Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

The Ford On Film End Of Year Awards 2015: Best Actress and Best Actor

Hello, and welcome to part three of the Ford On Film End Of Year Awards 2015. Yesterday, I crowned Alicia Vikander and Benicio Del Toro Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor of 2015, respectively. Today, we’re looking at the leading roles; Best Actress and Best Actor.

It’s been a terrific year for the men but perhaps an even better year for women. Up to this very moment, I’ve been changing orders and debating whether I’ve made the right choices. Finally, I decided to go with my gut instinct. First up, here are my choices for Best Actress of 2015.

Honourable Mentions:

Karidja Toure “Marieme – Girlhood

Emily Blunt “Kate Macer – Sicario”

Nina Hoss “Nelly Lenz – Phoenix”

Rooney Mara “Therese Belivet – Carol”

Sidse Babett Knudsen “Cynthia – The Duke of Burgundy”

Carol

5.

Cate Blanchett “Carol Aird – Carol”

Two time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett might just pick up her third win for her elegant performance as the unhappy 50’s housewife embarking on an affair with Rooney Mara’s shop assistant. In less capable hands, Carol could feel like something of a blank canvas, given her small amount of dialogue and few emotional outbursts. With Blanchett, every unspoken feeling and emotion is understood; it’s a subtle performance, but one that might just break your heart.

Predestination

4.

Sarah Snook “The Unmarried Lady – Predestination

It’s criminal that Sarah Snook wasn’t cast in every film going on the back of her stellar performance in Predestination. Perhaps it’s because the film disappeared under most people’s radar, but Predestination is an excellent, constantly twisting time travel flick featuring not one but two terrific Snook performances.

Snook is excellent in the difficult role of a bitter transsexual man spending his time in seedy bars, but it’s her role as the younger woman, growing up in a world that rejects her at every time, that is the most emotional. She’s so convincing in both roles that for a long time after, I was convinced two different actresses must be playing the part. It’s an astonishing dual performance, and one that definitely should have made Sarah Snook one of the breakout stars of 2015.

45 Years

3.

Charlotte Rampling “Kate Mercer – 45 Years”

Andrew Haigh’s relationship drama 45 Years was one of the most interesting films of the year; a quiet, subdued look at an elderly couple with a secret threatening to destroy them. It was as far from cliché as you can get, and that’s partly down to lead actress Charlotte Rampling. Very few actresses give the performance of their career so late on, but Rampling may have just done it with her complex role as the wife who discovers her marriage may have been built on lies.

Rampling doesn’t have any long, melodramatic monologues, or loud, Oscar-bait scenes of shouting and pain. Instead, she’s nearly all facial expressions, and eyes that hint at betrayal and hurt. It’s not an easy role, and one that requires patience to fully understand, but Rampling is more than capable of pulling it off, and her silent performance in the final scene of the film is some of the best acting you’ll ever see.

Brooklyn 2

2.

Saoirse Ronan “Eillis Lacey – Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan is slowly becoming one of the best and most interesting actresses of her generation. Since her debut in Atonement (which got her an Oscar nomination) and headlining performances in The Lovely Bones and Hanna, she’s mostly rejected conventional roles (apart from the awful The Host) to work on smaller independent projects like Byzantium, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and now John Crowley’s wonderful 50’s set romance Brooklyn.

As a young woman moving away from her small Irish town to New York, Ronan gives a fantastically sympathetic and lovable performance, evolving over the film from naïve and overwhelmed to successful and in love. Her romance with Emory Cohen and restrained flirtations with Domnhall Gleeson are the works of an actress far older and more experienced than Ronan; to give a performance this exceptional at the age of 21 is unbelievable. An almost guaranteed Oscar nominee.

Mommy 2

1.

Anne Dorval “Diane ‘Die’ Després – Mommy”

– I first became aware of Anne Dorval after her excellent performance as the mother of a tearaway son in Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother. In Dolan’s most recent film, Mommy, Dorval once again plays the mother of a difficult child; this performance is in another league. Die is one of the best characters of the year; a trashy, tough, proud woman who refuses to conform to society or take any bullshit from anybody.

Dorval breathes life into the character, nailing every aspect from sharp and sardonic when dealing with her son, to relaxed and funny when attempting a friendship with neighbour Suzanne Clement, to absolutely terrified when her son has an episode. Dolan has found a muse in Dorval, encouraging her to go wild and give it everything she’s got; she rewards him with an astonishingly confident but realistic portrayal of a woman trying anything to cope. Here’s hoping we see more collaborations between Anne Dorval and Xavier Dolan in the future.

And now, here are my picks for Best Actor of 2015.

Honourable Mentions:

Colin Farrell “The Short Sighted Man – The Lobster”

Kodi Smit-McPhee “Jay Cavendish – Slow West”

Andrew Garfield “Dennis Nash – 99 Homes”

John Cusack “Brian Wilson – Love and Mercy

Tom Courtenay “Geoff Mercer – 45 Years”

The Gift

5.

Jason Bateman “Simon Callum – The Gift

Jason Bateman may primarily be known as a comedy actor, but he’s given great dramatic performances in Juno, Up in the Air, and now The Gift, Joel Edgerton’s creepy directorial debut. To reveal too much of Bateman’s character would be to spoil the fun of The Gift. Suffice to say, his smug self-satisfaction and paranoia over childhood friend Gordo soon give way to something far more sinister and unlikable.

Bateman is very good in the film’s first half, but it’s in the second when he gets to be all-out despicable; it’s a testament to Bateman’s performance that you’ll thoroughly hate his character whilst still being compelled to find out his story.

Mommy 3

4.

Antoine Olivier Pilon “Steve Després – Mommy”

The year’s most energetic performance. As ADHD suffering, motor mouthed teenager Steve, Antoine Olivier Pilon never stops moving, speaking, and reacting as he bulldozes his way through Xavier Dolan’s Mommy.

Steve is not necessarily a sympathetic character, prone as he is to racist rants and sudden bursts of violence; but through Pilon’s very humane portrayal of somebody trying to please those around them whilst fighting a battle with their own mind, we can empathise with his struggle. His happiest moment in the film, skateboarding to Oasis’ Wonderwall, is possibly the most joyous scene of the year.

Love & Mercy

3.

Paul Dano “Brian Wilson – Love & Mercy

Paul Dano is so often stuck as a simpering coward in supporting roles; it’s great to see him given a meatier leading role. In Love & Mercy, Dano portrays Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson through his time in the sixties as he slowly begins to lose his mind. Instead of a good impersonation of Wilson, Dano focuses on the man beneath the public persona; a happy, music loving soul being crushed under the pressure of his hateful father, disapproving band mates and the unimpressed public.

Dano hasn’t gone this all out since his famous meltdown in Little Miss Sunshine, and he really captures the tragedy of Wilson as the happiness fades and his mental illness takes over. Extra points for having an excellent singing voice, too.

The Martian 2

2.

Matt Damon “Mark Watney – The Martian”

Is there a more reliably entertaining actor than Matt Damon? I can’t recall a bad performance from him in his career. Though he may never top his work in Good Will Hunting, his energetic performance as astronaut Mark Watney, trapped alone on Mars, is easily one of his finest and most confident roles so far in his career.

Carrying the first half of the film nearly entirely on his own, Damon is great fun as he pronounces himself “great botanist on the planet” and creatively solves any problem he faces. It’s great fun, but where Damon’s performance really excels is in capturing the frustration of Watney as he realises how close he is to death and how unlikely his situation is to improve. It’s the best performance of its kind since James Franco in 127 Hours, and Damon earns a lot of credit for managing to carry entire stretches of the film on his own, through his own likability and charm.

Steve Jobs 7

1.

Michael Fassbender “Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs”

I know, I know. It’s becoming a running joke that Michael Fassbender is my favourite actor and I regularly praise his work whenever I can. He even won the Ford on Film End of Year Award 2014 for his demented performance in Frank. I really didn’t want to give him another award. Honestly, though? The Best Actor award isn’t even close.

Fassbender is remarkable as the intense, thoroughly unlikable Apple man. A three hander of a role, Fassbender plays Jobs as cocky and self-worshipping in 1984, bitter-but-relaxed in 1988, and a little older and wiser in 1998. It’s fair to say he excels in every section of the film. He’s on great form firing cocky barbs and vitriol at the people around him (his cruel bullying of Andy Hertzfeldt and dismissive arrogance to Steve Wozniak are particularly unpleasant), but it’s in capturing the vulnerable, alienated orphan at the heart of Jobs that earns him this award.

Even though he’s playing an almost irredeemable man, Fassbender’s performance has the power to move, especially as his relationship with his daughter evolves from denying her existence to apologising for his flaws.  

Michael Fassbender is one of the greatest actors alive, and Steve Jobs is proof that he keeps getting better and better. It’s sure to get an Oscar nomination, and really does deserve the win. Even if it doesn’t, at least Michael Fassbender can say he’s the only person to win two Ford on Film End of Year Awards.

Congratulations to Michael Fassbender and Anne Dorval! Join me tomorrow, when I’ll be handing out the award for Best Director (with some surprising results!).

Thanks for reading!

By Harry J. Ford

 

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