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Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Underdog Awards 2014: Part 6

The Underdog Awards


Time for the biggie, at least in popular terms; The Leading Acting awards!

*Drumroll please*

First let me just clear a few things;

-A few films I missed this year just so you don't complain about some nominations; Labor Day, Philomena, Nebraska and Side Effects are the major ones I can remember not watching

-To those DiCaprio fans, he had a mind blowing performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. Sadly comedy isn't taken seriously by the academy but thank god he got nominated, cause there are a lot more people who didn't get the love for their performances like he did. 

-There's a particular actor I've nominated on this list whose seen awards season nomination but for me I felt it was in the wrong category. That man is Daniel Bruhl, his performance in Rush was seen as supporting. I can understand because the film was promoted that way, but it was promoted that way because Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is more bankable. Both he and Bruhl were co-leads, which no matter what anyone says should not have been confusing.  Not that Hemsworth wasn't good, he electrified and hammered home the role (puns galore!)

-Of the Academy Award nominees I would remove Christian Bale and Meryl Streep from the list as totally undeserving, even though Bale was quite good. Most of my nominees here could also easily replace the top three of each leading category, once again that's how awesome this year was.

-And most importantly, Academy get your heads out of Meryl Streep's ass! She didn't deserve to win for Iron Lady and she definitely didn't the nomination for her hammy performance in August: Osage County

Onto the awards I guess...

Performance Awards

Underdog Award for Best Actor (Female) in a Leading Role

Like with my previous post I would like to discuss about the Oscar Nominated female actors, but before that I would like to mention how well many female actors have stood up and performed marvelously. To those who are celebrating it and to those who celebrated it; Happy Women's Day!

Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine-She won the award, deserving so to some amidst stiff competition. Blanchett is a really great actor, and she's one win away from tying with Meryl Streep for number of Academy Awards.

Amy Adams for American Hustle-She was the best of the dramatic part of American Hustle and brilliantly flowed between he British con and real American self. The only nominee to not win an Oscar. Adams is great but she could have surprisingly been replaced in the category by many other performances

Sandra Bullock for Gravity-One of my favorite leading performances of the year, being the sole actor for a long time it's sad that Bullock didn't get the critical and fan credit she deserved this year. She's being hated for her undeserving win for Blind Side, but here she's damn good. 

Judi Dench for Philomena-Haven't seen the film.

Meryl Streep for August: Osage County-There's no denying the acting prowess Streep has but I'll reiterate it once again, slowly for the Academy; GET. YOUR HEAD. OUT OF HER. ASS! This was really pathetic from the thespian and I get that was scenery chewing but really it wasn't good considering the actors got overlooked. 

Now for the...

Honorable Mentions: Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring), Jessica Chastain (Mama), Kathryn Hahn (Afternoon Delight), Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies), Rosemarie DeWitt (Touchy Feely), Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Saoirse Ronan (Byzantium), Aubrey Plaza (The To Do List) and Ashley Benson (Spring Breakers)

And the Nominees are...

Brie Larson as Grace for Short Term 12

What's really so brilliant about Larson's performance is that it feels simply natural, it's a major reason why she might have been overlooked at the bigger awards. Simply because she gets into the skin of this character and becomes her, it doesn't feel like a performance or acting, it doesn't feel like you're watching Larson. It feels like your actually seeing the story of Grace, a caring yet damaged individual. That's the greatest compliment I can give Larson's performance. 

Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie for Ain't Them Bodies Saints

I mentioned how Ben Foster's Patrick is the heart of this film, if that's so then Mara's Ruth is its soul. Somber, poetic and feverishly determined in it's quest to find enlightenment and bring two lovers together. Mara plays Ruth with gusto, a woman left alone with her child because the love of her life took upon the blame for her actions (shooting Inspector Patrick Wheeler, at a stand off after the two pulled of a heist). Mara envisions the character as loving and deeply regretful just waiting for Bob (Affleck) to come back, her expressions sell her mind racked with guilt when Patrick constantly enters her life while her language selling the despair she realizes when there is no true hope for her and Bob to reunite. Rooney Mara adds another stellar showing to her ever growing brilliant filmography. 

Kristen Bell as Elsa and Idina Menzel as Anna for Frozen

The two lead protagonists of the lovable Frozen get the mention here, they were both brilliant while singing and their voice work effectively conveyed a heart felt relationship and all round sugary sweet film. It's performances like this that bring great animation to life. Idina Menzel sang with heart while Kristen Bell surprised with her skills. 

Lake Bell as Carol Solomon for In A World...

Writing, directing and starring in this quirky coming of age comedy; Lake Bell made a fan out of me. She is perfect in the voice over bits and conveys a very realistic character coming to terms with breaking out and that too against her father with simple ease. You can see that Bell takes the subject of prejudice in the case of voice over work personally because of the way she writes and reflects the character on screen. A showstopping leading performance in my favorite film of the year. 

Amy Acker as Beatrice for Much Ado About Nothing

Of the countless actors in the film, from the start it was only Acker who delivered her dialogues and didn't make the viewer feel out of place doing so. Beyond that Acker performs each part of the character with precision and utter brilliance, whether it be Beatrice's awkwardness of feistiness. She essentially crafts the chemistry between her and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) making for an enjoyable romantic experience. Acker holds your attention throughout and never falters in delivering. 

Julie Delpy as Celine for Before Midnight

If you would have told me in and after 2006 (that's when I watched Before Sunrise and Sunset) that I would begrudgingly hate the ever lovable Celine, I would have laughed you off. Now that point has become reality and the truth is I did slightly hate Celine and I'm not laughing, kudos to Richard Linklater and his team especially his two actors. 

Hats off mostly to writer and actor Julie Delpy for going there, and infusing the fun and spirited Celine with a bitter edge making her unlikable at times. For a while she simply has you on the edge, questioning whether this relationship and film franchise should have ended happily with the first one. Her performance from the start is a stark contrast, presenting us with a hunched and mildly gaunt mother of two whose not only lost her zest for life the way she loved it but creates the idea in your head of a crumbling marriage. Yet Delpy still brings you back and gives hints of the old Celine, simply reflecting in her performance to the audience that this is the same Celine you knew just that she is more complex than you thought. This is all courtesy of the stupendous writing and acting power of Julie Delpy. Of course her chatty chemistry with Ethan Hawke as always is spectacular. 

Shailene Woodley as Aimee Finecky for The Spectacular Now

Woodley like with her character is the anchor of the film that makes Sutter (Miles Teller) want to be a better person, like with her breakthrough in Descendants she once again proves why she is a supremely talented actor and one to watch out for. She exemplifies the social awkwardness of Aimee and makes it her most affable quality, creating the film's most likable character and a shining beacon for Sutter to realize his own better person. Woodley crafts some scintillating yet sweet camaraderie with Teller, and is basically the beating heart and soul of this feel good romantic film.

Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker for Stoker

Like with every other aspect of Park Chan Wook's quirky thriller, Wasikowska is profound in expressing the fairy tale like brilliance of the narrative. She plays India with a terrific attitude giving off the innocent yet stone cold killer crazy aura. It's a character literally stretched by her mother's actions, her father's death and her uncles allure and figuratively by her darker urges and to save herself like her father wanted. Yet with such a complicated arc, her restraint allows her co-stars to shine as they need to for the narrative. Still Wasikowska goes all out in perfecting all of this and gleefully twisting our expectations and the film as a whole. 

Greta Gerwig as Frances Halladay for Frances Ha

With a Golden Globe nomination in her bag, Gerwig is getting the attention she deserves. Yet her performances as Frances was so great that it's fair to say she could have even gone on to win the Oscar if she wasn't pushed down due to rookie indie status. Gerwig is so laughably goofy and fun to watch that it was hard to even review the film let alone get your eyes away from the screen for one bit. Her arc has a lot of weight to it but Gerwig dissects it with such levity that you never feel bored or annoyed at proceedings, she even manages to make her unlikable when need be without distancing the viewer. This is the perfect example of an actor capturing your imagination and engaging you in the right way. 

Julia Louis Dreyfus as Eva for Enough Said

For a character that can be easily unlikable when paired to Gandolifini's Albert, Dreyfus makes Eva and her issues understandable which is required of the performer to do for the script to not shackle her. That goes to show that when needed Dreyfus can rise to the occasion and perform with all heart without derailing the film but rather elevating it. It's a performance that deserving so got her a Golden Globe nomination among others, and is an example of her becoming a better actor as time passes by. 

And the Winner in this impressively tough category is...

 Julie Delpy as Celine for Before Midnight!

Underdog Award for Best Actor (Male) in a Leading Role

As mentioned above, let's talk about the Oscar nominees for leading male actors this year;

Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club-Deserving win, the McConaissance has hopefully just begun!

Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years A Slave-He was my favorite, and I still consider his the best leading performance this year

Bruce Dern for Nebraska-Haven't seen the film yet

Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street-The funniest performance of the year, a personal favorite of many and one of Leo's best. Yet at the same time it could also be off the list according to me, last year was that much amazing!

Christian Bale for American Hustle-There's no denying Bale was good, but was he great compared to many more? Not at all, there were better performers among the campaigns for the Oscars. 

Onto the...

Honorable Mentions: Chadwick Boseman (42), Michael Cera (Crystal Fairy and The Magic Cactus), Chris Hemsworth (Rush), Joseph Gordon Levitt (Don Jon), Alexis Denisof (Much Ado About Nothing), James McAvoy (Trance and Welcome To The Punch), Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond The Pines), Christian Bale (Out of the Furnace), Paul Rudd (Prince Avalanche), Casey Affleck (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) and Ryan Gosling (Only God Forgives)

And the Nominees are...

Simon Pegg as Gary King/The King for The World's End

I mentioned how DiCaprio had the funniest performance of the year, don't worry I'm not going to take that back because Pegg had the most heart wrenching portrayal this year in what was meant to be a comedy. While yes the script and director Edgar Wright worked hard in making World's a very powerfully evocative film on growing up yet also retaining a sense of youthfulness to enjoy life, it's Pegg that essentially and effortlessly brings that to screen. Amidst the witty comedy and stellar action, Pegg expresses the deeper conflicts of the film brilliantly. He adds more to the comedy than there is and gives one of the most effective performances of the year.  It's all thanks to him that it's both a bit depressing yet a moment of cheer in the final scene when Gary gets what he wants, his old young friends back for an adventure. 

Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski for The Iceman

There's no one better who plays totally unhinged like Michael Shannon (just see Man of Steel) yet there's more to this performance then a bonkers killer (ironic since in the film it's the other way round) and that is a deeply remorseful yet loving family man. Shannon plays up all these aspects with greatness, nobody beats him when he's seething and raging yet no one gets close to him when he's conversing with his family at large. Shannon beat by beat through the film proves why he has been overlooked for far too long. 

Miles Teller as Sutter Keely for The Spectacular Now

There's a point around the finale of this film where Sutter is in conversation with his boss and father figure Dan (Bob Odenkirk) about his drinking problems and how it is going to cause the loss of his job, at that point Miles Teller expresses an emotionally heavy concern on his future and his alcoholism. It resonates simply because of how profoundly Teller crafts the lingering issues of the character. Moments like these aren't rare in James Ponsoldt's film and they give Teller that scope to present his natural talents, along with much of the film where he's charm and screen presence shine through. 

Robert Redford as Our Man for All is Lost

Touted by many as the best performance of the year and one that should have and was supposed to win it all for Redford, All is Lost is a film of a man surviving on sea against the destructive power of nature. He's the only physical character of the film and it's up to Redford to make us care about his plight and engage us long enough for the film to finish. Redford is already an iconic actor, so it comes as no surprise when he does this and more. If you're skeptical about this one just because it's one man on sea (an no tiger either :D) then let me just say; it's stars Robert freaking Sundance Kid Redford!

Daniel Bruhl as Niki Lauda for Rush

I'm not going to go further on the leading man issue, Bruhl is in the leading category; deal with it.
Rush was my most anticipated movie of the year and from the premise to the trailer I could tell this would be a Daniel Bruhl vehicle that would launch him into the stratosphere. Sadly that didn't happen as much as I would have wanted, but there's no denying from the physical to the spiritual Bruhl gives a performance that rightly captures Niki Lauda. He brings forth every little tick of the champion driver, from his smug attitude to his relatable drive to win, his calculated understanding of the sport and his smart final move so as to live rather than crash and burn again. Everything about Bruhl's showing scream real and his complex method fully realizes Niki Lauda like no other sport bio-pic does it's character. An underrated actor in an under appreciated role (yes even if he did award recognition) for an under seen gem of a film. 

Michael B Jordan as Oscar Grant III for Fruitvale Station

Appreciated, lauded and called the next Denzel Washington. Michael B Jordan essays a real life man about to face a very despicable tragedy. In this case any actor would crumble under the pressure to fully convey and bring to life a man like Oscar Grant, and also make him understandable and his forthcoming plight that much more depressing yet at the same time keep you hooked.

Yet Jordan does all of this without for one second becoming a screen presence, rather so subtly and spectacularly restraining himself that we feel we're watching the actual real life tragedy unfold. Scene after scene he just adds on to the humanity of this character, exemplifying his faults and his goods and fleshing him as real as Oscar can be on screen. In embodying Oscar Grant III, Michael B Jordan proves that he is not the next Denzel Washington but the first and only Michael B Jordan. 

Ethan Hawke as Jesse for Before Midnight

As with Julie Delpy, Hawke as both writer and actor is forced to make you come back to a character he portrayed nearly a decade ago and make you care for his development from there to here and then further. Hawke does that with his usually tamed flair and skills that never threaten to overshadow the larger picture. Once again he gets all the talk and talk right down to the tee. Beyond that he personifies all the viewers worries about the lengthening of this relationship, his eyes represent the regret of a man who decided to marry someone who matches him just right yet at the same time suggest the unwavering love he has for her. He as usual of Hawke lets his co-star in this case Delpy run with the film, being the subtle and surprisingly comedic string holding it together for her. Hopefully people will remember Hawke's Jesse as fondly as I usually do Delpy's Celine. 

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis for Inside Llewyn Davis

It's always a joy to see a character actor get that deserved spotlight on them to prove their mettle, and Coens latest film is no different when the bright lights shine on Oscar Isaac. With all his unlikable qualities including being bound by his past success and his sad sack moodiness, Llewyn could have made this fall by the wayside yet Issac makes him feel fresh simply because of his under the surface charisma and into the skin portrayal. Watching him sing (in his own voice mind you) 'Hang me, Oh Hang Me' is so heartfelt you will instantly know why he just doesn't deserve the nomination but also should have gotten tons of accolades. 

Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover for Prisoners

While he got the much deserved recognition last year for his mesmerizing turn in Les Miserables, once again Hugh Jackman proves their is more in him than just claws. Here he plays a father whose daughter has gone missing presumed to be kidnapped, the first suspect that is caught and questioned Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is unfortunately let go despite some mystery around him. Keller takes it upon himself to capture him and torture him to find out what he knows. 

Basically what this is for Jackman is a deeply layered and rich character rife for exploration psychologically through his performance. Jackman steps up his game and gives such a riveting portrayal that questions a lot on morality and grey area his character struggles within, his ethical conduct seems disdainfully wrong from a far lens yet also doesn't prevent him from being the hero of the piece making use question our own mind set. At the same time his character somewhat becomes relatable if seen from his point of view and by the climatic twist forms a breaking point for both viewer and protagonist. What were watching on the surface is a dark anti-hero in a thriller film which he aptly portrays, what we don't see but feel thanks to the performance is the despair filled fall from grace of a normal family man. 

James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson for Filth

In terms of underrated but great, nobody has had a better year than James McAvoy and his performance in Filth is the epitome of that. Basically something close to DiCaprio's turn in Wolf yet more edgier, Bruce Robertson is an unlikable man with a sick twisted mind and McAvoy plays this up yet with such a likable ass hole charm that his journey becomes so wickedly funny and enjoyable. His machinations against his so called friends are made all the more easier to watch by the way McAvoy carries them out on screen. He has impeccable comic timing and is a full bodied performance that should have been acknowledged far beyond the British circuit. Even the more crazier aspects of the film including the final twist are made better by how McAvoy profoundly conveys them, especially that final climax sequence that makes you eventually pity if not care for a man as Filthy as Bruce. 

And the Winner is...

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis for Inside Llewyn Davis!

Next: The next big one-Underdog Award for Best Director!

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia

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