Another year, another slew of great performances. Every year this is the toughest list to make and every year I feel bad about leaving some performances off and this year is no different. Like previous years, I have broken the performances down by category, much like the Oscars. I will list the “nominees” of each category and then pick a winner and go further in depth as to why that actor gave the best performance in their category. All of the performances that I pick here are great and with how many good performances were given this year, each category could easily have ten performances. But here are my picks for the best performances of 2019.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Zoey Deutch, Zombieland: Double Tap
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Tilda Swinton, The Souvenir
Shuzhen Zhao, The Farewell
TILDA SWINTON, THE SOUVENIR
- Tilda Swinton is known for playing big, out-of-this-world characters, but that wasn’t the case in Joanna Hogg’s coming-of-age drama, The Souvenir. Swinton plays Rosalind, the sophisticated, loving mother of Julie (Swinton’s real-life daughter Honor Swinton Byrne) who helps her daughter financially and supports her art and relationship with the troubled Anthony (Tom Burke). It’s a quiet performance, but Swinton stands out, playing Rosalind with tenderness and class. Swinton’s key scene comes towards the end of the film, as Rosalind informs Julie about the whereabouts of a missing Anthony. With two words and a look, Swinton tells us everything Rosalind is feeling. All the sadness, worry, and shock run across Swinton’s eyes and delivery and we feel every bit of it. It Is yet another sensational, committed performance from one of the best actresses working today.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Aldis Hodge, Clemency
Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
JOE PESCI, THE IRISHMAN
- Joe Pesci came out of retirement to be in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and his decision to do so was one of the great cinematic gifts of 2019. Having not acted in a movie in over a decade, the Oscar-winning actor didn’t miss a beat in his performance as Russell Bufalino, head of the Bufalino crime family who gives Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) a job and a life. Pesci won his only Oscar for playing mobster Tommy DeVito in Scorsese’s Goodfellas, an insane, violent man who scared everyone the moment he entered the room. What’s most impressive about Pesci’s performance in The Irishman is that he is just as scary and terrifying as he was in Goodfellas, yet does so with a quiet menace. Never raising his voice to convey a point, when Bufalino wants something, he gets it. He always finds a way, yet does so in a calm manner and never gets his hands dirty. Much like a lot of the themes in The Irishman, this is a performance from an actor who has grown up and grown old. He’s beyond yelling and just gets the job done. Pesci not only gives the best performance by an actor in a supporting role, but for my money, he gives the best performance by any actor is 2019.
Awkwafina, The Farewell
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell
Lupita Nyong’o, Us
Florence Pugh, Midsommar
LUPITA NYONG’O, US
- The 2019 Best Actress category was loaded with so many incredible performances that I was forced to leave off stunning work from Ana de Armas, Kaitlyn Dever, Saoirse Ronan, Honor Swinton Byrne, and Alfre Woodard, to name only a few. But with all these great performances, one stuck out beyond all the others and that was Lupita Nyong’o in Jordan Peele’s Us. Pulling double duty here, Nyong’o plays Adelaide, a woman who’s family is terrorized by their doppelgängers who have appeared from a mysterious place. Nyongo’o also plays her doppelgänger, known as Red, and between Adelaide and Red, Nyong’o gets a lot to work with. The way Red looks and sounds will haunt you months after you see it. As Adelaide, Nyong’o portrays a woman who is terrified, yet determined to do anything to protect her children and her family while also holding on to dark secret. Nyong’o never gives anything away and slowly reveals her secret, making the third act twist all the more powerful. Us is a deeply layered horror movie and Nyong’o’s performance elevates the film to a masterful level in the best performance of her career.
Robert De Niro, The Irishman
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Eddie Murphy, Dolemite is My Name
Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
ADAM SANDLER, UNCUT GEMS
- That’s right, my Best Actor winner goes to Adam Sandler and honestly, it wasn’t even close. I loved all the other nominees, as well as a slew of others that missed the cut, but Sandler simply blew me away in Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems. Sandler has given great performances before, most notably in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, and much like Anderson, the Safdie brothers tap into Sandler’s anxiety and anger brilliantly. Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler who is always looking for the next big score even though he never has any luck and only digs himself in deeper with every bet. Everything in Howard’s life is a mess, from his relationship to his wife and side-girlfriend to the debts that he owes all around town, and Sandler conveys all of Howard’s nervous energy and tension in a way only he could, yet still makes Howard somewhat sympathetic even when he continues to make bad decisions. Even though Sandler is known for his comedies, he is one hell of an actor when given the right role and Uncut Gems was the perfect film for Sandler, who gives a perfect performance.
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