Naughty Vs. Nice in Hollywood

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Why, when I step outside of my apartment in the earlygoing of December, does it still feel like late September? It’s unreasonably comfortable outside! And I’m shirtless…and in Tennessee.

I suppose there’s my answer.

I could go pantless too but that’d be a little too greedy. Or just a little too inappropriate. Wait…would it be? Well, as tempting as it may be, I’ll stick to walking around without a shirt while creating this post for the upcoming winter season.

Regardless of what I am and am not wearing, the real discussion on the table here today boys and girls, involves some of the best and worst performances for 2012. Who would end up on Santa’s ‘naughty’ list and who would find themselves on the ‘nice’ one? That is to say, which ones out there did the best job pursuing their role and made it as convincing as possible, no matter if the movie was good or just so-so….and who pretty much turned in a lump of coal for their performance this time around?

Before I dive into it, I want to say a few things about my tactics. I do realize it’s a little unfair to put the blame on a single actor/actress for a product that turned out poorly….most of the time, it comes down to directing, writing, editing, or a myriad of other things that really go on before the acting ever starts happening. Success or failure, in most things, hardly ever comes down to a single person. However, in the grand scheme of Hollywood and the products it churns out daily, the acting, it turns out, is one of those things that are more noticeable than others. It is the actor’s responsibility to sell a script to an audience. Sometimes a great actor can take a dull, useless script and have fun with it and somehow turn it into something of interest to the rest of us. Conversely, a not so great actor may not be able to do anything with gold in his or her hands.

Here’s how some of them worked it out this year. I’ve come up with the 6 top performances of 2012 and the bottom 6. And yes, this is a very relative post because it shall include only those who I have seen this year. There are definitely many, many more performances that could be nominated for the N-o-N List. But here’s what I got (from best to worst).

NICE

  1. Daniel Day-Lewis, as the U.S.’s 16th President in Lincoln. If this man doesn’t win the Best Actor Oscar this year, then the world really is about to come to an end. He put on the performance of a lifetime and then some as Abraham Lincoln. He had the looks, he had the figure, he had the mannerisms. He carried with him all the charisma I could imagine the mystical Abe Lincoln having back in the 1800s. In a nutshell, as far as method acting goes, Day-Lewis is the cream of the crop.
  2. Tom Hardy, as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Yeah. I know that’s predictable. More predictable than when Santa’s supposed to come and clog up your chimney, but there’s no suppressing the truth here. One of the more refreshingly brilliant villains in recent years, Bane turned out to be a towering menace with a deep-booming voice, cold eyes and a terrifyingly masterful plan to rid Gotham for good. While the Heath Ledger Joker was undeniably the best of the series, that was four years ago and this is now. 
  3. Anne Hathaway, as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. I could not create this list without mentioning this incredibly playful, mischievous role. She was absolutely a treat to watch skulk around the dark streets of Gotham while everything else was going on. I argue she was the best actress to ever wear Salina Kyle’s outfits. She even said she cried when she was asked about how she felt leaving the role behind…now that’s dedication. It’s always been a big part of who she is as a top actress. And it truly showed here.
  4. Jack Black, as Bernie Tiede in Bernie. A refreshingly warm, serious role for Mr. Black. There have been moments he’s had more goofy roles than others that have fit into sillier or more serious scripts, but more often than not he’s your go-to-guy if you’re in the mood for watching any establishment become completely made a mockery of (School of Rock; Nacho Libre-type films). Not this time. He’s dead serious, and with a cute little mustache. Sometimes it’s nice when the direction of the wind changes from being right in your face to blowing gently behind your back.
  5. Denzel Washington, as Captain Whip Whitaker in Flight. I can’t say I’ve always been a huge fan of Mr. Washington. Of course, I’m aware of the man’s talent; he’s not a bad actor by any means. But here is his maturing role that got me interested in him 100%. While this was by no means a film that needed ‘saving,’ Denzel Washington does carry a lot of the strengths of this film. His lip quivers; his poker face (a.k.a his “Don’t bullshit me” face); his portrayal of an alcoholic in the throes of being denied his precious alcohol, it all adds up to one convincingly desperate performance.
  6. Guy Pearce, as Special Agent Charlie Rakes in Lawless. This guy was not exactly your friendly neighborhood Spider-man, and boy-oh-boy did Pearce make a good effort to be just the opposite. This out-of-town agent (specifically from Chicago) made it his business to hassle the Bondurant brothers while they were bootlegging moonshine in Prohibition-era America. As the film was based on factual events, I still have trouble believing the Bondurants were really up against a person as inhuman as this man. Possessing waxed eyebrows and slicked-back hair, a terrible temper and a severe disdain for the South, Rakes posed as nothing but a menace every time he stepped on screen. He was something to be reckoned with, even despite not having a cape. His title said he was a Special Agent, but really what he was was a monstrous bully.

NAUGHTY

  1. Jay Chandrasekhar, as Ron Jon in The Babymakers. I place the actor/director in the top of the pile because he had one of the worst bit parts in one of the worst films I’ve experienced this year. If the movie you’re responsible for (yes, he directed it) isn’t exactly going well to begin with, that’s one thing. But then don’t make the mistake of hampering your own progress by making a fool of yourself in front of the camera as well! #pwned 
  2. Thomas Mann, as Thomas in Project X. While this guy was terrible in a terrible movie, he really was no different than the rest. He just has the unfortunate distinction of being the first on the list of top-billed cast — and he also is one of the only with a picture beside his name. I guess most of the others who took part in this boozefest are still having problems finding work and a good pic of themselves. Understandable. Thomas is one of three extremely detestable soon-to-be high school graduates who has a major hand in destroying his parents home during an out-of-control graduation party. He’s irresponsible (glorified to a Hollywood level), not that attractive, and though he doesn’t share quite as passionately in the misogynistic banter as his friends, he’s still a crap character.
  3. Will Forte, as Sergeant Bressman in The Watch. Okay, this movie was just a very, very poor production. It had all the hallmarks of a so-called “classic” buddy-buddy action with a potentially huge gag reel but was more like just gag-making. This guy was the worst of the lot: an amalgam of all the most annoying cop cliches ever created. Poor guy. Here may be a case of a decent actor getting handed the short stick on creativity or whatever, but seriously. Bressman is one thorn that gets stuck in your side and burrows deeply. I picked mine out in a shower the next day.
  4. Ken Marino, as Rick in Wanderlust. Playing the older brother of Paul Rudd’s George Gergenblatt was easy enough for this former star of a pretty funny show called Party Down. If you were to drop ‘party’ from the Starz television show title, what you’re left with is descriptive of how well liked he is as this movie goes on…it just goes down, down, down. Wayyyy down. The official description of Rick in the movie’s premise says he’s “an awful brother.” What more do you need to know?
  5. Mila Kunis, as Lori Collins in Ted. Big disappointment here. I’ve liked Mila Kunis’ contributions to the inequitably sporadic films she’s been in. She’s always been the nice, somewhat straight-edged girl that provides good moral backbones for plots that usually entail wayward boyfriends. In Ted, though, she just stands back and lets John (Mark Wahlberg) do whatever he wants with his stuffed animal/best friend. Fortunately, that doesn’t come to sex, though, in case you were wondering. Finally, push comes to a ridiculously overdue shove and she delivers the predictable ultimatum: “either the stuffed animal leaves, or I do.” Even when she does that there’s really no humility behind it. She’s as pushover-ish as pushover gets. Not to mention, our amazement that she would even get back with someone as foolish as John Bennett is equal to, if not greater than, Lori’s frustration come time to wrap up the film. Meh….
  6. Ellen Page, as Monica in To Rome With Love. She was not so much a bad actress, as she was poorly cast. She’s certainly shown her cards in Inception and Juno. It was irritating seeing how many different things one girl can be in a movie. She was a show-off, and that’s how she was written. I had no doubt in my mind this would be one of Page’s worst roles ever. She had moments where she said some funny things but overall it was not a successful outing for her since it’s tough to believe she’s as rebellious as she’s touting herself to be in Woody Allen’s film. It gets to be a little obnoxious, actually. She was certainly not the worst of the worst this year, but I can just imagine the pay cut from her role as Ariadne in Inception to this one.

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Photo credits: http://www.comingsoon.net

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