If you haven’t checked out The Playlist’s annual celebration of the year’s breakthrough performances, do so as soon as possible. They’ve noted that it was a good year for the female newcomer/standout, logical since it was a great year for actresses in general. The blog’s writers have selected a few obvious choices (Jennifer Lawrence; Hailee Steinfeld; Armie Hammer) and a good number of surprises (Sarah Steele; Whitney Able; Dieter Laser). My favorite breakthrough of the year, listed alongside his “Animal Kingdom” costar Jackie Weaver, is Ben Mendelsohn. He actually may have given my favorite performance of the year, period. I saw the movie a second time specifically to watch him again, much more than for Weaver. The funny thing is, he seemed to come out of nowhere for this movie. But I’ve apparently seen him in at least a handful of movies over the last 20 years.
Jumping off of The Playlist’s post, and in line with Mendelsohn’s incredible scene-stealing achievement, I decided to list ten more names that broke through this year, at least for me. Each of the following stood out prominently, usually in a supporting role. Certainly there were some well-known actors who stole scenes — I’m thinking especially of Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci in “Easy A” and Michael Sheen (along with Daft Punk) in “TRON: Legacy” — but here I’m spotlighting relative no-names who caught my eye and whom I look forward to seeing or hearing in the future. Feel free to mention your favorite non-breakout scene-chewers of 2010 down in the comments.
1. Ronald Bronstein, actor, “Daddy Longlegs”
Bronstein is certainly no stranger to (the old incarnation of) Spout, which collaborated with the “Frownland” filmmaker on the web series “Butterknife” and humorous 2008 Sundance Film Festival coverage. But as a feature film actor, he’s definitely new to me, and everyone else. I’m actually a little surprised and disappointed with the Playlist crew for overlooking his Gotham Award-winning debut in Ben and Josh Safdie’s latest.
2. Lucy Punch, actress, “Dinner for Schmucks”
I have my issues with “Schmucks,” but I can’t deny laughing at and with its hilarious ensemble of comedians, including Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, David Walliams, Kristen Schaal, Larry Wilmore, Patrick Fischler, Chris O’Dowd and Jemaine Clement. Yet months later I’m still thinking of Punch above them all (though Clement is also worthy of mention for his breakthrough scene-chewing). But no, I haven’t yet seen her in Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” though I do hear she’s one of the few reasons to do so.
3. John Adams, composer, “I Am Love”
That final scene would not be quite as stunning without Adams’ score blaring over it. I’ve been a fan of the composer ever since, listening to something of his at least once a day. The last time I was so excited about discovering an artist through a film score was when I first heard Alexandre Desplat’s work in “Birth.” [SPOILER ALERT on the video above]
4. & 5. François Damiens & Julie Ferrier, actor & actress, “Heartbreaker”
Romain Duris is appropriately an audience charmer in this soon-to-be-remade French film, especially if you like the Vinny Chase type, yet his character’s married assistants are the true delight of “Heartbreaker.” They might even beat out Clarkson and Tucci for my favorite onscreen couple of the year. Damiens is without a doubt the bigger scene stealer of the two, and I can see him coming stateside for supporting character-actor roles (he’d stand out in a “Schmucks” type ensemble, as well). I had to include Ferrier, though, because I also loved her in a much wackier part in the overall disappointing “Micmacs.”
6. Josh Fox, writer/director/personality, “GasLand”
The only reason I’m including a writer/director on this list is because Fox is also the protagonist of his documentary. As an artist-turned-investigative first-person filmmaker, he certainly evokes the young, amateur Michael Moore of “Roger & Me” — though he’s not on screen as much, and he doesn’t attempt to be as much of a political jester. I can’t wait to see what he does next and hope he learns what not to do from Moore’s mistakes.
7. Take It Easy Hospital, band, “No One Knows About Persian Cats”
All of the real Iranian musicians and performers showcased in Bahman Ghobadi’s mostly fictional film are amazing (fortunately, there’s a soundtrack!). Take It Easy Hospital stands out not just because it’s the main characters’ band or because due to that fact they’re heard the most. They’re also one of the catchiest indie rock groups I’ve heard all year. I’ve had their “Human Jungle” rattling in my head since March and I’m totally fine with that.
8. Josh Gad, actor, “Love & Other Drugs”
I can’t say I particularly love Gad’s role or even his performance in it, but he does provide some very likable and very necessary (though also very imbalanced) comic relief to the movie when Anne Hathaway’s not rolling around naked. Actually, even during some moments when Anne Hathaway is rolling around naked. So far he kinda seems like a Jonah Hill clone or wannabe, but I think he’d have been much more notable in another film.
9. Charlie Day, actor, “Going the Distance”
On the other hand, Day doesn’t bring necessary comic relief to “Going the Distance” so much as he brings the best laughs. Sure, he’s basically playing the same character he plays on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” — maybe an I.Q. point or two higher — but that’s what I wanted, that’s what I got, and I enjoyed the rom-com all the more for his involvement. I’d probably watch any and every rom-com that Charlie/”Charlie” showed up in. Even those starring Katherine Heigl and babies.
10. Minions, characters, “Despicable Me”
I guess some of the minions have names, but I’m just lumping them all together as one (sorry, Jemaine Clement, voice of “Jerry” minion, but you are sidelined again). I must acknowledge (as I did in full yesterday) that I haven’t seen all of “Despicable Me” (yet) and may never do so. I don’t care about the Steve Carell-voiced Gru or the kids he takes care of. I just want to watch these cute little yellow creatures. Universal obviously knows they’re the highlights of the film, too, since they’ve heavily employed the minions in the marketing and feature them as the primary characters in three new shorts included as DVD bonus material. Now they just need their own animated series.
Who or what were some of your favorite standouts, breakthroughs and/or scene-chewers of 2010?