1. Michael Shannon,
Take Shelter

Michael Shannon comes to us from another realm, a dark corner of the universe we'd do well to leave alone. His face, a likeness of which will be carved into the side of a mountain one day, registers pains and fears that usually go unseen, unnamed. Forget

Take Shelter

's oily rain—it is Shannon who will destroy us all.

2. Jeong-hie Yun,
Cinema this year was rife with people attempting graceful exits. No performer brought such grace to life’s slow waning as Jeong-hie Yun, whose turn as a woman coping with the early stages of Alzheimer’s lingers in my memory as 2011’s most efficient jerker of tears.
3. Brad Pitt,

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane as Brad Pitt: cocksure, orally fixated, easing too gracefully into his middle years, a little bit annoying, not quite as sharp as he thinks he is, and the wily kind of charming that almost hurts to look at. This is why we love/hate/love Brad.

4. Cast of
The Arbor

This odd documentary demanded athletic feats of memorization and emotional accuracy from its performers, who played quasi-fictional versions of real people while lip-syncing audio interviews with said real (and very sad) people.

5. Juliette Binoche, Certified Copy

Although Abbas Kiarostami's ponderous meditation on art and love and how both can get pretty confusing (and dull) was not the director's finest hour-and-a-half, Juliette Binoche's performance of stricken longing was enthralling.

6. John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen's slow unraveling was certainly noteworthy, but without John Hawkes' magnetic presence as the gentle psychopath who turns pretty young adults into robotic supplicants,

Martha Marcy May Marlene

would have fallen apart.

7. Werner Herzog,
Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I could listen to Werner Herzog read Google search results for "grass + growing" and be sufficiently entertained, but give the guy something profound to rhapsodize about, and the Teutonic flights attain glorious heights.

8. Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The real star of this slick reboot was Andy Serkis, whose motion-captured movements and facial expressions made for a digital figment worth caring about.

9. Sacha Baron Cohen,

Sacha Baron Cohen, drawing


's short straw, was tasked with turning a potentially grating role into something subtle, even fragile. Mission accomplished.

10. Miranda July, The Future

Miranda July adopted a pathetic whimper to give voice to a sickly caged cat in the wildly uneven

The Future

. It should not have worked. And yet here I am—with you, maybe?—haunted by that cat's lonely monologues. It worked. Kill me.