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The Frettsies: 2016’s Best Film Actors

January 2, 2017


And the Frettsies go to… the best performances I saw at the movies in 2016. I still need to catch up with a few contenders, like Hacksaw Ridge‘s Andrew Garfield (sorry not sorry, I haven’t been able to bring myself to support a Mel Gibson movie). But here are my picks. Click on the highlighted titles for longer reviews, and make sure to check out my lists of the year’s 10 best movies and 10 worst movies.

Best Actor
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nocturnal Animals and Demolition
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Adam Driver, Paterson and Silence
Denzel Washington, Fences
Jerry Lewis, Max Rose

The wild card here is Jerry Lewis, whose long-delayed drama Max Rose came and went with little fanfare. But his portrayal of a heartbroken jazz musician haunts me like an unforgettable melody. After watching his recent Hollywood Reporter interview, I wonder how much of his character’s bitterness was acting, but it remains riveting.

Best Actress
Amy Adams, Nocturnal Animals and Arrival
Emma Stone, La La Land
Ruth Negga, Loving
Krisha Fairchild, Keisha
Rebecca Hall, Christine

It’s a toss-up between who etched the most heartbreaking portrait of a woman profoundly uncomfortable in her own skin: Krisha Fairchild as the fresh-out-of-rehab relative from hell who turns her family’s Thanksgiving into a psychological horror show in the micro-budgeted Krisha, written and directed by the actress’ own nephew, Trey Edward Shults; or Rebecca Hall as a ’70s TV news reporter so terrorized by her own demons that she commits suicide on the air in the fact-based Christine. You be the judge, if you can bear to watch.

Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham, Hell or High Water
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals and Loving
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson, Fences
Mahershala Ali and Andre Holland, Moonlight
Jared Harris, Certain Women and Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins

Way too many worthy contenders to limit this list… so I didn’t. The two most surprising turns I saw this year were Jared Harris — aka Mad Men‘s Lane Pryce — as a true madman, a desperate redneck who takes his lawyer (Laura Dern) hostage in director Kelly Reichardt’s Montana triptych Certain Women; and Simon Helberg as the fey, reluctant accompanist to Meryl Streep’s titular tone-deaf diva in Florence Foster Jenkins. Both men expertly strip any vestige of themselves (you’d never guess Jared is Richard Harris’ son) and their previous roles: The Big Bang Theory‘s Wolowitz feels a universe away from Florence‘s McMoon.


Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, Fences
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea and Certain Women
Margo Martindale, The Hollars
Naomie Harris and Janelle Monae, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion

The Hollars nearly made my list of the year’s worst movies: Director John Krasinski’s cliched tale of an artist who returns home to be with his critically ill mother made me queasy with its condescending predictability. Yet Margo Martingale’s performance as the mom transcended the earthbound material. This wasn’t acting; it was alchemy.


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  1. Jean D. Barton permalink

    Must see Max Rose. Thanks for reminding me me to find it. Your lists are terrific and I agree with you 80% of the time…a better % than my beloved Richard. Happy New Year 🎈

  2. TV Gord permalink

    I’ve fallen woefully behind in my movie watching recently. I haven’t seen any of these, but I am happy to see Simon Helberg getting some attention for his work. He has had moments of brilliance on The Big Bang Theory and I’m not surprised that he has range beyond that role. I do want to see that movie. It looks like a lot of fun!

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