The kids are back in school, the pumpkin beer is out way earlier than it should be, and there’s not another national holiday until Thanksgiving. Fall doesn’t officially begin until September 23rd, so summer isn’t technically over yet, but yeah, it’s over. So now’s as good a time as any to pay tribute to the best movie and TV show performances since mid-May. Here are eight actors and actresses, and one honorable mention for a Jackson 5-loving tree, who made this a summer worth remembering.
1. Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy
When he wasn’t throwing out a charming first pitch, or visiting a children’s hospital, or making one of the better Ice Bucket Challenge videos, or rapping “Forgot Abut Dre,” or pitching an excellent idea for the Parks and Recreation series finale, or flashing Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt was starring in the year’s biggest movie. 2014 is the year of our Star-Lord. Honorable mention: dancing Groot.
2. Matthew Lillard, The Bridge
No, really. The Bridge, which seems destined to always be the “best show you’re not watching,” improved dramatically from season one to season two, partially because it’s a very different series now. Sonya and Marco are rarely together anymore; they’ve been supplanted by another unlikely male-female team: Daniel and Adriana. They’re what ties together The Bridge‘s increasingly expanded universe, and Lillard, playing a wrinkly alcoholic journalist whose tired sweat you can practically smell through the screen, has been up for the challenge. Daniel rocking out to Rush with Kevin from The Office while doing cocaine might be my favorite TV moment of the year. I promise never to call Lillard Shaggy again (maybe).
3. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer works as well as it does (and it works really well — it’s my pick for the best movie of the summer) because it plays by its own rules. There’s no plot dragging or stuffy exposition; right from the first five minutes of the hyper-violent film, it’s clear that you either have to accept everything it’s throwing at you, or you’ll be booted from the train. Tilda Swinton, in particular, took what could have been a one-note, vaguely threatening authority figure, and turned her into a frog-like oddball who’s only loosely tethered to a brutal reality. And that was only the 24th weirdest thing about the movie.
4. Aya Cash, You’re the Worst
I’ve praised Aya Cash’s performance on the surprisingly excellent You’re the Worst before, and I’m going to again: she should be getting the kind of roles that Cameron Diaz does. As Gretchen, Cash is fearless, funny, and someone who, despite her numerous flaws (or maybe because of them), you find yourself rooting for. Make sure to catch up before your DVR explodes with new shows.
5. T.J. Miller, Transformers: Age of Extinction
Any guy who can deal with this…
“Ya know, [Michael Bay] has a specific way of communicating with people. Once he said to me, ‘Nothing that you’ve said is funny, T.J.! Not one thing all day! We hired you to be funny! There’s 300 people here! None of them are laughing at you! Say something funny! I can still cut you out of the movie!’ And I said, ‘Michael, I would love that because then I would be able to leave right this instant!’ And he said, ‘Say something funny! You haven’t even made the Make-a-Wish kids laugh!’ To be fair to him, I hadn’t, and they were standing there like, ‘This…was not our wish.’ Then the second the cameras stopped rolling he would say, ‘Hey, do you wanna get sushi and grab drinks? It was a very bi-polar experience.” (Via)
…without running over Bay with his not-transforming car is A-OK. Plus, the morning show trolling.
6. Eva Green, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Sin City 2 was a bad movie that’s not worth talking about again until Burnsy’s year-end worst-of list, but at least it gave us Eva Green’s Awesome Boobs. They’ve been with us all along, but it wasn’t until the MPAA clucked at the film’s poster that they became national news. They also appeared in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, which was like a self-aware Sin City 2. It was stupid, but that’s what made it fun.
7. Evan Peters, X-Men: Days of Future Past
The reason people liked X-Men: First Class (I originally typed Fist Class, which is a movie I now want to see) is because it was fun. It was the anti-Man of Steel. So I have no idea why Days of Future Past was such a bore. Staring at Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence for two hours was neat, but the rest was overstuffed and took itself too seriously. Except for the (Hipster) Quicksilver scene. As great as Christopher Nolan’s Batman series is, those films are in desperate need of some levity. That’s what Evan Peters provided, and what the rigid Aaron Taylor-Johnson won’t in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
8. Yael Stone, Orange Is the New Black
It was a shame that Orange Is the New Black basically got shut out at the Emmys. I wasn’t expecting much from season two — I figured that because the show had exploded in popularity, it would turn into fan fiction, with a heavy leaning on certain characters, leaving others to wither away in the background. That’s the last time I doubt Jenji Kohan. OITNB was brutal this season, and that’s what made it so good. Suzanne’s tragic need for reinforcement, Red’s fall from power, and my new favorite band, SIDEBOOB, were all highlights, but the clear MVP was Lorna. Every time she cried out “Christopher” or hugged her stolen teddy bear, I died a little inside. And isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas, I mean, summer?