After this, all that’s left is my Top 30 Films of the Year. Now, to pay homage to the acting and use of music in this year’s films. As far as songs go, the criteria are that use of instrumental score composed for the film does not count nor do songs from musicals. Otherwise Anna and Vronsky’s dance scene from Anna Karenina and “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables would have made it.
As for the performances, 10-25 are listed alphabetically and the top 10 are listed alphabetically. It feels even weirder to outright rank performances than it does films, so I figure putting them in two broad groupings gives some semblance of structure.
There’s nothing better than the inspired application of a song . Here are the ten, in order, that stayed with me most this year.
Top 10 Song Usages
Honorable Mentions: “Ghost Rider” – Suicide – Attenberg, any number of songs in Django Unchained, “Strokin” – Clarence Carter – Killer Joe, “Let It Out” – Girl Talk – Girl Walk//All Day, anything from Shut Up and Play the Hits, Heroes – David Bowie – Perks of Being a Wallflower, etc.
Okay, 11. “Come On Eileen” – Dexy’s Midnight Runners – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie comes out of his shell to one of the best New Wave songs of all as Patrick and Sam spread their infectious dance-crazed flamboyance.
10. “Firework” – Katy Perry – Rust and Bone
Who knew? A turning point for the character of Stephanie, reclaiming her life as she confronts her former place of employment.
9. “Skyfall” – Adele – Skyfall
Adele channels Shirley Bassey with her momentous throwback Bond song. Her powerful yet calm delivery backed by surrounding strings and brass gives chills.
8.“I Got a Name” – Jim Croce – Django Unchained
Folk floats on in as the budding bounty-hunting friendship between Django and Schultz gets a perfect landscape-filled montage.
7. “Le Temps de l’Amour” – Francoise Hardy – Moonrise Kingdom
Jared Gilman’s flailing inelegance paired with the concentrated smooth of Kara Hayward and Anderson’s slightly hovering straight-on take make this scene an instant classic.
EDIT: Inserting “Revivre” by Gerard Manset in Holy Motors after the fact. Having seen it again reminded me of this scene and how I forgot it for this list is beyond me. Probably still too swept up in “Let My Baby Ride”.
6. “Popcorn” – Hot Butter – Alps
In a final scene that bookends the first, the Gymnast is finally ready for pop music.
5. “Take This Waltz” – Leonard Cohen and “Video Killed the Radiostar – The Buggles’ – Take This Waltz
Technically three usages in one spot as the latter is used twice. Burning desire finally gets released as time passes and cyclical yearning reigns in these two wondrous scenes.
4. “Stand on the Word” – Keedz – Polisse
The employees of the Child Protection Unit let loose with French rapper Joeystarr as Fred leading everyone in a dance. You can feel the momentary relief of the experience run through as you watch beaming.
3. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – Johnny Cash – The ImposterA haunting and kitschy end to a film that provides unnerving suggestions about a story with no clear conclusion.
2. “On a Slow Boat to China” – Frank Loesser (sung by P.S Hoffman) The Master
Transfixing and ever-ambiguous. One of the most beguiling scenes from this year. I could not find a picture from this scene, tried though I did. Instead I chose this frame I’m in love with from an unrelated scene. Loving the color on that suit.
1. “Let My Baby Ride” – R.L Burnside – Holy Motors
“Trois! Douze! Merde!”
Top 25 Performances:
Honorable Mention: Anne Hathaway – Fantine – Les Miserables
25-10 (in alphabetical order)
Marion Cotillard – Stephanie – Rust and Bone
Shattered. Defiant. Physical.
Leonardo DiCaprio – Calvin Candie – Django Unchained
Hammy. Savage. Refreshing.
Thomas Doret – Cyril – The Kid with a Bike
Scrappy. Stubborn. Hurt.
Ann Dowd – Sandra – Compliance
Earnest. Misguided. Astray.
Michael Fassbender – David – Prometheus
Precise. Inquisitive. Blond.
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Lancaster Dodd – The Master
Cloying. Defensive. Sincere.
Nina Hoss – Barbara – Barbara
Guarded. Austere. Compassionate.
Ezra Miller – Patrick – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Boisterous. Assured. Wounded.
Aggeliki Papoulia – The Nurse – Alps
Desperate. Stilted. Cipher.
Michael Rogers – Barry Nyle – Beyond the Black Rainbow
Nightmarish. Unstable. Seething.
Lea Seydoux – Agathe Sidonie-Laborde – Farewell, My Queen
Enigmatic. Loyal. Observant.
Channing Tatum – Jenko – 21 Jump Street
Goofy. Atypical. Dependable.
Christopher Walken – Hans – Seven Psychopaths
Collected. Grieved. Soulful.
Dreama Walker – Becky – Compliance
Vulnerable. Simple. Credulous.
Rachel Weisz – Hester – The Deep Blue Sea
Luminous. Fretful. Smoky.
The Top 10 (alphabetical order):
Denis Lavant – Monsieur Oscar and about nine other roles – Holy Motors
Grotesque. Chameleon. Encompassing.
Logan Lerman – Charlie – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Authentic. Sheepish. Damaged.
Daniel Day-Lewis – Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln
Timeless. Wise. Reedy.
Matthew McConaughey – Joe – Killer Joe
Virile. Smooth. Penetrating.
Sara Paxton – Claire – The Innkeepers
Naturalistic. Singular. Spry.
Emmanuelle Riva – Anne – Amour
Lost. Fragile. Deteriorating.
Matthias Schoenaerts – Jacky – Bullhead
Brute. Meaty. Blockaded.
Michelle Williams – Margot – Take This Waltz
Childish. Wistful. Idiosyncratic.