Unlike years past, there were very few performances that I absolutely adored this year. Plenty I liked, but there was a real dearth of those memorable roles that I’ll be thinking about for years to come. So while some of the choices may come from left field, these were the performances that made the most lasting impressions or, in some cases, stood out as being the most interesting.
Best Ensemble Cast
The sprawling ensemble of Dee Rees’ Mudbound all rise to the occasion, showing all the hurt, anger and resentment that’s built up over years of having their dreams taken from them and how hard they’ve had to work just to eke out an existence in a world that wants nothing to do with them.
Best Actor in a Drama
Robert Pattinson in Good Time
I’m not quite as enamored with the Safdie Brothers’ wild crime drama as everyone else, though I appreciated that it was the rare movie that I had no idea where it would go from scene-to-scene. Robert Pattinson fully sheds his modern day matinee idol persona with a fully committed performance as a two-bit crook who will stop at nothing to get his mentally challenged brother (and patsy) out of jail. It’s a fully committed performance for a character that will commit crime after crime just to make up for a crime that cost him more than he gained.
Best Actress in a Drama
Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Whether or not time is kind to Three Billboards, we’ll always remember Frances McDormand’s performance as Mildred Hayes. She’s all fire and fury as the mother of a murder victim who’s killer hasn’t been (and might never be) caught. Her character’s anger makes sense, even if her actions rarely do.
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama
Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project
After more than three decades of mostly playing creeps (most memorably in To Live and Die in L.A., Wild at Heart and Spider-Man), Dafoe acts as the anchor of Sean Baker’s sunny but heartbreaking drama. As the property manager of the Magic Castle, a lavender-colored but dingy motel, he’s handyman, bookkeeper, rule enforcer and protector of the place. While he has to lay down the law often, he’s always gentle with the people he needs to be (the rowdy kids who just need to stay out of trouble) and deadly serious with the people he needs to be (the old man who’s almost certainly there to pick up those kids). It’s lovely, understated work from a master at going over the top.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama
Carla Juri in Blade Runner 2049
While this belated follow-up to Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking dystopian thriller had a cumulative effect, with each of its dazzling pieces fitting together for an awe-inspiring final product, the most impressive aspect (besides Roger Deakins’ stellar photography) was Carla Juri’s performance as the dream maker. While her connection to the story initially seems tenuous, her exposition serves a purpose, as revealed in the film’s touching final scene.
Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy
James Franco in The Disaster Artist
In a way, playing Tommy Wiseau is the perfect role for James Franco. Both are artists desperate to be taken seriously, where ambition often exceeds their grasp. They’re both probably creeps, too. Regardless, this is a totally immersive performance, capturing Wiseau’s passion, charm and complete lack of ability without making him a punchline. “It’s not going to happen for you, not in a million years,” a surly producer played by Judd Apatow tells Tommy. “OK, but after?” he replies.
Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy
Anne Hathaway in Colossal
I hope Anne Hathaway has enjoyed life away from Hollywood since winning her Oscar for Les Misérables, because Hollywood really hasn’t done much for her. But she still had one of her best performances to date as Gloria, a party girl falling back into bad habits when she returns to her old town. Nacho Vigolando’s most mainstream feature to date never shies away from its fantastical elements, but allows Hathaway to remain grounded even when she’s in the most outlandish situation.
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical or Comedy
Adam Sandler in The Meyerowitz Stories
Adam Sandler gives a shit for the first time in many years as Danny, a newly divorced dad struggling to relate to his artsy daughter (Grace Van Patten) and asshole father (Dustin Hoffman). He still manages to be funny and gets to sing and gets to have a freakout. He’s so good it makes you wonder what the movies would be like if he was always this engaged.
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical or Comedy
Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
Three of the best supporting performances of the year belonged to moms in comedies. (I could have easily put Holly Hunter in The Big Sick or Allison Janney in I, Tonya.) But I think the best is Laurie Metcalf, whose done incredible, award-winning work on TV and Broadway for decades, but has rarely had a film role this rich. As the hard-working mother of Lady Bird, she’s occasionally too hard on her only daughter, but also has a surprisingly high tolerance for her B.S. as well. This is a deeply human portrayal of a person with realistic, normal flaws that still has to put aside all the things she’d like to do and talk just so she can put food on the table.