Best of 2017: Lead Actor

LEAD actor

Once more, each year I set aside time to highlight what I think are the best performances of the past movie year. In keeping with the upcoming Oscars I have adopted their format and over the last several days I’ve shared my favorite performances for each of the four acting categories. Wrapping it up is Lead Actor. As with the others, it’s a category rich with fabulous performances. Of them all here are my five favorites

#5 – Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

ROMAN

We’ve come to expect great performances every time Denzel Washington is on screen. But I still find myself consistently amazed by his steady stream of great work. He brings it again with the underappreciated “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” Only Denzel could bring such flavor and personality to a role like this.

#4– J.K. Simmons (“The Bachelors”)

JK

Speaking of actors who never give a bad performance. J.K. Simmons is always an asset for any movie. He confirms that notion in the underseen indie gem “The Bachelors”. Its not as big or flamboyant at his Oscar-winning turn in “Whiplash”, but his heart-wrenching portrayal of a man smothering under the weight of depression is as true as anything you’ll see from 2017.

#3– Thomas Jane (“1922”)

JANE

I’ve tossed the word “eye-opener” and “surprise” around a few times during these lists but they really fit here. Thomas Jane’s stunning portrayal seems yanked right out of early 20th century middle America. His weathered, tanned face reveals a man who works the earth, but several other touches help give this character life. It could be something as simply as a squint of his eye or a draw of his mouth. It’s seen in his handling of small town period vernacular and his distinctive enunciations. It’s mesmerizing to watch.

#2– Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”)

DARKEST

A good performance from Gary Oldman should surprise no one. He’s played Sid Vicious, Count Dracula, and Lee Harvey Oswald. He’s played a Russian terrorist, a corrupt congressman, and a dirty DEA agent. Of course he nails the portrayal of Winston Churchill. It’s impossible to find Oldman in the performance. He’s that committed. And after years of great work this should be his Oscar-winning turn.

#1 – Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”)

screen-shot-2017-10-23-at-9-03-50-am

This is hardly a lifetime achievement pick for his last performance. Instead it’s another showcase for the best actor on the planet. Sure that’s subjective, but Daniel Day-Lewis has consistently proven he is in a league all his own. In “Phantom Thread” he once again teams with Paul Thomas Anderson and the results are stunning. Much like his Daniel Plainview character in “There Will Be Blood”, Day-Lewis digs deep into his role mining every complexity and bringing them to light. It’s a stellar performance and if it is his last, what a way to end a spectacular career.

And that does it for another year. What did I get right and wrong? Let me know in the comments. Let’s do it again next year.

21 thoughts on “Best of 2017: Lead Actor

    • Roman J Israel is a movie the came and went pretty fast here. I just saw Phantom Thread yesterday and immediately had to adjust this list.

      Thanks for following all four categories. Always appreciate your views and input.

  1. Great to see you give it to Day-Lewis. All the talk is in Oldman at the moment but if this proves to be Day-Lewis’ last then I’d love to see him get another Oscar before he goes.

    • It’s funny, Oldman was #1 until yesterday. Phantom Thread finally opened here. I generally mixed on PTA but love DDL. The actor doesn’t disappoint. I knew I had to change this list up!

      • I’ve yet to see Phantom Thread but I suspect I’ll probably like it. PTA is one of my favourite directors and DDL one of my favourite actors. It’s a solid pairing of two greats.

      • Don’t want to spoil my review but let me say you won’t be disappointed. PTA really dials it back a bit but shows a mind-blowing understanding of cinema. That’s intentionally vague but it’s quite good.

  2. Great to see Daniel Day-Lewis on the list for Phantom Thread. That may be my favorite film of last year, and DDL’s performance is magnificent and a hell of a way to cap off his career.

    • Do you think he will stick with retirement? The selfish man in me wants him back, but he’s the kind of guy who I can see sticking by his decision.

      • I’m not sure, but I hope not. I’d probably say that DDL will just be taking a long hiatus, and may change his mind later down the road.

      • My fingers are crossed. I had this list finished until I was finally able to see Phantom Thread yesterday. Immediately knew I had to adjust this list. It was actually Jake Gyllenhaal (“Stronger”) who was bumped off. There’s another strong performance from him.

  3. Oh man did I hate Thomas Jane in 1922. lol. That’s the only one of your picks that I’ve seen. Off the top of my head Franco, Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) and Kaluuya are my favorite lead performances.

    • Hated Jane? I thought he was unbelievable – perfect for that role. I did give BIG consideration to Serkis. He’s so good. And Franco was fine. But Kaluuya…I don’t get it. For me it was a movie of two performances. The first half I felt he was so plain and flat. He basically talked in the same tone and gave the same puzzled look over and over. In the second half I felt he woke up and really started showing emotion. Really liked him then.

  4. I didn’t like 1922 as much as others seem to, but it owes everything to Jane’s performance. He was outstanding, and easily the best I’ve ever seen him.

    Unfortunately, that’s the only one I have seen to this point. Others I really like:

    Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
    Hugh Jackman, Logan
    Tom Holland, Spiderman: Homecoming
    Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

    • Amen. I admit I’m a little more in love with 1922 than most, but you’re right about Jane’s performance. He’s so good. Love the mention of Serkis and Jackman. While I’m terribly mixed on Spidey, Holland is a great Peter Parker. Kaluuya…I’m totally on my own with him! 😉😁

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