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Critic's Picks: The Best Film Performances of 2012

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire December 11, 2012 at 12:20PM

We no longer live in the age of the method. The performances that stand out in current cinema radiate a self-reflexive intensity less impressive for how much they convince us of their authenticity -- although they do that -- and pertain instead to addressing viewers aware of the artifice.

This was a great year for onscreen chemistry, and while the following performers didn't make the cut for my very favorites of the year, they still deserve singling out for working so well together.

Kacey Mottet Klein/Léa Seydoux, "Sister"

Ursula Meier's Dardenne-like treatment of a lonely, thieving child and the solitary young woman who cares for him begins conventionally before exploding into a moving showdown between two characters who thought they understood each other in the same simple terms we think we do from the outset. Turns out they're as wrong as we are.

Visit the Criticwire page here. Watch the trailer below:


Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"

Cooper's turn as a mentally unstable man is an admirable effort to deepen his brand, but it could easily devolve into mockery and simple-mindedness without the furious energy that Lawrence brings to the screen. The result is an energized coupling sorely lacking from most contemporary romantic comedies.

Visit the Criticwire page here. Watch the trailer below:


Philip Seymour Hoffman/Joaquim Phoenix, "The Master"

Both Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook" and Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln" prove that old masters are still worth believing in, but the increasingly odd and provocative tension between Hoffman and Phoenix in "The Master" affirms their stature as the best performers of their generation. The movie's intensely cryptic approach to the nature of unfounded belief systems is transformed into a monumental statement through their mesmerizing showdowns.

Visit the Criticwire page here. Watch the trailer below:


Sacha Baron Cohen/Anna Faris, "The Dictator"

Believe it. Cohen's weakest effort behind the camera is still a hilarious satire of tyrannical extremes thanks to his characteristically wacky ethnic cartoon. With Faris' character, however, he's equally willing to poke jabs at the excesses of the American left. These unlikely lovers are absurdly oblivious to their eccentricities, which is Cohen's sly method of making it possible to laugh at them even as the filmmaker depicts a cycle of stupidity with no apparent solution.

Visit the Criticwire page here. Watch the trailer below:


This article is related to: Reviews, Best Performances 2012, Louisa Krause, King Kelly, The Comedy, Tim Heidecker, Willem Dafoe, 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Denis Lavant, Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty, Léa Seydoux, Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, The Dictator

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