Acting & Performances
Best Animal Actor
In other years (remember the banner year 2011, which featured Uggie from "The Artist" vs. Cosmo from "Beginners" in a 'canine actor' face-off showdown dogfight to the death?) there has been some competition for this coveted spot. But already back in Cannes, the gold-plated kibble tray for 2013 was only ever going one way, well actually three ways: to the three tabbies who portrayed plot driver Ulysses in the Coen Brothers' gorgeous "Inside Llewyn Davis." The Coens may have alleged that getting the cat performance was an "unbelievably boring, frustrating and painstaking" process, but Wilder said the same thing about Marilyn, and that Ulysses managed to rustle up serious chemistry with noted cat hater Oscar Isaac just shows his/their professionalism. Here’s Isaac talking about his hatred for cats.
Most Underrated Actor Who Deserves All The Awards One Day
Ben Foster has been doing absolutely stellar work for many, many years, often stealing movies right out from under his co-stars, as he did in this year’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.” Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck give fine performances as the doomed young criminal couple. And while their romance seems to be the heart of the story, it’s really Foster’s restrained but emotional work as the sheriff who harbors a deep love for Ruth (Mara), unaware that she was actually the one who shot him during a bungled robbery that landed her husband Bob (Affleck) in jail. Foster slowly woos the skittish and untrusting Ruth, his gentleness belying a steely interior. Foster is one of those actors who is content to disappear into characters in smaller indie flicks, quietly working away without much showboating, but he’s almost always the standout performance, and never gets enough laurels thrown his way. Soon, Mr. Foster, soon.
We're not quite sure what happened to the Sharlto Copley who was so compelling in "District 9," but every single performance he's given since has been pretty dire, and he reached something of a nadir with the double-header of scenery-chewing Sith Afrikaan mercenary Kruger in "Elysium," who seemed to have escaped from being a third-tier henchman in "Lethal Weapon 2," and his villain in "Oldboy," which featured an unctuous English accent so ludicrous that it felt like he might have been having a stroke while he delivered it. [ed. note, Copley’s “Oldboy” perf definitely falls under horrible/amazing performance. It is just admittedly terrible, but probably the only joy ironic, or otherwise, you’ll find from this awful picture]
Runners Up: Never knowingly understated, Sean Penn gave the worst performance of his career in "Gangster Squad," a prosthetics-aided take on Mickey Cohen that owed more to "Dick Tracy" than... well, any form of reality. Also, it wasn't hammy so much as unbelievably, maddeningly mannered, but a special dishonorable mention goes to Caleb Landry Jones, whose tic-driven hemophiliac love interest in "Byzantium" was the single worst performance of the year.
Excluding the great ones in "Anchorman 2" we don't want to spoil, we went for a three-way tie here. For one, there's a great little one-scener from Geena Davis at the end of Lake Bell's brilliant "In A World...," as a studio executive, delivering a scintillating monologue about the role of women in the industry. Then there's Michael Cera in "This Is The End," an uproarious upending of expectations that, along with "Crystal Fairy," has hopefully given the actor a second act to his career. Finally, the arguable highlight of "Thor: The Dark World" was the added-in-reshoots cameo from Chris Evans as Captain America, as the shape-shifting Loki turns into him. Hiddleston first shot his imitation of Evans, and then Evans shot his imitation of Hiddleston imitating Evans, and it's a great little surprise.
Most Wasted Cameo
Paul Greengrass' tense, thrilling and well-made "Captain Phillips" has lots to recommend it, but unfortunately not its opening, which features Tom Hanks (who'll at least be given screen time in which to redeem himself, and then some) and his screen wife, the usually terrific Catherine Keener drive to the airport and have the Single Least Convincing Married Couple Conversation we've maybe ever heard in a movie. And that's it for Keener! Why, why in the name of all things holy would you cast Keener, give her one awful scene and never use her again?
Best Self-Deprecating Cameo That Wasn’t Spoiled Pre-Release
In a quickly devolving world where the only currency left is how low you’re willing to go, it’s pretty amusing to see Channing Tatum as Danny McBride’s butt-bitch in “This Is The End.” (Especially as we'd already been surprised by how early Soderbergh had offed broseph Chan in “Side Effects." Far more entertaining than the Backstreet Boys showing up, sorry Playlisters-of-a-different-stripe. (Also Jonah Hill as a possessed demon on fire is hilarious). That they hid that cameo all year long is insane.
Best Hilarious Cameo In An Otherwise Mostly Shitty Movie
Vince Vaughn why hast thou forsaken us? We love “Wedding Crashers” and had hopes but… “The Internship” doesn't get anywhere close. That said, like in ‘Crashers,’ Will Ferrell’s uncredited cameo as Owen Wilson’s James Hetfield-looking boss at a mattress store is hilarious. Hit YouTube already.
Most Pointless Cameo We Don't Care About Spoiling
There are a lot of cameos in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” and they are almost all uniformly excellent. We won’t tell about those, but we will tell you about Toronto rapper and former “Degrassi” star Drake pops up for no reason right at the beginning of the movie to check out Veronica Corningstone’s ass. No, we don’t get it either.
Best Emotional Breakdown
There is more brilliant acting done in the last 5 minutes of "Captain Phillips" than most other films showcase in their whole run time, and it comes from the least likely source: little-known, under-the-radar two-time Best Actor Oscar Winner Tom Hanks. It's a moment of naked humanity and utterly relatable confusion and frailty that gives everything you've suffered with him for the preceding hours actual emotional meaning.