7 Performers Who Made Us Change Our Minds This Year...Damn Them
Olivia Munn--Magic Mike, "The Newsroom": Olivia Munn, fake nerd girl and unfunny "Daily Show" correspondent was completely, utterly and without question fine in Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike. She showed range (as well as her rack) and even sparked some genuine laughter with her unwanted advances towards a female co-star. But, even worse, Munn is flat-out great in "The Newsroom." Sorkin's show (which I love, because it's Sorkin) may have some problems. I really, really wish Allison Pill's character would stop running into things. But Olivia Munn's Sloan Sabbith is not the problem. In fact, her performance is warm, funny and fully realized. Goddamnit.
Anne Hathaway--The Dark Knight Rises, that damn trailer for Les Miserables: Hathaway's career has been a rather bumpy one. She's fallen in and out of favor multiple times. Much of the critical acclaim she reaped with Rachel Getting Married was squandered with limp efforts like Valentine's Day, Love and Other Drugs and One Day. (Not to mention her distressingly earnest hosting gig at The Oscars.) When The Internet heard she had been cast as Catwoman, the mock and droll ensued. When they first got a glimpse of her cat ear goggles, The Internet damn near exploded. But lo and behold, Hathaway grinned, pouted and high-kicked her way into our hearts with her scrappy take on Selina Kyle. She was, essentially, the only part of the movie that wasn't picked apart. Hell, even the ears worked. Couple that with Hathaway's heart ripping rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" in the Les Miserables trailer and I'd say Annie's back on top. I know several people who have watched that trailer in tears based on Hathaway's warble alone. With any luck, her next trip to The Oscars will be much more rewarding.
Channing Tatum--Haywire, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike: Ahhhh, Charming Potato aka C. Tates aka Holy Hell This Guy Is Actually Kind Of Awesome. Tatum ended last year with a solid supporting role in Soderbergh's Haywire. I didn't get nearly as much joy out of his pummeling as I thought I might. He followed that up with an utterly disarming turn in 21 Jump Street and then somehow, somehow pulled off a stripper movie based on his own experience as male exotic dancer. If you haven't seen Magic Mike, let me assure you that (barring one weirdly improvised scene) Tatum is great. His dance moves are extraordinary (I may have to watch his entire dance backlist now) and his acting is naturalistic and affecting. You can still call him a Charming Potato if you like, but the emphasis better be on "charming."
Seth MacFarlane--Ted: We adore mocking MacFarlane around these parts. While "Family Guy" held a lot of joy during its first run, the schtick has quickly worn thin and its various spin-offs are no more original. That being said, damnit, MacFarlane somehow made a great movie this year. And it's about a talking bear. DAMNIT. To see just how much it hurts us to heap praise on MacFarlane, check out Dustin's full review.
Claire Danes--"Homeland": Danes was much beloved for her portrayal of quintessential 90s teen, Angela Chase in "My So-Called Life." And, despite consistently fine performances and a few great ones (Stardust...TEMPLE GRANDIN!), Danes has long been overshadowed by her scandalous affair with her Stage Beauty co-star Billy Crudup. (Sordid details here.) Personally I don't give a crap about someone's personal life and I've always enjoyed Danes, but it's been my experience that any praise for her has been tempered by that stupid "homewrecker" label. Which is oddly and obnoxiously Hester Prynne-ish. Anyway, Danes' performance in 2011's "Homeland" (as, ahem, a bit of a homewrecker") was so balls-out phenomenal that, if you were fortunate enough to see it, must surely have silenced any and all concerns about her personal life. So this one isn't exactly a "damnit" entry. This is more of a "f*ck yeah, Claire Danes" moment. Homeland Season 2 starts at the end of September. It's not too late to catch up.
Scarlett Johansson--The Avengers: Oh. Oh Scarlett. Loved you in Ghost World. But somewhere along the way, Scarlett Johansson the actress was eclipsed by ScarJo the Hollywood starlet. I'll be the first to admit that I've sold her short for years. My apologies. I apologize for all the jokes. Because, damn me, she was fantastic in The Avengers. Granted, director Joss Whedon is preternaturally gifted when it comes to pulling out solid performances from lightweight actresses, but Johansson completely won me over. Bring on more Natasha. Hell, give The Black Widow her own damn franchise. I'll be there.
And the one who got away...
Taylor Kitsch--John Carter, Battleship, Savages: Oh, Tim Riggins. You got me. You seduced me with your greasy locks and solemn, brutish, broodyness. But the Heathcliff of Dillon, Texas hasn't fared so well in his big screen adventures. Two alien movies in one year, buddy? Really? I've already written about how I wished he had been better. Timmy, here's hoping you wind up on one the top half of one of these lists a few years from now. We'll forget 2012 ever happened.