‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ Provides the First Truly Oscar-Worthy Performance of 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane
Courtesy of Paramount

It’s never too early for Oscar talk because — God willing, anyway — quality work is there to be discussed year-round. So while the 88th Academy Awards may still be fresh in our minds, and 2016 itself barely more than two months old, there’s already a performance hitting screens that deserves earmarking for year-end kudos.

But first, a question…

How has an Oscar nomination eluded John Goodman for this long? Arguments could have been made for any number of Coen brothers films over the years (“Barton Fink,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Inside Llewyn Davis”), and he’s been in the mix with other players like “Argo” and “Flight” as of late. The 63-year-old Emmy and Golden Globe winner was a highlight of the Screen Actors Guild-nominated “Trumbo” cast last year as well.

Basically, the “it’s time” narrative is there for the taking. But that kind of thing generally conforms to traditional awards movie territory; just look at the circuit Leonardo DiCaprio recently completed. All the sweeter it would be, then, for Goodman to finally net Oscar recognition for a little genre film completely outside the Academy’s wheelhouse. Because that’s what his performance in Dan Trachtenberg’s “10 Cloverfield Lane” is. It’s Oscar-worthy.

I hesitate to say too much about Goodman’s character or, certainly, the film’s plot — the mystery box is working overtime here — but his performance is impressive for its complexity. Working from a script that ebbs and flows with ease and tension, the actor’s work is like a waltz, gliding on the narrative’s rhythms, commanding acute attention every moment he’s on screen. It’s a clinic, really, a performance as compelling in its quieter moments as it is in its explosive ones. I wouldn’t flinch if someone called it Goodman’s best work.

(By the way, the film features tight ensemble work, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. contributing plenty to the mixture. But Goodman really just owns this movie.)

Just like Jeff Nichols’ “Midnight Special” and Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room,” “10 Cloverfield Lane” (opening March 11) is an economic thriller grounded by real-world specificity. It’s that approach that makes performances like Goodman’s — and Michael Shannon’s, and Anton Yelchin’s — really sing. They deserve a seat at the Oscar table along with the biopics and the festival darlings and the “prestige” players.

So cringe at stirring the awards pot a year in advance if you must, but it’s good to plant an early flag. These movies depend on the drumbeat, and sometimes — as we saw with “Ex Machina” last year — it can carry them through. After all, the year is just going to push on, and eventually we’ll enter the awards season, where films from Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese, Nate Parker, Clint Eastwood and more will predictably dominate the discussion. Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Michael Keaton, Matthew McConaughey and Judi Dench will no doubt dot the prognostication landscape.

But I’ll still be talking about John Goodman.

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  1. Niles says:

    I thoroughly agree!

  2. Steve says:

    After seeing this performance by such an amazing actor that should have been nominated many other times, he deserves this! He is one of many great actors to never win an Oscar and I question the Academy sometimes for sure! This performance is right up there with Keaton in Birdman, or Simmons in Whiplash. If he doesn’t get nominated it will be a massive slap in the face! I think there needs to be some kind of online campaign for Goodman to be nominated!

  3. Highly insightful….looking frontward to visiting again.|

  4. Mary Ralian says:

    My husband and I just saw it and it was thrilling – never know where it’s going – VG!

  5. Carina Reyes says:

    Just saw it. Could not agree more. He ebbed and flowed so naturally; it was intense. No spoilers so you can see his outstanding performance.

  6. John W. says:

    No black people, no Native Americans, no Hispanics….

    • Ray Strayer says:

      This is stupid. Who cares? Go get in to ahow biz and make a movie and cast who you want. There are 3 people in the movie. Not a lot of room for everyone to be represented. Why can’t you make a movie with out someone stirring the rascist pot????? I vote your comment the winner for stupidity.

  7. It was not a great film. John Goodman was superb and gripping as always. I’ve never seen him in a movie he didn’t turn into pure gold with his portrayal and delivery. He is a great natural actor and should have been honoured with an Oscar for Barton Fink. This movie was pretty thin on the ground but Goodman made it into something watchable by being in it. His character was scary as hell in this and as usual his ability to render polite, barely controlled psychopaths is amazing.

  8. Jacob says:

    The “It’s time” narrative sure as heck didn’t help Lauren Bacall, Michael Keaton, Mickey Rourke, or most recently Sylvester Stallone. Just sayin’. If John Goodman gets nominated, and even that is highly unlikely, it would literally be his reward.

  9. I like the article, and love Goodman. They could push him in the Supporting category, calling the cast an ensemble one. Because the Best Actor trophy is too high profile and industry driven, it either goes to a performance from a big name or of a liberal agenda – the supporting awards are often the actual best performances.

  10. HPR says:

    He’s great. But he had an incredible precedent to guide him in this kind of tale: Kathy Bates in Misery.

  11. Gary says:

    Saw the movie a few hours ago. I sat there dumbfounded watching Goodmans performance. Walking out of the theater, my first thought was : He’d better get a nomination for this one’!

  12. Blake says:

    The tea leaves are certainly there for him to go all the way.

    He’s overdue and it sounds like he has a showy presence

    The film is certainly doing nicely with a current 91 RT/ 78 MC score from critics. That’s nearly on par with Ex Machina.

    Box office tracking is looking good and it seems like it will play well to general audiences.

    The first performance to catch buzz early on in the season has often taken Oscar gold. Look at JK Simmons or Christopher Plummer.

    Sight unseen, I’m interested to see if this can carry itself to smaller categories such as screenplay or editing. There seems to be some high marks for Winstead so maybe that’s a possibility?

    Year in and year out,

  13. nobody important says:

    glad to hear he’s good in this one. john goodman is a mixed bag. sometimes you get the big lebowski, sometimes you get the flintstones…

  14. cadavra says:

    As well you should. He’s been overlooked far too often for far too long. If I could afford him, I’d put him in every picture I’d make.

  15. Alden Ehrenreich gave the first truly Oscar-worthy performance of 2016.

  16. toughmudder says:

    Bravo Kris! Thank you for banging the drum this early. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I have always felt that performances in genre films, esp. an earlier in the year release date, don’t get the recognition they deserve. Every review I’ve read singles out Goodman’s performance, and you’re right… he’s way overdue.

  17. CJB says:

    Wait, what?
    Kris, JG is another white guy! Jeez… He’s even an old white guy!
    Sure he’s a great actor but…you know…

    • Alec says:

      So you’re gonna withhold an award cause he’s white? Don’t get me wrong, we need diversity, but if his performance is good, give him the nod, as any other person of any other diversity should. Do not withhold because he’s white, because if that’s a subtle nod at the racism in Hollywood, of which there is plenty, here is a less subtle nod, you’re being racist.

  18. Mike says:

    It’s amazing that all those deluded little fangirls on social media thought Di Caprio was overdue. John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson are the most overdue actors since Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton.

  19. Christopher says:

    Seems to me the great John Goodman has been taken for granted for decades. I have been binge watching his creepy performance lately in the wonderful British series, Dancing on the Edge. Can’t wait to see him in Cloverfield Lane.

    • The Academy tends to undervalue comedic actors (even those, like Goodman, who also play dramatic roles), but it’s disappointing that he hasn’t even netted a nomination. Let’s hope this is the one.

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