age as my #1, followed by Evan Rachel Wood (so we're on the same page there), Naiomi Watts from Eastern Promises, and then Page, so we differ a little there. I agree that Paige was perfectly cast in the part, but than in that case, doesn't that significantly lower the degree of difficulty? Although Oscars aren't supposed to be a body of work, it will be interesting to see Paige on screen with words not written by Diablo Cody coming out of her mouth. I do agree, Wood stole the show and gave a performance I will remember for years to come.
Javier Bardem (in No Country For Old Men): Obviously, Bardem’s performance will be forever remember as the new perfect villain. His performance was hauntingly perfect in every sense of the word, even down to his now trademark coin flip.
Paul Dano (in There Will Be Blood): Dano’s performance in There Will Be Blood was unforgettable. The acting of this charismatic clergyman was hauntingly masterful for being so young and in relatively few films.
My comments: Whether Bardem was the perfect villain is a whole other discussion but I agree that Bardem nailed the part and had a certain rhythm and consistency in style to his character that made it come to life. It was such a competitive year for this category that I had to put Tom Wilkinson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones and Forrest Whitaker from the Great Debaters before Bardem, and I was almost considering Ben Foster who I feel was able to paint a portrait of an equally intriguing villain with few words. From the 85 minutes of There Will Be Blood that I saw, Paul Dano showed quite a bit of versatility in this role as opposed to his role in Little Miss Sunshine last year. It's almost as if he grew up.
Helena Bonham Carter (in Sweeny Todd): Carter’s performance in Sweeny Todd was perfect. It was so enjoyable to watch. There is just something about her acting that makes movie watching so much fun. It must be the juxtaposition of her facial expressions and her hilarious comments in that British accent.
My comments: Unfortunately, being only a part-time film critic I don't see every movie to come out, and Sweeny Todd wasn't something I had the fortune of catching.
Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood): There Will Be Blood was without a doubt a cinematic masterpiece and would not have been so amazing with a different director or cinematographer for that matter. Any viewer can see the amount of work that Anderson put into making the film.
Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men): No Country is this Oscar year’s other cinematic masterpiece. From the start to its anti-conventional ending, the film screams amazing directing, which is nothing but understandable from two of our generation’s best filmmakers.
My comments: Interesting fact about Brian: He went to the same high schol as the Coen Brothers in Minnesota. I agree from what I saw of There Will Be Blood and what I know of the storyline that Anderson deserved a best director title over Coen. It was a more ambitious project that acheived its potential
Once: The music alone from this film is amazing, but this anti-conventional love story is a beautiful reconnection to the French New Wave style of filmmaking.
There Will Be Blood: A hauntingly beautiful, epic, difficult cinematic work of art.
No Country For Old Men: A genius film with exciting action and a brilliant ending, but a surprising film coming from two amazing (usually comedic) directors.
Sweeny Todd: A sinister masterpiece from the dark mind of Tim Burton, which encompasses all that is great about the Musical/Film hybrid world.
Across The Universe: The best and worst film ever made. A genius idea to create a new narrative with Beatles’ music, however, it seemed too forced at times. On the other hand, the other large majority of the film has some of the most beautifully photographed scenes I have ever seen, where the visuals matched the music perfectly and sent shivers down my spine.
My comments: Whole-heartedly agree with the Across the Universe comment. The idea was genius while the execution was sloppy