2011 BAM Award Winners- Acting Categories

Posted on January 4, 2012


Best Cast

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo
Super 8

Toast



War Horse


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

First, in last year’s awards I had a split between Best Cast and Youth Ensemble. This year I do as well. This year I came up with a much simpler explanation to answer the inevitable question: “How can that be?” The simplest way to explain it would be sports and from there if you need to I think you can find similar comparisons. Best Cast is the best team overall which takes into account depth and how skilled your star players are and whatnot. Youth Ensemble is a section of the cast judged individually on its own merits. Therefore one team can be considered the best while another has the best defense or bullpen any specialized section you prefer fits.

So the Best Cast from top to bottom is that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 not to get anal retentive about documenting rounds and cut downs but this cast literally inundated the last few rounds of the Supporting Actor and Actress race. However, as you will see, just as the last film was a showcase for Radcliffe, Watson and Grint this one was essentially about one man more than any other.

However, that didn’t preclude this film from having the highest incidence of one-scene wonders in the series. Nearly countless are the tense, brilliant and all too fleeting appearances in this film. Some appear in the series for the first time but all appear in the series for the last time and that and many more are the reason Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 earns this trophy ahead of the other very worthy assemblages of talent.

Best Actress

Elizabeth Olsen and Sarah Paulson in Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight)

Bérénice Bejo The Artist

Elizabeth Olsen Martha Marcy May Marlene

Carey Mulligan Drive

Micaela Ramazzotti The First Beautiful Thing

Jeong-hin Yin Poetry


Quite simply you had storytellers this year. These ladies all helped make their films but one did so more than any other and that is Elizabeth Olsen. She tells the story of this film with her face and her expressions perhaps even more so than with what she says or does. I’m not waxing poetic with that statement it’s quite simply true. In a narrative that’s intricately structured and is not told chronologically for it to even have a chance to work she had to be this brilliant and what’s more amazing is that she is.

Best Actor

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter (Sony Pictures Classics)

Matt Damon We Bought a Zoo

Jean Dujardin The Artist

Wagner Moura Tropa de Elite 2
Brad Pitt The Tree of Life


David Rasch Olhos Azuis


Michael Shannon Take Shelter

One need not look much further than the write-up of Take Shelter in my Best Films of 2011 list to see why Shannon won. Allow me to further state that when terms like mesmerizing, magnetic and electric come to mind then it’s a no-brainer. A man teetering on the edge of sanity who is unsure of reality is a role that many could take over-the-top or make mawkish. The more Shannon doubts himself and fears for himself the more we do and that is quite a feat.

Best Supporting Actress

Anjelica Huston in 50/50 (Summit)

Anjelica Huston 50/50

Claudia Pandolfi The First Beautiful Thing

Sarah Paulson Martha Marcy May Marlene

Stefania Sandrelli The First Beautiful Thing

Octavia Spencer The Help


There were two performances this year wherein impact truly far outweighed screen-time. The first was Bill Milner’s appearance in X- Men: First Class as Young Erik which earned him a nomination also but the other is the honoree here. Anjelica Huston appears in 50/50 sporadically but each time she arrives she in her tension and emotion that she’s trying to contain adds to the gravitas of a film that is trying to be as light as it can which is delicate when cancer is involved. It would be easy to turn an over-protective and overly-worried mother into a cliché but she finds a depth to this person that helps ground the film. It was a pleasant surprise to see her on the screen for the first time in I don’t know how long but it was more pleasing to see her in such great form.

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Rickman in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

Ben Kingsley Hugo

Christopher Plummer Beginners

John C. Reilly Terri

Alan Rickman Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Irandhir Santos Tropa de Elite 2

I am not one for bestowing an annual honor upon someone in lieu of an honorary achievement. Much like the first part of the conclusion was a showcase for the ability of the heroic triad’s acting chops here it is Alan Rickman who muscles through and makes his presence felt more than any other. While it’s true that in my estimation the achievement of Rickman to play scenes wherein many interpretations could be drawn and things were vaguely foreshadowed for eight films is without precedent. The only viable comparison is that Olivia Williams in The Sixth Sense had to play all her scenes with Bruce Willis such that they worked two different ways, once when the audience was fooled and again when all was known. Now imagine doing that eight times. That’s what Rickman did but he did so more brilliantly and evoking more emotion in this one than in any other film prior. Therefore while it is the last of the Potter films this is most certainly an earned achievement.

Best Youth Ensemble

Zach Mills, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney and Gabriel Basso in Super 8 (Paramount)

Chinmai Chandrashuh, Vedant Desai, Devji Handa, Rohan Grover, Naman Jain, Ifran Khan, Aarav Khanna, Shriya Sharma and Sanath Menon Chillar Party

Ellie Darcey-Alden, Ariella Paradise, Benedict Clarke, Alfie McIlwain, Rohan Gotobed, Arthur Bowen, Daphne de Beisetgui, Will Dunn, Jade Gordon, Bertie Gilbert, Helena Barlow and Ryan Turner Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gulliver Mcgrath, Shaun Aylward and Ed Sanders Hugo

Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan and Hunter McCracken The Tree of Life

Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Elle Fanning Super 8

Writing a review close to the viewing of a film can be a blessing or a curse. Some films take digesting. For example, I needed to see Artificial Intelligence: A. I. three times in a weekend before I knew what my read was and I could start to vocalize my opinion properly. The inverse would be that you can instantly come out with a proclamation that you need to verify upon revisiting the film or that you eventually do not feel as strongly about as you did initially.

Such is not the case with Super 8 and its core players. I believe in the initial review I wrote something to the effect of that this is the best, most talented and most naturally amicable core of young actors I’d seen since Stand by Me and each subsequent viewing of the film has not shaken that belief instead it has solidified it. For those keeping track Stand by Me and Super 8 are separated by 25 years so when a new film earns that kind of comparison it’s well on its way to becoming a classic in due course whether it is hailed with the confusing “instant classic” label or not.

The brilliant and naturalistic nature of this ensemble’s work is sealed in the clandestine diner conversation wherein in several topics are discussed at once, put-downs are exchanged and conversation flows so naturally it feels almost as if it’s real life and not a film.

Certainly all these actors all have big futures but what they create here together is something truly special which they are blessed to have experienced and to recreate anything like in another project would be near miraculous.

As a footnote, when assembling the youth categories this year I was again thankful for The White Ribbon because had it not been for that film and its incredible nucleus, and cast as a whole, the epiphany of parity in the acting awards for youths and of age performers would not have occurred to me for some time.

Best Performance by a Child Actress in a Leading Role

Elle Fanning in Super 8 (Paramount)

Elle Fanning Super 8
Bailee Madison Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Chloë Grace Moretz Hugo

AnnaSophia Robb Soul Surfer

Saoirse Ronan Hanna

When I decided to work towards parity in these categories last year it was on the fly. I realized one or two really deserving performers and performances would be left out of the process merely based on the fact that their role was too small. Due to the fact that it was unexpected the best I was able to do at the time was to split the categories into male/female regardless of the size of the role. As I started collecting data for 2011 I started to stratify information. Thus, I gauged whether I could deem a youth participation as a lead or co-lead or purely supporting. Even giving myself this leeway I was concerned that there would be insufficient candidates in the female categories.

If you check the BAM Considerations you’ll see that not unlike adult parts there is more demand for young men than young ladies in film. It’s an age old issue wherein the supply and demand is disproportionate. I was aware of this fact, however, I held my breath and hoped this disparity would not affect the field. It surely didn’t.

While the number of eligible leads was low the quality was high. Furthermore, when dividing the cast into youth and adult the equation of lead and supporting can change. It also made me realize it’s not only screen-time that makes a lead.

Elle Fanning’s impact in Super 8 is massive. She is the girl in the boys’ club, she is the love interest not only that she is sought after by more than one of the guys so her disappearance has less negative impact on her lead status than most. She’s wise beyond her years, jaded, she plays older, she plays a great zombie and a brilliant “unfilmed” scene wherein you see how and why the boys fall in love with her. A lot of the film hinges on her and she more than holds up her own she helps carry it.

Best Performance by a Child Actor in a Leading Role

Joel Courtney in Super 8 (Paramount)

Cayden Boyd Fireflies in the Garden

Asa Butterfield Hugo

Joel Courtney Super 8

Dakota Goyo Real Steel

William Jøhnk Nielsen In a Better World

Hunter McCracken The Tree of Life

There was no category I dreaded deciding, whether for nominations or for a winner, more than this one. As I was whittling down the field I looked at the last 10 that I had and literally could’ve nominated them all. Again it seems like serendipity that in the first year I expand the acting categories all the fields are very strong. This is likely the strongest I’ve seen. Had I not split by gender and type of role it would’ve been incredibly unfair.

To give all these lead their due allow me to quickly comment on them: Hunter McCracken and Cayden Boyd are in similar situations in that their performances are long removed from the releases of their respective films. Boyd’s film was in the can, McCracken’s was in the edit. Hopefully Boyd transitions to older roles well as he has the talent and has reached that age and hopefully McCracken gets new opportunities should he want them after the long edit process in The Tree of Life. William Jøhnk Nielsen has perhaps the most impressive “simmer” of these actors. He has a lot of anger and frustration to play and he has to work up to a boil frequently. It’s a different kind of emotion than most of these actors had to work which is why this is one of the few categories I decided to expand this category to six nominees, which was unprecedented until this year in three instances.

Dakota Goyo was a great surprise in Real Steel not so much in the fact that he was able to steal scenes but in as much as he did it in almost every way possible. He had slightly less screen-time than Hugh Jackman I think but both in significance and performance made himself of equal importance. He added comedy, drama and heart, ultimately humanizing a film which wanted you to look past it facade.

Asa Butterfield had the unenviable task of playing a character I had expectations for in a story I knew. Even based on his previous two lead performances in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Nanny McPhee Returns I was amazed by him here despite the fact that I expected greatness. With his being cast in Ender’s Game on the heels of Hugo there’s a chance he’ll put together and unapproachable record as a young actor and proceed from there.

As I stated prior though this isn’t a cumulative award. The ensemble work in Super 8 is brilliant as stated above but they also split off and the common factor in the smaller groups is Joe Lamb plus one or a few of his friends, or his dad and Joe Lamb is Joel Courtney and vice versa. Joel not only worked with various scene partner permutations but with various notes and emotions. If you think of a kind of conversation a kid can hold in a film he likely had one and it was apt to be one of the best examples of the year: the diner speculation, the late night talk with Alice, the fight with his father, the fake movie dialogue, etc. Not only is he natural in all these situations but effective and makes the movie work.

This is a film about kids, Joe specifically, that is told through the guise of a sci-fi tale and for it to work the performance has to be strong. The performance is brilliant therefore the film achieves greatness.

Best Performance by a Child Actress in a Supporting Role

Elle Fanning in We Bought a Zoo (20th Century Fox)


Landry Bender The Sitter


Celine Buckens War Horse

Olivia Crocicchia Terri
Elle Fanning We Bought a Zoo

Joey King Battle: Los Angeles

Giving someone two nominations let alone two wins is not a decision that should be taken lightly. However, it is also not a reason to begrudge someone an awards they clearly deserve. It’s also not something you should do simply because a performer does the opposite of what you expect. Yet when the performer not only earns it and plays that opposite character just as well if not better than it has been earned no matter how that may be interpreted. She is funny, genuine, sweet and garners your sympathy in very little screen time here. A well-deserved double.

Best Performance by a Child Actor in a Supporting Role

Ryan Lee in Super 8 (Paramount)

Chase Ellison Fireflies in the Garden

Colin Ford We Bought a Zoo

Ryan Lee Super 8
Bill Milner X-Men: First Class

Bridger Zadina Terri

“Excuse me, could we have another order of fries, my friend here is fat?”

As strange as it may sound this was likely the pivotal line in making up my mind of a few things: first, that my associating Super 8 and Stand by Me was not, is not and will never be insane so far as the interaction of the cast and second that Ryan Lee flat out knows what’s funny, understands comedic timing and how to deliver a line such that he achieves the most impact. It may be an innate knowledge but it’s knowledge nonetheless. Just think of some the best punchlines of the film:

“I made those M-80s myself…Yeah, that’s right!”

“Wait…What?”

“There’s no talking in the silent reading area, it’s for silent reading.”

“I hope my electronic football is in there.”

However funny these are or are not to you may vary but if you’ve seen the film you know they are much funnier in context and due to the delivery than they are just on the page. So that plus the fact that out of everyone of Joe’s friends Lee hangs in there longest are why he wins. Comedy is hard at any age but when it’s easy for someone that’s special.

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Posted in: BAM Awards