2022: The Year of Hong Chau

My Year Of posts focused on six performers who gave audiences a memorable 2022 culminates with what I’ll consider the Utility Player prize. This goes to a character actor who improves the viewing experience of the projects they’re in. We could coin it the Patricia Clarkson or J.T. Walsh Award.

This year, I’m giving it to Hong Chau. Five years ago, she received Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for her supporting part in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing. An Oscar nod was expected to follow, but didn’t materialize.

In the half decade since, she’s been seen more in small screen material. That changed in ’22 with two critically heralded roles in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale and Mark Mylod’s The Menu. For the former, her Liz (caretaker and confidant to Brendan Fraser’s lead) could mark Chau’s first Academy recognition. For the latter, her Elsa (second in command to the sadistic chef played by Ralph Fiennes) was a highlight in a terrific cast.

At the Cannes Film Festival in May, another Chau performance received acclaim. Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up features her with Michelle Williams in a dramedy that sports a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score. It’ll be released stateside in 2023. So will Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City where she’ll be part of his typical impressive ensemble that includes Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Margot Robbie, Edward Norton, and many more. Chau is also cast in Yorgos Lanthimos’s And with Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, and Margaret Qualley.

Among all those well-known filmmakers and stars, Chau stands out and earns a final slot in the Year Of write-ups.

2022: The Year of Austin Butler

My six-part series of performers who had a lot shaking at multiplexes continues with Austin Butler. Like previous subject Jenna Ortega, he first gained recognition in small screen CW fare such as The Carrie Diaries. By 2019, he was turning up in a smallish role for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

This year, he broke out in a massive way as the title character in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic. Critics and audiences immediately lavished praised for his embodiment of the legend. In addition to its $151 million domestic haul, Butler can already claim Golden Globe and Critics Choice Best Actor nods. The Academy will surely follow suit and he’s a threat to take gold (along with Brendan Fraser in The Whale and Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin).

Butler closed out the year hosting SNL with a heartfelt monologue honoring his late mother. He’ll be seen in the Dune sequel in 2023 as well as The Bikeriders with Tom Hardy and Jodie Comer.

Going from a relative unknown to a headliner in 2022… Butler did it. My Year Of posts will culminate with a character actor with a lot on her ’22 menu…

2022: The Year of Jenna Ortega

My posts covering actors who had an impactful 2022 continues with a new Scream Queen.

Before we get to her, I came close to giving Jamie Lee Curtis her own dedicated write-up. The OG SQ might nab a first Oscar nomination for her supporting work in Everything Everywhere All at Once and she finished up her iconic role (probably right?) as Laurie Strode in Halloween Ends.

Just as Curtis was concluding her participation in a vaunted horror franchise, 20-year-old Jenna Ortega was making her presence known in another. Some viewers first saw her on the CW series Jane the Virgin. In 2021, Ortega drew acclaim for her more grown-up performance in the HBO Max drama The Fallout. It was this year that she broke out in another genre via January’s Scream. With over $80 million in its domestic coffers, she’ll be back in March for Scream VI.

More kudos followed in March for Ti West’s exploitation homage X. Ortega played a crew member on a porn set who gets more than she bargained for out of the experience. X marked the spot for many critics with its 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Ortega’s frighteningly good ’22 went into overdrive with Netflix’s Wednesday. From Tim Burton, the blend of comedy and horror and its 8 episodes cast the actress as Wednesday Addams from the The Addams Family. Debuting last month, it shot to #1 on the streamer in over 80 countries and holds the record for most hours viewed for a series in the first week of release. In others words, it’s a phenomenon every day of the week.

Needless to say, a second season is already in the planning stages. With her Scream sequel on deck and a role in the thriller Finestkind with Ben Foster and Tommy Lee Jones coming up, Ortega should continue to make her spooky presence known. My Year Of posts will continue with another actor who started out on the CW and had a whole lot shaking on the silver screen this year…

2022: The Year of Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell may have lost a friend in Brendan Gleeson’s character during The Banshees of Inisherin, but he seems poised to gain some with Oscar voters.

That’s all part of a busy 2022 for the actor and he’s my 3rd entry for six posts covering performers who had an impressive 2022 at the movies. If you missed the entries covering Farrell’s Minority Report costar Tom Cruise and Michelle Yeoh, you can find them here:

20 years after Minority Report, Farrell turned up in a quartet of pictures which all drew acclaim. The spring gave us Kogonada’s contemplative sci-fi drama After Yang where he showed off some sweet Dad dance moves in the opening credits. That same month, an unrecognizable Farrell played the Penguin in The Batman from Matt Reeves. The makeup was impressive. So was his performance and an HBO Max limited series focused on the character is in the works.

On a side note, another villain from The Batman came close to making my list of six. Paul Dano, who played the Riddler, could be in line for a Supporting Actor mention in Minority Report director Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans. AND we have Farrell’s Banshees costar Barry Keoghan (SPOILER ALERT: he cameos as Joker in The Batman). He might turn up in Supporting Actor as well.

Back to Farrell. In the summer, he was among the ensemble for Ron Howard’s Tham Luang cave rescue saga Thirteen Lives. Reviews were solid for all three films and they all showcased his skills.

The capper came in the fall with Banshees. Reuniting with his In Bruges director Martin McDonagh and costar Gleeson, Farrell nabbed some career best notices as the naive Irish drinking buddy who inexplicably loses his best buddy. He’s close to a guarantee for a first Oscar nomination and he could win.

Critics and moviegoers were not in the minority appreciating the veteran performer and I’m pleased to report his inclusion as someone who can cheer to a fruitful 2022. My Year Of posts will continue with a new Scream Queen who made her presence known every day of the week…

2022: The Year of Michelle Yeoh

My Year Of posts focusing on a half dozen performers who had us feeling ’22 continues with our second icon who turned the big 6-0 this year. The first was Tom Cruise and if you missed that post, you can find it here:

The next sexagenarian is Michelle Yeoh. For the past three decades, U.S. audiences have seen the Malaysian legend fighting alongside Jackie Chan in the Supercop pics, James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies, and Chow Yun-fat in Ang Lee’s acclaimed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In recent years, she probably came close to a Supporting Actress nomination as the overbearing mother in Crazy Rich Asians. Last year, she joined the MCU in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

There were plenty of projects in 2022. She lent her voice to Minions: The Rise of Gru and Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank. A small role popped up in Netflix’s YA fantasy The School for Good and Evil. None of those projects are why Yeoh made this cut.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is. The sophomore effort of the Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) is the multi-genre rumination on life that casts Yeoh as frazzled laundromat owner Evelyn. She also (due to a seemingly infinite multiverse) plays the role in many other iterations including a movie star, a woman with hot dogs for fingers, and a rock. It’s a one-of-a-kind picture with the role of a lifetime for its lead.

An Oscar nomination is a near certainty and a win is quite possible. The box office was impressive with $70 million domestically against a considerably smaller budget. Costars Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis could all be headed for their own awards nods. I currently have Everything listed in 1st to take Best Picture.

A busy 2023 and beyond awaits Yeoh. More voice work is on deck with Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and Kenneth Branagh has put her in the ensemble of his third Poirot mystery A Haunting in Venice. Her Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu will be collaborating with her again on the two planned Wicked films (slated for 2024 and 2025). James Cameron has her showing up (apparently in human form) in the third and fourth Avatar pics.

Yeoh’s part in Everything was originally considered for her old costar Jackie Chan. That’s hard to picture now given her fantastic portrayal. She easily earns a spot in this series. My Year Of posts will continue with an actor who might’ve lost a friend in his Oscar contender, but gained plenty of praise for his body work throughout the year.

2022: The Year of Tom Cruise

As I do annually when the year winds down, it’s time to take a look at the performers who made significant impacts on the silver screen in the previous 12 months. I’ll do so with 6 of them in the coming days.

For 2022, that list has to begin with Tom Cruise. Before May, the biggest opening in the superstar’s near 40 years of headlining pictures was 2005’s War of the Worlds at $64 million. That’s right. Even though he’s consistently been one of Hollywood’s most bankable figures, there were no premieres north of $100 million. In fact, only three of his titles exceeded $200 million domestically: Mission: Impossible II, the aforementioned Worlds, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

There was understandable skepticism when Top Gun: Maverick was finally green lit. Would crowds turn out for the sequel to a relic from the mid 80s? It arrived in multiplexes after many COVID delays some three years plus after filming wrapped.

What it did at the box office was astounding and very important in preserving the viability of the theatrical experience. This wasn’t a superhero franchise entry with the dollars already built in. Maverick brought out moviegoers who hadn’t ventured out to the multiplex in a couple of years. Some of them went for repeat viewings.

It nearly doubled Cruise’s previous best with $126 million over the Friday to Sunday of the Memorial holiday weekend and $160 million for the four-day. Then the money kept holding on. It even returned to 1st place over two months after its release for the Labor Day frame. All in all, Maverick soared to $718 million domestically and nearly a billion and a half worldwide. The ripple effect of its success is evident even in humorous ways. Another continuation of an 80s blockbuster coming soon sees Eddie Murphy back in his signature role. The title? Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley (!!!).

In the year where he turned 60, Tom Cruise experienced easily the largest hit and cultural phenomenon of his career. Millions of people saw the preview for next summer’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One play in front of it. It might be the most talked about trailer of 2022 that doesn’t involve a demonic doll dancing.

At a time when true movie stars are hard to come by, audiences turned to a reliable one in 2022. It was indeed his year. These posts will continue with another legend who turned 60 and got the role (multiples ones) of a lifetime…

2021: The Year of Jodie Comer

My fourth and final post regarding actors who had a memorable 2021 on the big screen brings us to the only performer that wasn’t in Spider-Man: No Way Home and that’s Jodie Comer.

Prior to this year, the English actress was primarily known for her small screen leading role on the BBC’s Killing Eve (for which she’s won an Emmy). While that work continues, she made waves with audiences and critics alike in the multiplexes.

While box office success did not greet Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, Comer earned raves as Marguerite de Carrouges in the historical yet timely drama. In a cast that included Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck, Comer garnered the lion’s share of awards buzz and deservedly so.

A couple of months before Duel, she was widely seen alongside Ryan Reynolds in the family friendly action comedy Free Guy (which took in over $300 million worldwide). A sequel is already being planned.

For Comer, 2021 succeeded in transitioning her success from TV to film. This concludes my Year Of write-ups and here’s to 2022!

2021: The Year of Andrew Garfield

My third post covering actors who had a memorable 2021 reaches yet another one who appeared in (SPOILER ALERT)…

Spider-Man: No Way Home, the MCU juggernaut that jumpstarted a box office suffering from nearly two years in the COVID era. It started with Benedict Cumberbatch and continued with Zendaya. Now we’re at Andrew Garfield.

His reprisal of his web slinging part is garnering retribution comments for his two stint as the superhero which drew mixed audience and critical reaction. Yet that’s not the primary reason for Garfield’s inclusion.

As playwright Jonathan Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Netflix musical drama Tick, Tick… Boom!, Garfield looks to nab his second Oscar nomination five years after Hacksaw Ridge. He will vie for the prize along with Mr. Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Will Smith for King Richard. 

As televangelist Jim Bakker alongside Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Garfield earned further kudos for his embodiment of a real life figure.

Another Spidey actor whose work in other projects accuentated the 2021 output. My Year Of posts will continue…

2021: The Year of Zendaya

Going into 2021, Zendaya had already collected an Emmy for her leading role on HBO’s Euphoria and was known to moviegoers for her parts in the Spider-Man franchise and The Greatest Showman. She is the subject of my second write-up for performers who had a meaningful 2021 and it’s no coincidence that she’s the second that appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home (currently breaking all pandemic era box office records). The first was Benedict Cumberbatch… and we might not be done yet with Home costars.

Her inclusion isn’t just due to her onscreen (and apparently offscreen) pairing with Spidey himself, Tom Holland. The actress/singer began the year garnering Oscar chatter for the Netflix drama Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington. While she didn’t ultimately nab an Academy mention, she was on the Critics Choice Awards radar for her acclaimed performance.

By summertime, she lent her voice to Space Jam: A New Legacy (voicing Lola Bunny). Her involvement with Warner Bros/HBO Max continued in the fall with the long awaited sci-fi epic Dune. It looks to be her first picture that will achieve plenty of award nominations and the sequel is already lined up for 2023.

And, of course, she capped it all off with her third appearance as MJ in the massive MCU series. Zendaya expanded her reach in 2021 as her films reached plenty of homes this year. My Year of posts will continue…

2021: The Year of Benedict Cumberbatch

As has become a late December tradition on the blog, I will highlight some performers who had a fruitful year either at the box office or in terms of awards contention. Our first entry fits the description for both.

Benedict Cumberbatch is at the top of the Oscar conversation for Best Actor for his work in Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog. The Netflix drama has already earned him some critics prizes and it appears he will vie for the gold statue along with Will Smith in King Richard or Andrew Garfield in Tick Tick… Boom! It will most certainly mark his second Academy nomination seven years after The Imitation Game. 

The actor’s second streaming picture was The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. While the Amazon Prime pic drew mixed reactions, most write-ups praised Cumberbatch’s lead work as the kitten drawing artist.

And though his spy thriller The Courier (which opened last spring) flew under the radar, it generated solid reviews.

The box office potency, of course, comes from Spider-Man: No Way Home in which he reprises his role as Doctor Strange. The Marvel property scored the second largest domestic opening in history and has reignited a sleepy pandemic era marketplace. His appearance in Home should help with crowd anticipation for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the sequel to the 2016 original that hits multiplexes in March of next year.

Whether with Oscar voters or mass audiences, Cumberbatch had a visible presence in 2021. My Year Of posts will continue…