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2010 Top 10 Performances


Article by Todd Plucknett

Written - 1/7/10



2010 was a very strong year for film performances. It may not seem that way to many since the best performances of the year were given by an actor who people love to hate (Christian Bale), a normally quirky and geeky character actor (Jesse Eisenberg), and a few new faces (Hailee Steinfeld, Jennifer Lawrence). There is not the huge star quality at the awards this year. There was no big, serious Sean Penn movie, or Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, etc. The year was ruled by smaller movies, which is quite refreshing. So, here is my rundown of the best performances of the year:


NOTE: films still to see: Blue Valentine, Animal Kingdom, Never Let Me Go, Barney’s Version, Rabbit Hole, Another Year, Biutiful, Frankie and Alice, and Made in Dagenham, all of which are said to have Oscar-level performances


Others receiving votes:

Amy Adams – The Fighter

James Franco – 127 Hours and Howl

Jonah Hill – Cyrus

Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right

Bin Won – Mother


10. Ryan Reynolds – Buried

In a year when everyone fell for James Franco’s one-man-show performance in 127 Hours, there was a much smaller, much more daring and intense film called Buried that almost no one saw. At the center of that film, there was Ryan Reynolds giving a staggering, brilliant performance that ranked as one of the best of the year. The entire film takes place in the coffin in which he is buried alive, so the raw emotion and intensity of the film is all drawn from Reynolds. I had no idea that he had this kind of performance in him.


9. Greta Gerwig – Greenberg

Greta Gerwig is one of my favorite indie actresses, mainly due to her relationship with the Duplass brothers and her performances in both their films and other mumblecore entries. Her subtle, undeniably genuine performance in Greenberg is perhaps her best. Everything about the film is underrated, especially the authentic chemistry between Gerwig and Ben Stiller. Together, they make this small-scale film something special. She is an actress to watch in the coming years.


8. Hye-ja Kim – Mother

There were very few times after watching a movie in 2010 when I was completely stunned. One of those times was following Mother, the haunting Joon-ho Bong psychological thriller. At the center of the film is a crazy, unforgettable performance by Hye-ja Kim, playing a mother searching for the man who framed her son of a horrible murder. Her performance is completely spot-on, even when the film is completely outrageous. I cannot think of any other actresses that could have played that part quite like that. Not bad for an actress with less than five career screen appearances.


7. Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

I have been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence for a couple years now. Ever since I saw her work in The Poker House, I knew she had something special. The Burning Plain only reaffirmed that. Now, she is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination just a year later. Her work in Winter’s Bone is one of the best subtle performances by a young actor that I have ever seen. Every move she makes is calculated, and each word is delivered with precision and feeling. Her emotional maturity is almost unheard of for an actress her age. It is a difficult part to play, and there is no other actress who could have pulled it off as well as she did. Seriously, check it out if you haven’t already. The film and performance will shake you up.


6. Blake Lively – The Town

Maybe I am one of the only people who believe that Blake Lively is one of the best young actresses working today. In The Town, Lively was on screen for probably less than ten minutes. However, her impact on the film was greater than any other character. She slides into this white-trash role seemingly effortlessly and gives a performance that has stuck with me all year. She is one of those classic beauties like Jessica Lange or Uma Thurman that can simply be on screen and instantly be the center of attention. She has an incredibly bright future ahead of her, and this performance will remain the best supporting female performance of 2010.


5. Edward Norton – Leaves of Grass

For some reason, this Tim Blake Nelson-directed crime-comedy never really got released. It is one of the weirder movies that I saw in 2010, and while it did not really work all the time, it definitely has its moments. The best quality of the film is certainly Edward Norton’s dual-lead performances. Norton is able to show off his range, playing a straight-laced Ivy League professor, as well as his twin brother, an Oklahoma pot grower. He effortlessly nails the professor part, but his other role is a riot. It is perhaps the best comedic performance of the year. Ed Norton can do no wrong.


4. Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Everything about Natalie Portman’s work in Black Swan is just about flawless. Her performance is one of the grittiest, most insane things I have seen in a long time. It is the kind of performance that wins awards, not only because of her amazing emotional depth, but also due to her commitment to the role. Darren Aronofsky famously puts his actors through hell to accomplish his vision, and it is clear that this was the case here. The physical demand of Portman’s role, as well as the dual personality of her character, makes this one of the best performances of the year. I do not usually just completely fall for a performance that is obviously showy, but this one was different. It is a complete and unnerving work of art. She deserves that Oscar.


3. Bill Murray – Get Low

At the beginning of the 2010, Bill Murray’s role in Get Low had as much Oscar hype as any. For some reason, the film did not get much of a theatrical run, and his buzz died almost instantly. I have never been the biggest fan of Murray, but his hilarious, completely believable and subtle performance here is definitely his best, at least since Rushmore. No one plays subtle quite like Murray. Every word he speaks is just perfect. He is able to completely steal the show as the sarcastic funeral director, even when Robert Duvall is doing his thing, playing the hermit with a dangerous past. No performance and film in 2010 surprised me as much as Billy Murray and Get Low did.


2. Christian Bale – The Fighter

The consensus best performance of the year is Christian Bale’s work in David O. Russell’s stunning boxing biopic The Fighter. Bale has made a name for himself by transforming his body for seemingly every role he has. He got dangerously skinny for The Machinist, put on a chunk of weight to play Batman, lost it for Rescue Dawn and I’m Not There, put it all back on for The Dark Knight, took it off for Public Enemies, and then lost it all again to play this crack-addicted former boxer. It is a phenomenal performance. Nothing about it seems to be forced. Every scene almost immediately belongs to Bale. His character breaks your heart, pumps you up, and even makes you laugh at times. It is a complete, superb, astonishing piece of character work that thoroughly deserves that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.


1. Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network

My number one performance of the year shocks even me. After watching The Social Network, I thought Jesse Eisenberg was great. It took a second and third viewing to realize that this electrifying performance was actually the best of 2010. There really is nothing quite like it. To many, his performance is just like his other stuff, playing the quick-witted fast-talking quirky nerd. There is so much more to this role, though.  His temperamental, deep characterization of a person who is easy to dislike puts his work here on another level. Eisenberg could have turned it into another caricature, but he somehow makes Zuckerberg completely human. You understand him, even if you do not like or agree with him. He turned a mean-spirited, smug genius into somewhat of a tragic icon. His work here is something truly special, and it is a performance that will stick with me for a long time.


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