List: Top 25 Worst Blu-ray Covers

Anybody else notice that the emergence of Blu-ray has coincided with the emergence of outrageously awful cover art? Well, I have. I am in no way suggesting that DVD cover art has been consistent; it hasn’t. However, many films previously available on DVD receiving a Blu-ray upgrade have completely reworked covers for no apparent reason. Posters and DVD covers that we all know quite well have in some cases been replaced by what looks like the kind of cover art commonly found on a bootleg. Major photoshop work has been done with often times poor, amateurish and downright embarrassing results. Another common thread on this list is a blatant attempt to market the film to coincide with a current trend, thereby misrepresenting the film entirely. Other reasons will pop up throughout. The rules for this list are that the Blu-ray cover could not be the same as any promotional poster and that it had to be different from the original DVD cover if the film if there had been a previous DVD release. If there are any glaring omissions, or if you want to share your own picks, I encourage you to do so! I would love to see them!

25. The Peacemaker
Much of the time, marketing films is a matter of exploiting star power; I get that. What I do not get is Nicole Kidman staring confusedly at a couple of helicopters; that is what I do not get.

24. Pleasantville
Here is another example of many that, again, exploit star power. The problem with this is that Pleasantville has a wonderful poster that was also used for the DVD cover. Getting rid of that for this lackluster effort is just sad. And something that must be pointed out; ALL OF THESE COVERS LOOK WORSE IN PERSON. Trust me on this one. Next time you go into a store selling Blu-rays; keep an eye out.

23. Wanted
Let us put aside the fact that about half of the space is taken up by blurred background (because the action is all happening so fast!). Look at James McAvoy’s face. The poor man looks like he is falling asleep. Either that, or he is drunk. I really just do not know. The point is, that if new cover art was going to be chosen, they could have at least picked a picture of McAvoy that looks like he is a functional person.

22. Buried
The main reason this was chosen was not because it is lazy, which it is, but because Buried had such a strong poster campaign, making it even more upsetting that this cheap image was chosen. It does get points for not featuring any discernible photoshop work.  I understand the film did very poorly in box office returns and they desperately need to feature Ryan Reynolds’ involvement to get anyone interested. It’s still a horrid cover.

21. …And Justice For All
The original DVD cover for this film was nothing to write home about. In its own way it was bad. Let me take a second to point out what has been done to Pacino. They took Pacino’s head from the DVD cover and plastered it onto another body. This looks like an elementary school student’s cut-and-paste project. Look at that head! Look at it I say!!

20. Lost in Translation
What’s wrong with this? It’s the same poster and DVD cover; is it not? No it is not. For no reason whatsoever, the Blu-ray cover is a zoomed in version of the poster. Why? I have no answer for you. It may look like a minor and acceptable change now, but just take a gander at this one in the stores and tell me how you feel then. Finally, his head is poking out through the white banner, a change that is not visible in any previous incarnation of the poster.

19. L.A Confidential
L.A Confidential has a very recognizable poster. There must have been a reason to change it. Yet I cannot for the life of me figure out why this was done. Most of the other films may have terrible covers, but to some degree from a marketing standpoint, I understand why the decisions were made. This has stumped me mainly because the structure of the original poster is very similar. Kim Basinger takes up the majority of the space in both. Each have Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and Guy Pearce making minor appearances. Here though, in addition to the bad photoshop work (which goes without saying for almost all of these (even though I’ll keep saying it), Spacey, Crowe and Pearce look like footnotes and even Basinger’s ‘boobs’ are on better display on the original poster. Then we have that reflection which makes no logical sense. Why was this done? It is a mystery.

18. National Lampoon’s Vacation
On its own, this is a moderately bad cover. What makes it terrible is the idea of it replacing the somewhat iconic cover art that preceded it.

17. Full Metal Jacket
This makes the list because it in no way represents the feeling of Kubrick’s film. Outside of the “Born to Kill” helmet, which is obviously not on Matthew Modine like it should be, nothing about this looks like or feels like Full Metal Jacket to me.

16. Secretary
Hmm…I did not know Secretary was a sitcom, but judging from James Spader’s whackadoo face, apparently it is. Also, this cover makes it seem like Spader is drawn into Gyllenhaal’s sexual inclinations when really it is the opposite; so it is also very misleading in its goofiness.

15. Primal Fear
The packaging for this is so corny. “Hard Evidence Edition”? Really? The one thing about this I do like is that it has the date on it. A nice touch; the only nice touch. “Warning: serves up twist after twist”. Yikes. The worst though, has to be the red EVIDENCE stripe across the top.

14. sex, lies and videotape
A cover of any kind featuring only Andie MacDowell’s face is, quite simply, not a good thing. Harsh I know, but I’m not a MacDowell fan (even though I will admit she is fantastic in this, her only standout role in my opinion). That aside, zooming in on this picture, makes everything about this look very cheap and hand-me-down.

13. The Resident
I present the first cover art on this list that made me burst out laughing. The original posters for this were also bad, but nothing reached quite this level. The image of Swank from the original poster has been taken and Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been pasted behind her. That’s it; that’s the poster. There is too much face here, making everything feel crammed in. Oh, and Christopher Lee is in it too, in case you didn’t know.

12. The Machinist
Another case of ‘why change the cover’? I liked the original cover art quite a bit. What they have done is taken a still from the film, reworked it a bit and pasted some truly bad font on to top it all off. Why? Why? Why?

11. Excalibur
I take issue with this because of the blatant aim to exploit a current trend in filmmaking. The original DVD cover is technically the same image. Here though, the image has been zoomed in and tinted with that grey visual trope that been be found in super serious films like Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood and others. Problem is, none of it looks natural and it is obvious what has been done and why it has been done. Also; terrible font.

10. Poltergeist II
This cover looks worse in person than most of the others. The effect is it looks like someone printed this cover on paper with a printer that was running out of ink (and also malfunctioning), folded it up and placed it in as the Blu-ray cover. That is how bad this looks.

9. True Grit
I don’t think this needs much explanation. The release of this Blu-ray coincided with the theatrical release of the Coen Brothers’ remake. It was taken a step further as the cover art is meant to evoke the remake, and not the original, taking away the identity of the Wayne version completely.

8. My Cousin Vinny
Jarringly different from the VHS and DVD cover, My Cousin Vinny has been photoshopped to death. From here on out, the reason will likely be terrible photoshop work. I really don’t know what to say about this.

7. The New World
This Blu-ray cover coincides with the release of the Extended Cut DVD and Blu-ray. There was a previous DVD cover before this one. Who in their right mind would look at this image, knowing nothing about the film mind you, and want to buy/rent/see it? Look at Colin Farrell’s face. Just look at it.

6. The Omen
I cannot describe how shitty this looks in stores. We are getting into speechless territory here, where nothing can even be said; the image speaks for itself.

5. I Saw the Devil
For the record, I appreciate the thought that was put into this cover. The concept is very clear here, and for that, I am grateful. I am not grateful however, to the botched execution, which is aesthetically unpleasing to say the least.  All I could do is shake my head in disappointment when I saw this. For a film that I hope to own one day, the idea of having cover art like this in my collection is just depressing to me. How dare they disrupt the beauty of Lee Byung-hun’s perfect face!

4. Never Let Me Go
What is with the red-yellow hues all over the place? The original poster did not highlight the “it” star power, so they took Knightley, who is in a supporting role here, and plastered her in the foremost spot. Then they threw in Mulligan and Garfield for good measure. Finally, we are painfully reminded of the beauty of the original poster as it is unfairly crunched it in the corner to remind us that the image is not the Blu-ray cover art. For shame. One of my favorite films from last year, if I saw this in stores knowing nothing about it, I would not give it a second thought.

3. Groundhog Day
So I’ll just come right out and say it; Bill Murray looks like a bloated hamster here. He also looks like Joey Gladstone. A bloated hamster and Joey Gladstone. This is an atrocity. Seriously; what am I looking at? Those are not Bill Murray’s hands. That’s barely Bill Murray’s face. More work has been done to that face than I have seen on a Blu-ray cover. Then we have Andie MacDowell, (and you know how I feel about her) taking up way more space than she should, but at least her face looks somewhat acceptable. Murray’s does not. It’s actually slightly terrifying.

2. Minority Report
I ask this question yet again: what was the problem with the old cover? Tom Cruise has been airbrushed into oblivion. I feel like I am looking at a cover for a Russian war submarine film or something; something that is not science-fiction. What is with that font? Cruise’s face has taken over completely. Plus, there is no way his hand, which looks like a baby’s hand by the way, would line up that way.

1. Near Dark
Without a doubt, Near Dark is the worst Blu-ray cover in existence. The reasons are blatantly obvious. Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful horror film has been reconfigured for the Twilight trend. This is a film about vampires that never says the word ‘vampire’. Anyone who has seen it knows the two couldn’t be less related; in fact, even comparing them feels wrong. They are completely different beasts. This is the only cover that outright offends me. I won’t buy the Blu-ray because of it. It also helps that the 2-disc DVD edition has awesome packaging and converts so well on a Blu-ray player that buying this edition is unnecessary.


Top 30 Films of 2010 (#30-16)

Finally, we have reached my final 2010 list. It’s been really fun to dive into the year in film and come up with all sorts of stand out moments. There were many other films that stood out for me this year for a variety of reasons that did not make this list. Top 10 lists generally are not enough for me. It always seems like there is this groupthink that if a certain film fails to make a Top 10 list it’s a. somewhat unworthy in the list maker’s eyes (even if it isn’t) or b. an assumption that the person did not like a film missing from the 10. How many times has a cinephile reacted to a film with “it was really good, but it won’t make my Top 10 for the year”. A dismissal comes with that which I like to avoid. The same goes for this list of 30. Just because it did not make my list, does not mean I did not like it. I have seen 115 films from 2010 and I only disliked about 20 of them. Also, this is subjective. Obviously, I thought all of these films were quality, but it represents my favorites of the year, not what I think were the best. My list of the best would look extremely similar but would be ordered a bit differently. I’ve eliminated having separate favorite and best lists this year for the first time. They are similar enough to function as one. Anyways, I apologize for the at times incoherent and redundant rambling that comes before any list of mine; it’s a trait I cannot shake. Again, I still have not seen Another Year, Biutiful, Inside Job, The Illusionist, Made in Dagenham and more. After posting the final part of the list, I’ll have a list of all the films I saw from 2010. What were your favorite films of 2010?

30. Splice
Being a fan of Vincenzo Natali’s from Cube, this was one of the my more anticipated films of the year. It has aspects of sci-fi in its premise and cautious parable, but is more a character study of a family unit than anything else. Natali takes the time to establish the two leads, their relationship and their interactions with Dren and how it drastically changes over time. While the message of the film is really overt and the last ten minutes significantly detract from the film’s overall effect, Splice is still a refreshing and thoughtful sci-fi film from a gifted writer/director.

29. Mother
Bong Joon-ho’s latest characteristically balances multiple genres and tones with his usual ease. By placing an unlikely character in a situation we’ve often seen others in, the director and lead actress Kim Hye-ja (in a revelatory performance) are able to extract originality and macabre humor as well as touching solemnity from a crime revenge tale.

28. Secret Sunshine
This heartbreaking film about a woman who loses her son is exceptional for its lack of embellishment and sentimentality. The film clocks in at two and a half hours so that we get a real sense of Shin-ae’s relationship with her son as well as a sense of the very different phases she goes through following his death. Song Kang-ho provides dependably excellent support as a lovable goofy, creepy and humble car mechanic. He offsets Jeon Do-yeon’s emotionally naked performance perfectly.

27. Bluebeard
Catherine Breillat gives us a different take on the fairy tale that subverts both the lighthearted adaptations and the misguided but potentially fun trend of fairy tale “reimaginings”. Breillat digs deep at the sexual politics as well as the gruesome implications of Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” by coldly presenting the tale for what it is. It is deceptively simple and we are allowed to observe and ponder what is really at the heart of it. Breillat juxtaposes this with a parallel story of two young girls who are reading the tale in the attic which asks questions about the relationship and interpretation between fairy tales and the children who read them.

26. Exit Through the Gift Shop
The documentary that has taken 2010 by storm certainly lives up to its hype. Banksy’s is-it-real-or-fake doc is a hilarious send-up on the modern art world and beyond that, the modern cultural enthusiast of any kind. What starts out as an eccentric character study turns into an elaborate circus as Thierry Guetta misguidedly yet successfully tries to carve out his own identity in the art world. There are a lot of very broad and worthwhile questions being thrown at the viewer. We may not have definitive answers, but they are questions that have rarely been raised in cinema and certainly never in such an entertaining way.

25. True Grit
The Coen Brothers have made yet another winning feature with their adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel. They continue to write dialogue you can lose yourself in. They have such an exceptional understanding of their craft and the confidence this film exudes is well earned. Headlined by excellent performances, particularly from newcomer Steinfeld, the directors have managed to make a great Western that is surprisingly straight forward without losing their auteur touch.

24. White Material
This is a film I definitely plan on revisiting once it comes out on Criterion. The first Claire Denis film I’ve seen, this hypnotic work is boiling over with complexity and intrigue. It is the type of film that would only increase admiration with repeat viewings. The always enigmatic Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who refuses to acknowledge the civil war going on around her. Abandonment is not an option. In the meantime, her husband and son are facing problems of their own. This is a haunting film that you will not forget. The score by Stuart Staples, is by far one of the best scores of the year. Denis makes her film stunning to look at without ever for a moment making the issues she is exploring artificial.

23. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Pacing problems aside, this final tale in the Potter universe is filled with plenty of drama, death and hopelessness; and I ate up every second of it. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, it is easy to take for granted what this series has become and how serious it can take itself without ever seeming unjustified. It is giving us fans a well earned end and the art house sensibility that David Yates displays at times makes for refreshing execution. I cannot wait for Part 2, at which point the full extent of how well Part 1 holds up will be revealed.

22. Babies
I don’t plan on having babies. There also are no babies in my extended family right now. Everyone has grown up. So unless I want to be a creepy stranger that stares at babies or watch terrible reality shows where people have them, I don’t really get a chance to observe them. Others may not find the appeal of observing babies for an hour and a half but I certainly do. Getting rid of all the devices used in documentaries and allowing the various infants to the absolute center of attention was the right way to go. By showing us the different environments that children grow up, it becomes all the more clear that the babies themselves still see and interact in the same way, no matter where they are.

21. The Ghost Writer
A mystery story told with impeccable precision and effect. There’s nothing particularly profound about Polanski’s latest; it’s just entertaining through and through and shows just how well a story can be told. Olivia Williams and Alexandre Desplat’s score are stand outs. The ultimate selling point is the last minute which I won’t spoil, but it’s a doozy.

20. Please Give
This also marks the first film by Nicole Holofcener that I’ve seen. Holofcener knows how to write complex female characters that have original inner conflicts and arcs that are a welcome breath of fresh air. She actually gives her actresses something to do. They are not providing support for the man. They are not the leads in their own mundane and superficial romantic comedy. They are not the “girl”. They are human beings and this is a grossly overlooked and original work, despite the final scene which fails to hit the right notes the way the rest of the film does.

19. Somewhere
Sofia Coppola may not be breaking new ground here, but that does not mean her films are devoid of meaning or thoughtfulness. She has a lot to say and says it in a simple but very meaningful manner. She has impeccable intuition for capturing ennui with the length of her takes and her shot compositions. She can also create many insightful moments that add up to a solid work as opposed to merely being a collection of moments. The final scene is too obvious but it’s a minor complaint in an excellent film.

18. Mesrine: Killer Instinct
This first part of Mesrine headlined by Vincent Cassel is one hell of an entertaining gangster flick. Plenty of great action scenes buoyed by solid character work and hip direction by Jean-Francois Richet, Mesrine is a thrill ride that works well with its standard biopic structure.

17. The Fighter
This is a familiar story that excels from inventive direction, a script that is marvelously tailored to its specified environment and first-rate performances. We may know where it’s going but getting there is still stimulating. I didn’t expect much from this film despite the people involved. I was shocked that how much life David O. Russell injected into the film which directorial choices that stood out but did not distract.

16. The King’s Speech
The trend of ripping apart The King’s Speech for being an “Oscar” film is getting old. This was another film I had zero interest in. The trailer failed to impress me. I knew exactly what I was going to get going into it. When a film with all this going against it succeeds, why isn’t this seen as more of an accomplishment? Screenwriter David Seidler was able to tell two stories; one about a friendship between two men and one about a man tentatively taking his place at the throne. It is everything it wants to be and more. The high point is the chemistry between Firth and Rush which is phenomenal. Seeing their friendship blossom and overcome all is all kinds of life affirming. Tom Hooper is unfairly getting called out lately when his work here is exceptional. I’m simply not ashamed to like a predictable “Oscar” film. It deserves it’s praise and it won me over with its superb, rich and heartfelt storytelling.

Top 25 Film Performances of 2010

2010 boasted some particularly great performances and I am very excited to share what I think were the 25 that stood out the most. I’ll list 10-25 alphabetically and then list the top 10 alphabetically. It seemed odd to rank performances to such the extreme degree of “this performance was better than this and this was better than those two”. There were many many performances that left me moved, impressed and even in awe that failed to make this list. Who do you think gave the best performances this year?

10-25 (in alphabetical order)

Christian Bale – Dickie Eklund – The Fighter
Bale captures the mannerisms of the real Dickie as well as the push and pull between his own selfishness and the moments he becomes aware of himself and the damage he has caused.  Unfortunately, all the hype led to me from being aware I was watching a performance the entire time. While I was unable to lose myself in the performance, I was able to become lost in my admiration for it.  His upcoming Oscar won’t be undeserved though as this ranks among his best work.

Jim Carrey – Steven Russell – I Love You Phillip Morris
There are some that are going so far as to call this Carrey’s best work to date. I would not definitively go that far but this certainly is one of his best performances and marks a return to form for the actor. Phillip Morris could have easily become a one note hustler character. Carrey is able to infuse sincerity amidst all of the lies as well as balance memorable comedic moments, his underrated ability to deliver lines that bring so much more comedy to the dialogue and his dramatic chops which he shows off here as well. Carrey gets to do everything imaginable here and it pays off big time.

Lars Eidinger – Chris – Everyone Else
With this film and Blue Valentine, the two central performances should be counted as one as they are so dependent on each other. While co-star Birgit Minichmayr has the more eccentric role, it is the slowly emerging identity crisis within Chris that is the catalyst for the changed dynamic between the couple. The way he is able to show the audience what he is thinking without saying much is an accomplishment. His dynamic with Minichmayr is unlike anything I’ve seen in a film before with its authenticity.

Ryan Gosling – Dean – Blue Valentine
I found Gosling’s Dean to be more than a little annoying. His way of picking apart everything his wife says, his inability to either have a serious conversation or to shut up for one second got a bit grating. This is by no means a flaw in the film; bring on the unlikable characters I say. Gosling dives into his heavily improvised portrayal of Dean. By the film’s end, the audience knows Dean very well and the relationship and dynamic he constructs with Williams’ Cindy is to be greatly admired. He is able to insert an unexpected amount of humor into the film which lightens the load just enough.  The actor continues to give exciting and vital performances that solidify his already impressive career.

Rebecca Hall – Rebecca – Please Give
Hall’s best performance this year and to date came not from the Red Riding Trilogy or from The Town but from Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give (which has quite possibly the best ensemble acting from 2010). She plays Rebecca, a shy but very honest woman who has to contend with her selfish sister Mary and her greedy but well meaning neighbors Alex and Kate. Helped by a very strong script, she is given plenty to work with and a lot of time to allow us to see how her character lives in the world.

John Hawkes – Teardrop – Winter’s Bone
I opted for choosing Hawkes’ performance as the intimidating  Uncle Teardop over Jennifer Lawrence’s Ree. That alone should be a testament to how difficult this list was to do. I’ve been a Hawkes fan for a couple of years now and he transforms himself every time I see him. This is no different and his scenes have an electricity to them from his unpredictability. I truly hope that he get the Oscar nomination he deserves. He actually has a shot at one and hopefully will get his due.

Kim hye-ja – Mother – Mother
Thankfully getting the acclaim she deserves for her stellar work, Kim Hye-ja is infinitely watchable as the Mother whose unassuming earnestness greatly contrasts the story director Bong Joon-ho puts her in.

Katie Jarvis – Mia – Fish Tank
Jarvis, an unprofessional who director Andrea Arnold discovered by chance for the film gives a raw and natural performance as a hard edged girl growing up and navigating through a number of challenges, some of which she deals with in ill advised ways.

Julianne Moore – Jules – The Kids Are All Right
I opted for Moore’s performance over Bening’s also excellent work. Her performance in A Single Man last year was disappointing not because it was overwrought and miscast. Here she is magnificent as the child-like Jules. Her mannerisms, speech patterns and characterization go far beyond what other actresses would have most likely brought to it. It is subtle and effective work by an actress who is better than most when she hits all the right notes, as she does here.

Carey Mulligan – Cathy – Never Let Me Go
Choosing one performance from Mark Romanek’s intensely devastating mood piece was a toss up. Andrew Garfield and Keira Knighley arguably give their best work here as well. It’s Mulligan’s performance (her best) that struck me the most. Cathy has to deal with an unspoken crush and looming death all while being repressed from the environment the Halisham children grow up. She is able to express so much without saying anything.

Cillian Murphy – John/Emma Skillpa – Peacock
The year’s most underrated performance comes from a direct to DVD flop. Peacock is a film with a fascinating yet ridiculous premise that starts out well enough but crumbles with the entrance of Ellen Page’s character (all the script’s fault). Here is another career best performance making its way onto the list. It certainly functions a a piece of showcase acting. The question is will Murphy be good enough to get the audience to buy into what it want us to? The answer is yes. Murphy seamlessly depicts two separate personalities, giving each depth and showing a great deal of range. It is impossible not to admire the ambitious and successful acting at work.

Noomi Rapace – Lisbeth Salander – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
One of 2010’s most transformative pieces of acting. She is what holds this film together (I’m not the biggest fan of the way the novel was adapted. The word lifeless comes to mind). Rapace is Lisbeth Salander. She perfectly portrays the awkwardness of the character without losing her uncompromising edge. She is the reason I was weary about the Fincher adaptations. She is the definitive Salander. With Rooney Mara’s pic as Salander out though, I am officially on board. While everyone else whines about how Mara looks like an unattractive skeleton, I’ll be admiring how great she looks. Rapace will always be Salander, but at least Mara looks able to fill her shoes.

Ben Stiller – Roger Greenberg – Greenberg
Aah, the character and film that inspired so much hate from so many. The blind rage disillusioned some from seeing how strong Stiller is here. He succeeds in that he is unwilling to give the audience a break. He plays the character the way it was written and refuses to relate to the audience so they sympathize or care. The actor trusts and accepts that there will be people who care about the film and people who don’t. By staying true to the defense mechanisms of Greenberg, Stiller reminds us that he is capable of strong dramatic work and makes us wish he would do more.

Emma Stone – Olive – Easy A
There is no amount of sufficient praise that can do justice to Stone’s revelatory and starmaking performance as Olive. She took a film that was passable (certainly above average in the current state of teen films) and turned it into a highly entertaining showcase. Females are still being forced into stereotypical positions by comedy filmmakers. It is a significant problem as women are frequently allowed to have no fun in comedies. For Stone to show this kind of comedic instinct is astonishing. The only thing one can do is watch in awe at what she is able to create out of one measly line or how she can throw a facial expression in that you don’t expect.

Michelle Williams – Cindy – Blue Valentine
Cindy is a girl tuck in a situation with no easy solution. Williams balances the early scenes and later scenes with great skill. In the early scenes she cares for her grandmother and has hopes for her life and career. In the later scenes she is trapped, has clearly fallen out of love and can barely go through the motions. The later scenes are where the performance achieves greatness. She conveys being trapped (an emotion women are often asked to show) in a fresh and effective way. She makes us feel her helplessness. There is no right or easy choice and she knows it. Williams makes us understand all of this.

The Top 10 (in alphabetical order)

Jesse Eisenberg – Mark Zuckerberg – The Social Network
Seeing Eisenberg get this level of recognition is satisfying. This is an intimidating performance. His relentless and focused conviction, at times cruel defense mechanisms, deep insecurity and endless ambition are captured perfectly. It is shocking just how much of the tension found in The Social Network comes from Eisenberg’s performance.

Colin Firth – King George VI – The King’s Speech
Last year Firth gave a stunning performance in Tom Ford’s A Single Man. This year, he gives another equally impressive performance. The role is definitely meant to function as a showcase for the actor. It requires quite a bit from Firth. There are a lot of emotions to play; not only to convey King George’s speech impediment convincingly but to deal with the unwanted transition of becoming a king. Firth has so much to do and makes the film with his winning performance.

Jeon Do-yeon – Shin-ae – Secret Sunshine
Seeing the brutal events that hit Shin-ae’s life are nothing short of devastating to see. Jeon throws everything on the table for us to see and the result is a tough film to watch because of the authenticity. She won Best Actress at Cannes when the film premiered there in 2007.

Catherine Keener – Kate – Please Give

This might be Keener’s best work that I’ve seen. At the very least, it’s her best work since Being John Malkovich. Keener excels partly because the character she is given is so different than most of the film characters one comes across. Keener is being able to play a type of inner conflict rarely seen, mainly because it has nothing to do with a man and entirely to do with her own ideals. It is unfortunately not the type of character that comes along for women often and it must have been a treat for her to act in it (clearly, since she continually appears in Holofcener’s films).

Ben Mendelsohn – Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody – Animal Kingdom
Along with Please Give, the best ensemble acting came from this superb Australian thriller from David Michod. Including stellar work from others like Jacki Weaver (deserving every ounce of the acclaim she has received, Mendelsohn stands out amongst the rest in an underrated performance. His ‘Pope’ is terrifying and unpredictable and filled with layers that go undiscovered but are lurking throughout. Mendelsohn always makes sure we see that there is so much to his character we don’t see; so much being kept hidden. I feel like if this had been played by someone else, ‘Pope’ would have fit more into an archetype. Maybe he was always meant to be this eccentric, but Mendelsohn brings something very original to the film with this performance.

Giovanna Mezzogiorno – Ida Dalser – Vincere
Mezzogiorno’s performance is one of exhilarating extremes. Whether exuding pure eroticism in the early scenes or pure rage and desperation in others, Dalser is a woman punished for loving the wrong man. Mezzogiorno is a force of nature.

Birgit Minichmayr – Gitti – Everyone Else
Gitti is unknowingly selfish, caring, carefree, opinionated, childish and animalistic. Gitti is a lot of things and Minichmayr gives a performance that takes on a life of its own. While dependent on costar Lard Eidinger for an essential dynamic, Minichmayr has to contend with the dynamic change between the couple and goes through a range of emotions that are almost never spelled out for the audience. She conveys all of the ways she tries to reconcile Chris’ change by acceptance, subtle power plays, confrontation and manipulation brilliantly.

Natalie Portman – Nina Sayers – Black Swan
Another career best performance. What hasn’t been said about her work at this point? Everyone seems to be in consistent agreement about Portman’s work as the fragile, emotional and obsessive Nina. Like I said in my review, there is a lot of melodrama in Aronofsky’s latest and an actress not up to the task would have easily drowned in all of it. Portman anchors it and allows the film to reach its full potential in what is the year’s most intense performance.

Hailee Steinfeld – Mattie Ross – True Grit
Despite the appallingly unfair category fraud at work with Steinfeld’s clearly lead performance, it should not detract from just how good the young actress is. She has to carry the film among such actors as Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. We feel like we know Mattie by the end of True Grit and it becomes bittersweet to leave the theater because of her.

Tilda Swinton – Emma – I Am Love
She gave 2009’s best performance with Julia and she comes back again this year with possibly 2010’s best performance. Swinton and director Luca Guadagnino had been discussing and working through this film for over 10 years. She clearly knows her character inside and out and playing the repressed Russian wife lacking an identity in an Italian family is a delight to see. It does not get any better than Swinton when it comes to the craft of acting and the way she plays the realization of her attraction to Antonio and her decision to enter into an affair is as good as character work gets. Even the film’s detractors cannot help but praie Swinton’s work which is uniformly superb.