Each year I set aside time to examine and spotlight what I think are the best performances of the past movie year. In keeping with the upcoming Oscars I have adopted their format and for the last several days I’ve been highlighting the very best performances for each of the four acting categories. Today wraps it up with a look at the best lead actor performances. While not as strong as the women’s categories, there were still several to choose from. Here are my favorites.
#5 – Tom Hanks (“Sully”)
I think we have reached a point where many people take Tom Hanks performances for granted. He is expected to be good so people either overlook him or simple don’t muster the excitement come awards time. But that doesn’t change the quality of his work. “Sully” is yet another example of why Hanks is one of the tops in Hollywood. It’s a perfectly contained performance in tune with what the film and character needed.
#4 – Rolf Lassgård (“A Man Called Ove”)
Watching Rolf Lassgård portray his cranky, curmudgeon of a character is simply a ton of fun. He manuevers through layers of the blackest comedy and the tenderest drama. Lassgård’s tough-minded performance carves its way through the story’s steady wave revelations. Many critics have called the film overly sentimental and manipulative. I found it to be both delightful and heart-breaking and that is in large part due to Lassgård’s great work.
#3 – Clive Owens (“The Confirmation”)
In one of the more underseen movies of 2016 Clive Owen plays a down-on-his-luck father trying to reconnect with his son. Bob Nelson penned 2013’s wonderful “Nebraska” and here he brings some of the same straightforward realism and prickly dark comedy. Owen has no problem fitting into Nelson’s character. At times he’s very funny, but Owen also keeps his character firmly grounded in the real world. It’s such a good performance that too many people missed.
#2 – Viggo Mortenson (“Captain Fantastic”)
Now here is a movie that came completely out of the blue. “Captain Fantastic” is an impossible picture to peg down, and even when you think you have it figured out the film becomes something dramatically different. But it works in large part due to Viggo Mortenson’s outstanding performances. It’s impossible to list every layer and complexity his character exhibits, but one thing is for certain – Mortenson loses himself in the role and the results are simply captivating.
#1 – Denzel Washington (“Fences”)
In a year rich with wonderful performances Denzel Washington’s work in “Fences” was still an easy choice for my #1 spot. That’s not a knock on the others. Washington is just that good playing a bitter, jaded man deeply bruised by his past. The film stays close to its stage roots which means lots and lots of dialogue. This allows Washington to showcase why he is one of the very best actors in the business. There are so many 2016 performances worthy of attention, but Washington soars on an entirely different level.
That finishes up this year’s look at the four acting categories. What did you think about this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.