Best Performances 2011


30 December 2011| No Comments on Best Performances 2011     by Sean Chavel


Every year the Academy Awards nominate the wrong people. I think they would do right if they looked at these performances in 2011. I have selected five performances for every category that I feel are amongst the best of the year. I’ve highlighted  who I think should win.

Best Actor:

George Clooney (“The Descendants”) – A great performance that even despite awards showering is likely to be dismissed because of how understated it is. Clooney plays a man lit to boil, and yet boldly, he takes humiliation with grace. So many other performances could have pitched the same scenes at a level of rage, but the film is about clemency through tough times.

Michael Fassbender (“Shame”) – A bare all performance of self-destruction. Fassbender plays a sex addict who has misplaced all of his good qualities due to his addiction. We can see that he is a man operating under sick compulsion. Fassbender is also deserving for “A Dangerous Method.”

Owen Wilson (“Midnight in Paris”) – Nice guy roles are never given credit, but Wilson is absolutely sparkling here. You share his enchantment with his new open door opportunities into the past 1920’s. There is joy to his performance without aping the traits of scribe Woody Allen.

Brad Pitt (“The Tree of Life”) – He’s the demanding father that loses his way at parenthood in Texas circa the 1950’s. It’s an iconic performance of an elusive time, when things were beautiful and pure, and yet, he’s a father who for awhile has failed to see what a wonderful place he has in history.

Michael Sheen (“Beautiful Boy”) – He’s one of the most underrated actors today. Now, I’m not totally recommending this movie for everybody due to its despairing and off-putting subject matter. But as a father who learns that his son is a gunman at a university campus, I was devastated by the initial look on his face. One that conveys that he never really knew who his son was.

Best Actress:

Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) – Terrorizing and threatening, simply unpredictable by presence. But Mara lets us see the interiors of the emotionally scarred girl without letting the toughness drop. She’s a fascinating human puzzle.

Kirsten Dunst (“Melancholia”) – She is glimmering one minute, depressed the next. Dunst has us attracted to her despite her wayward character who misbehaves at her own wedding. We find her enigmatic up until the literal very end.

Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) – Streep’s great dignified characterization of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The director and screenwriter let her down, but the impressionistic qualities of bringing Thatcher to life is uncanny. 

Mia Wasikowska (“Restless”) – This beautifully glowing performance by Wasikowska as a young woman with cancer had me seized every given moment. When she falls in love, every kiss and every gesture, takes on a precious grandeur.

Charlize Theron (“Young Adult”) – Heartless and bitchy. But if you ever wondered how high school’s most beautiful bitch turned out (unfulfilled) then this performance by Theron paints an uncompromising one.

*Tilda Swinton (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”) – It’s rare to find a performance that so masterfully portrays a person with a deteriorated mind, and yet trying to hold onto the virtues of patience to overcome the horrors of her life – she’s a mom terrorized by her son. Revised on 2/3/12. I did not see the film unfortunately until 2012, but I’d say it’s really the second best performance of the year, and so I would have to theoretically kick off number five, Theron. But I kept Theron here for records sake. 

Best Supporting Actor:

Kiefer Sutherland (“Melancholia”) – He’s really just cocky Jack Bauer with more moneybags than he knows what to do with. But when you start looking closer at him, there are shades of crushed egotism that left me more haunted than nearly any other performance in 2011.

John C. Reilly (“Cedar Rapids”) – I can’t get enough of his disco-slam. Comedic performances are always undervalued, but right here is the most spontaneously funny work you are going to find in a comedy for a long, long time. Reilly is also deserving for “Terri.”

Albert Brooks (“Drive”) – The Jewish comedian is no longer funny, he’s all business. And the way he outsmarts people in rat-a-tat-tat encounters has us scared in how he’s going to finish up. When he sashays a barber’s knife with intent of wrath his eyes pop out as if he’s in altered states.When he sashays a barber’s knife with intent of wrath his eyes pop out suddenly as if he’s in altered states.       Whe

Ryan Gosling (“Crazy Stupid Love”) – As a natural born stud, Gosling does more with a seductive wink than most of us guys could ever dream of doing. When he talks, he purrs through his dialogue. Gosling is certainly a classic archetype womanizer.

Corey Stoll (“Midnight in Paris”) – So many stand out surprises in Woody Allen’s film, but the guy who plays Ernest Hemingway made me appreciate Hemingway in ways I hadn’t before. I laughed, I was tickled, I was speechless while Hemingway runs his mouth.

Best Supporting Actress:

Octavia Spencer
(“The Help”) – There is no actress that I could possibly believe could get away with serving a crap pie to a bigot white woman in 1960’s Mississippi and play it believably, and play it to comic effect. But Spencer pulls it off as a woman with the right amount of gusto, fearlessness and intimidation to know she ain’t going to get no retaliation.

Jessica Chastain (“The Tree of Life”) – Chastain’s performance of a dutiful Texas wife in the 1950’s is luminous in how we see untarnished purity in a woman who puts up with a husband that has lost his.

Jennifer Aniston (“Horrible Bosses”) – She was one of the horrible bosses in this American comedy, and not only is she hysterical, but she is courageously hysterical in a performance that is assertive, sexy and demented.

Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”) – The black & white silent film has won laurels for its lead male star, but I was enchanted with Bejo. She also is elemental as the “modern” woman with the pluck to break into the movie biz with spontaneous intuition.

Keira Knightley (“A Dangerous Method”) – Knightley takes a huge risk by over-straining her mouth in her early scenes where she is mentally unsound. After two years recovery, she’s a sharp and self-assured woman, but we still detect a little bit of that shakiness. It’s a bold performance in an astoundingly brilliant film about early 20thcentury psychology.

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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