Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Part I: Favorite Film Performances of All Time

NOTE: This is Part I of a two-part post. Later on this week, I will be publishing my Favorite Films of All Time.

Ever get the feeling when you're writing something that every single person who reads it will fervently disagree with you?

After boiling down the list the best I can, I have come up with my top ten favorite film performances of all time. A few warnings before I begin.

First, these are not the best performances, just my personal favorites. Obviously, if it was the best, it would be a different list. Also, I would have to watch every movie ever made to accurately form the list. And I just don't have that kind of time on my hands.

Second, dramatic gravitas does not outweigh comedic brilliance. This is not the Oscars, and drama is equivalent to comedy. (In my opinion, I think it's harder to be genuinely funny than be dramatic, but I know not everyone agrees...)

Third, these are not my favorite movies. Though a few of my favorite performances have come from my favorite movies, they don't match up exactly. So don't think I loved every single thing about each of these movies.

Fourth and finally, there are no double entries on this list. One performer won't have two entries. Otherwise, there would be seven Meryl Streep roles. There also won't be two performances from one movie, though, again, I was tempted.

With all that said, I present to you, the reader, my favorite film performances of all time.

10. Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost
An Oscar-winning performance, Goldberg elevated a one-note movie to Best Picture quality with her performance as the psychic Patrick Swayze is able to connect with from the afterlife. Both funny and touching, Goldberg never got any better role than this. It truly is the role of her lifetime.

9. Viola Davis, Doubt
The more I think about Davis' role, the more I realize that it is the best bit of Duet Acting ever done. 12 minutes on screen. Interaction with only one other person (Streep). Sheer powerhouse acting. Davis acts Streep off the screen as the mother of an abused child trying to turn a blind eye to a priest's indiscretion. It didn't win the Oscar, and while I love the performance that did (Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), to me, Davis had the performance of the year.

8. Tom Hanks, Big
Wanna feel pure joy? Watch Hanks' performance in this movie. As a thirteen-year old trapped in an adult's body, Hanks perfectly captured the innocence of a child. The big reveal about his age is devastating, but my favorite scene by far is the one in FAO Schwartz with Hanks' boss. Their performance of "Chopsticks" will forever hold a place as one of my favorite film moments.

7. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
At times brilliant, at times frustrating, Ledger's posthumous campaign for an Oscar overshadowed many other brilliant performances in its year, as well as made the category a foregone conclusion, but there's no doubt that his performance as the Joker was my favorite villainous performance in any superhero movie, perhaps in any movie. The original film was better than Knight, but Ledger was sheer genius.

6. Helen Mirren, The Queen
There's only one thing to say: Mirren was the Queen. The performance was the most brilliant imitation I have ever seen, plus she elevated the movie beyond simple royal gossip to a Best Picture contender. I liked Mirren more than the movie, but that fits, because she was a genius in that movie.

5. Reese Witherspoon, Election
Tracy Flick is a character for the millenium. Crafted into echelon-climbing greatness by Witherspoon, Election's Flick transcended the typical teen movie villain to become one of my favorite characters ever crafted.

4. Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda
Probably the Oscar-winning performance most forgotten, Kline perfected how to win an Oscar in a comedic performance. Robert Downey Jr. didn't even know what he was doing last year compared to Kline.

3. Jennifer Garner, Juno
When I was compiling my list, I realized that Garner provided not only one of my favorite dramatic performances of all time, she transcended subtlety and became brilliant. Her character, Vanessa, wanted nothing more than to have a child, an ability she did not have. Her quiet fury towards her husband after he announces that he no longer wants to adopt a child makes the movie for me. Garner is an actress I constantly undervalue, as proven by her performance in The Invention of Lying, released last weekend, and this masterpiece of a role.

2. Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men
"You can't handle the truth!" Sheer brilliance. Nicholson has had a career of great roles, none better than Col. Jessep of the US Marine Corps. How Tom Cruise didn't run screaming from the room when faced with Nicholson's fury I will never understand, but I'll always admire.

1. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Surprised? Sure, it's nto a conventional Streep role. And it didn't even win her an Oscar. But Streep crafted this genius character of Miranda Priestly from (almost) nothing, intimidated audiences everywhere without raising her voice above a chilly whisper, and taught a whole new generation who she is. The role that made Streep one of the most bankable stars of the decade, Miranda Priestly is a character whose villainy threatens the greatest Joker or Jessep. This truly was a masterpeice performance, and one of the most memorable. It is my favorite film role of all time.

Well, readers? Agree? Disagree? Don't all disagree at once! Take it to the comments!

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