There’s a lot to be said for the achievement of individuals, but perhaps the greater glory should go to the achievement of full ensembles. This award looks at the merit of a film’s entire cast from the stars to the bit players and tries to look at which films have the fewest weak spots. Bear in mind that while the film’s main stars are taken into account here, they are not necessarily the part that is being most heavily weighed. If the supporting cast isn’t also notable a film is unlikely to show up here.
- Cloud Atlas: The first film to win this award back in 2007 was Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, a film which seemed pretty wild because it had six different actors playing one character. Cloud Atlas is the opposite; it has thirteen actors playing something like sixty different characters. That’s a really bold decision and it makes for some very interesting casting choices (Hugh Grant as a war chiefton?). The standout I think is Ben Whishaw, who just so happens to have also been in the aforementioned I’m Not There.
- Killing Them Softly: It was important to me that this film showed up here because, while there was no individual performance that I even considered in the individual categories, I think the cast as a whole is really solid. The scenes with James Gandolfini are some of the year’s best and there’s also great work from character actors like Richard Jenkins, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy, and Sam Shepard. I actually thing the film’s star (Brad Pitt) is a little miscast, but otherwise this is a near-perfect cast for what the film needs.
- Lincoln: Where do I begin on this one. There are 145 speaking roles in Lincoln and Steven Spielberg manages to cast a known character actor in all of them. The Spielberg name clearly makes people come running and Spielberg uses his powers for good with this one. Almost all of the many known actors in this film have to portray historical characters and get their various mannerisms right while making the most of their relatively limited screen time.
- Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson is one of those “it” directors, so he seems to be able to work with whatever celebrities he wants and that allows him to cast people like Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton at will and usually gives them some very interesting roles. In Moonrise Kingdom he also gives us an interesting narrator in Bob Balaban and brings in people like Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel for small roles. Of course his greatest accomplishment was finding a bunch of quality child actors like Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, and that’s not easy.
- The Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro already scored big nominations in the individual categories, but there’s also some depth in this cast. Jacki Weaver does good work in a relatively small part and Chris Tucker (who makes a rare appearance) livens things up whenever he’s on the screen. The less famous actors like Anupam Kher, John Ortiz, and Paul Herman also manage to make interesting characters with the limited time they have.