Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in ‘PEN15‘
It’s a tall order to play 13 year olds when you’re in your 30s and not make it seem like a big, hilarious and – let’s be honest – exhausting joke. But Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle are so believable and genuine playing college versions of themselves that within seconds you forget that they aren’t actually pubescent tweens going through their toughest years. life. Season two of PEN15 allowed the couple, who co-created and also wrote for the series, to delve even deeper into the high-stakes trauma and, in hindsight, the hilarity of life at a time when emotions are greater than your heart cannot take it. They perform physical miracles, twisting their bodies to perfectly embody the awkward awkwardness of growing pains. But it’s the way they make everything feel so real – and exactly how you remember it – that is truly remarkable. —Kevin Fallon
Riz Ahmed in ‘Sound of metal‘
In Sound of metal, Riz Ahmed plays a drug addict named Ruben who manages his sobriety by cruising the country in a remanufactured van on a tour bus with his longtime girlfriend, who sings while he plays drums in their nighttime act. Their intimacy and the music are what keep them both from fondling each other, a plan that goes haywire when he quickly begins to go deaf. Suddenly he finds himself with no other option but to move to a sober house for the deaf community. We watch Ruben struggle with his new non-aural community and learn to communicate, but we also watch a person who is quickly cut off from the two things he’s built his entire life around: how to deal with his addictive personality without that shelter. It’s a captivating performance that resists showboating or hysteria. Few performances this year marked me so viscerally. —Kevin Fallon
Maria bakalova in ‘Borat 2’
It started with some bizarre studio shenanigans, as Maria Bakalova, a little-known Bulgarian actress with only a few years of on-screen acting experience, was originally featured as “Irina Nowak” in early promotional materials for Next Borat movie, the secret sequel to 2006 Borat. No one knew that Bakalova’s turn as the daughter of Kazakh “journalist” Borat Sagdiyev would become the crown jewel of the film, as she proved not only to be the equal of Sacha Baron Cohen’s holy fool, but in in many cases, she stole the show with her wild – and fearless – performance. Who can forget his bloody sabotage of a spooky Southern virgin dance or the biggest comedy stunt of the year: exposing Trump’s henchman Rudy Giuliani as the lustful creep and cousin that he is. —Marlow Stern
Robert pattinson, in general
In mid-May, as home fatigue really began to set in, GQ and writer Zach Baron dropped a deliciously insane cover interview with actor Robert Pattinson from Principle and The batman Fame. Along with the accompanying isolation selfie photos, all hilariously designed and staged by Pattinson himself, he gave us some Marx Brothers-level comedy with the introduction of his pasta dish, Piccolini Cuscino. Made up of some sort of pasta, cornflakes, pre-sliced cheese, and “gravy,” Pattinson tries to whip up the Guaranteed Abomination and nearly burns his kitchen down in the process. It was a charming bit of trolling a guy with a long, rich history, and at least momentarily boosting people’s morale. —Marlow Stern
Carey Mulligan in “ Young promising woman ”
If there’s one movie performance I can’t stop thinking about as 2020 finally draws to a close, it’s Carey Mulligan as the just pissed off Cassie in Emerald’s breathtaking debut. Fennell Promising young woman. Best known for playing relatively stable rooms in period pieces like Pride and Prejudice and An education, Mulligan is an absolute eye-opener in this darkly comedic #MeToo revenge fantasy that is still inexplicably unavailable in the US after it premiered at Sundance nearly a year ago. Don’t count her on a relatively sweet Oscar-winning Best Actress field, which so far has two previous winners in mind in Frances McDormand (Nomadland) and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s black background). —Matt Wilstein
Nick Offerman on ‘Developers
“I would have played any fucking role in this show,” Nick Offerman told me earlier this year. The last laugh podcast when I asked him how he ended up portraying the evil tech giant at the center of Alex Garland’s remarkable miniseries Developers. The man behind Ron Swanson may not have been the obvious choice to play Silicon Valley’s megalomaniac center of power, but Offerman brought everything he had to the role, even garnering unlikely sympathy in the process. road. He gets extra points for leading the tearful performance of “5000 candles in the wind” (AKA “Bye, Bye Lil ‘Sebastian”) which closed the delicious Parks and recreation special quarantine. —Matt Wilstein
Margot Robbie, ‘Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn ‘
Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn in Fantastic Fun Birds of prey is not the bait of the Oscars – but it East among the most wildly colorful of this otherwise dark year. Robbie reinvents his DC Comics character (newly emancipated from his toxic lover, the Joker) into a human disco ball of slapstick, moxie, menace, and a pure inspired passion for glitter and breakfast sandwiches. There is a thrilling and mind-blowing physicality in its action scenes; Robbie undertakes several stunts on her own, in a genre known to fight with weightless CGI fights. And rather than dwell on the abuse suffered by Harley at the hands of her ex-lover, Robbie (thanks to screenwriter Christina Hodson and the vision of director Cathy Yan) insists on a less well-trodden dimension of the tragedy of his character.
Harley is a woman unaccustomed to female camaraderie, suddenly surrounded by four reluctant allies. Watching her experience something close to friendship for the first time – sometimes with enthusiasm, sometimes with a thorny independence masking her vulnerability – is what gives this maniac actress a beating heart. Robbie dazzles through it all with a face as surprisingly flexible as the cartoon Harley Quinn was born from. —Melissa Leon
Jurnee Smollett, ‘Lovecraft Country’
The only actress to break the screen with a baseball bat not once, but twice this year – in Birds of prey and then again in HBO Lovecraft Country –Jurnee Smollett has shone brightly this year. In the HBO adaptation of as Misha Green, Smollett plays Leticia “Leti” Lewis, a plush warrior who defiantly claims a claim for herself in Jim Crow-era America. Leti is as glamorous as she is steely and stubborn, and her chemistry with Jonathan Majors’ character Tic is a phenomenon in itself. But at the end of a summer of real-life uprisings against racial injustice, it’s a Leti-centric episode three sequence, “Holy Ghost,” that struck a chord.
Smollett melts us into smoldering fury and terror like one horror after another arrives at Leti for daring to live as Black – for owning a house, for visiting a restaurant, for being on the road after dark. The look in his eyes biting his tongue could poke a hole through a diamond. Yet with each new injustice, Smollett finds space to bury more grief and ends up hardening something within Leti into a reckless resolution. Finally, Leti reaches a breaking point far beyond what anyone should endure – and Smollett unleashes a dazzling spectacle of catharsis, smashing the windows of his tormentors’ cars in one of the most fitting (and memorable) stills. ) on television in 2020. —Melissa Leon
Sophia Loren, ‘The Life to Come’
Sophia Loren could make Oscar history with her performance in Life to come– and if she manages to hang a golden statuette, it will be well deserved. The film, directed by Loren’s son Edoardo Ponti, is the third screen adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel. Life before us. Loren plays Madame Rosa, a Holocaust survivor and retired sex worker who cares for the children of other sex workers and who reluctantly ends up taking another child, Momo, soon after the have stolen. She develops a deep bond with Momo, whose respect for her slowly evolves from disdain, to reluctant respect, to adoration. In Loren’s hands, Madame Rosa appears hardened but still empathetic – compassionate but never forgiving.
Ponti and fellow screenwriter Ugo Chiti offer a vague sketch of Madame Rosa’s personal history, but largely allow the character’s difficult past to creep into Loren’s performance – dissociation spells, fatigue. In these moments, Loren only offers outward glimpses of a much deeper pain that one can nevertheless still feel purging beneath the surface. Loren, a member of Golden Age Hollywood, won his first Oscar in 1962 for Two women. If she receives a nomination in 2021, 56 years later, she will break Henry Fonda’s 41-year record for longest nodding gap. It would be well deserved. —Laura Bradley
Chadwick Boseman, “ Ma Rainey’s Black Background ”
the Black Panther The actor’s final performance has already garnered an avalanche of well-deserved praise, but it bears repeating: Ma Rainey’s black background, Now, the actor’s latest cinematic performance after his tragic death from colon cancer earlier this year is as stunning as it is heartbreaking. In August Wilson’s adaptation, Boseman plays the aptly named trumpeter Levee – whose bombastic nature, we soon learn, masks deep and furious pain. The upstart musician disperses with his former band mates and even Ma Rainey herself, played by the dreaded Viola Davis, while proving to be as captivating as it is complex.
If one of Boseman’s goals as an actor was to do work, as his co-star Colman Domingo recently told the Daily Beast, “captures black people in all their complexity,” My Rainey is, indeed, a triumphant, albeit tragically premature, final note in his career. As my colleague Kevin Fallon put it in a recent review of Boseman’s performance, “Levee’s story is tragic because it is about an artist who was not fortunate enough to live up to its potential. Boseman is tragic because he did it. —Laura Bradley
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