A nice way to inject a film scene with some energy is to cast an over-qualified actor in an otherwise unworthy role. My definition of “cameo” for purpose of this award is pretty loose and would perhaps be better served by the label “best small part.” The actor in question does not necessarily need to be famous but they do need to have a very short one or two scene part that stands out from the rest.
- Aziz Ansari- Funny People: There were a lot of good cameos throughout Funny People, and while Ansari was not the most famous person doing one, he was probably the most memorable. Playing a really bad comedian who shamelessly panders to audiences, his character is something of a rival to Seth Rogen’s character. Especially memorable was his role in the film’s viral marketing, which is normally not within the scope of my consideration, but, sue me.
- Ralph Fiennes- The Hurt Locker: One of the more interesting patterns in The Hurt Locker is its habit of bringing in recognizable actors… and then killing them. They do something like that with Guy Pearce in the opening, something I take issue with, but the technique works a lot better here as Fiennes is introduced as a mercenary and is subsequently shot by a sniper out of nowhere.
- Steve Coogan- In the Loop: Playing the kind of lunatic that many local politicians have to deal with, Steven Coogan is pretty funny as a constituent that’s constantly pestering the main character about a wall that might fall into his yard. This is not much of a concern for the film’s central character, after all he is in the middle of a major foreign policy situation, but this jerk keeps nagging at him. Though the whole sub-plot sort of exists in order to point towards a sting at the end that’s a little too obvious, Coogan still gives a pretty funny turn here.
- Robert Duvall- The Road: The father and son characters are pretty much the only roles in The Road that wouldn’t qualify as cameos under my loose definition of the term, but John Hillcoat is careful to put someone whose eminently qualified into all the small roles along the titular road and the best of them is Robert Duvall. The veteran actor brings a lot of depth to the part of a really sad, beat down drifter.
- Zach Galifianakis- Up in the Air: In an act of true wit, my local Landmark theater decided to advertise this Clooney film as “Up in the Air starring Zach Galifianakis” on its marquee. There were a number of small actors in the movie they could have used for that little joke, but it makes sense that they used Galifianakis because he’s been having a great year and his part in the movie as a disgruntled ex-employee is really darkly comical. It’s not just a gratuitous cameo either, as it illustrates exactly what the benefits of Clooneys termination consultant job are.