Best: “The Dark Knight Rises”
The Catwoman's transition from sultry siren to woman-on-top badass can lead to success (Michelle Pfeiffer) or ignominy (Halle Berry). Hathaway scored with a sexy, dangerous Selina Kyle, whether channeling Audrey Hepburn in a series of slinky gamine-about-town outfits or credibly battling Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader.
Worst: “Les Misérables”
Will Hathaway win an Academy Award as the long-suffering Fantine? Quite possibly. Does she embarrass herself with a hammy, grimacing, oxygen-sucking, back-balcony-playing, self-serving, eyelid-fluttering, oh-so-noble death scene as she belts out “I Dreamed a Dream”? You betcha.
ROBERT DE NIRO
Best: “Silver Linings Playbook”
After decades of this venerable legend phoning it in, it's a treat to get such a rich and hilarious performance as the shaky patriarch of a deeply dysfunctional Philadephia family. De Niro never smoothes out the rough edges or takes cheap shortcuts to audience likability.
ROBERT DE NIRO
Worst: “Red Lights”
Even by the standards of lesser De Niro performances, this slab of marbled ham was difficult to digest. Cast as a blind medium with powers ranging from spoon-bending to psychic surgery, De Niro went full-tilt bananas in this one, like Joan Crawford in a William Castle horror cheapie.
Best: “Holy Motors”
In Leos Carax’s mind-bending fantasia on acting, illusion and the movies, Australian pop princess Minogue plays a former lover of the film’s mysterious leading man, and during their brief interlude together, she sings a haunting, plaintive song of loss. It’s a powerful moment that lingers, delivered in one of the year’s very best films.
Worst: “Jack and Diane”
It’s hard to say what anyone is doing in this shoddy teen-lesbian-romance-cum-monster-movie, but Minogue appears to be completely at sea in the role of a lecherous tattoo artist. Unless you're titillated by the idea of Minogue having a love scene with the granddaughter of Elvis Presley (actress Riley Keough), “Jack and Diane” is a big yawn.
Of the three "Twilight Saga" stars, Pattinson has given the strongest extracurricular performance as a callow Master of the Universe facing his own demise, and possibly that of society as a whole, from the back of an white limousine. Pattinson's whispery deadpan meshes perfectly with director David Cronenberg’s aesthetic.
Worst: “Bel Ami”
Without someone like Cronenberg or Bill Condon at the reins, Pattinson appears to be left to his own devices. In this period piece, Pattinson stars as a blank rake who seduces all the influential ladies of Paris. Unfortunately, we never figure out why they roll out the red carpet (much less the clean sheets).
Best: “The Hunger Games” and “Pitch Perfect”
In both the megahit and the cult success she nurtured to the screen, Banks plays a self-absorbed media figure lingering on the edges of a ruthless competition for young people, a perfect fit for her trademark brand of dismissive wit.
Worst: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”
Stuck with a hacky script and aimless direction, Banks feels particularly adrift here, unable to make her businesswoman-turned-pregnant-hormonal-wreck feel anything but grotesque and caricatured. If anything, it’s an object example of why actresses like Banks become producers: to avoid getting stuck in crap projects like this one.
Remember when Sandra Bullock was feted as the year's Best Actress (an Oscar for "The Blind Side") and the Worst Actress (a Razzie for "All About Steve") of the year?
Consistency is a tricky business for screen actors, and more often than not, movie stars find themselves careening from notable work to terrible. 2012 offered no shortage of such yin-and-yangs, with five actors in particular meriting notice for giving some of the year’s best and worst performances.