Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Standout Performances: February

Welcome to a new semi-regular feature here at Movies with Abe. A lot of great performances from the first half of the year are forgotten by the time Oscar movies roll out and awards season comes around. This feature is designed to pay tribute to those actors and actresses who have demonstrated excellence in movies that likely will not be remembered at the end of the year. Maybe praise like this can help. Each edition of Sunday Standout Performances will look at a different month, referencing my reviews of the films mentioned. Since we’re still playing catchup, here’s a look at February.

Tahar Rahim (A Prophet)

“Early on in the film, the intense nature of Malik’s situation is already present, and it’s fascinating to see the wheels spinning in this young man’s head. A major part of what makes ‘A Prophet’ so compelling is the lead performance by breakout star Tahar Rahim as Malik. It’s a remarkably subdued and simultaneously vivid portrayal, and permits the audience the opportunity to experience everything Malik goes through with the same seeming detachment and initial unresponsiveness as he exhibits.”

Dominic Chianese (The Last New Yorker)

“Dominic Chianese has certainly earned his reputation as a real New Yorker. He spent seven years battling with his onscreen nephew James Gandolfini for control of the New Jersey mob, and was one of the only people who could actually intimidate the burly Tony Soprano. In the new film from director Harvey Wang, the septuagenarian struts around New York City as if he owns the place. ‘The Last New Yorker’ is a tender film that showcases meaningful performances and a whimsical appreciation of old age and forgotten traditions.”

Shahir Kabaha & Ranin Karim (Ajami)

“‘Ajami’ is made extremely powerful by the use of non-professional actors to portray its characters, which helps to make the film feel even more real. With this kind of story, a sense of reality is extraordinarily important, and that’s perhaps its strongest asset. The ensemble is not focused on honing professional and polished performances but instead on getting to the roots of human tragedy, bigotry, and difficulties in coexistence, and all the actors do a marvelous job. Two members of the cast, Shahir Kabaha, who plays the hard-headed and brave Muslim Omar, and Ranin Karim, who plays his forbidden Christian love Hadir, turn in exceptionally terrific performances.”

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