Thursday, March 02, 2006

3 Days til Oscar

Without any ado, we shall have my picks for best performances from the gentlemen this year. Because there were more than five that I really wanted to include, I have grouped some together, and perhaps forced a justification. You can be the judge, starting with...

#5 Two Men I normally loathe: Joaquin Phoenix and Jeff Daniels, whose performance in Walk the Line and The Squid and the Whale made me rethink my gut reaction. I don't think I gushed enough about Reese yesterday, so I will pick up here. Walk the Line is the love story of the year. Yes, everyone would fall in love with Reese in this movie, as she is heavenly. But Joaquin keeps Johnny intensely flawed, but entirely endearing. Although I hold true to my contention that Joaquin can really only play delinquents, he has delivered and surpassed my previous favorite role of his, Jimmy in To Die For, which, interestingly enough is Nikki Kidman's best movie. Joaquin was wonderful, gives a helluva jailhouse concert, and I can now forgive him for ignoring me the time I saw him in a pizza joint in the East Village. But he still makes me feel like I need a shower. Which brings me to Jeff Daniels in The Squid, etc. Was there ever a reason to care one way or the other for Jeff Daniels? No. Until now. He embodies every pretentious pedantic hack so well that you want to suffocate him. But he does it admirably and with an air of both self-deluded humor and tyranny. Trust me; that is accurate.

#4 The gays. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, and Heath Ledger, Brokeback. Let's get Heath out of the way first. I realize I am at odds with many in not really seeing the bravery of this performance. If it takes such extreme bravery, allegedly, for a straight man to portray a gay character, isn't that contributing to the stereotype the movie is striving to break? Still, let's keep this quarrel-free. Who knew the kid with horrendous hair had this in him. It was a deeply felt, shockingly silent performance, and he said a lot in the fewest words possible. I wish he made me cry a little more, but he can herd my sheep whenever he wants. Moving on to the most diverse man in movies, PSH is finally getting the recognition he has earned time and time again for the past 12 years. The transformation is admirable and he owns this entire movie. Interestingly, the voice seemed to go away after the first 10 minutes or so. I may be more partial to Brandt from the Big Lebowski, but so be it. (PSH has played a million gay people, and is never as self-congratulatory as the Brokeback juggernaut. Big risks? Happiness, anyone?)

#3 Screw the 40 Year-Old Virgin (get it?), Vince Vaughn is the funniest man of 2005. Effortlessly hilarious in Wedding Crashers, he stole the movie from Owen Wilson and at the same time, set the standard for the idiot beer-swilling post-fratboy type appearing in too many movies.

#2 We're getting there... Jonathan Rhy-Meyers, Match Point. The more I think about this movie, the more compelling I find it. Not only was the arc of his character pretty wild, but it was the slickness of it all that made it damn fun. I have to say, this was quite the performance of a dashing, leading man on par with a Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Jude Law, Leonardo type, etc. Definitely turned me into a fan, and hoping his choices continue to be as interesting.

#1 The Men of Crash. I realize this is a long blog for the 4 people who are maybe reading. Matt Dillon was an asshole and a half and GOOD, too! Terence Howard is better and more complicated every time I see this. Even Ludacris and Ryan Phillipe?!?! Who knew. But it is Michael Pena as Daniel, who you might have been referring to as Puerto Rican, not a gang-banger, locksmith Dad, who remains the most memorable and poignant.

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