Flixist Awards 2012: Most Promising New Performer

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Sometimes it can take years and years of work to become good at something. Malcom Gladwell cites the 10,000-Hour Rule a bunch in his book Outliers to suggest that genius in various professions requires that much time, effort, and practice.

So when a relatively young actor or actress makes a screen debut that hits and hits really hard, not only is it remarkable, but it makes us especially appreciative of an innate talent. If that’s the big breakthrough and it’s basically their first time on screen, it seems like they can only get better. (But what’s better than amazing?)

There were great nominees this year, most of them young. You’ve probably guessed the winner already.

How could Quvenzhané Wallis not win this award? She is the heart and soul of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and as well made as the movie is, the movie wouldn’t be what it was without her. It wouldn’t be the same movie; in fact, it probably wouldn’t be as good.

On screen, Wallis is pure life incarnate — youth full of ideas and love and curiosity. Like the other members of her community, she’s unfettered by the usual trappings of society and instead feels in tune with the world around her. But even with such childlike wonder, the world is a scary place when you start to grow up. We watch Hushpuppy come to terms with the possibility of death and extinction, and she faces it with admirable bravery, like the best heroes from fairy tales.

Wallis is not just a good actor for her age: she is a smoldering fireball of talent and possibility that, at least for now as she rides high, seems inextinguishable and inexhaustible. The world is wide open and hers to conquer. Simply put, Wallis is a force of nature, and a force to be reckoned with. She’s the man. (Read our interview with Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry.)

Samantha Barks – Les Misérables

Jared Gilman – Moonrise Kingdom

Kara Hayward – Moonrise Kingdom

Iko Uwais – The Raid: Redemption