This is kind of an odd category, in part because I seem to change the rules and criteria almost every year. In a broad sense it’s meant to be a potential award for any kind of performance by someone who’s in a movie for a very brief time (usually less than ten minutes or so). Generally I want the nominees to also fit the more conventional definition of a cameo, that of a famous person appearing in a role that’s beneath their usual status. It should also be noted that this award isn’t strictly a matter of judging the performances themselves, it’s also about how clever the presence of the cameo is and how the few scenes involving this cameo play out.
- Seth Rogen- 22 Jump Street: 22 Jump Street rather famously ends with a clever credits sequence in which a bunch of silly ideas for future sequels are floated by as a sort of “fuck you” to just how deep into a hole a series can get if they go to the well too many times. One twist to the series that they explore is a situation in which Jonah Hill leaves the series, then suddenly we see his character being played by frequent Jonah Hill collaborator Seth Rogen in “29 Jump Street: Sunday School.” Then in the next scene Hill is back and the characters are like: “what contract dispute.” It’s a cute little joke in the middle of a larger joke, and it works because it understands the way the public perceive both actors.
- Martin Short- Inherent Vice: Joaquin Phoenix’s character in Inherent Vice runs into a lot of crazy people over the course of his investigation but none more wild than a wacky dentist named Rudy Blatnoyd who’s played by Martin Short. This is pretty much the only character in the movie who’s even more interested in drugs than the protagonist and his behavior is… erratic. The presence of someone like Martin Short in a prestigious Paul Thomas Anderson movie is a little unexpected, but Short does rise to the occasion and seems oddly perfect for the role he’s in.
- Uma Thurman- Nymphomaniac: Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is ultimately a rather episodic narrative and there are a lot of big name actors who come in and out of the film momentarily. The most memorable of them is Uma Thurman, who plays a woman whose husband has walked out on her and her family out of some delusion that the titular nymphomaniac is in love with him. She’s so distraught by this that she barges in on both of them with her three kids in tow demanding to see “the whoring bed.” What follows is the most darkly awkwardly comedic sequences this side of “The Office.”
- Alison Pill- Snowpiercer: Snowpiercer is kind of an uneven movie but it periodically gets injected with energy and one of the biggest bursts of energy comes in this scene where our band of rebels find themselves in a car intended as a school for upper-class passengers who are being taught by a freakishly energetic propagandist played by Alison Pill. Pill totally commits to her role as a dingbat educator who leads the class in a song called “and we all freeze and die” and later finds herself trying to kill everybody with an uzi. Yeah, it’s pretty out there.
- DMX- Top Five: Chris Rock’s Top Five is filled to the brim with cameos, some of them very funny, but the zaniest and most off the wall cameo in the whole thing is provided by late 90s rapper DMX, who the protagonist meets while spending a night in prison. DMX, it turns out, is in the adjoining cell and has decided to abandon the rap game in favor of singing. He then launches into a very raspy rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Smile” complete with his trademark “what” yell. The whole scene is a bit random and silly, but it teaches the protagonist a lesson: stick to what you’re good at.