Mr. Reed’s Metaphysical Neighborhood Presents the Best Film Acting of 2015

What follows is a list of what I consider the best acting in films released in 2015. Four days ago, I published my list of best (and worst) films of the year, and most actors in most of those films turned in admirable performances. The same goes with directors. I see no need to publish a separate “best directors” list, since if the film is good, then I credit the director. A few actors and actresses in films which I did not put among my top choices still made into this new list, since they were so mesmerizing and memorable, even if the film was not.

Therefore, the actors and actresses listed, below – each with a clip of their performance (when available, and if none is available – or if the available clip is not very good – then I include the movie’s trailer, instead) – are the 5 per category (I stick with just 5, like the Academy, though this is sometimes difficult) whose work most stands out (for me) within the context of the film they’re in; those performances which most contribute to raising the quality of the movie. All movie titles are hyperlinked to my review, and if you follow that link, you can learn more about the movie, itself, and my thoughts on what makes that actor’s performance so special in that movie.

It’s so difficult to choose, but here goes (in alphabetical order by last name within each category):

BEST ACTRESS:

Brie Larson, Room

Teyonah Parris, Chi-Raq

Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years (no full review yet, so I link to my “best films of the year” page, where I have a capsule review)

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Joan Allen, Room

Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy

Kiersey Clemons, Dope

Olivia Cooke, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

BEST ACTOR:

Paul Dano, Love & Mercy

Michael B. Jordan, Creed

Shameik Moore, Dope

Géza Röhrig, Son of Saul (no full review yet, so I link to my “best films of the year” page, where I have a capsule review)

Jacob Tremblay, Room

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina

Michael Peña, Ant-Man

Tony Revolori, Dope

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Alexander Skarsgård, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

“Roughly Speaking” on “Creed,” “Spotlight,” Upcoming Films, Ingrid Bergman, Orson Welles and Jeff Bridges

Rodricks December 4 Collage

Today, Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed (that’s me) – Chair and Professor, Department of Film & Moving Image, Stevenson University – joined Dan Rodricks on his Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking,” where we discussed new films Creed and Spotlight, as well as upcoming end-of-year films (and Oscar hopefuls). We also celebrated the centenary of the births of Hollywood legends Ingrid Bergman and Orson Welles. Finally, we gave a shout out to December 4 birthday boy (and “Dude” extraordinaire) Jeff Bridges.

Here is the link.

Enjoy!

In “Creed,” Old Meets New, to Satisfying – If Predictable – Results

Creed

Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2015)

Back in 2013, first-time feature director Ryan Coogler wowed the independent film world with his harrowing and extraordinarily thoughtful movie about the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant III by Oakland transit police, entitled Fruitvale Station (after the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, station where Grant was killed). Born in 1986, Coogler is not yet 30, and here he comes with a second – much bigger – movie, Creed, about the son of the great fictional boxer Apollo Creed (from the Rocky films). Starring Michael B. Jordan (Grant in Fruitvale Station), the film treads much the same territory as that of every other boxing film ever made (you know, stuff about how your most dangerous opponent is YOU), recycling materials (and character arcs) from the original Rocky, as well, yet has such heart and spirit that in spite of its lack of originality is terrific fun to watch. Unless you don’t like boxing movies. In which case, what are you doing in the theater?

It’s an unusual step for a relatively young and untested director to take, for sure. Creed is not quite a franchise film, yet does qualify as a spin-off, even bringing Sylvester Stallone back as Rocky; quite a feat, considering how happy the Italian Stallion was with the way Rocky Balboa, in 2006, had concluded the series (according to The New York Times, anyway). At first it may seem far-fetched to imagine the filmmaker behind such an intimate drama like Fruitvale Station tackling well-known universe, but as the film progresses, it quickly becomes clear that the protagonists of both stories share a lot in common, and not just because they’re played by the same actor. Adonis Creed – Apollo’s son – is a boy in a man’s body, struggling to mentally grow into his physical size and join the adult world. Where Jordan’s Oscar Grant has his mother as a needed mentor, his Creed has Rocky; both need guidance to navigate the pitfalls of responsibility. And both have a supportive woman (of course, what successful cinematic man doesn’t?) by their side (as did Rocky). Anyone who doesn’t know how this particular film is going to end has not been paying attention to the signpost markers.

Just as in the first Rocky film, there’s a preening self-involved antagonist for our hero, who refuses to acknowledge the underdog’s validity as a contender. Just as in the first Rocky film, there’s the woman urging her man to be better. And just as in the first Rocky film, there’s a trainer doing his best to get the young wannabe ready for the big fight. There’s no question that it’s a great twist that Rocky is now the grizzled veteran, but lay the first film side by side with Creed and it’s hard to distinguish the two. Except, you know, that now our main guy is African-American, which could have allowed Coogler – African-American, himself – to discuss issues of race in the boxing world. But he doesn’t. So what we’re left with is an entertaining riff on a popular boxing legend, but a riff compromised by formula (aren’t riffs usually more improvisatory?). Coogler and Jordan (and even Stallone) most definitely confirm their talents here (though poor Tessa Thompson, from Dear White People, has nothing to work with); I just wish that talent had been used in service of something truly new and fresh, upholding the promise of their first collaboration. Here’s hoping for Round 3!