House of Mirth and Movies

The Ten Best Male Performances of 2009

I’m a bit behind, but here it goes!

10. Ryan Reynolds Adventureland

I think it is easy to underestimate how challenging it is to pull off a role like the one Reynolds’ plays in Adventureland. His character is static and detached, in many ways he is representative of a possible future, or someone’s ideal. He is supposed to embody cool, and yet be simultaneous reprehensible. Reynolds not only succeeds at conveying this, but he adds a certain amount of charm and sadness to his role that few actors would ever bring.

9. Max Records Where the Wild Things Are
I love a good child performance, and this is one of the best.

8. Yang Ik-Joon Breathless

A writing and directorial debut, Yang Ik-Joon plays a profane small time gangster who learns to love. Awww… the film is bittersweet, and the rather cutesy premise sold almost entirely on the lead performance.

7. Paul Schneider Bright Star

Probably the most epic villain of this year’s cinema, Paul Schneider plays one of poetry’s greatest assholes as he instills hatred into the otherwise peaceful world of Keats. His vitriol is incredible, and one can actually imagine he must smell physically… it’s difficult to act smelly, but he does it!

6. Jeremy Renner– The Hurt Locker

It’s something to play a soldier caught in the heat of battle, it’s something else to play a soldier addicted to war itself. Renner doesn’t pull an easy out though, and his character is incredibly sympathetic, while also being apparently raving mad. I feel his performance is at it’s best during moments of stillness, when boredom lingers, and you feel almost as if Renner’s body was a cage holding a wild animal trying to escape.

5. Michael Stughlbarg – A Serious Man

I have to agree with Led, where the hell did this guy come from? What a face! He manages such a nuance of pain, while also simultaneously expressing a huge amount of comedy. It’s absolutely wonderful, and it would be hard to believe the film would be half as good as it is without his presence.

4. Stephen McHattie Pontypool
Ewww Canada…. Canadian actors on the other hand are wonderful, McHattie is one of the best. His grizzled face matching his grizzled personality, he sells this absurd zombie premise to a tee, and his character’s transition from “better then thou” big city radio host, to a curiously terrified investigator is rather incredible.

3. Sam Rockwell Moon
Would we even be talking about Moon if it were not for Sam Rockwell’s performance? Using a few broad characteristics, Rockwell is able to create several , often competing, variations on the same character to create a sense of strange ambiguity and tension between the personalities involved. At once poised and top of the world, he can also play a man on the brink of death, literally falling apart at the seams. One of our generation’s premiere talents

2. Colin Firth A Single Man
Grief isn’t so much about the tears or even dealing with events like funerals or memorials. The difficult part is returning to the mundane ordinary life. It’s those moments that become the most unbearable, the repetitive habits of the everyday is what hurt most, and there is a constant struggle to break out of that pattern of pain. Firth’s character is caught at the absolute brink of despair and hopelessness, and Firth channels this with a calculated, breathless perfection. It’s an incredibly painful and evocative performance.

1. Christoph Waltz Inglourious Basterds
Yea, predictable, but it’s so good. Waltz brings an unsettling cheerfulness to the role of an opportunist Nazi. His character is reprehensible in many ways, at the least because he seems to have little respect or understanding of human life (then again, the Basterds don’t have this either), at worst because he lacks any sense of morality or conviction. He is a shameless opportunist, incredibly intelligent and manipulative, one is never quite sure exactly how far ahead he foresees the direction of each action and situation. He seems to be an incarnate of Bogarde’s electric performances in the work of Losey, because every action and phrase seems infused with a set of absolutely contradictory emotions and feelings. He eats strudel better than anyone else ever.