My most favorite list in a year is always: Best Performances. It’s a list dedicated to the year’s most fascinating acting performances—as usual, I made this list without classification. There’s no leading or supporting category; there’s no male or female category; there’s no young or veteran category; there’s even space for screen-stealers. Among the most vigorous performances in 2016, here’s my list of 15 Best Performances of 2016!
15. Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
Ryan Reynolds used to get panned as a version of Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine; but he shows determination in creating “the” Deadpool, which becomes people’s favorite comic book anti-hero. How Reynolds understands and delve into Deadpool gives this character a worth shot and tabloid’s limelight.
14. Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch)
In her breakthrough performance, Anya Taylor-Joy is a daughter of an exiled farmer in New England woods. Robert Egger’s The VVitch puts the young artist among the mysterious evil presence, which challenges her coming-of-age innocence and the role as the family conformer; and she shows a powerhouse of performances, which might question your prejudice towards her character, Thomasin.
13. Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)
Remember her blaster-licking gesture in Paul Feig uptight, controversial reboot, Ghostbusters? Kate McKinnon steals the screen from everyone else, even Chris Hemsworth’s sissy secretary character. She gives enough anarchy and explosion (literally and non-literally) to ensure: who you’re gonna call?
12. Ben Foster (Hell or High Water)
In his dynamic duo with Chris Pine, Ben Foster plays an anarchy brother; a “certified” criminal and a real definition of “Comanche” with no energy limit. His performance is constantly challenging boundaries from beginning to the end; all with a motivation to serve a poetic justice.
11. Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople)
Jurrasic Park’s Sam Neill returns as a father figure to a rebel kid. A lonesome, adventurous and stiff as he can be, Neill connects with Julian Dennison gradually but sympathetically. His charm and chemistry with Dennison brings out the dramatic, comedic, and sentimental parts of the film at top-notch. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a sweet return for Sam Neill to worldwide audiences.
10. Alan Rickman (Eye in the Sky)
Alan Rickman would have been proud with his last performance as Lt. General Frank Benson there in the afterlife. His performance is layered and astonishing as always; and he effortlessly brought the character as a sympathetic, ‘injured’ but full of compassion kind of soldier. There are experiences drawn from his expression without he ever needs to explain – showing how we lost a special underappreciated talent.
09. Denzel Washington (Fences)
We all know that Fences is an adaptation of a play performance and Denzel Washington secures that feel to us. As much as his portrayal of a struggling, hardened black father is poignant and multi-layered at all time; his exceptional craftsmanship in bringing out a performance of both play and film simultaneously is award-worthy.
08. Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Viggo Mortensen leads a radical family who challenges “normal life” and chooses to live in the midst of a forest. His character, Ben Cash, is a leftist and a fanatic in anti-capitalist life; and how he becomes a mentor as well as a tribe leader to his children is surprisingly inspiring. However, his enigmatic presence as the only parent figure on-screen is what wins him over.
07. Ryan Gosling (La La Land, The Nice Guys)
Gosling’s range of performances in 2016 is incredible. At one point, he becomes an inept detective in the hard-boiled action The Nice Guys; at another point, he shows that his experience in Mickey Mouse Club is a worth one when he portrays a jazz purist who dreams in La La Land. His both performances are overshadowed by his co-stars; but he manages to make it an advantage, sustaining the performance of his co-cast and bringing out a rare chemistry.
06. Casey Affleck & Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams have both great performances this year in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. Affleck excels as a guilt-ridden, grieving man trying to restrain his flood of emotion; meanwhile, Williams a reluctant woman in an encounter with his former significant other. However, the duo deserves more attention in unison – delivering nuanced performances that are rarely shown in today’s cinema.
05. Emma Stone (La La Land)
There are lots of shots to Emma Stone’s eyes in La La Land, displaying her beauty and her prowess in ‘gaze that tells.’ Her performance is feel-good and vibrant same as her choice of dresses. Her Emma Dolan often overshadows Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian Wilder; but she really is the fool who dreams and finally becomes the star.
04. Ruth Negga & Joel Edgerton (Loving)
Emotional and nuanced is Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton’s performance as Mr. & Mrs. Loving. Although portraying the unsung hero of interracial marriage in America, the feat isn’t burdened; their performance and chemistry are less dramatic, subtle and simply unforgettable. You know why love wins with their portrayals.
03. Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Year 2016 shows a triumph delivered by Andrew Garfield. His ‘innocent’ persona finally finds a home as he portrays a religious, man of god in the midst of visceral war. Not only his performance is strong, it’s also poignant and full of love. The real Desmond Doss must be proud of Garfield.
02. Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
In Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, Isabelle Huppert portrays a difficult character to follow. Michèle doesn’t have a benchmark in real life; her character isn’t a real world avatar; and certainly, there’s no cold woman as ambiguous as her. Huppert’s performance is haunting – she is reaching a side of acting no one steps in.
Honorable mention: Colin Farrel (The Lobster)
Desperation takes form in a mustached Colin Farrell with glasses. Without needing to get any explanation, we know that his character is a sad man (which kinda reminds me to Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze’s Her). Yorgos Lanthimos in his clever black comedy puts this character to some habitats that do not suit him, but it is Farrell’s take on how the character reacts that won.
01. Amy Adams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals)
Amy Adams is the real deal of 2016. She brings out her best performances not only once, but twice – in a more powerful sense as a linguist professor in Arrival; and in another strong performance as a successful woman that gets a ‘revenge’ from her ex-husband in Nocturnal Animals. You are permitted to forget her bathroom scene with Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals shows her re-evaluating her life as an ex-wife of an author portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal. Her portrayal of a self-denying ex-wife which is flooded with remorse in the end is eminent. However, it is her performance in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival that grants her the top prize. You might forger Arrival in a year or two, but you’ll never forget the woman who embraces her life even when she knows where it leads. The absence of Oscar nomination cannot justify anything; she’s still a top-tier talent.
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