Last Year's Winner - Casey Affleck
Michael Pitt - Funny Games
Try as I might, I could not get this bastard's mug out of my face. It probably doesn't help that Michael Haneke's twisted tale of amoral killers ends with Pitt staring right into the camera, but the image itself stayed with me long after most other elements of the film had gone. While I initially balked at the direct-address technique, it did have the effect of implicating the viewer in the crimes, and Pitt's mocking of the audience is one of the most memorable parts of the film.. Co-star Brady Corbett gets the more 'crazy' part, but playing this kind of thing straight is the hard part. Sorry Michael, I apologize for calling you "hammy" in the first review.
John Leguizamo - The Happening
I've never had much appreciation for Leguizamo, though the guy seems interested in trying a lot of different roles in movies. To me, he's always seemed much more adapted to the over enunciation and emotion of the live stage where he began than to the more subdued medium of film acting. In The Happening, however, amidst a background of both philosophical and geographical meandering, Leguizamo brings a sense of real emotion, contrived as his character may be. When you have as dead and flat a canvas as M. Knight does, it does help to have some actors who try too hard.
Shea Whigham - Wristcutters: A Love Story
In a movie filled with some classic supporting actors like Mark Boone Jr., Tom Waits, and Will Arnett, Whigham was the real standout, at times upstaging the leads. His non-geographically specific Eastern European accent might have been a shtick, but it's one that never got old. His deadpan response to his little brother's suicide attempt (click on the movie link above to see it) was classic and representative of the best aspect of the movie: downright hilarious shit at the center of the world's saddest topic.
And the winner is...
Richard Gere - I'm Not There
When I think back to Todd Haynes's uneven attempt to bring the character of Dylan to the screen, my first thought is always of Gere, dressed in an absurd hat and glasses, standing in the audience of forgotten people, and watching a painted Jim Jones and Co. sing a timeless song from the gazebo in the town square. It's probably the most singularly beautiful image of the year, and one held together by Gere's refusal to do more than observe. Unlike Ledger, Bale, and Blanchett, who seemed so eager to display their ability to ape Dylan (and in a sense, being as confused as Jamie Foxx and Joquin Pheonix in thinking mimicry is acting), Gere's acting is in response to the emotion of the film, and not watching a bunch of stock film of Dylan. Sean and I didn't agree on much from this movie, but we both realized Gere was the star. Had Haynes turned the movie over to Gere in the beginning, and wound its way back through the other characters, it might have given the movie the emotional coherence it lacked.