Today I wrap up my look back at the best acting from the 2012 movie year. We’ve looked at the supporting categories and the lead actress category. Now it’s time to look at the lead actors. Just like every other field this year, the lead actor category is loaded with great performances and with deserving actors who blew me away. It was crushing to leave some names off but I think this list sums up the category perfectly. There is a huge range of performances here covering everything from small budget independent films to monster sized blockbusters. But the one constant are the performances and these guys were great. So here are the Top 5 Leading Actor Performances from 2012 (according to me)…
#5 – JACK BLACK – (“Bernie”)
I just can’t believe I’m actually putting Jack Black on my list of top lead actor performances. Let me say for the 100th time – I’m no Jack Black fan. But I’ve got to admit that his performance as the eccentric Bernie Tiede deserves to be on this list. Black’s loud, in-your-face brand of stupid comedy just doesn’t work for me but here he really dials it back a bit. A lot of it is due to writer and director Richard Linklater but I have to giver Black a lot of credit. I loved this performance in “Bernie” and it’s a big step in the right direction for Black.
#4 – DANIEL CRAIG – (“Skyfall”)
Daniel Craig won’t make any critics lists and you won’t see his name down as a Golden Globe or Academy Award nominee. That’s a shame because he should be. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his run as James Bond and his work in “Skyfall” is his best yet. Craig has all the characteristics of Bond – suave, hunky, and tough. But he tones down the cheese and brings a much more grounded and flawed character to the screen. But make no mistake, he still kicks a ton of butt. Craig packages all of this up with his “Skyfall” performance and he deserves to be mentioned with the best of the year.
#3 – JOAQUIN PHOENIX – (“THE MASTER”)
Regardless of my mixed feelings on Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master“, I had no mixed feelings about Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Freddie Quell, an alcoholic World War 2 veteran battling post-traumatic stress disorder. Anderson’s script takes Freddie down several dark holes, and even though they don’t always translate well on screen, Phoenix is riveting as this deeply damaged character. All of his past recent off screen antics can sometime cloud the fact that he is a brilliant actor. He reminds of that in “The Master“.
#2 – HUGH JACKMAN – (“Les Miserables”)
I have to admit, I’ll never look at Wolverine the same way. Hugh Jackman starring in a musical may surprise some people but the actor has a history on stage. In Tom Hooper’s ambitious film version of the “Les Miserables” musical, Jackman takes the lead role and knocks it out of the park. Some have questioned his singing. It didn’t bother me a bit. But it wasn’t just his singing that made this performance so strong. Jackman invests everything, both physically and emotionally, into the part and that sold me more than anything else. He’s great in this film and he deserves the praise he’s getting.
#1 – DANIEL DAY-LEWIS – (“Lincoln”)
I know it’s the popular pick and I know that Daniel Day-Lewis is the front runnuer for the Best Actor Oscar. Good! He should be! Sometimes people just get it right. How could I not go with Day-Lewis in what was the most towering and immersive performance of 2012. Nobody throws every part of themself into a role like Day-Lewis. In “Lincoln” he manages to take an incredibly well known historical figure and give us something we have never seen before. His looks, his voice, his expressions – everything is unique. Day-Lewis is the best and this is yet another brilliant performance to add to his resume. If he doesn’t get the Best Actor Oscar they shouldn’t have the award.
So that wraps up my humble opinion of the four major acting categories for the 2012 movie year. It was a year that reminded us of the wealth of talent both old and new in the movies today. Here’s hoping we have just as much to talk about at the end of 2013.
Day-Lewis tops you say? As always man. As always…
No doubt about it! I know he’s the “popular” choice but for me he’s also the right choice. He’s incredible.
Nice picks. I think DDL’s performance in Lincoln is arguably his best. Glad you also had Joaquin Phoenix in there, I think he was fantastic in The Master.
Phoenix was very, very good. As I mentioned, some of his recent antics may cause some people to forget how good of an actor he really is. This reminds us for sure!
Can’t argue with your choice of DDL, he was just brilliant in Lincoln. It’s the obvious choice, sure, but there’s a reason for that! And yet more praise for Bernie! I don;t even remember that coming out over here but it’s got such good reviews I’m really eager to see it.
It’s the best performance I’ve ever seen from Black. But then again I am no fan of his. It’s all about him being more under control and not overpowering the role. I give him his credit, he was really good in Bernie. Check it out whenever you get a chance. It’s a weird little comedy but I laughed throughout. Then there is the freakiness of it being based on a true story.
Nice seeing Daniel Craig up here on your list. He’s done an impressive job with Bond so far and his performance in Skyfall is up there with Casino Royale. Definitely evolving the character too.
Yet to see any of the others yet 😦 Damn worldwide film distribution.
Well look at it this way, at least I’ve contributed several films towards your film challenge for 2013! 🙂
Damnnnn… Ive been hearing so many good things about Bernie, I may just have to eventually check it out!
Aside from that, I think I’m completely in support of your choices! Wont hear me knock Bond! LOL
Yes, yes, yes! You need to see Bernie. As for Daniel Craig, he deserves the recognition. Sadly it isn’t an Oscar kind of movie and that’s a shame. He IS. James Bond!
Great list. Some of my favorite actors here.
It was a good year wasn’t it?
Yes. So many great performances.
Good list. DDL is a lock for the top spot, though I would personally put Phoenix a close second. Loved his performance in The Master — it’s great to have him back!
Phoenix was really really good. It’s easy to forget what an amazing actor he is!
I’ve only seen Skyfall and Les Mis but these are all films I’m keen to see. Very interesting pick of Jack Black!
Jack Black…sigh! I can’t stand the guy but I had to include him. He was that good. That’s a welcome change from his normal slop!
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