Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012's Most Underrated Performances

Many of us have skimmed over the SAG, Critics' Choice and Golden Globe Nominations, so we know who is most likely to take home the big-time Oscar Nominations. But having seen nearly 100 films released in 2012 alone, I can vouch for so many great performances that will most likely go unrecognized. Here's my collection on 2012's ten most underrated performances:

#10  Dev Patel (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

As a film about a quirky group of senior citizens who travel to India to spend their retirement in a less-than-impressive establishment, most will remember The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the onscreen work of it's elderly cast. However, Dev Patel gives a heartwarming performance as Sonny Kapoor, a love-stricken hotel manager desperate to make it as a businessman. Completely under-appreciated, Patel is one of the film's most glowing characters. 

#9  Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed)

One of the year's finest offerings was the indie sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. At the center of the rare gem was its leading lady Aubrey Plaza. Plaza stars as Darius, a Seattle Magazine intern who weasels her way into the "mission" of a supposed whack-o looking for a partner for time travel. Plaza proves to be a gifted actress who elevates Safety Not Guaranteed into a top tier film with her fine acting chops. Basically a non-factor in the Best Actress race, I'm sure that Plaza will eventually find the appropriate role to land her in that type of stratosphere.

#8  Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks)

There have been two big underdog movies that I've pushed for this year. One was the aforementioned Safety Not Guaranteed, and the other was writer Zoe Kazan's Ruby Sparks. From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Kazan not only wrote the feature, she starred in it as well. Playing an imagined literary character named Ruby Sparks who magically comes to life, Kazan's film proved to be one of the year's most creative and well crafted releases. The talented young actress gave a glaring performance as the vulnerable and naive title character. 

#7  Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises)

Another female finding her way onto my list of the year's most underrated performances is Anne Hathaway. Ironically, Hathaway is already in line to win the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in Tom Hooper's Les Miserables. Yet, Hathaway's dynamic and impressive role in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises deserves its fair share of praise as well. For the amount of screen time given to Hathaway's character, Selina Kyle, the effectiveness of The Dark Knight Rises truly hinged on her performance ... and she knocks it out of the park.

#6  Frank Langella (Robot & Frank)

In one of the year's most surprisingly lovable movies, Robot & Frank, long-time actor Frank Langella serves up another remarkable performance. Playing an aging ex-con in the twilight of his life, early stages of dementia force Frank's son to get him the latest in modern technology, a robot servant. But rather than use this hunk of metal to cook and clean like it was intended to, Frank teaches his new robot friend how to crack a safe. Then, the duo decide to steal some valuables, all while become the main target of the local authority's investigation. Langella's acting is, once again, superb and the movie's charm benefits greatly from his role.

#5  Pauline Collins (Quartet)

Years from now, many will remember 2012's Quartet for one main reason, it's the directorial debut of Academy Award Winner Dustin Hoffman. On the other hand, I will remember the official Philadelphia Film Festival selection for the efforts given by its supporting star Pauline Collins. Centering around an upscale retirement home for renowned musicians, Pauline Collins keeps the laughs coming with her role as Cissy. Occasionally senile and off her rocker, Cissy's wild antics keep Quartet feeling fresh and energetic throughout its otherwise average storyline.   

#4  Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)

For as much flack as I've given Ridley Scott's Prometheus, I'll also be the first to mention how phenomenal of a job Michael Fassbender did as the robot David. By far the most intriguing character of the film, David mystifies the audience and becomes the center of many of the movie's debates. Fassbender steals the show and serves as the saving grace to a rather frustrating piece of filmmaking by director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Damon Lindelof.

#3  Benicio Del Tor (Savages)

With a cringe-worthy finale that will irritate just about anybody, Oliver Stone's Savages needed a big helping hand. Lucky for Stone, Benicio Del Toro's amazing performance did just that. Starring as the Mexican cartel's muscle, Lado, Del Toro's despicable on screen behavior results in a collection of memorable scenes. By giving a villain that matches up with some of the best in recent memory, Del Toro does his best to salvage Savages.

#2  Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)

The picture above just about says it all. Martin McDonagh's second effort, Seven Psychopaths, was clearly one of 2012's wildest rides. Rockwell gives an unforgettable supporting role that continually raises the absurdity bar. Starring as Billy, the psychopathic best friend of a struggling screenwriter, Rockwell plays the part to perfection. Deserving of a better awards' season fate than he's sure to receive, Rockwell is definitely the strongest character in one of the year's funniest and most notable pictures.

#1  Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

At the top of 2012's list of the most underrated performances is Ezra Miller for his work in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Miller, who also landed on 2011's list as well, continues to elevate his level and delivers another unbelievable performance as Patrick in Stephen Chbosky's film. Displaying his versatility as an eccentric homosexual high school student, Miller shows another dimension to his acting ability. Previously shining as a troubled high school teen in last year's We Need to Talk About Kevin, Miller's range only widens with his efforts here. Ezra Miller is an ever-growing talent and I recommend checking out his work in The Perks of Being a Wallflower to get ahead of the curve.

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