Corliss declares Firth and Mo’Nique performances of the year

Posted by · 4:52 pm · December 8th, 2009

Colin Firth in A Single ManWe’re currently in that month where precursors do their utmost to reduce a year’s worth of cinematic achievement to a small handful of oft-repeated names and titles. It’s understandable (if disappointing) when groups or committees compile these identikit lists — but when individuals (and serious critics at that) stick rigidly to the formula, it becomes a little depressing.

This is my way of saying I read Richard Corliss’s Time list of the year’s Top 10 movie performances and could only say, “Really?” He watched an entire year’s worth of films and could only come up with nine heavily-publicized Oscar contenders and one token wacky/stupid/throwaway pick? (That’d be Michael Jackson, if you’re interested.)

Make no mistake, there are a number of fine performances here. Colin Firth, Mo’Nique, Jeremy Renner, Christoph Waltz, Carey Mulligan … noteworthy work, make no mistake. I just find it hard to believe that a critic has no personal favorites that deviate slightly from the buzz-determined consensus. I’m not saying he has to pick Tilda Swinton or Tom Hardy or John Malkovich — but he must have noticed some performers that weren’t already clocked by everyone else. Why not highlight one of them?

Anyway, here’s Corliss’s gender-segregated list:

1. Mo’Nique, “Precious”
2. Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
3. Saoirse Ronan, “The Lovely Bones”
4. Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
5. Marion Cotillard, “Nine”

1. Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
2. Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
3. George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
4. Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
5. Michael Jackson, “This Is It”

Finally, here’s Corliss on my personal favorite performance of the ten:

He’s been assigned to head a bomb-defusing squad in Baghdad, c. 2005, and his new mates, whose last leader got blown to bits, don’t care at all for James’s go-it-alone style. But they can’t help be awed by his bravado. Before checking one car suspected of being loaded with IEDs, he removes his protective hazmat suit, saying, “If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna be comfortable.” Renner, who took supporting roles in North Country, 28 Weeks Later and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and co-starred in the recent ABC series The Unusuals, isn’t the standard, steel-jawed action-movie hero; he has the soft, unremarkable features of any good ol’ boy. That’s the surprise of superior acting, for Renner gives his character the cool aplomb and attention to detail of a great athlete, or a master psychopath, maybe both. Like James, Renner is the right man for a tough job.

→ 22 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

22 responses so far

  • 1 12-08-2009 at 4:56 pm

    m1 said...

    Hello? Where are Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, and Peter Sarsgaard? And Michael Jackson? Seriously?

  • 2 12-08-2009 at 5:03 pm

    Danny King said...

    The inclusion of Michael Jackson is a joke. How is that even considered a screen performance?

  • 3 12-08-2009 at 5:11 pm

    Joel said...

    I second m1. The exclusion of Sarsgaard is pretty stupid, imo, as I’ve seen few better performances this year, personally. And the inclusion of Michael Jackson makes absolutely no sense.

  • 4 12-08-2009 at 5:11 pm

    daveylow said...

    Richard Corliss was trying to show he was edgy by picking Jackson. But he just comes off as bit silly.

  • 5 12-08-2009 at 5:11 pm

    Joel said...

    And actually, I’ll throw in Matt Damon for “The Informant!” here as well. I think it should’ve been included. But whatever.

  • 6 12-08-2009 at 5:22 pm

    red_wine said...

    I agree its most disappointing. You could justify me or some other common man making a list like that, because we can’t honestly watch all the films in a year.

    But he’s a professional critic, he watches ALL films released in US (sometimes more than 400), so yep mentioning just some buzzed performances is a tad lazy. No foreign language performance at all too. How about some words for certain out-there performances, like Gainsbourg or maybe even Dafoe.

    And Guy, I haven’t seen the film yet but is Clooney truly that great in Up In the air? I was disappointed with him being nominated for Michael Clayton. He was just swept in with the film, really nothing worth nominating.

  • 7 12-08-2009 at 5:54 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I like Clooney very much in Up in the Air — it’s a clever performance that plays slyly on an established screen performance while adding more vulnerable notes.

    Still, I’d be hard pressed to call it one of the year’s greatest acting achievements — or even his personal best. (I mean, better than Hardy? Or Michael Stuhlbarg? Or Tahar Rahim? Seriously?)

  • 8 12-08-2009 at 5:58 pm

    Me. said...

    Marion Cotillard has been hailed by most critics, even if they disliked the film. Here’s predicting she’ll get nominated.

  • 9 12-08-2009 at 6:07 pm

    De'Garryan said...

    If this guys likes these performances, then so be it. Who cares if these are the same names we’ve been seeing all season, they’re his OPINION. GO MONIQUE!!!!!

  • 10 12-08-2009 at 6:08 pm

    De'Garryan said...

    If this guy likes these performances, then so be it. Who cares if these are the same names we’ve been seeing all season, they’re his OPINION. GO MONIQUE!!!!!

  • 11 12-08-2009 at 6:16 pm

    tim said...

    It’s funny how quickly opinions change. First it was Colin Firth can’t lose! Then Jeff Bridges gives his best performance ever and is so overdue, he’s gonna win! And now Clooney is picking up all these critic’s notices. I personally hope Clooney doesn’t win. I don’t think he’s that great an actor. He always just seems to play a variation of himself. I’d love to see Firth win.

  • 12 12-08-2009 at 6:18 pm

    red_wine said...

    I dunno if this is the best place to mention it but he whole impression that I get with Nine and with the way its being promoted is that its literally begging for oscars. Similar to what I felt in regard to Rev Road last year. There can be something so cringe-inducing about the cast and makers of the film drolling all over their own film. The whole story about Nine seems to be ‘just look at us. How did we manage so many stars in 1 film. We all lived happily and did not tear each other’s eyes out. How humble of us to have gotten the opportunity to work with this cast. Damn the quality of the movie, just look at the cast’.

    There’s this entire air of slick self-congratulation that frankly pervades about all baity titles but it specially leaves a sour taste in your mouth if you don’t like the movie. You feel ‘you know what, fuck you and fuck your movie, its not even that good’. I would hate to be at such a Q & A session with the cast where everybody, including themselves are kissing their ass.

  • 13 12-08-2009 at 6:30 pm

    RichardA said...

    Perhaps, Corliss hasn’t watched these movies multiple times.

  • 14 12-08-2009 at 7:25 pm

    Sean Stangland said...

    I agree Christoph Waltz was the main attraction of “Inglourious Basterds,” but Denis Menochet (Monsieur La Padite) and Melanie Laurent (Shoshanna) warrant consideration at Oscar time as well — especially Menochet, who is given one 20-minute scene and conveys his character’s entire life’s story.

    The best performance getting absolutely no awards buzz is Zachary Quinto in “Star Trek.” I compare it to Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” — an iconic, star-making performance that everyone will still be watching years from now, even if it didn’t come in the most “important” movie in the world.

  • 15 12-08-2009 at 7:30 pm

    tintin said...

    Go RONAN!!!!!!

  • 16 12-08-2009 at 8:27 pm

    Ella said...

    Firth deserves to be in there, so good for Corliss. That is a beautiful performance, and it’s different from what any of the others have done.

    Guy, you complain that these are “heavily publicized Oscar contenders.” But the reasons they’re heavily publicized is because of sites like this one! We start talking about this stuff ad nauseaum for months, creating the monster, until we’re bored silly, and you begin to resent the people you’ve been helping to hype. Firth, just to stay with his example, was a dark horse (and still is, IMO). He came out of the blue after winning in Venice so it was ok for him to be a darling then. But now, it seems, too many people have discovered his performance and therefore it lacks the cache of first discovery.

    What a world! Having said that, I do like the job you and Kris do here!

  • 17 12-09-2009 at 1:18 am

    Andrew said...

    Such a stupid list. I stopped reading when I saw The Princess and the Frog as his #1 best movie of the year. Rubbish!

  • 18 12-09-2009 at 1:27 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Ella: Let me make it quite clear that I don’t “resent” any of the performances on this list. I just query how much individual thought went into compiling it.

  • 19 12-09-2009 at 2:03 am

    Gareth said...

    Having seen “Nine” this evening, I can say that Marion Cotillard joins my very short list of performances I truly care about receiving an Oscar Nomination this year. She belongs in the Supporting category, and I hope that the Academy places her there and ignores her campaign for Lead. She is amazing.

  • 20 12-09-2009 at 6:05 am

    Joe said...

    I don’t find this list uninspired at all. (Of course, I’ve only seen three of the ten.) It’s not like he’s kissing Jeff Bridges’ butt. Or Morgan Freeman’s. And what’s wrong with Michael Jackson, anyway? Sure, it’s a documentary; but at which point in “This Is It” is he not acting? That’s one of the seven I haven’t seen, so I can’t comment; but I got the impression that the whole point of “This Is It” was his final performance.
    red_wine: your comment was off topic, but I couldn’t agree more. I felt EXACTLY the same way about “Chicago”, which sold the “we all got along really well, isn’t that wonderful?” angle to the point of annoyance. But it worked, so it looks like more of the same this year with “Nine”.

  • 21 12-09-2009 at 8:10 am

    Ella said...

    Guy: I understand. You have certain expectations of what critics will champion. My point is that many of the people Corliss chose were hot picks when they first hit this season, too. And the fact that they’ve now become part of the regular prognostication conversation should not diminish their achievement.

    Thanks for responding. This is one of the best sites of its kind.

  • 22 12-09-2009 at 2:01 pm

    Brian said...

    It’s worth noting that these are Corlis’s picks for top movie performances, not acting achievements. Clooney’s charisma and Jackson’s showmanship are part of their performances whether or not they amount to great acting.