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Best of 2010: Cameos, Breakthroughs, Ensembles

The Film Bitch Awards Continue
Movie obsessives who get lost in star faces on the screen, would do well to keep their eyes peeled to the bit players or the actors toiling away in thankless roles. Sometimes, they're adding great textures or reinforcing the structural girding of their movie in the way they absorb or reflect or counteract what the name players are doing. Other times they're nailing one specific mood in such an amusing or ably defined way that you figure they might be be able to at least earn a living off commercials while they wait for someone to give them a shot at playing several moods. For instance, though I don't know her name I love the way the woman playing the real estate agent in Rabbit Hole is so silently 'this won't go well' nervous than 'this is worse than I expected' mortified by Aaron Eckhart's inappropriate intrusions into the home selling process.

My point is simply this: year after year ACTING remains a fascinating art form or craft or independently sentient color on a director's palette or whatever the hell you want to call it. Actors are magic. They have super powers.

I chose a scene from Never Let Me Go to illustrate this post because I think it's frankly a marvel. It's my favorite in the movie for the way it uses two tiny characters to make larger points about the whole film and to open up emotional pathways in the leads. When I went to write up Andrea Riseborough's caption, I found myself wishing for space for 250 words at least. In the middle of the scene, when all she and her boyfriend (Domnhall Gleeson) are pleading for information from their new companions there's this terrific beat.

I suppose you lot would know about that sort of thing. Being from Hailsham you'd know how that sort of thing works.

Greeted by the blank stares of our leads, and noticeably losing hope that her fantasy is a reality, those two sentences have this wonderful spike of condescencion and judgement, though she's pleasant and almost maternal in the rest of her scant few minutes onscreen. It sucks to have your dreams crushed by people greener than you.


Awards are also posted in Body of Work , Ensembles and Breakthrough categories. So read on for notes on Macy Gray, Mia Wasikowska, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Brandon Routh, and actors you may be less familiar with like Robin Bartlett, Anthony Deptula, Slamin Dazi and more.

all the writeups and nominations here.

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Reader Comments (11)

My crazy self thinks that Imelda Staunton was better in Harry Potter than in Another Year, although her cameo in the latter gives the film a great counter-tone.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

I liked Billy Crudup in "Eat Pray Love" a lot, but his eligibility in the category seems pretty questionable to me. Both his character's function, importance and screentimes (at least 5 scenes) are very similar to Rooney Mara's in "The Social Network".

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

What about Tom Wilkinson in "The Ghost Writer" to replace Crudup with :P

I thought Patty Clarkson's body of work would be placed higher since she was so good in "Easy A" too...

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

Joy -- omg forgot about easy a with her. oopsie. (ii wasn't crazy about her work in shutter island though)

February 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Doesn't it feel like Domnhall Gleeson is everywhere all of a sudden (not that I'm complaining)? Harry Potter, Never Let Me Go, True Grit.. I watched the presentation of this year's European Shooting Stars (it's this award that European Film Promotion hands out during the Berlinale to the "10 most promising" young European actors) and guess who's this year's Irish representative... Funnily enough, Andrea Riseborough was named a Shooting Star, too.

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranna

I totally second Tom Wilkinson as a great single-scene performance in The Ghost Writer. He's so effective and quietly menacing in that scene, even though he doesn't actually DO anything. I also loved Eli Wallach's one scene. Polanski sure knows how to pay tribute to Hollywood legends.

Thank you for bringing Domhnall Gleeson to my attention. I just vaguely remembered there being a pretty redhead in Never Let Me Go - and now to see that he was in True Grit and HP7.1, and he's Brendon Gleeson's son, is very surprising. I hope he goes places! (Same for Ellen Wong; she was great in Scott Pilgrim, but needs a non-hyperactive role ASAP.)

As for Body of Work, what about Mark Ruffalo for TKAAR and Shutter Island?

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas

Very well said! You reminded me of these small parts and acting moments of true artistry that appear. I think Rabbit Hole was full of moments like that, so many unspoken reaction moments as well as Never Let me Go, a film I perhaps need to take another look at.

Love your blog and checking in to get my pre oscar fix from the most attentive film writer I know! (Jackie formerly artifactsblog)

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

In the body of work section, I think you mean Joel Edgerton, not Nash :)

Very happy to see Brandon Routh and Ellen Wong!! They shone just a bit brighter than the rest of the cast.

Had to revisit your old awards to see where you placed Andrew Garfield for Breakthrough...

I knew you were going to include Guy Pearce!! (I predicted this at least 5 months ago!)

Very happy with the Ensemble nom for Animal Kingdom :)

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Mai

anna -- i guess we have good taste.

andreas -- he's actually nominated for supporting actor so therefore ineligible.

jackie -- welcome back jacke. come more often.

February 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Some great choices, but You forgot some of Patricia Clarkson's and HBC's movies. Someones already mentioned Easy A, but wat about HBC in Harry Potter, and animated short nominee The Gruffalo.

What about Leo's work in Inception and Shutter Island, or Mark Ruffalo in TKAAR and Shutter Island. Or Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine and Shutter Island. Lol I'm not a fan of SI, but the acting was solid. It seemes like everyone who has starred in it went on to give a better performance in the second half of the year .

February 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBroooooke

The wait was worth it, Nathaniel! These Limited/Cameo citations (and the extra awards you do in general) are some of my favourties to look forward to every award season. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone on that.

I was hoping Maria Paiato from I AM LOVE would make the cut but I saw that she barely missed out Curses! She added so much to that whirlwind ending, I just remembered her so vividly. A performance coda of sorts to Catalina Saavedra's work in The Maid last year -- is how I like to think of it.

Macy Gray SO nailed her one scene in For Coloured Girls, it was scary.

Love the two priceless SCOTT PILGRIM mentions, they were both so much fun.

I vote for Ewan McGregor for Body of Work. In a perfect world, he would've nabbed a Supporting Actor nod for Phillip Morris. Sigh. I hope this turnaround year for him is really just that and much bigger and better things are coming our way.

CANNOT wait for the Best Scenes nominations to be revealed. There's SO many to consider this year, it's kind of insane.

February 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark
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