5. Alexander Skarsgard - The Northman
The Northman was one of the earlier movie releases of 2022 and while I am not sure It will receive much attention at the Oscars this year, I want to take a moment to recognize the movie in this article. I know what your thinking and I get it, it’s a testosterone-injected hamlet that caters to the common toxic male. If you are thinking that right now, fuck you. I don’t care if you’re right or not, this film is a lot of fun, and seeing it in theaters for the first time was electric. The truth is, there is a lot to love about this film even if you don’t want to admit it. Robert Eggers does everything right in this film down to the smallest detail from true Viking lore, shot selection (a lot of this credit going to Jarin Blaschke, Eggers’s longtime cinematographer), and the narrative’s deviation from Hamlet and its other inspirations.
Perhaps Eggers’ best choice was his decision to bring on Alexander Skarsgard to play the lead role of Amleth, The Viking cub who grows into a vicious killing machine on a quest to avenge his father. I will say that the role of Amleth did not provide Skarsgard with an opportunity to showcase a multidimensional character and therefore I do not expect him to, nor do I believe he should win an academy award for his performance. Like his father Stellan who plays a menacing villain in every movie and his brother Bill who plays a creepy dude in every movie, Alexander Skarsgard does not showcase much range in this film. With that being said, Skarsgard does with Amleth what he does best: be a freak of nature. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches, he plays a more than convincing Viking who I can actually believe is capable of fucking up hoards of men on a path of revenge. In action scenes, his movement is smooth yet brutish and gritty due to his build. He walks around like a genuine animal searching for his prey which goes a long way in immersing the viewer into the vicious and romanticized reality of Viking combat that Eggers attempts to portray. When it comes to the slower, more dialogue-based scenes, Skarsgard still excels. We just watched him brutally kill ten men a minute ago and are still able to root for him because he plays such a convincing hero. His quest for revenge is one that we empathize with. I believe this is half due to Skarsgard’s performance and half due to Eggers’ fantastic storytelling. A scene that I felt highlighted Skarsgard’s acting ability was when he makes his final decision to leave Olga. The moment between Skarsgard and Anna Taylor Joy was fantastic. We are able to feel the emotional conflict in Almeth just as he does. All in all, while Skarsgard’s Amleth was not an overwhelmingly complex character in writing or product, Skarsgard was a perfect casting for this role, truly becoming The Northman.
4. Colin Farrel - Banshees of Insherin
Truth be told when does Colin Farrel not kill it. He is one of the best actors in the game at the moment and certainly one of my favorites. He has had an amazing 2022, first playing a picture-perfect rendition of The Penguin in The Batman and closing out the year teaming up with familiar partners in director Martin McDonagh and actor Brendan Gleason for Banshees of Insherin (I have not gotten around to seeing Thirteen Lives yet). This movie was truly a blast and it was right down Farrel’s alley. I could not wait to see this film after watching In Brouge for the first time earlier this year which may be one of the funniest movies I have seen to this date. While I did not end up enjoying it quite as much as In Brouge, Colin Farrel still proves perfect for McDonagh’s quick, witty, theater-style dialogue.
In the film, Farrel plays a character named Padraic who lives on the quiet island of Insherin and is in the process of a friend break up with his best and only friend Colm, played by Brendan Gleason. Farrel does a great job of creating an energetic, lovable character who we want to root for. What struck me the most about this is that Farrel creates this love almost all on his own. When looking at the character of Padraic on paper, there is really nothing to love about him. He is a man who doesn’t do much of anything except care for his animals and drink. In the film, Colm even tells him directly that he is dull. In reality, the character Padraic is quite dull but Farrel’s portrayal of him is the opposite, convincing the viewer that he deserves Colm’s friendship which fuels the narrative. Furthermore, like in In Brouge, Farrel and Gleason play off each other perfectly in this film. Padraic constantly pesters Colm attempting to rekindle their friendship which seems to have ended for no reason at all and Colm takes action to avoid him, some of which includes cutting off his fingers. While Farrel’s character spends most of the film pestering, the most emotional and telling scene is the final one in which Padraic says little to nothing. For what may be the first time in the film, Colm says the first word to Padraic and the change in character which is executed beautifully by Farrel tells us that he is done fighting and is ready to go his separate ways with Colm without saying it in a heartbreaking ending. Farrel’s performance in this film was the main factor in creating a realistic drama between two friends who are simply at different stages of their lives which is a concept that we don’t often see in films. I truly believe that we should see Farrel nominated for best actor at the Oscars for his work in this film.
3. Michelle Yeoh - Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once has received countless praise this year and rightly so. The film is fun, and emotional, and the visual effects are stunning. The Daniels are truly the filmmakers to look out for in Hollywood as they have exhibited immense creativity through this film and their debut feature film, Swiss Army Man. While the film is amazing it is probably my least favorite out of the movies mentioned on this list and my placement of Michelle Yeoh at number three is actually quite bias driven.
In the film, Michelle Yeoh plays an immigrant mother named Evelyn who struggles to keep her family and business afloat. Ultimately, she is pulled into a multidimensional journey to save her family and reality from her evil daughter who she fails to understand. I point out my bias in this review because the reason I loved Michelle Yeoh’s performance so much is that she vividly reminded me of my own mother who is an immigrant from Guyana. Yeoh does a fantastic job in this role, truly making us believe that she is stuck in her ways and does not understand the progressing world around her, especially her lesbian daughter. Her performance frustrated me, in the same way, I get frustrated with my own mother. In this way, I feel that while my take is full of bias, it is also quite universal at the same time. Yeoh gives us a character in Evelyn that almost everyone can relate to to some extent; a stubborn, unchangeable mother, immigrant or not. Furthermore, regardless of how much we are frustrated by our mothers we also love them unconditionally. Because Yeoh plays the motherly role so flawlessly, this love translates from us to Evelyn on the screen setting us up for some tear-jerking scenes towards the end of the film, especially when Evelyn and her daughter Joy fight towards a giant bagel (if you haven’t seen the movie yet, trust me the bagel makes sense). The film is truly magical it is amazing to see a true representation of the struggles and disconnect between generational, immigrant families. The weight of which is driven home largely by Yeoh’s performance.
2. Everyone - Triangle of Sadness
This will be a quick one because I can’t quite pin down a single actor who is responsible for the absurd hilariousness of this movie but my god, the ensemble cast that Ruben Ostlund put together for this film was fantastic. Triangle of Sadness as a whole follows the characters Yaya played by the late Charlbi Kriek and her boyfriend Carl played by Harris Dickinson as they embark on a cruise (rest in peace to Charlbi Kriek, she was fantastic in this movie and passed way to young). The film evaluates the lines between rich and poor as their boat is hijacked by pirates and Yaya and Carl are stranded on an island with the ship’s passengers and crew.
Despite the film focusing on Carl and Yaya at the beginning, by the end of it, there is no real main character. Like all other Ruben Ostlund films that I have seen, the dialogue between the characters and the action in the film is extremely realistic. Ostlund allows his characters to tread the line of what is truly possible in real life making his films feel almost absurd to us. In Triangle of Sadness, each one of his characters have very real discussions that are embarrassingly funny until you realize that these are the same conversations we have every day and we sound just as silly. At the beginning of the film, Yaya and Carl argue for almost twenty minutes about Yaya not picking up the check at dinner, raising questions about social standards for men and women. On the boat, the rich men and women who aren’t used to the tough seas throw up and shit themselves one night while the captain of the ship, played by Woody Harrelson, and a Russian manure dealer, played by Zlatko Buric, argue about economic ideologies over the intercom. Stranded on the Island, the ship cleaning lady Abigail, played by Dolly De Leon, takes control of the group and pays Carl for sex in pretzels. Among many more outlandish conversations and situations, Ostlund’s narrative allows for an extremely character-driven story in which every single actor shines with their own unique personality. I truly cannot recommend the film more and I believe that many of these actors deserve lead roles in the future.
1. Brendan Fraser - The Whale
The Whale has been all the film community has talked about for the last several months and on its release, it did not disappoint. With this film, Darren Aranovsky solidifies himself as one of today's most daring and prolific directors, somehow creating an extremely well-rounded and beautiful film with one set and an extremely small cast.
The Whale follows a teacher named Charlie, played by Brendan Fraser, during his last week of life who has undergone serious weight gain after his boyfriend committed suicide. Charlie’s character has grown to 600 pounds during the film and it has been noted that Brendan Fraser gained 300 pounds himself for the role. His sheer commitment to the role alone is enough to wow anyone and seeing him in the first act is shocking. His weight gain combined with prosthetics makes for a convincing and rather revolting character. Fraser’s character was not only pure spectacle however, unlike his most known performances in the Mummy films as daring Rick O’Conner, the character Charlie has much more depth to him allowing Fraser’s true talent to shine. Fraser’s take on the character is endearing and almost innocent even though the opposite is shown in the opening scenes, through his will to die even though he has the money to save himself, and his abandonment of his family. Fraser is able to accurately depict a character who is clearly flawed and has made mistakes in his life but wishes to genuinely make amends for them. One of the most telling scenes in terms of the narrative comes when Charlie has his final conversation with the missionary, Thomas, who claims that it was a sin that Charlie and his late boyfriend loved each other. Charlie’s reaction at this moment is not directly hostile and Fraser does an amazing job showing a deeper level of Charlie’s character without saying it; at the end of the day, Charlie can not live with the idea that it is a sin to love someone. While the film did have some slower moments, the last scene might have been the fucking saddest and most beautiful piece of Cinema I’ve ever seen. Fraser’s 600 lb Charlie, like a baby taking his first steps, walks on his own for the first time in the film to give his daughter a hug before he dies in a fantastic ending to a beautiful movie. I don’t know if it’s just the hype, the holy shit Brendan Fraser is back even though he was never really here in the first place, or the holy shit Brendan Fraser is 600 lbs. Whatever it is, I’m on board, and if I had it my way Fraser would win an academy award for this performance without a question.
Also quite unrelated but Hong Chau as Liz, Charlie’s nurse friend, was a great supporting character and I believe she deserves some recognition as a supporting actress.
Written by Brian Chander