This list is clearly skewed young, but here are ten actors (plus a few honourable mentions and rising stars) that I love watching onscreen. Feel free to discuss my choices or share you own lists in the comments!
1. Robert Downey Jr.
Essential Filmography: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Tropic Thunder (2008), Chaplin (1992), Zodiac (2007)
Underappreciated Work: Wonderboys (2000)
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman
Essential Filmography: Capote (2005), Magnolia (1999), Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Underappreciated Work: Almost Famous (2000)
3. Daniel Day-Lewis
Essential Filmography: There Will Be Blood (2007), My Left Foot (1989), Gangs of New York (2002)
Underappreciated Work: The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)
4. Ryan Gosling
Essential Filmography: Half Nelson (2006), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), The Believer (2001)
Underappreciated Work: The United States of Leland (2003)
5. Casey Affleck
Essential Filmography: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Underappreciated Work: Lonesome Jim (2006)
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Essential Filmography: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1992), The Departed (2006), The Aviator (2002), Titanic (1997)
Underappreciated Work: Romeo + Juliet (1996)
7. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Essential Filmography: Mysterious Skin (2004), 500 Days of Summer (2009), Brick (2006)
Underappreciated Work: The Lookout (2007)
8. Ethan Hawke
Essential Filmography: Before Sunrise (1995), Dead Poets Society (1989), Training Day (2001)
Underappreciated Work: Reality Bites (1995)
9. Joaquin Phoenix
Essential Filmography: Walk the Line (2005), Gladiator (2000), Two Lovers (2009)
Underappreciated Work: Signs (2002)
10. Colin Firth
Essential Filmography: A Single Man (2009), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Underappreciated Work: Girl With a Pearl Earring(2003)
Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking)
Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)
Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass)
Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire)
Edward Norton (The Score)
Guy Pearce (Memento)
Sam Rockwell (Snow Angels)
5 Promising Newcomers
Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk)
Ben Whishaw (Bright Star)
Sam Riley (Control)
Michael Angarano (Snow Angels)
Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma)
I have a few half-finished blog entries floating around on my hard drive, but after seeing a few rather interesting movie trailers at Julie & Julia the other night, I figured that instead of actually finishing anything, I’d share some of the movies that I’m looking forward to most this year.
I’d vaguely heard of Daniel Day-Lewis’ next film a while ago, but I saw the trailer for the first time at Julie & Julia. All I can say is WOW. I’m not exactly sure why I am so excited for this movie. I wasn’t all that crazy about Chicago (which was done by the same director), and while I appreciated the inventiveness of Moulin Rouge!, it didn’t quite do it for me, either. I’m not even entirely sure what this movie is about. Maybe it’s Daniel Day-Lewis, or the incredibly flashy trailer, but something about Nine has just totally captured my curiosity. It looks provocative, over-the-top and just plain exciting, which is refreshing. It’s got an all-star cast (which can sometimes spell disaster, but in this case looks promising), and with Kidman, Cotillard, Cruz, and Day-Lewis, I think it’s going to be good.
Officially released this Friday (and probably never coming to a theatre near me), Ang Lee’s take on the true story of a young man whose property became the site of the legendary Woodstock festival looks like it’ll be right up my alley. The reviews are mixed so far, but I looove Demetri Martin’s stand-up (and I’ve heard that he’s quite good in the movie). The whole 60’s/Woodstock thing has fascinated me for a while (though I do believe that it has all been majorly romanticized), and the movie looks like a wonderful, vibrant coming-of-age story.
Where The Wild Things Are
Excitement levels have been through the roof since the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are hit the internet months ago, and I hopped on the bandwagon right along with everyone else. I love all of Spike Jonze’s work (Being John Malkovich! Adaptation! So many seminal 90’s music videos!), and it looks like he might have topped himself with this fanciful take on the classic children’s book (I’m sure it was read to me at some point in my life…) Whimsical and warm, if the trailer is any indication of what’s to come, count me in.
Well, come on! Robert Downey Jr. is proving himself to be one of the most bankable stars of the late 00’s thanks to his massive comeback in Iron Man, and Sherlock Holmes (set for a holiday release) looks like it could be another huge hit for the guy. I was initially slightly confused by the casting, but after seeing the trailer, I get it. It looks fun, charming, and exciting, and I’m definitely excited for Downey’s performance as Holmes himself. It’s directed by Guy Ritchie and co-stars Jude Law and Rachel McAdams.
Ellen Page is awesome, so of course I’m looking forward to this one. It’s Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, but after being in movie’s all of her life and producing Donnie Darko, she clearly knows how a movie is made. This roller-derby story looks fun and surprisingly heart warming, and I’m glad to see Kristen Wiig getting more film work (even if it is still a supporting role). And whoever that guy is who’s with Ellen Page in the trailer, I’m keeping my eye on him!
Okay, so this one might turn out to be terrible. But for now, I will at least say that I’m “optimistic” about this remake of the 1980 classic dance film. The trailer looked good, and it feels like this is a good time for the Fame remake to be released. With the success of the High School Musical franchise and shows like So You Think You Can Dance, they’re smart to strike while the iron is hot. Fame looks a grittier and more authentic than High School Musical, and seems to feature genuinely talented teens. (Although I just found out that Fame’s only going to be rated PG? Maybe it will be lame after all…)
Jake Gyllenhall and Natalie Portman are two of the most talented young actors around. And even though the plot kind of sounds like a ridiculous soap opera, I’m still hopeful about this project. Somebody finally thought to cast Gyllenhall and Tobey Maguire as brothers, and judging by the trailer, everyone’s chemistry seems good. To me, Brothers looks like it will be tense and brooding, in a good way.
I don’t know much about it, but this adaptation of the acclaimed Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country For Old Men) novel looks exciting and horrifying. Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron are great, and this post-apocalyptic world looks legitimately interesting, unlike some of the big-budget action movies that try to portray a similar world.
The Lovely Bones
I liked the book, so I’m curious to see what they do with the movie. To start with, it’s got a great cast. Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Mark Wahlberg are all top-notch actors. While My Sister’s Keeper and The Time Traveller’s Wife apparently fell flat when put to the big screen (though I haven’t read either book or seen the movies), I think that this one could succeed. I’m a bit iffy on the trailer (I think they’re trying to make it look exciting by focussing more on the killing than the Salmon family dealing with the death, which is more what the book was about), but I’ll still definitely be checking out The Lovely Bones.
Okay, so it looks a little sappy/conventional, but I don’t think that there are two better actors out there to pull off a this kind of big, Hollywood romance. I love Aaron Eckhart, and I think that Jennifer Aniston deserves more credit than she usually gets. And any movie that has Judy Greer as the sassy, tells-it-like-it-is friend clearly has some redeeming qualities. Love Happens looks like the kind of movie that I would typically avoid, but I guess I’m just drawn to this one.
This is the first part of an ongoing feature where I’ll be sharing some of my favourite film performances of the decade. It’s impossible to compare and rank these performances, as they’re all very different and equally good, so I’ll just be posting 5 random performances at a time. It will probably be a five part series. My list is a work in progress, and I’ll be taking the rest of 2009 into account later on. These are just the acting performances that I liked best, so feel free to post your own opinions and suggestions!
Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson (2006)
Ryan Gosling has proven himself to be one of the best young actors around, and he earned a surprise Oscar nomination for his turn as Dan, a crack-addicted school teacher, in Half Nelson. The Oscars seem to be all about big “actor’s moments”, but Gosling gives a great subtle, well-rounded performance here. His character is quite likeable, yet you’re left shaking you head as he continues his downward spiral. Gosling does a great job of balancing Dan’s teaching persona – where he’s charismatic, and seems to genuinely care about his students – with his hellish private life. When Dan is caught smoking crack by one of his students, Drey (played magnificently by Shareeka Epps), he develops a special bond with her as both teacher and student try to help each other. Through his facial expressions and body language, Gosling gives one of the most quietly moving performances that I’ve ever seen.
James McAvoy – Rory O’Shea Was Here (2004)
McAvoy has proven himself to become one of the most popular young actors of the latter part of this decade (and has also managed to become an odd kind of sex symbol), but before he was getting starring roles in big films like Atonement, he played a young man with muscular dystrophy in Rory O’Shea Was Here (also known as Inside I’m Dancing). Playing Rory, McAvoy had the challenge of making the character charismatic and loveable, but also exasperating at times. Rory’s friendship with a young man with cerebral palsy is touching, and you’re heart goes out to the boys as you see their daily struggle to live a “normal” life, and deal with the prejudice that they face from others who do not understand their handicaps. Rory has a biting sense of humour, and McAvoy’s performance is both emotional and funny. For both fans and sceptics of McAvoy, I’d recommend checking out this movie.
Robert Downey Jr. – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
2008 was a great comeback year for Robert Downey Jr. with Iron Man, and his Oscar-nominated work in Tropic Thunder. But my favourite Downey role that I’ve seen from this decade is from a few years back. Though it was not a commercial success, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a hilarious crime caper comedy, where Downey plays Harry, a mediocre crook who finds his way to Hollywood posing as an actor, and gets involved in a real life murder plot. Co-starring with Val Kilmer (who is actually pretty funny!), the two have great chemistry. Downey is hilarious, charming, and sexy here. His delivery is brilliant, and he plays the everyman-out-of-his-depth role like no one else. Downey is his best playing a smartass, and there’s plenty of witty dialogue and clever subtleties to compliment Downey’s charismatic acting style. It’s a really fun movie, and a lot of that has to do with Downey’s great performance.
Jennifer Connelly – A Beautiful Mind (2001)
In my opinion, Jennifer Connelly has got to be right up there with Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep as one of the best actresses around. Even in some of the so-so movies that she’s been in (think He’s Just Not That Into You and Hulk), she manages to still stand out and give a really solid performances. She was fantastic in 2000’s disturbing Requiem for a Dream, but her understated, mature performance in 2001’s A Beautiful Mind is what I see as her finest work to date. Playing the wife of Russell Crowe’s character, she must deal with her husband’s increasingly debilitating struggle with Schizophrenia. Connelly’s performance is at times vulnerable, moving, heartbreaking, and powerful as she portrays a woman who is far from perfect, but is trying desperately to make things work.
Aaron Eckhart – Thank You For Smoking (2006)
In Jason Reitman’s directorial debut, Thank You For Smoking, Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, an incorrigible lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Armed with ridiculous spin tactics and an affinity for smooth-talk, it’s Naylor’s job to convince people (especially children) to take up smoking, and to downplay the health risks of cigarettes. Eckhart is hilarious and smooth in the scenes where he’s working his hyperbolic magic, and you can tell he’s having a lot of fun with it. And although his character is relatively despicable, Eckhart still brings glimmers of warmth and genuine likeability to his performance, which prevents us from truly hating the film’s protagonist. Eckhart shows real affection with his on-screen son, without falling into the sappy clichés that are so readily available in most films revolving around a single father. Here, Eckhart is larger than life in a very, very good way.