So I’ll try not to be witty here, out of a kind of respectful reflection. Not just because Actober is nearing its end, but mainly because our dear Bianca suffered a great loss a couple of days ago. That said, my deputy would probably want me to make her laugh. We’ll see. For the time being, all our thoughts are with you Bianca – we all thank you for establishing Actober, it’s been brilliant. Now everyone, please, go embrace these badly behaved wonders in the field of acting in our penultimate part.
Clive Owen, Natalie Portman / Closer
Ever get the overwhelming feeling that you can’t have one without the other? The HFPA thought so when both Natalie Portman and Clive Owen won the Motion Picture Supporting prizes at the Golden Globes for Closer. And very well deserved too, definitely my picks for the year. Two powerhouse performances, so hefty they could easily have been leads.
Closer certainly demonstrates the late, great Mike Nichols’ knack for firing up his acting ensemble, as they tuck into the feast that is Patrick Marber’s extraordinary screenplay. But there’s sadly something significant missing from the overall picture. Julia Roberts is fine, with little to do, but it’s wimpy Jude Law that provides the weak link in the acting stakes. And the film suffers from issues of pacing and gusto, much more suited to theater.
Closer is saved, and empowered, by Portman and Owen. We literally see sides to the heart-breaking Portman we had not seen before. And her range of emotion and character transition is incredible to watch – though tough at times. Owen also balances an emotive standpoint, largely fueled by sexual hunger and a candid rage. The betrayal scene with Roberts is ferocious, the actor chews up the dialogue like it was written especially for him. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Matt Smith / Mapplethorpe
Matt Smith is becoming one of those actors who always seems to end up in great projects on television, but for whatever reason is consistently starring in mediocre films where is performance is often the only thing it has going for it. Unfortunately, the biopic of Robert Mapplethorpe, stunningly perverse photographer of the mid-20th century, is no exception. The film takes an annoyingly conventional approach to Mapplethorpe’s life, which the decidedly unconventional artist would probably have detested.
But Smith himself is remarkable, bringing a strange combination of cruelty and charisma that seemed to embody the man who was so difficult to define. You don’t like him, necessarily (and why should you – he’s an arrogant jerk most of the time), but you are somehow drawn to him. His thin frame has a certain vulnerable sensuality, the physical manifestation of a tortured artist convinced that he alone is aware of his own genius. Smith can’t save the movie from itself, but he is fascinating to watch. – – – – – Audrey @audonamission
Emily Blunt / The Girl on the Train
What does Emily Blunt have to do to be nominated for an Oscar? In The Devil Wears Prada, she stole focus from Streep and Hathaway, and walked away with a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Golden Globes and BAFTA. Then she elevated The Young Victoria from a dreary period drama into a charming romance piece, and scored another Globe nod and her first Critics Choice Award nomination.
In 2016, she rose above the disappointing melodrama of The Girl on the Train to deliver perhaps her finest performance, thus far. Another BAFTA nod followed, as well as her first Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination. But still no love from the Academy. It is a difficult task to capture the attention of Oscar voters in a film so denounced by critics. And let’s be honest – The Girl on the Train is a fairly terrible movie. It reaches for the lofty heights set by Gone Girl but falls into ridiculous farce, especially in its absurd conclusion.
But Blunt’s performance as the alcoholic emotional basket case Rachel is masterful. Despite her character’s self-destructing conduct, Blunt pulls you into empathising with the beleaguered Rachel, as she battles her way to break her cycle of self-annihilation. It’s a performance which showcases her impeccable talent, with a deft display of emotional chaos and the struggles of addiction. Blunt clearly threw herself into this rather ugly role and left all sense of vanity behind. That’s usually the easiest path to an Oscar nom. But not this time. Maybe her time will finally come for playing Mary Poppins later this year. – – – – – Doug @itsdougjam
Jonathan Pryce / Tomorrow Never Dies
The second Pierce Brosnan outing as 007 was one of my earliest intros to British Secret Agent James Bond, and one of my favorite movies of the film cannon. However, as time went on and as I was introduced to earlier installments of the franchise, the film went from a favorite to, with new eyes, realizing what it is: Pierce, and the movie, doing it’s best Roger Moore impression of better material done in the past. And yet, the Welsh actor as a megalomaniacal media baron out to manipulate China and the UK into bringing about a Third World War is hands down, the best thing about it.
From the time we first see him asking his minions what havoc shall his media company cause in the word today, to watching him mock Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin doing faux kung fu fighting stances, Pryce is clearly having a ball, chewing as much scenery as possible. It’s as if he knew just how cartoonish the script was, and decided to play a caricature of what we’ve come to expect from a Bond nemesis. – – – – – Jonathan @MisterBrown_23
Alan Rickman / Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
Let’s be real, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is 32 flavors of terrible. For Kevin Costner to be cast as legendarily English folk hero Robin Hood was a mystifying choice in and of itself, to say nothing of the decision to allow him to use seemingly whatever accent came to him in the moment. But as usual, we can always rely upon Alan Rickman to bring his A game and serve as a bright spot in what would otherwise be just a bit of silly nonsense. He positively devours the scenery here as the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, and his sardonic line readings are a cool oasis in a desert of objectively mediocre cinema.
The exasperation he feels for the fools he is constantly surrounded by is a joy and a treasure – no one does “completely over your idiocy” like Rickman. His performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham cements his status as the gold standard when it comes to on-screen villainy, and confirms the fact that Alan Rickman improved every project he came into contact with by several orders of magnitude. – – – – – Audrey @audonamission