As much as we like to recognize individual achievements in acting, the truth is that filmmaking is in many ways a team sport. This award examines the film which managed to form a fully realized cast with actors who establish a chemistry amongst themselves. This is not simply an award for the movie that can sign on the most celebrities, this is about creating a roster that truly aids the film as a whole.
- Inception: Heist movies are often great places for good ensembles because they’re all about building a team. This team is particularly cutting edge, with Nolan bringing in a lot of actors who were right at the tipping point of their careers and giving them that extra push into stardom. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard all prove themselves to be capable in action roles. Meanwhile, Nolan veterans like Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, and Ken Watanabe show why the director keeps coming back to them. Add some veterans like Pete Postlethwaite and Tom Berenger and you’ve got a great cast.
- The Kids Are All Right: Emphasizing quality over quality, this is a cast that’s built around solid and intimate chemistry. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are very convincing both as a middle aged lesbian couple, and as mothers. Meanwhile Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson are both convincing siblings. And of course Mark Ruffalo is great as the interloper in it all. It isn’t all about the individual performances though, it’s also about how the personalities they create mesh with each other.
- Shutter Island: Pretty much any actor will give up their first born in order to work with Martin Scorsese, so he can often fill his movies with A-list actors. Here he manages to bring in Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Mark Ruffalo, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, (catches breath) Ted Levine, and Elias Koteas. It goes even deeper than that, there are a lot of really good bit parts throughout, pretty much every part stands out as it otherwise wouldn’t had Scorsese not been able to bring this much talent in.
- The Social Network: Bringing in a stable of veteran actors isn’t really a possibility for this film given that all the characters are under thirty. I was suspicious of Jesse Eisenberg before seeing this, but he really proved himself here with his take on Mark Zuckerberg, and Justin Timberlake was a brilliant casting choice as Sean Parker. Rising star Andrew Garfield earns some major cred, and of course Arnie Hammer made waves with his pseudo-dual role and the Winklevi.
- True Grit: There’s no denying that the Coens were able to get some great performances out of Bridges, Damon, Pepper, and Brolin. There’s also no denying that Haley Steinfeld was a great find who really steals the show. But what really earns this film a nomination is the smaller parts that are so perfectly casted. I don’t know how they do it but the Coens seem to have a stable of bit-actors is interesting faces and voices that really seem to be a big part of their signature style.