The Best Film Performances of 2022

Ensemble in a Drama
Women Talking
Trying to single out a performance here is a fool’s errand, because what makes the movie so powerful is each individual’s grief, frustration and determination revealing themselves throughout. Another clear example of why the Oscars need an Ensemble Acting award.

Actor in a Drama
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
The more I think about Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of The Whale, the less I like it. It’s an intentionally ugly movie that fails to earn its emotional catharsis. But I can’t get rid of the whole thing. Brendan Fraser, who’s always been a reliable presence, gives a powerful performance that finds the empathy the film itself lacks.

Actress in a Drama
Anna Cobb, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
I could be boring here and give this to Cate Blanchett in Tár, but she’s already getting all the awards. So I want to highlight another stellar performance that won’t be at the Oscars. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is perhaps the quintessential horror movie of the Terminally Online era. Cobb plays Casey, a lonely teen who becomes obsessed with an online horror challenge. But is the breakdown she documents real or a performance? Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun never tips her hand. It’s an emotionally and physically complex performance, one that’s all the more astonishing since this marks Cobb’s debut.

Supporting Actor in a Drama
Justin Long, Barbarian
The most hilarious performance of the year hidden inside one of the year’s best horror movies. Long tweaks his nice guy persona as a sex pest whose world comes crashing down right as he’s riding high, sending him back to his hometown and the house of horrors on Barbary Street. Him pulling out a tape measure was the single funniest moment of the year, in a movie that was otherwise terrifying.

Supporting Actress in a Drama
Hong Chau, The Whale
Is that a photo of Hong Chau in The Menu? Yes. Has A24 inexplicably failed to put up a single decent photo of her from The Whale? Also yes. But in both films, underestimate her at your own peril. In The Whale, she plays Charlie’s best friend, neighbor and nurse, who not only enables Charlie’s eating disorder but also provides him the physical and emotional comfort he craves. Like Fraser, she has the emotional depth the film doesn’t.

Ensemble in a Comedy
Jackass Forever
Nothing lasts forever, except apparently the joy of seeing other dudes get hit in the nuts. Johnny Knoxville and company welcome some fresh faces (for getting attacked by spiders, snakes and other dangers) in another painful but joyful celebration of friendship.

Actor in a Comedy
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
The crowning achievement of one the best years a single performer has ever had. His sad eyes – and bushy eyebrows – convey so much pain.

Actress in a Comedy
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Daniels throw everything at Yeoh, and as anyone who’s seen her perform over the past four decades knows, she’ll always rise to the challenge. As our audience conduit, Evelyn has to convey all her confusion and determination. It’s a tricky, crucial part. Without her, it would just be a neat movie with no emotional anchor.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Gleeson has been one of my favorite character actors for more than two decades now. He always elevates any material he’s in, but the McDonagh brothers (Martin here, John Michael in Calvary) have unlocked something in him. While he may be the initiator of the break-up that sets the story in motion, he’s not free of the complicated feelings that follow.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Dolly De Leon, Triangle of Sadness
Absent from the first act and intentionally invisible in the second, De Leon roars onto the scene in the finale, taking over both the band of survivors and the movie. She’s a force of nature and (at least at the outset of this ordeal) morally right. But you know what they say about power…

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