FACT: Four words: Last Year/Stranger Things.
FACT: I’m a loquacious human person.
FACT: Because 1 and 2, going ahead living life as normal without a rant about great children who are doing or have done amazing stuff in cinema is impossible.
I don’t understand it. I’ve never been able to understand and I don’t even want to. (What? You ask. I’m getting to it.)
Acting is an occupation (duh)…Like, people have careers and earn their daily bread playing characters in the eerie world of make-believe. When something is your profession, you’re bound to take it seriously. As an adult; you’re doing your job, and it’s normal to wanna be or at least try to be good at it.
So it’s a funny thing children are in this same profession.
I was a child once. These are the two things I was doing at any given time:
- Being OBSESSED with whatever was on Cartoon Network
Consumingdevouring a bothering amount of processed sugar (This has not changed.)
That’s precisely what I don’t get. How the heck are these kids so professional as to commit to a role? How do they even have the intellectual capacity to comprehend being part of a production? How do they memorise and nail their lines? Is there some trick?
I haven’t figured this out. I don’t want to.
These’s another situation. One that even trumps the first one in being puzzling. It’s the situation where a child has so much talent that they turn in an exceptional/acclaimed performance.
The point? This is a list of child performances that have had me scratching my head in recent years. This is an opinion list. Besides being VERY out of order, I’m bound to miss one or two. You’re welcome to sound off in the comments
(*I implore you to*)
1. Anna Paquin in The Piano (1993)
I will never, for as long as I live, forget the “HE CHOPPED IT OFF!” scene.
She even did an accent for the role.
She was nine-ish at the time of filming.
Of course she got the freaking Oscar.
2. Henry Thomas in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestial (1982)
I can’t even talk too much here. Go ahead and just watch this:
THAT was his freaking audition? HOW??? *head scratch, head scratch* We’ve all seen the beloved classic and we’ve all seen what he pulled off in it and we’ve all seen how him and his alien buddy were Spielberg’s tools to reach across the screen and rip our hearts apart.
The kid did a beyond-fantastic job. I’ll leave it there.
3. Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Hushpuppy stayed with me for a long, long time after seeing Ben Zeitlin’s film. It may seem trite to say a person carried an entire movie but then there’s no way else to put it. That’s entirely the case here.
5-year old Quvenzhané Wallis CARRIED this film.
The spirit, the heft, the vulnerability.
Anyone think it’s a wonder she got herself to be the youngest Best Actress nominee in history?
4. Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
I hope whoever did the casting for Little Miss Sunshine got some sort of award for finding Abigail Breslin. We’d gotten a tinsy glimpse of her capabilities in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs but it was in this movie that I got to see how talented she really was. This was a story of family. Of big dreams and broken dreams. Euphoria and dismality. It needed a heart, a soul, a centre.
And that’s where she shined.
She got an Academy Award nomination (duh)
5. Justin Henry in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Justin Henry remains the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Academy Award, and for good reason; watch Kramer vs. Kramer and see for yourself.
This kid stole the show from the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. Any six year old than can do that deserves a place here.
At such a young age, he displayed such heart, insight and thoughfulness that immediately just made everybody connect with his character, Billy, who’s having to endure his family tearing apart.
6. Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense (1999)
Let’s go back to 1999 for a bit.
Jedis were all the rage (again).
Neo (The One), leather trenchcoats and bullet-time were all the rage too.
There’s another thing that was also all the rage.
“I see dead people.”
The Sixth Sense remains one of my all-time favorite movies. I’ll have you know that one of the reasons why is Haley Joel Osment and his haunting/tremendous turn as the heartbreakingly troubled Cole Sear.
He earned an Oscar nom.
7. Saoirse Ronan in Atonement (2007)
Just look at that alabaster face; bursting with etherealness and eccentricity.
Joe Wright saw that, I’m sure. And he milked it for all it was worth in his Atonement. Make no mistake, it WAS worth it.
The film brimmed with a plethora of amazing performances but it was Saoirse Ronan’s little Briony that just seemed to blow me away scene after scene after scene. Delicate and subtle. Far beyond the confines of what is or should be expected of a twelve-year-old. Just…just…
Bellissimo (I don’t even know what that means)
Oscar nom, check.
8. Jacob Tremblay in Room (2015)
If there’s a hierachy on this list, then this kid would be in one of the top spots. Probably the top spot. I distinctly remember how deeply affected I was by Room. Not just because of the gut-punching of a story it had, but by the stark realism of the portrayals.
As much as it was Brie Larson’s subtle showcase, it was Jacob Tremblay’s
reveal revelation (being so good that you’re like; “Whoa, seriously? Eureka! Eureka!”)
His performance was the level of authentic that I’m almost sure Lenny Abrahamson (director) most’ve pulled some Truman Show trickery to get it out of him.
9. Elle Fanning in Super 8 (2011)
J.J. Abrams’ film will be sorely lacking without this here girl. As usual, kids in movies are getways into our heartstrings getting pulled.
Super 8 knew precisely that and beside being an homage to the greats and their movies (Spielberg etc.), it was it’s own thing. And amongst the fine young performers showcased, Elle Fanning really stood out.
Remember the ‘Mom reel scene’ when she just let’s it all out? THAT right there is talent. You don’t teach that.
10. Hailey Steinfeld in True Grit (2010)
Like, move over, Jeff-in-an-eye-patch. Hailey was the true star of True Grit.
She simply owned the screen as Mattie Ross, a tough 14 year old who hires dead-eye drinker Reuben Cogburn to track down and avenge her father’s death.
I was so riveted by the acting chops pulled off by Steinfeld in this debut that I remember proclaiming it would be a travesty if she didn’t get an Academy Award nomination.
She showed range and bounced off seamlessly with her veteran co-stars, a delight to watch.
The Academy didn’t create a travesty. They nominated her…of course.
11. Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (2014)
Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making opus, Boyhood had Ellar Coltrane literally growing up before our very eyes. And Ellar Coltrane did grow. Screen-year after screen-year. More and more nuanced.
He did awesome work being the titular object of the
12. Millie Bobby Brown, Glen Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Finn Wolfhard in Stranger Things (2016)
When the premise of an entire T.V. show relies about 70% on nothing but the talent of a bunch of young performers…AND IT WORKS THE WAY THAT IT DID HERE…then you know it’s worth talking about.
Stranger Things took the summer of 2016 like a mania. Waves of nostalgia. Torrents of well-realized charaters. Showers of engaging narratives. Eleven. Eggo waffles.
watched binged; transfixed. And these kids were mostly the reason. They were smart, they were expressive, they were remarkably three-dimensional.
You get it. I needn’t go on.
Well that’s my list. Again, you know of any awesome child performance I may have missed? Lemme know in za comments!
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!