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The Standouts of 2002

Movieline magazine was always a bit obsessed with youth culture.  Not only did they publish an annual Young Hollywood issue, but eventually they began hosting their own awards ceremony honoring up-and-coming stars.  In the April 2002 issue of the magazine, the staff elaborated on some of the nominees from the prior year.  As an added bonus, I have added the actual winners from the 4th Annual Young Hollywood Awards.

BRITTANY MURPHY in Don’t Say a Word

The only reason Brittany Murphy isn’t more famous is that she’s such a chameleon. Not many people realized that the actress playing the zoned-out, suicidal nut job in Girl, Interrupted (a performance that was every bit as good as Angelina Jolie’s razzmatazz Oscar winner) was the very girl they’d seen turned from a shlump to a swan by Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Murphy’s turn in Don’t Say a Word as the twisted loon Dr. Michael Douglas is forced to pry open didn’t make her a star, either–the by-the-book thriller had a lot of predictable plot twists and little bang at the box office–but that takes nothing away from the quality of her performance. Murphy gave her character a fiercely unearthly imbalance–it was as if a demented demon was crawling around inside her–then, in reverse-Edward-Norton-in-_Primal-Fear_-style, revealed a vulnerable, childlike girl beneath the freak. It was double duty and double good. Can somebody give this girl the film she deserves, please?

JENA MALONE in Life as a House

As Alyssa, the preternaturally self-assured teen who jumps in the shower with Hayden Christensen in Life as a House, Jena Malone brought a dry, underdone wit, which actresses seldom inject into teen girl portrayals. Much as she did in Donnie Darko, Malone suffused a small role with a lovely vulnerability and an irony that didn’t turn into smugness. Her brief resume already includes genuinely memorable performances–especially as the abused little girl in Bastard Out of Carolina–but her turn in Life as a House provides evidence that she’s capable of navigating the pivotal transitional period on which her career’s foundation will truly be built. She’s an unusually mature talent full of restraint, and surprises, too.

THORA BIRCH in Ghost World

Ghost World capitalizes on some of the same qualities that Thora Birch first showed us in American Beauty, particularly the wry, seen-it-all-beforeness that she has managed to differentiate from Christina Ricci’s masterful version. But American Beauty was ultimately Kevin Spacey’s movie, and Ghost World is Birch’s. Her character, Enid, a too-hip-for-the-room misfit who could easily have alienated the audience immediately, became a memorably sympathetic girl traversing the mysterious period after high school but before your life. Birch made Enid’s fascination with a middle-aged oddball (Steve Buscemi) not just believable but poignant. Opposite Scarlett Johansson–who played Enid’s cohort, Rebecca–she also managed to convey the unusual turbulence between best friends growing apart.

SHANNYN SOSSAMON in A Knight’s Tale

With all the anachronistic rock ‘n’ roll and fast bantering going on in the genre-splitting adventure A Knight’s Tale, it was a tall order to ask a complete newcomer to come off as more than the appropriately beautiful girlfriend in a guy-ridden flick. But Shannyn Sossamon rose to the occasion opposite newly minted heartthrob Heath Ledger and brought as much aplomb to this good-hearted silliness as he did. Writer/director Brian Helgeland showed his keen casting eye throughout this film, Sossamon included. Her extraordinary look, which has been compared to Angelina Jolie’s, would have been quite enough to get her the girlfriend part in teen fare. When the initially aloof aristocrat she plays finds that Ledger is a peasant in disguise and sticks by him, Sossamon makes that fairy tale turn of events seem plausible through sheer grace and conviction. More impressively, she understood the playful modern-medieval tone Helgeland was going for, and added a pleasantly of-the-moment edge to that sleight of hand.

JULIA STILES in Save the Last Dance

When Julia Stiles played the intelligent but tough teen malcontent of 10 Things I Hate About You, she displayed an uncanny ability to give an authentic performance in a piece of fluff. She has never really had to make the transition out of teen films because her acting was not of that world anyway–there’s much more complexity, experience and wisdom in her eyes than that of most young actresses. In the surprise hip-hop hit Save the Last Dance, she had a better-written part than what most films aimed at girls have to offer. Playing a prissy ballet dancer who’s dropped into the thick of Chicago’s meanest streets after her mother suddenly passes away, she had the kind of meaty role usually given to teen boys because she was able to play strong and uncompromising. She ran with it, adding more threads of doubt, fear, fascination and pleasure than most coming-of-age tales ever have woven into them. She was so good that no one seeing her hold her own on-screen opposite Stockard Channing in The Business of Strangersshould be the least surprised.

MICHAEL PITT in Hedwig and the Angry Inch

The Michael Pitts of the world should not be taken for granted. They may not have the likable center-stage roles, but they make movies tick. In Hedwig and the Angry Inch-, a showy film about a transsexual wannabe rock star whose operation didn’t go according to plan, many missed just how difficult a job Pitt had in his supporting role as Tommy Gnosis, who goes from the God-fearing teen Hedwig baby-sits to a goth/glam rock star who has stolen not just Hedwig’s heart, but her songs as well. All the while he remains a sexually confused boy-man who doesn’t know where to put his feelings. Pitt’s beginnings on “Dawson’s Creek,” in which he played the football player who was smitten enough to sell his blood to pay for a date, gave little warning that in Hedwig he would be capable of ease and–not to be taken lightly in a movie such as this–subtlety. Tommy Gnosis could have been a cartoon, but in Pitt’s hands, he became a seething, humane ball of rage, naivete, confusion and longing.

NICK STAHL in In the Bedroom

Nick Stahl started out playing a kid in the small, character-driven The Man Without a Face, which was Mel Gibson’s directorial debut. Gibson chose him then because he could not only act but hold his own with adults in an adult drama. He survived his youth, and now after worthy (The Thin Red Line) and unworthy (Disturbing Behavior) projects, he’s hit grown-up pay dirt in Todd Field’s directorial debut, In the Bedroom. Perhaps because his character dies fairly early in the film, and his death prompts the Oscar-bait acting that dominates the second half of the film, Stahl’s accomplishment has been underappreciated. In truth, Stahl was able to make use of his limited screen time to reveal two sides to his character–the rebellious youth torn between overpowering mom Sissy Spacek and easygoing dad Tom Wilkinson, and the curious, happy young lover of Marisa Tomei. His relatively unsung skill in making his complex, yet oddly blithe character so unquestionably believable had everything to do with the success of the film’s big shocking turning point and tragic second half.

JASON BEHR in The Shipping News

Unlike most teen-show stars, Jason Behr of “Roswell” waited two years before parlaying his success into a next-step film role. His judgment when he did decide to leap was sound and savvy. In director Lasse Hallström’s much-anticipated screen adaptation of E. Annie Proulx’s best-seller The Shipping News, he took a supporting role in the company of Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Judi Dench, and he played against his teen-dream type as the bearded, bashful blue-collar carpenter Dennis Buggit. Behr managed to portray a small-town oddball without making him into a caricature, and came up with a credible Nova Scotia twang while he was at it. He also had moments of emotional intensity that were perfectly integrated with the standards set by his more illustrious costars. Though The Shipping News didn’t sail at the box office, Behr was good in the movie, and it serves notice that he’s going to prefer challenges in prestige films to slam-dunks in middle-of-the-road fare.

ORLANDO BLOOM in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Among the many smart choices director Peter Jackson made when casting the film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s vibrant Lord of the Rings trilogy, his gutsiest was to embellish a roster that included masters like Ian McKellen, gifted new stars like Cate Blanchett, underused lookers like Viggo Mortensen and hobbit dead-ringers like Elijah Wood with the addition–in a crucial role–of a complete unknown. Fresh from a three-year haul at drama school, the 25-year-old, felicitously named British actor Orlando Bloom was picked to play Elf warrior Legolas Greenleaf. Early stills of the film revealed a suspiciously Casper Van Dien-like presence that made one wonder. On-screen, Bloom was something else. He did have an almost unreal, cheekbone-bedecked handsomeness, but he also moved with crystalline resolve and athletic grace. Even when a million things are happening at once, Bloom grabs your attention and makes you feel everything that depends on the great battle of good and evil. Fortunately for us, Bloom will play beefed-up roles in the final two films of the trilogy, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

MEKHI PHIFER in O

As Odin James, a modern-day Othello who squares off against his own jealous nature and loses, Mekhi Phifer surmounted numerous obstacles in O. Shakespeare adaptations carry plenty of excess baggage for any actor, whether it’s a bubble-gum 10 Things I Hate About You retelling of The Taming of the Shrewor a Baz Luhrmann cornea-popper version of Romeo and Juliet. But Othello‘s themes of violence and (arguably) race are never easily navigated, and the difficulty is intensified when the setting is changed to a high school. As the Iago character (Josh Hartnett’s Hugo) sets his plot of revenge into motion, Phifer let us see Odin’s crippling jealousy without making him look like a dupe. His passionate relationship with Julia Stiles’s Desi is both believably tender and, later, shockingly upsetting. All that, and he manages to look quite credible as a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court.

2002 Movieline Young Hollywood Awards Winners List

Hottest, Coolest Young Veteran Awards
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Elijah Wood

“Something Extra” Award, presented by Extra
Christina Applegate

Breakthrough Performance Award
Shannon Sossamon
Jake Gyllenhaal

New Stylemakers Award, presented by Polo Jeans
Monet Mazur
Kip Pardue

Standout Performance by a Young Actor
Brittany Murphy
Jason Behr

Superstars of Tomorrow, presented by John Frieda
Mandy Moore
Shane West

“One to Watch” Award, presented by Charriol
Colin Hanks
Gregory Smith
Mila Kunis
Evan Rachel Wood

Playstation 2 Next Generation Award
Selma Blair

Exciting New Face Award
Chyler Lee
Ian Somerhalder

“Talent for Charity” Award
Thora Birch

Cultural Icon Award
Tony Hawk

Most Exciting Music Crossover
Ja Rule

New Musician of the Year
Pete Yorn

“Brilliant Cut” Award, presented by the Design Gallery at adiamondisforever.com
Christina Applegate

“Class Act” Award for Hottest Young Filmmaker of 2001, presented by Grey Goose
Robert Luketic

Young Hollywood Dream Director Award
Curtis Hanson

Young Hollywood Role Model Award
Kevin Spacey

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Posted on April 18, 2017, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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