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The Halfway Mark Pt 2. Actors & Actresses

I assume that the entire time you were reading the Halfway Mark Best Screenplays & Pictures you were thinking "get to the actors already!" because, damn you're predictable and also so am I and I love to pay homage to great performances. So, here they are in six categories for your perusal and debate and "I guess I'd better watch that" list-making pleasure.

Best Actor in a Limited or Cameo Role (THUS FAR): Lior Ashkenazi (of Late Marriage fame) temporarily energizes the unfortunately bland Yossi by temporarily attempting to to rub off on and up against Yossi himself with pushy sleaze; James Badge Dale, who also won a nomination in this category at 2012's Film Bitch Awards for Flight, is in every big movie now (World War Z, The Lone Ranger, Iron Man 3) and pretty much great in all of them though the roles are growing exponentially and he's already too large for this category!; Kyle Chandler memorably flips his 'clear eyes, full hearts' image on its head as an absent father in The Spectacular NowCheyenne Jackson is robbed of his signature voice entirely in Behind the Candelabra as a disgruntled employee/protege/lover but it turns out he doesnt need it absolutely nailing every tiny gesture and facial expression; and finally, I liked Jamie Sheridan's conflicted big business father in The East.

Best Actress in a Limited or Cameo Role: Hillary Baack, is moving in a key brief role as The East's hearing impaired member; Zoe Kazan wins best in show for a group acting exercize masquerading as a movie called Some Girl(s) with an agonizing backstory; Debbie Reynolds, is a real hoot and unrecognizable in the Liberace flick Behind the CandelabraOrly Silbersatz Banai adds wonderful depth and shading to her history of denial in Yossi; And in a fine cast in StokerJacki Weaver, makes the most of her tense few scenes as the deservedly worried unannounced visitor Aunt Ginny; and my apologies to Grace Gummer in Frances Ha who I didn't quite have room for but I liked her prickly Ivy League alumna

4 More Acting Category "Bests" after the jump

Best Supporting Actor: You might argue that the atypically engaged and showboating James Franco in Spring Breakers and the typically mesmerizing and internal Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines are leading men but since they're absent from their films for significant sections I'm placing them here; Ben Kingsley's performance in Iron Man Three keeps you guessing even after he's pulled the rug out from under you; Rob Lowe, is disturbingly smooth in both devilish persuasion and waxy appearance in Behind the Candelabra; And Alexander Skarsgård, is beautifully befuddled and sympathetic in What Maisie Knew as a musician/bartender who suddenly discovers a gift for parenting

Best Supporting Actress is where I might lose y'all but here's what I'm going with: Patty Clarkson, is absolutely precise and memorable in The East giving it two of its strongest moments; Elizabeth Debicki, hears "the most shocking news" in The Great Gatsby and that's that they actually cast without fame in mind for this role and she nails it!; Anna Mouglalis, does terrific undead aristocracy and actorly-need in Kiss of the Damned; Gwyneth Paltrow continues to understand the perfect screwball tone for Pepper in Iron Man 3; and Mickey Sumner, is a fine straight man foil to the comic exasperation of Frances Ha; and I'm sure you thought I'd say Nicole Kidman in Stoker but even she couldn't make sense of that weirdly half written character

Best Actor:  Gael García Bernal, never misses a chance to lend specificity and soul to his characters and NO absolutely depends on his starpower; Matt Damon & Michael Douglas, are quite entertaining in Behind the Candelabra though I think Damon has the more difficult recessive part; Paul Eeenhoorn, has a deft hand with nuance and subtext in This is Martin Bonner but he withholds at just the right moments, too; and Ethan Hawke, continues to do his best work ever in the franchise that will hopefully go on forever but for right now its' called Before Midnight; and that's the list with apologies going out to Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan in Mud, Matthew Goode in Stoker, Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now, and Jude Law in Side Effects. Yes, it's been quite a good year for leading men already.

Best Actress: Jane Adams, is riveting and unexpectedly self-possessed and sexy in All the Light in the Sky; Onata Aprile, proves herself the most natural child actress since Qu'venzhané in What Maisie Knew; Julie Delpy, is maddening, sexy, intelligent, and verbally and emotionally dextrous in Before Midnight; Greta Gerwig, reaches the peak of her Gerwigness (for now) as the lost creative and restless Frances Ha; and for the last spot I'll admit I couldn't decide between Brit Marling in The East who has an intriguing sort of blankess, like she's waiting to be filled by cult idealogies (or her next assignment) in The East and Carey Mulligan (though I know her performance is divisive) who humanizes Daisy in important ways in The Great Gatsby while also understanding that she's more of an idea and projection than woman. And that voice!

 Share your ballots in the comments, please! (and like the film experience on facebook)

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Reader Comments (44)

Elizabeth Debicki is giving me Blanchett in the above photo. I haven't seen Gasby so I have no idea how true my assumption is, but she is an Aussie.

I will never see IRON MAN III under my own freewill, so I'll assume your nomination of Pal is because you want to be her pal?

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

"...with apologies to Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby who I think" _? What do you think about Mulligan's Daisy? Inquiring minds want to know.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

great calls on Elizabeth Debicki and Anna Mouglalis.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

Nitpick: For Grace Gummer, the sentence should be "I liked her Ivy League alumna." Alumni is plural.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Carey Mulligan conveyed nothing in The Great Gatsby ...

How will Behind the Candleabra rank as a movie rather than a tv movie?

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Best Actress write-up appears to be missing a few words ;)

for me...

Katie Alserton - Black Rock
Suzanne Clement - Laurence Anyways
Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha
Brit Marling - The East
Mia Wasikowska - Stoker

Paul Eenhorn - This is Martin Bonner
Brady Corbet - Simon Killer
Matthew Goode - Stoker
Paul Rudd - Prince Avalanche
Tye Sheridan - Mud

Supporting Actress
Julia Garner - We Are What We Are
Gabby Hoffman - Crystal Fairy
Nadazhda Markina - In the Fog
Eva Mendes - The Place Beyond the Pines
Emma Watson - The Bling Ring

Supporting Actor
Dane DeHaan - The Place Beyond the Pines
Rutger Hauer - Il Futuro
Ryan Gosling - The Place Beyond the Pines
Toby Irvine - Great Expectations
Matthew McConaughey - Mud

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Brit Marling, in The East, stared intently into the camera pleading with it to convey feelings and motivations she was not delivering. Pretty good stares, but I don't know it's acting, let alone best of year.

Love he love for Debicki - I won't say more since I have mentioned her a few times already in comments.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

BEST ACTOR: Ethan Hawke- Before Midnight
ALT: Leonardo Dicaprio- The Great Gatsby

BEST ACTRESS: Greta Gerwig- Frances Ha
ALT: Julie Delpy- Before Midnight

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: James Franco- Spring Breakers
ALT: Ryan Gosling- The Place Beyond the Pines


July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack

One of the most surprising bits of acting I saw in 2013 thus far was Xenia Kalogeropoulou in "Before Midnight." Jesse, Celine, and the rest of the dinner table are having a spectacularly interesting conversation about romance and how modern-day technology has redefined the concept for modern-day lovers. But just when the conversation seems to get a little to eggheaded for my taste, Kalogeropoulou doesn't swoop in so much as she glides comfortably into a poignantly delivered monologue about romantic partnership and how time can sever even the most treasured memories. I don't know if I'd put her in cameo or supporting category, but either way she deserves notice. She's just pitch perfect in her delivery.

Also, I won't bother praising the usuals (Delpy, Gerwig, Hawke, etc.) so I'll throw a bone to some underseen gems this year:
Allison Janney, ever so reliable in "Struck by Lightning"
Andrea Riseborough spinning gold from straw in "Oblivion"
Katie Chang very affecting in a seemingly one-note role in "The Bling Ring"
Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm turned Susanne Bier's "Love Is All You Need" from a typical romantic dramedy into something deeper and moving.
And Tim Roth working wonders with newcomer Eloise Laurence in the British movie "Broken"

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Murtada -- as you may remember in my review of The East i was a little ambiguous about her so your "pretty good stares" comment makes me lol. But I think in the end she served the movie well. But that said it hasn't been a particularly strong year for Actresses (yet)

July 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I also like Mulligan and Debecki in Gatsby

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

@ Glenn LOVE the Rutger Hauer mention. Don't know what kind of release that movie will have outside of festivals, but he and Manuela Martelli are fantastic in it.

Outside of those two, I don't really have line ups as much as just a general list of actors. For the men, I was a fan of James Badge Dale in everything, Alden Ehrenreich in Beautiful Creatures, Gael in No, and Tye Sheridan in Mud. My favorite section of Pines was strangely the middle one, and I liked Bradley Cooper a lot in it.

I also thought Eva Mendes did a lot with little in Pines. Rosario Dawson totally owns Trance and is really game for everything. Maribel Verdu has a lot of fun in Blancanieves. And of course I have to mention Greta Gerwig. And I wasn't really a fan of To The Wonder, but I thought Rachel McAdams was great in it, maybe the best thing.

There's also the teams of Delpy/Hawke and the various Spring Breakers/Bling Ring girls and boys. I especially liked Katie Chang and Taissa Farmiga in the latter.

And, hey, if we can count the Candelabra boys, I'd have to shout out the two best performances I've seen this year (hands down) in the best thing I've seen this year (ditto): Elisabeth Moss and Peter Mullan in Top of the Lake. Just next level stuff.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

I loved Debbie Reynolds in Candelabra so FREAKING much. Such a fun casting choice.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

To help withe Karen's' earlier grammar comment,

The singular form of alumni is actually alumnus, not alumna.

Love the site


July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuperRoberto

Alumna is singular female, and I think we can all agree that Grace is a female. Alumnus is singular male. Too many connotations for one damn word!

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Jane Adams, sexy? Now this I gotta see...

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Very, very disappointed that Julianne Moore isn't mentioned here for What Maisie Knew. It's SUCH a great, prototypically brave Moore creation, this performance: a woman who easily could have been the cliché of an evil mother in most other actresses' hands (if they would have even touched it, since most other Hollywood actresses would not have dared to take on such an --on the surface-- unlikable role).

I saw this movie last week with several friends, and we were all mesmerized how credible, how believable and how human this character was because of Moore: A fading rockstar mum who really loves her child but is just not able to articulate or show that love, and who realizes this inability, which drives her crazy and sad; how she uses and manipulates her child, how she overwhelms little Maisie with love in one moment and, in the other, can't help being selfish and self-centered, how she is craving for attention, needs her work and career more than anything else, and, finally, how she realizes all this in a heartbreaking moment of self-reflection and gives Maisie away: Moore hits every note perfectly without a moment of vanity or over-the-top-acting. It's a brittle, funny, mulit-layered performance, on par with her best work in years (A Single Man and Game Change) and so much better than what she tried to do in The Kids Are All Right and Savage Grace.

I agree that Onata Aprile is wonderful in the movie, but it's so obviously a "directed" performance: You see that she does not really understand the character or the narrative content, but that the directors just use her natural presence. Thus, it's not really a performance IMO, and can't compare with Moore's and Skarsgard's great work.

Another performance that should be mentioned is Bradley Cooper's torn, haunted, desperate police officer in Place Beyond the Pines, acting circles around his performance in Silver Linings Playbook.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjean-paul

Best Actress is ! for me. Brit Marling and Carey Mulligan are excellent in their films. I clearly fell harder for Stoker than you since Mia Wasikowski tops my own list (and Kidman, too, right ahead of Clarkson).

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

@Will h: Top of the Lake had some stellar acting turns, didn't it? Loved Holly Hunter in it as well. Jane Campion seems to have a special touch with actors in her projects. Everyone from the leads to supporting did top-notch work.

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

craig & will h - i LOVED Top of the Lake. Really great stuff but i have to draw the line somewhere and i see miniseries as completely a tv artform (whereas Candelabra is just a regular feature which ended up on television) so I hope it does well at the Emmys

July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

As usual, thanks for answering my question, Nathaniel!~!?

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke OF COURSE. I know chances of either getting nominated isn't that great, but man would those two surely deserve it. I'll also be on board for Ryan Gosling's "supporting" turn in Pines.

But my prize goes to Amy Acker in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The whole ensemble is aces, but she's definitely the MVP.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Totally agree with you about Hillary Baack in The East. She was fantastic in a small role and was the best thing in the movie.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

While Gerwig and Delpy are sensational and definitely the best so far, I'm disappointed not one if you has mentioned Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur in the year's best film, Beyond the Hills. It's a difficult film, but extremely rewarding - I still find myself thinking about it after several months.

Blancanieves is also underseen, with both Maribel Verdu and Macarena Garcia turning in great perfs.

And while they aren't out yet in the US, you should check out Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt (an amazing movie) and Emilie Daquenne in Our Children (a mediocre one) when they do.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

MYS - i've seen OUR CHILDREN and Emilie is pretty strong in it (but i didn't like the movie) and i can't wait to see THE HUNT but it's release dates are so weird. It seems like it's really old now but it didn't even open in Denmark in time for oscar submission last year so it seems like it's been delayed quite a long time after its initial raves at festivals,

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

I always get the feeling on this blog that no one cares for Julianne in The kids are all right,why???

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

Some great mentions here. Mine would be:

Best Actress:

Emilie Dequenne - Our Children
Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Amy Acker - Much Ado About Nothing
Mia Wasikowska - Stoker
Jessica Chastain - Mama

Best Actor:

Tye Sheridan - Mud
Matt Damon - Behind The Candelabra
Jack Reynor - What Richard Did
Johan Philip Asboek - A Hijacking
Gael Garcia Bernal - No

Best Supporting Actress:

Rachel McAdams - To The Wonder
Nicole Kidman - Stoker
Reese Witherspoon - Mud
Imogen Poots - The Look Of Love
Nadazhda Markina - In the Fog

Best Supporting Actor:

Matthew McConaughey - Mud
Dane DeHaan - The Place Beyond The Pines
Tahar Rahim - Our Children
Ben Mendelsohn - The Place Beyond The Pines
Javier Bardem - To The Wonder

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

ben -- Tahar Rahim as supporting? what the what now?

also did i not notice "Our Children" getting theatrical release? i assumed i was still counting it as last year but if it did get a release than i guess i need to give Emilie her props in best actress for now ;)

July 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

So glad you gave a shout out to Anna Mouglalis! I loved her in Coco & Igor! She has such a good voice!

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I'm London-based, where it was only released recently, so it's still very much in my head. For me, Emilie Dequenne was so front and centre of that film that Tahar Rahim felt very much like he was in a supporting role, if that makes sense?

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

Unfortunately, Frances Ha has yet to open here, so I'll have to wait to get to see how great Greta is in it. I do have to echo the already voiced love for James Franco, Ryan Gosling, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke.

I'd also like to single out some performances that have not been mentioned. For actor, Kentucker Audley (Sun Don't Shine), Toby Jones (Berberian Sound Studio), Shannon Harper (Welcome to Pine Hill), and Michael Shannon (The Iceman). For actress, Andrea Riseborough (Shadow Dancer), Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color), and Kate Lyn Sheil (Sun Don't Shine).

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFootFoot

Best supporting actor - Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring)

That kid blew me away. He was the emotional core of the film. The scene were he is smoking pot while browsing the internet : so many layers. He conveyed the longing to belong and his confused sexual identity. Well done.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDomgogo

Domgogo -- well said. That scene was the highlight of his performance for sure.

July 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Will H, the director told me that Strand are distributing in America so it'll get a release of some kind, albeit very very small.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

@Glenn Glad to hear. There are some great conversations to be had had about that film.

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

will h - i have also seen IL FUTURO. I was less enthused than Glenn but it does have interesting moments and I agree that Hauer is good in it. I guess he's on True Blood now?

July 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

There have been a lot of fun performances this year. The odd thing here is, where do you put the "performances" in 'Stories We Tell.'?

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

I really just wanted to say that I love the new profile pic. I mean, where else would you keep your glasses?

July 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOwen

By the end of Stoker Nicole Kidman came around and delivered the goods in spades. She's my supporting actress, her performance was a true supporting performance, no category fraud here.

She could have gone over the top if she wanted too but like all the best of her performances the reserved grit and steel she brings towards the end was spine tingling.

Left me wanting more.

July 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLittle MY

Owen -- thanks. They're rarely on my face, that's for sure.

Little My -- I respect that and i wished i'd loved her in it because you know i do (love her. and lots)

July 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Some of my favourite performances of the first half have gone unmentioned, so let me mention them now.

Actress: Nina Hoss in Barbara; Barbara Sukowa in Hannah Arendt.

Actor: Ernst Umhauer and Fabrice Luchini in In the House

Supporting Actress: Kristin Scott Thomas in In the House

Supporting Actor: Ronald Zehrfeld in Barbara

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Brit Marling was great in The East, so Best Actress for her, even though I still feel we haven't seen her full potential, but that's part of her intrigue. And, you are so right about Patricia Clarkson's great performance in The East (ice water running through her veins).

July 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterelaine

Riveting performance by Brit Marling in The East. Would love to see her win Best Actress.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfurel

[inset obvious comment about Julie and Ethan in Before Midnight being the two best of the year]

I also loved the collective ensemble in The Bling Ring as a whole so I'd give them Best Ensemble Cast right now -- pretty flawless casting. This Is The End, second. Oh yes.

Would also like to throw my love for Top Of The Lake in there as well. Moss' accent was a bit shaky but it's clearly her best work this side of any Mad Men showcase. Can we talk about Peter Mullan? Amaaaaazing.

Amy Acker gets my Breakthrough award, I was thoroughly charmed by her and I've never seen her in anything before.

Random standouts:
Best Makeup: Behind the Candelabra
Best Costumes: The Bling Ring
Best Music: Blancanieves
Best Editing: Frances Ha
Best Scene? Has to be Top Of The Lake's Bjork moment. It made me tear up.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

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