Giving awards to individuals is all well and good, it gives certain celebrities bragging rights and it certainly saves on the cost of trophies, but really it’s the entire cast that the success of a film rests on. Much the way we lump entire departments on a film shoot into categories like “best cinematography” and “best art direction,” giving out an award for the full acting ensemble is like a blanket award for “best cast in a film.”
- Contagion: Contagion has been widely compared to the Irwin Allen disaster films of the seventies. I don’t think this comparison holds water in the long run, but the one place where it does hold up is in its use of celebrities at almost every single turn. Some of these are major stars like Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet, some of them are second tier stars like Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, and Elliott Gould, and others are well liked character actors like Bryan Cranston and John Hawkes. Any one of these recognizable faces might have been a distraction, but having nothing but famous people makes them all sort of blend in.
- The Help: With roles for women begin what they are, it’s interesting that this high profile film managed to come along which had something like a half dozen major roles for the “fairer sex.” Of course Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have high profile Award nominated performances, but the rest of the cast members like Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, and Allison Janney are also noteworthy. I wasn’t such a fan of Emma Stone in the film, but let’s not split hairs.
- The Ides of March: George Clooney is really popular in Hollywood and because of it he can pretty much get whatever talent he wants in his movies. Clooney himself is very believable as a presidential candidate and Ryan Gosling is also more than capable in the lead. It’s really the supporting crew filled with character actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, and Jeffrey Wright that really puts the film over the top.
- Midnight in Paris: Midnight in Paris seems like a typical Woody Allen cast at first. You’ve got Owen Wilson acting as an Allen-surrogate of sorts, you’ve got Rachel McAdams as the love interest and Michael Sheen as their obnoxious friend. Then the time travel aspect of the movie comes into play and then cool actors like Marion Cotillard, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stoll, Kathy Bates, and Adrien Brody enter the film, and that’s when things really get going.
- Super 8: This is where the ensemble category becomes less about the sheer number of notable performances by celebrities and becomes more of an award for the best casting. Casting child actors is not easy; in fact it’s downright dangerous given that you’re putting the weight of you film on people without a long and proven track record. Still, they were able to find a lot of charming child actors like Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning who really hold their own, and the lack of huge stars in the adult roles was also refreshing in its own way.