Considering the socio-political climate of Hollywood over the last six months, male actors seem to be in boiling water, even more so when people start to confuse politics and social statements with art as a form. Needless to say, a handful of actors have proven their worth, giving female actors (who, in my opinion, dominated 2017) a run for their money. Narrowing them down to a list of 15 seemed like a crazy task, as so many talents, both veterans and newcomers, gave us iconic and memorable performances last year.
READ MORE: Oscars 2018 List of Winners
As part of my annual tradition, here are my top 15 favorite male performances of 2017:
15. Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly in I, Tonya
Sebastian Stan had the almost-impossible task of sharing the ring of fire between the knockout performance of Margot Robbie, and of course, the incomparable Allison Janney. Yet, he has managed to create a light on his own without relying on two other strong performances. For someone as fiery as Tonya Harding’s character, he has managed to tame her down without completely dwindling her light — a rare talent for an actor to brew his own character’s identity while profiling the other. Another underrated performance of 2017.
14. JC Santos as Fidel Lansangan in 100 Tula Para Kay Stella
Anyone who has undergone through that awkward, young adult phase, whose hearts were once broken, and whose identities were trapped in a cycle of endless crisis (basically, everyone), will be able to feel, sympathize and hope with JC Santos’ portrayal of Fidel Lansangan in 100 Tula Para Kay Stella. Regardless of the story’s specificity, Santos delivered a universal performance — vulnerable enough to make you cry with him, yet strong enough to make you root for him. He has set the film’s tone perfectly through the phases his character goes.
13. James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist
For someone who suffered the backlash from a series of alleged sexual harassment claims, James Franco definitely did not get the due recognition he got for his portrayal as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. The number one rule in comedy: never try to be funny, and that’s exactly the greatest thing about this performance — he is ridiculously hilarious as he tries to act as serious as his character can be. His commitment to this other-worldly character is world class, and only a brave actor who’ll simply do anything for art’s sake can pull off this kind of performance.
12. Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas in Good Time
Now, here’s an actor who suffered from the young-adult-franchise-effect. After the Twilight phenomenon, it’s really quite difficult to unsee Robert Pattinson as an actor beyond that vampire character. But I’ve always known that he is a great talent, with a masterful skill in shifting to a variety of roles (not to mention, pulling off impeccable accents). His works in Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars are unsung testaments of his abilities. It is with a small film called Good Time where we an truly see Pattinson’s crazy ability to commit to an unorthodox character. He is raw, deranged and practically on point in every way.
11. Michael Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman in Call Me By Your Name
It is very rare for actors to make a resonating impression amidst very short screentime. Michael Stuhlbarg surely did. His rich, heartfelt monologue by the end of the film is so good, it could easily be a short film on its own. Sure, it’s good writing, but everything is in his eyes, and every vowel his mouth makes — you could immediately feel the history and layers of his character. For him to give us everything in sublime subtlety in less than 5 minutes is beyond human to me.
READ MORE: Top 15 Best Female Film Performances of 2017
10. Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan in Mudbound
The trickiest part of working in a cast ensemble film is to standout whilst complementing the entire tree of characters around you. Garrett Hedlund did just that, juggling a rollercoaster of emotions, from post-traumatic stress, anger, insecurity, and defeat, he gives the best performance in that film. Playing a knockout foil character to the story’s prime subjects, he truly is the unsung hero of Mudbound.
9. Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland in The Shape of Water
I have hailed Sally Hawkins’ performance in The Shape of Water as the best by any female actor of 2017. For one to pull off such riveting performance, one needs an equally excellent counterpart. Michael Shannon’s performance in The Shape of Water is so crazy good, he’s made another performance outstanding. I don’t think I have gotten over his Oscar snub yet (he at least deserved a nomination), but the evil deeds of Richard Strickland will eternally be stamped as one of the best villains in the universe of Guillermo Del Toro.
8. Sam Rockwell as Jason Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
From his breakout performance in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, to films that anyone hardly saw, like Snow Angel, Moon, and Seven Psychopaths, all the way to his biggest break as Jason Dixon in Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which finally gave him the Oscar, Sam Rockwell surely is one of the most overdue actors in Hollywood to receive prestigious recognition for their raw talent and love for craft. His performance in 3B represented a sociopolitical statement about racism and abuse of authority. Rockwell had the big responsibility of immortalizing something relevant to our current world into art, and he nailed it to the tee.
7. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/Logan in Logan
Performances based from comic book series are very rarely recognized in the acting guilds. Theoretically speaking, this is due, in large part, to superheroes being unable to fully penetrate to the core of audience’s hearts other than the obvious excitement and thrills these films bring. Not for Jackman in the X-Men series, most especially in James Mangold’s exceptionally written Logan, where he brought humanity and grit to this two-decade long beloved superhero. He literally humanized an immortal through his sensitive yet vulnerable performance — something that is very rare to performances of this genre. He perfectly ended Logan’s journey in the X-Men universe with a heartfelt, grounded, yet nothing short of thrilling performance.
6. Josh O’Connor as Johnny Saxby in God’s Own Country
I know what you’re thinking — who’s this guy? Josh O’Connor literally came out of nowhere, and caught the British independent cinema by surprise with his incredibly powerful performance as Johnny Saxby in God’s Own Country, which got him a BAFTA Rising Star Award nomination. O’Connor plays a homosexual teenager, yet, it’s a different kind of sexuality we seldom see on screen. It leans more in the less-hopeless-romantic, more-repressed kind of portrayal, which is uncannily similar to the commitment of Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. I am more than excited to see the rest of his career unravel.
5. Joshua Garcia as Caloy in Love You To The Stars and Back
The film is a Joshua Garcia show. For a newcomer, it’s almost unbelievable to see how he transforms on screen, on different personas with different emotions: from the happy-go-lucky guy, to the suave romantic, to the desperate abandoned son, to the helplessly ill — everything is just seamlessly embodied into one humane character, with absolutely no vanity of any sort. He simply disappears as Caloy on film. Perhaps, one of the greatest performances delivered by a male actor on Philippine cinema.
4. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out
The breakthrough performance of the year by any actor, male or female. It’s an immense pleasure watching Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out, because you know that you’re watching a instant classic performance unfolding right in front of you. He surely did benefit from the director’s introduction to a brand new genre of horror (social thriller), and of course, how it was timely released in a relevant period where supremacists still go crazy for racial oppression, the same way how Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia became an instant classic as it was released in a time when AIDS was an epidemic. Nevertheless, social and political statements aside, Get Out can easily be released in the 1950s, I’d still hail this performance as a freakishly good force of nature that’ll be remembered for the rest of time.
3. EA Guzman as Mark in Deadma Walking
EA Guzman is a firecracker. He is a complete breakthrough, almost as if the film was intentionally made to show off his brilliant comedic versatility and dramatic chops. A scene stealer, he manages to give a luminous performance in a film about death and grief, and it never felt condescending or strange to the theme. Three things worked for him: Julius Alfonso’s assertive direction, Eric Cabahug’s full-bodied screenplay, and needless to say, his ability to completely lose himself in the character’s shoes. One of the most memorable performances of 2017.
2. Timothee Chalamet as Elio in Call Me By Your Name
Timothee Chalamet’s performance as Elio in Call Me By Your Name is so perfectly tuned in the threshold of the film’s melancholic atmosphere. He wasn’t even acting at all. It felt like a poetic and existential method of immersing into someone else’s reality with the most brilliant subtlety and effortlessness. There’s a hundred layers to his performance — a great deal of it is what his character represses; a part of it is what his character uses as a facade; and a part of it is what his truth is. What he has achieved here is a beautiful embodiment that’s rich in wit, sarcasm, sentimentality, and honesty. It’s pure artistic perfection.
1. Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour
20 minutes in watching the film, I already knew that the Oscar was his. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best male performance of 2017. Given the theme, the character and the period, this performance could easily go meh and be categorized as a dull and cartoonish attempt to make a biopic. But, never for Gary Oldman, whose capability to shape shift into someone else since the beginning of his career is otherworldly. Fun fact: his performance is surprisingly hilarious, too. To put it in a nutshell, Now Academy Award winner Gary Oldman brought Winston Churchill back to life, almost literally.