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« RIP to Two Titans of European Cinema | Main | 100 Oldest Living Oscar Nominees & Winners »
Wednesday
Jul042018

C O N S I D E R - Actors of 2018, First Half of Year

With the year half over, it's time to look back on the first six months of the year and what treasures they brought us. Here are the 18 performances by male actors that we liked the most thus far this year. It should probably suffice to say that this list was much easier to come up with then the forthcoming female list since the competition wasn't as fierce. (Four key films I missed that might have played into these categories were The RiderLean on Pete, You Were Never Really Here, and Paddington 2)

5 LEADING ACTORS
(Jan 1st through June 30th releases)

Daniel Giménez Cacho as "Don Diego de Zama" in Zama
Though I didn't much care for this film, Giménez Cacho, the talented Mexican/Spanish star (of Blancanieves and Cronos fame... and the unseen narrator of all time Mexican classic Y Tu Mama Tambien) delivers as the frustrated sickly officer of the Spanish crown longing for a transfer that may never come.

Alden Ehrenreich as "Han Solo" in Solo
Mimicry is overrated. It's better to get the spirit of a thing than to duplicate the tics. He manages the former though the script fights against it, refashioning Han as a hero at the beginning. 


Ethan Hawke as "Reverend Ernst Toller" in First Reformed
Those barely visible cracks in his austere facade are so well placed and add up to a harrowing disintegration. 

Meinhard Neumann as "Meinhard" in Western
Perhaps this is less an acting achievement than simply being onscreen but he's totally affecting nonetheless as a everyman loner in this study of Europe through the lens of its masculine genre  

Alex Sharp as "Enn" in How to Talk to Girls at Parties

12 SUPPORTING ACTORS

Josh Brolin as "Thanos" in Infinity War
While it would be nice if Brolin would be asked to play something other than a cartoonishly loathsome sociopath again (three in one year! when we know he can do so much more), he is surprisingly good under the mo-cap opting for restraint and matter-of-fact genocidal confidence rather than boo-hiss overkill.

Winston Duke as "M'Baku" in Black Panther
It's tough to steal a picture that is firing on so many cylinders with the whole bustling ensemble on point. But he nearly does with sly humor and forecful personality as the would-be usurper turned ally 

Andy Garcia as "Mitchell" in Book Club
I'm not sure what it is about Diane Keaton that so regularly brings out loveability in her romantic screen partners but the trick works again here. Garcia is sexy, flirty, totally keyed into his scene partner and best yet somehow utterly believable as a rather unbelievably perfect bachelor prospect.

Donald Glover as "Lando Calrissian" in Solo
Like Ehrenreich he captures the feeling without coming across as a faded xerox (though I wish everyone involved would shut up about Calrissian's bisexuality or pansexuality or whatever; there's nothing within this performance or in Billy Dee's that suggest anything other than playboy heterosexuality. Why do mainstream filmmakers continue to pretend that they're actually giving us LGBTQ representation when they're absolutely not? I wouldn't even complain but THEY ARE THE ONES WHO KEEP BRINGING IT UP!)

Michael B Jordan as "Erik Killmonger" in Black Panther
One great performance after another with this fresh movie star. Somehow still waiting on a nomination from ANY mainstream showbiz organization outside of critics groups (unless you count the MTV Movie Awards where he's 3/1). 


Jorge Lendeborg Jr as "Nick" in Love, Simon
So sweetly vulnerable and lovesick. It's always a treat when male actors go all in to their feelings. And do it with humor! 

Cedric Kyles (aka Cedric the Entertainer) as "Reverend Joel Jeffers" in First Reformed
First Reformed
is not "funny" ever, per se, but he brings just the right amount of annoyed levity to his scenes with his troubled fellow Revered. That chair spin when he'd had it slayed me. I'm betting that wasn't in the script and it's brilliant. 

Abraham Lewis as "Vic" in How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Though the girls get most of the showiest stuff in this movie, he's a standout among the boys when he unwittingly realizes how much sexual experimentation he's been doing.

Ron Livingston as "Drew" in Tully
Just perfect as the weary video-game playing but fully decent husband who doesn't quite know what to do about, or for, or with his depressed wife. Especially when Tully arrives courtesy of his wife. What's gotten into her?

Alessandro Nivola as "Dovid Kuperman" in Disobedience
Still one of Hollywood's least recognized but most reliable secret movie weapons. So many layers here. A simpler film and actor would paint him as the bad guy. But Nivola and this rich movie, won't provide you with easy targets in this sobering take on repressed sexuality, religious devotion, and adult sadness when memories of youth shake up the picture.

Jay Pharoah as "Nate Hoffman" in Unsane
Unsane
is unpleasant enough that I instantly targeted him for doom in his first scene. But he's giving the most successful and sympathetic performance among the ensemble as they all orbit the tetchy unravelling star.

Alex Wolff as "Peter" in Hereditary
Arguably as good as Toni Collette, especially once tragedy strikes. The longtime fraught mother/son relationship is superbly excavated by both of them. His portrait of a haunted broken young man is terrifying even before we've seen a ghost... or demon... or shadow or whatever it is that is happening to this family.

1 CAMEO OR LIMITED ROLE
(this category indicates under 3 scenes or who have voice-only roles)

Philip Ettinger as "Michael" in First Reformed
He gets just 1½ scenes but he's the radicalized fault line that opens up the film's emotional abyss. Just excellent without ever pushing the scene into the easy place of "disturbed". Here's hoping filmmakers, TV showrunners, and stage producers (he also does theater) notice and begin exploring his surely vast potential.   

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Reader Comments (49)

Its been a while since a movie's stayed on my mind for as long as First Reformed has. Hawke is incredible, and Cedric is perfect in it (you're right about the chair spin.)
I saw Solo last night and was super impressed by Ehrenreich. It made me want to watch Hail Caesar again to remind myself that he's more than just a movie star, but he's definitely a movie star!
You should see Lean on Pete! A lot of great acting there.

July 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Love for both Ehrenreich and Glover in 'Solo' - I'm on board. So much I've read has been pitting them against each other, it's almost like they're actresses.

I haven't seen a good portion of these - will check out 'First Reformed' even though I have a slight allergy to Ethan Hawke.

The Black Panther supporting players are on point - although supporting as a designation is so interesting, as MBJ and Winston Duke's parts are of massively different sizes. MBJ approaches lead status IMHO but isn't so large that I think it's inherently lead.

July 4, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Can't believe you left out Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here. That sort of renders the list null and void in my mind.

July 4, 2018 | Unregistered Commentertonytr

Rebecca - I'm tend to be slightly allergic to Hawke too and I thought he was phenomenal in First Reformed. Def the best work I've seen from him... well maybe ever.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Jason - thanks! I will check it out.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

tonytr-- i didn't see that.

July 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

So curious to see you tap into this more, re: the performances in ‘Hereditary’. I don’t know if I’ve seen a movie in the past ten, maybe twenty years that’s scared me as much as that film did. Wolff really did do exceptional work, even if the role didn’t call on him to go quite as kamikaze as Collette’s did.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

All three of the mentioned performances in First Reformed are worth a look. Hoping that any Collette heat somehow extends to Wolff. He's feeling like Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler, solid but with the potential to be unfairly overlooked.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterzig

Imma FYC a couple of perfs in Supporting Actor: Chris Evans and Tom Holland in Infinity War. I hated the movie, but they were easily the best parts of it.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I know you didn’t see it but just need his name to be here :
Charlie Plummer
Charlie Plummer
Charlie Plummer

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I would also add Hugh Grant in "Paddington 2" to this list.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

The performances that got me moving and thinking more than others this year were by....
Charlize Theron
Toni Collette
Alex Wolff
Mackenzie Davis
and
Michael B. Jordan
They'll all be on my year-end-list no doubt about it!

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbruh

And Charlie Plummer's right up there with Timothée.... I counted him on last year's roster cause that's when I saw the movie. But damn... what a fine actor... such a great match for the role.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbruh

Anton Yelchin in THOROUGHBREDS!

Bad film, stunningly layered and watchable performance.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

Evan Peters - American Animals
Blake Jenner - American Animals
Jason Bateman - Game Night
John Krasinski - A Quiet Place
and the entire cast in The Death of Stalin ...

Alex Wolff was so good in Hereditary ...
And of course Joaquin Phoenix.

Ethan Hawke, to me, has given the best male performance so far this year.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here deserves to win the Oscar for Best Actor this year. Period.
How can you leave Nick Robinson though? I fell in love with him. Totally in the same league as Chalamet.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

Jason Clarke and Bruce Dern were phenomenal in Chappaquiddick.

Brady Jandreau in The Rider

Simon Russell Beale in The Death of Stalin, Steve Buscemi in The Death of Stalin, Jeffrey Tambor in The Death of Stalin, Michael Palin in The Death of Stalin, Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Honestly I wouldn't thought of him for awards given that it's a Star Wars movie - but you are so on the money about Ehrenreich. Terrific acting. As far as Supporting - for me, it's Wolff so far, by a mile. The name not mentioned here that I'd throw into the mix is Jeremie Renier.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

It's kind of a tragedy you haven't seen Paddington 2 yet. It's as wonderful as everyone says and Hugh Grant would easily be on this list.

I'll also echo the love for Charlie Plummer in Lean On Pete and add in Billy Magnussen in Game Night. No one else is playing a himbo so gloriously right now.

I would also champion Jason Ritter's work in The Tale, even though you could call it a TV-movie. I wouldn't.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

I HATE that damn movie but even I can't deny Phoenix. What an actor!

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I haven't seen FIRST REFORMED, which most seem to think is the best male performance of the year so far. However, I will stump for Ben Foster in Debra Granik's LEAVE NO TRACE. He's just so good.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I'm curious about the placement of Wolff in supporting - the role reads as a lead to me. Given your strong feelings about leads being put in supporting, what sort of line do you draw for cases like Wolff (and Michael B Jordan) that are in that gray area between the two?

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

Polivamp -- sometimes when you go into something assuming supporting that's how you come out but I agree it's a borderline case. (I dont agree that Michael B Jordan is a borderline case -- that's pure support though it's a large antagonist role). Usually in borderline cases I round up but it's early still so I'll have more time to examine this. And I'm trying not to be so fussy -- as I know I'm always ruffling feathers in this department -- and stick to being angry about the really egregious fraud like Rooney Mara in Carol and Alicia Vikander in Danish Girl and so on.

July 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I need to see First Reformed and The Death of Stalin, but you have some great choices here. Thank you for sounding the trumpet for Alex Wolff who more than holds his own up against Collette. I appreciate your affection for Love, Simon and agree Lendeborg Jr is a such a sweet find. Nice mention of Jay Pharaoh in Unsane. I'm not sure how many others saw that but I thought Joshua Leonard was impressively (almost effortlessly) creepy.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick T

I thought Simon Russell Beale (so memorable as the overgrown momma’s boy opposite Rachel Weisz in Deep Blue Sea) was amazing in Death of Stalin. Deserves to be singled out of the ensemble

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Agreeing with the Alex Wolff and all the Black Panther FYCs. I'd also like to add Cheng Jen-Shuo in Gatao 2, Cory Michael Smith in 1985, and Nick Offerman in Hearts Beat Loud.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Paolo -- i would have included Cory but the film hasn't come out here yet. I'll have to look up Gatao 2.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

So glad you liked First Reformed! So many of the small nuances of Ethan Hawke's performance have stayed with me. I hope so much it isn't forgotten at the end of the year.

I agree about Hugh Grant in Paddington 2 - he has really done some wonderful work in recent years.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I would add Jesse Plemons in Game Night for Best Extended Cameo/Possible Supporting Role. He's a hoot in every scene he's in.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

My choice for supporting male in Love, Simon would be Logan Miller. I think he made it look effortless but it wasn't.

And no, Robinson is nowhere near Chalamet, at least if you're comparing Simon and Call Me. Robinson's material didn't demand anything from him that was anywhere what Chalamet had to do.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I'm SO GLAD that you recognized Jay Pharoah for Unsane. I was so surprised when he popped up on screen.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoey M

I second Jenner and Peters in American Animals.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMSP

Its movies like “The Death of Stalin” that make me wish there was an Oscar for Best ensemble. Literally, every actor in that movie is firing off on all cylinders.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterkris01

Thanks for the recommendations people. I will have to see GAME NIGHT, AMERICAN ANIMALS, THE DEATH OF STALIN, PADDINGTON 2, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE. It's amazing how many worthwhile films there are each year (and people complain there's nothing good!) if you look for them...

I dont see as many movies in the first half as I do in the second so I have a lot of fun catching up to do as we move towards fall.

July 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Kris -- the sad case is that they'd probably do as bad a job of it (or worse!) than SAG so maybe it's okay that they don't have the category.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

All supporting:

Simon Russell Beale and Steve Buscemi - "The Death of Stalin"
Michael B. Jordan - "Black Panther"
Hugh Grant - "Paddington 2"
John Krasinski - "A Quiet Place"

and I add for the mix
Shia LaBeouf - "Borg VS. McEnroe"

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAmurabi Mendez

I agree with you about Winston Duke. There was nothing gay- bi about Lando- except for his taste in capes

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Alex Wolff was so good. The scene where he's driving and uh... let's just say, shit hits the fan, was one of the best written and acted scenes I'd ever seen. I loved it. I believed that that's exactly how that type of thing would've gone down in real life and I was SHOOK!

Even if he never acted in anything else in his life, he could just have that and feel so proud.

I really hope A24 revs up a serious Oscar campaign for Hereditary... Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress for Toni Collette, Supporting Actor for Alex Wolff. I'd die of happiness if any traction is gained.

(At the very least, they better work tirelessly for Collette).

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I'll echo the Phoenix and Grant love. Michael B. Jordan gave the only male perf in the first half of the year (that I've seen, anyway) that I expect to make my year end Top 5. Wolff could continue to grow on me though.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

So far...

Actor
Winner: Jérémie Renier, DOUBLE LOVER
Runner-up: Kwon Hae-hyo, THE DAY AFTER

Supporting Actor
Winner: Hugh Grant, PADDINGTON 2
Runner-up: Cedric the Entertainer, FIRST REFORMED

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Nathaniel: I would also recommend The Rider and Lean on Pete. Both were really good, and The Rider is actually the highest rated movie so far this year on Metacritic.

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Ethan Hawke is even more impressive on a second viewing in FIRST REFORMED. It's a masterful performance, and he deserves awards come December/January/February. So does Schrader for script and direction.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDan H

I wouldn't put Nick Robinson up for an Oscar, but absolutely think he should be in consideration for a Globe Comedy Nom.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRossU

I'm curious as to why people are "allergic" to Ethan Hawke?

I have always thought he is one of the best actors of his generation along with Leo, Edward Norton, Sam Rockwell and Mark Ruffalo.

He might not be as showy and loud in his performances, but very nuanced and layered, especially in Tape, Boyhood and the Before Trilogy.

I have yet to see First Reformed- it hasn't come to my town, yet, but I'm excited to see it the moment I can. He's getting the best reviews of his career and, honestly, I'm glad it's not for a Linklater film.

I really love Love, Simon- it's one of my favorites, if not my favorite, of the year so far- but I agree that Nick Robinson is more suited for a GG nomination than an Oscar.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenternacho21

Phoenix is definitely the best performance by a male actor that I have seen so far this year.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

nacho21 - it's not so much that I think Hawke is a bad actor (he's often quite good, especially with Linklater) as that I just don't like his screen persona. It's mostly informed by his 90's movies, e.g. Reality Bites - and my reaction is partially my current distaste for the fact that I actually had a crush on him at the time and now I just think that kind of dude is the worst.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Thank you, Rebecca, for the honest answer. Troy Dyer is definitely the stereotypical male Gen-X slacker, and, you're right, quite horrible.

I admit, I'm fairly biased when it comes Ethan Hawke. I have been following his career since I saw Dead Poets Society as a 13 y-o in the theaters. I think it's been really been interesting to see how he has evolved as an actor and has done pretty decent job of shedding his slacker, Gen-X image.

I know there are a lot of people who find him to be pretentious, as well, and I do get where they are coming from.

I've always found him to be to be very introspective and interesting but also, especially in the last 10 years or so, very self-aware.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenternacho21

Ethan Hawke was my choice for Best Actor in last year's too-little-seen Maudie. Both he and Sally Hawkins were splendid. (She was even better here than in Shape of Water). And he should have won the Oscar for Training Day.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

nacho21 - Thanks for your response! I like you.

I think the fact that he's co-written the "before" movies is more than enough for me to do a re-assess, so perhaps I will - I think if I watch enough of his 2000 and later output I will come around to your point of view.

It's also interesting to me that I don't necessarily see the actors in your initial comment - Hawke, DiCaprio, Ruffalo, Norton, Rockwell - as all of the same generation, though they are of a similar age (DiCaprio is a few years younger, but still the same generation). I think it's because they all came into the public consciousness at different ages - Hawke in 1989 via "Dead Poet's Society", Ruffalo more than 10 years later via "You Can Count on Me", Norton in between via 1996's "Primal Fear". Interesting how that skews my perception of their ages.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

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