Saturday, February 16, 2008

Best Cinematic Breakthrough, 2007


Ben Affleck [director, Gone Baby Gone] (93 points/14 votes)

"In 2006’s Hollywoodland, Ben Affleck memorably played the role of George Reeves, the ill-fated star of the fifties-era Superman series. In the film, Reeves skyrocketed to fame as Superman, but had a great deal more trouble casting the role aside in favor of more artistically-gratifying projects. At the time of the film’s release, it was easy to see the parallels between the role and the actor playing it- Affleck, best known for playing affable lunkheads, had for years been stuck in a string of goony comedies and ill-advised dramas that had sent his once-hot career into a free-fall. Could he- unlike Reeves- find a way to right his career again?

"Turns out that directing was the solution, and that Gone Baby Gone was his salvation. Admittedly, I approached the film with skepticism, and I was hardly the only one- I remember having to tell my friends that the film was directed by “yes, THAT Ben Affleck.” Much of the credit for the film’s greatness has been given to the cast (especially his brother Casey Affleck and awards magnet Amy Ryan) and to the original novel by Dennis Lehane. But Affleck’s contribution to the film’s success is worth noting. A native Bostonian himself, Affleck shows an instinctual feel for his setting, a grimy working-class corner of Boston full of fiercely proud people who protect their own. But more than this, Affleck calls into question many of the ideas our society takes for granted- the sanctity of the family, the importance of staying true to your roots, the mission of law enforcement “to serve and protect,” and the moral forthrightness of Morgan Freeman. By never shying away from the contradictions and moral entanglements of his story, Affleck has made the saddest entry in a year full of dark and despairing films, and in doing so challenges us to never again count him out." ~ Paul Clark

Runners-up:
Carice Van Houten [actor, Black Book] (42/6)
Casey Affleck [actor, The Assassination of Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone] (39/5)
Michael Cera [actor, Superbad and Juno] (28/5)
Josh Brolin [actor, Grindhouse and No Country for Old Men] (26/4)

Click here for complete results

4 comments:

Daniel G. said...

Ben did a fine job with GBG, but this award is only legitimate, in my opinion, if it goes to the other Affleck brother. Casey's Robert Ford was the performance of his lifetime. I didn't see Lonesome Jim, but to pretty much go from American Pie and Ocean's to his incredible turn in JJ is the definition of a breakthrough.

The other nominees are quite deserving, though. I'm surprised Bardem didn't make an appearance - his career, while great so far, will be defined by Anton Chigurh from this point on.

Nick Plowman said...

My vote, if I had one, would have gone for Casey. Ben Affleck made a good, albeit slightly restricted, directorial debut with GBG, that is the perfect stepping-stone for him to make something great, but Casey stole the show. His role as Robert Ford was too amazing for words, the kind of performance actors twice his age cannot achieve, and by far 2007s biggest breakthrough. Last year was very much a year filled with all kinds of cinematic “breakthroughs”, and in the end, Ben Affleck is not the most deserving, in my most humble opinion.

Paul C. said...

I suppose it all depends on how you define "breakthrough." All my nominees were based on one of two factors. Either the person wasn't on my radar at all and came out and blindsided me with awesomeness, or if the person was on my radar, I didn't know he would have this achievement in him. My top pick for this award- Carice Van Houten in Black Book- falls into the former category, and director Ben Affleck falls into the latter.

In this sense, I didn't put Casey on my ballot. He's been on my radar for years, and at least since I saw him in Gerry I've been aware of how talented an actor he is. So he wasn't the revelation for me that Van Houten or Ben or Luisa Williams in Day Night Day Night.

Of course, others will disagree. That's part of the reason why I kept the category definition vague. I think that's what keeps these awards interesting, and encourages debate among both those involved and those who are just watching.

Daniel G. said...

Wow you just blew my mind. I had utterly and completely blocked Gerry out of my memory, even though I saw it in the theater. Why hasn't that resurfaced?