Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Best Performances of 2016

I'm not a Graphic Designer
This is a list of the the best performances by actors (both male and female) of 2016. I didn’t manage to get round to seeing praised performances from Ruth Negga or Isabelle Huppert so they’re not gonna be listed for that reason. 

Before we begin the list here are some honorable mentions:

Voila Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris - Moonlight
Blake Lively – The Shallows
Laura Linney – Nocturnal Animals
Emily Blunt – Girl on a Train
Lou de Laâge – The Innocents

Rebecca Hall

In Christine, Rebecca Hall plays the titular character, Christine Chubbuck, who infamously shot herself live on TV. The difficulty in making such a film, and playing such a role, is trying to avoid slipping into territory where the film can be considered exploitative. However, both the film and Rebecca Hall avoid doing that due to the emphatic way they portray Christine. Rebecca Hall’s performances garners much sympathy for Christine but also shows that she was standoffish which meant it was difficult for others to help her. It a sad story which Rebecca Hall is the standout figure.

Natalie Portman

The Best Actress Oscar was between Emma Stone and Natalie Portman, with the former winning the Oscar (I would have preferred it if Portman won). It’s all well and good impersonating a real life figure (which Portman does well) but the performance has evoke an emotional response. Meryl Streep achieved this in The Iron Lady (despite my dislike of Margret Thatcher) and Portman achieves this spectacularly as Jackie Kennedy, perfectly capturing the sense of shock Jackie must have felt on the day of her husband’s assassination.

Narges Rashidi

The central point of Under the Shadow was the relationship was between Shideh (Rashidi) and her daughter, Dorsa. The mother-child relationship invites comparisons to The Babadook and the Iran-Iraq War backdrop adds depth to the story, but it’s Rashidi’s superb central performance that makes the film such an engaging and intense watch.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams was surprisingly overlooked at this year’s Oscar despite two exceptional performances in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals. In Arrival, Louise Bank’s relationship with her daughter and sense of loss becomes the film’s main anchor in audiences engaging emotionally with the film. The opening sequences effectively and sensitively builds a long mother-daughter relationship beautifully in just a few minutes. Banks is an engaging character and we share her curiosity and sense of wonder at perhaps being one of the first humans to communicate with an extra-terrestrial race. It’s a testament to Amy Adams’ performance that we share these feelings with Louise.

Hayley Squires

The benefits system is a hot political topic in the UK and director Ken Loach approached the topic brilliantly aiming a merciless attack at the incompetent benefits system in the UK. The film works because of the effective paring of Dave Johns (who brings a nice comic touch to the film) and Hayley Squires whose breakdown in the food bank is one of the toughest scenes to watch this year.

Time for the men. Honourable mentions include:

Joesph Gordan Livett - Snowden
Aaron Taylor Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Denzil Washington - Fences
Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham – Hell or High Water

Casey Affleck

If Casey Affleck didn’t win the Oscar then, if I could, I’d would have raised a single eyebrow in mild surprise...just like Roger Moore. Affleck does a remarkable job showing Lee’s understated reaction to the loss of his brother, of whom he cared for deeply, but also showing his more expressive, angrier side. His understated emotional side and more expressive aggressive side are linked as the difficult place (perhaps driven by guilt for his actions) Lee finds himself emotionally leads to his rash, aggressive and often distant behavior.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster

I picked both because I simply can’t decide which of the two to pick and because they work so well together the effectiveness of their performances is much to do with each other as it is the quality of their individual performances. Despite the two contrasting personalities, the two brothers’ bond, perhaps born from both having to endure an abusive father, is a strong and beautifully drawn one. One scene where they are silhouetted against the Texas backdrop, and setting sun, play fighting captured their relationship perfectly.

Mahershala Ali

The screen time Mahershala Ali had was minimal but the impact his character had was huge. Mahershala Ali’s Juan served as the only father figure in Chiron's life, and when Juan vanishes from the story you do feel a gaping hole even though the film made very little of it. He was hugely important to the story, and the scene where he helps Chiron learn to swim and even discusses sexuality with him is incredibly powerful.

Michael Shannon

Shannon was nominated for Nocturnal Animals, but I felt his better performance was in Elvis & Nixon. Elvis & Nixon is a success because of the inspired casting of Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon, Shannon, in particular, is a strange casting but the casting of Shannon turns out to be an inspired one as he gives a raw and emotional performance as the king of rock and roll

Patrick Stewart

Despite being British and holding quite deep and powerful voice, Patrick Stewart hasn’t really played villains until he played the Neo-Nazi leader in Green Room. Stewart is magnificent and menacing in Green Room, and that voice simply demands to be followed without question.


  1. I love this list! Especially the love for Rebecca Hall and Ben Foster, they are so underrated. I love that JGL made it into your honorable mentions. I'm always here for Michael Shannon love too.

    1. Thanks. Luckily my picks have enough variation from the Oscar to be interesting enough. Also they are not motivated by campaigns!

  2. I love the fact that so many bloggers show appreciation for Hall's work in Christine. It is so unfair how because of poor distribution she wasn't even nominated.

    1. Agreed. I got a streaming and cinema in the UK which harmed its overall as it meant it wasn't shown in the big cinemas. Very popular film in the blogging world.

  3. Great picks! Love that Rebecca Hall made your list. I thought she was astounding in Christine. I wish more people saw that film!