The Oscar season is almost upon us so I thought it would be fun to assemble a list of my winners in 5 big categories. I originally wanted to just share the list but once I started to write about these movies and performances the post grew so much I had to split it into three. So here is the first one with my winners for Best Picture and best performances between 2010 and 2015. 2015 picks are likely to change but at this point I just want to praise these performances. Fury Road is safe where it is, though.
While there is still 3 months left this year and the Oscar season has only just began I cannot imagine any movie this year that can top Fury Road. The relentless, beautiful, insane and exhilarating film is such an anthem for freedom and a testament of human will to survive. Everything is perfect - the simple script brought to life with so much nuance and color by the actors led by incredible Theron and fantastic Hardy, the music, the action, Miller's astounding directing and the film's gorgeous cinematography. But what makes Fury Road stand out from other action films and blockbuster is how much heart it has - you genuinely care for and admire the characters and the film's final shot, as pictured above is one of the most triumphant images ever put on film.
While I imagine Hardy loses this spot by the time I see The Revenant (DiCaprio) and Legend (Hardy again), at this moment in time he is my win. He has proved time and time again how charismatic he is and few years back as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises he proved he can create a memorable character even if most of his face is obscured - it is also the case here for the first 45 minutes of the film. Hardy also barely speaks in the movie but he is so good here - showing how his character goes from basically being an animal who just wants to survive to this man, a good man, who helps those who need him. It's a lovely performance and the way his work as Max and Theron''s performance as Furiosa compliment each other is just great to witness.
When asked who is the best working actress today some will say Blanchett, many will say Cotillard. But could Blanchett or Cotillard play characters as varied as Aileen Wuornos, Mavos Gary or Furiosa? They could try but they wouldn't do as well as Charlize Theron, the best working actress nowadays, does. Her Furiosa goes against the trope of action heroine - yes, she is badass but she is very human. Unlike Sarah Connor she is still capable of trust even though she was a slave for majority of her life. Unlike Ripley her traumas didn't kill her desire to belong, forgive and repent. As Furiosa Theron gets to express every single possible emotion and creates a character so fierce, so admirable and so instantly iconic. This is our Furiosa.
I so wish I could give the award to Jason Statham's performance in hilarious Spy, but the year is not year over and he is dethroned already. Hardy can be a threat here as well with his much anticipated performance in The Revenant but it will be bloody damn difficult to top what Del Toro does in Sicario. The film is hard to steal but he does it with ease playing the most interesting male character in a long while. A merciless assassin with the bleeding heart and broken mind- you simply cannot take your eyes off him.
Fury Road is safe but out of these actors pick Ferguson is the safest. I really don't think there is gonna be a better supporting actress performance this year. I wonder what Tom Cruise thinks of all of this that happened with the critical reception of the film. Cruise was the one who saw Ferguson in TV series White Queen and got her cast in 5th installment of the series that pretty much belong to him. And then when the film opened - to great reviews - pretty much every single one of those was singling out Ferguson as the film's biggest asset. Del Toro steals Sicario but he doesn't do so with such grace as Ferguson does here. It's truly incredible - an unknown actress enters the franchise in its 5th film and overshadows everyone. Her Ilsa is a very fun character but it wouldn't be nearly as great without great actress playing her. And Ferguson elevates the material so much - her Ilsa is a kickass skilled agent but she is also a fine woman - elegant, classy and very feminine. She is like a femme fatale of Hollywood golden age movies. There is this moment when she lifts her dress, reloades the shotgun and positions it on her bare knee. I got lightheaded when that happened.
I adore that moment when I truly fall in love with a movie that I'm
watching. With Birdman it was within first five minutes when Riggan
'makes' the reflector hit the shitty actor in his play. The atmosphere
of the film, its astounding visual side, energetic beat of the score,
the effortless humor, the wonderful acting - it's all right there. It's
not just a movie, it's a wild, surreal, beautiful, breathtaking
experience and a great study of the mind of an artist and the challenges
he faces in the world. Hell, not just an artist - all of us. Wanting to
be someone, to have our dreams come true, to be relevant. What do we
want? How can we be happy? How can we be free? Birdman asks all of those
questions without ever coming across as preachy. It's just an
incredible ride, from start to finish, and the finest movie I've seen in
Michael Keaton's wonderfully meta performance in Birdman is as great as
the movie itself. He's funny, tragic, difficult, relatable, all at the
same time. Keaton can make you laugh both at Riggan and with him and he
can make you feel so sorry for him only to root for him in the next
scene. It's not an easy character to like but we like him, because we
get to know him. And the scenes where he messes up are intertwined with
the scenes where he manages to fix things, like the lovely moment where
he gives courage to fellow actress. You want everything to work out for
him in the end and perhaps, perhaps it did.
How do you show Amy with all of her complexities when you are working with a
script much less intricate than the book was? You try to understand
Amy. And this is precisely what Rosamund Pike did, from reading the
books that Amy might have liked to creating whole new handwriting style
for her. Pike nails all of Amy's personas creating such an incredibly
compelling and fascinating performance. It is a performance far and
above all the other ones by actresses in 2014, one that everyone will
end up remembering many years from now.
Norton has managed to do the impossible - he was better than J.K.
Simmons for me. His hilarious turn as method actor Mike Shiner is
amazing to watch. You almost sense Norton is poking fun at himself as
well as other actors but it never comes off as mean spirited. And I will
never stop laughing at that fight scene he has with Keaton, while
wearing just underwear and getting smacked with a newspaper.
Rose Byrne starred in variety of movies but it's in comedy where she
finally found her true calling. She was excellent in Get Him to the
Greek and Bridesmaids but it's Neighbors that brings her best
performance. Byrne balances all the aspects of her character - loyal
wife, loving mother and a girl who refuses to let these roles turn her
life into boring routine - in such a wonderful way. And there was no
role more fearless than that in 2014. Milking scene may be shocking and
crude but she completely owned it.
Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is the perfect movie. It's a beautiful,
breathtaking spectacle and the most spectacular cinematic experience
I've ever had. It's a technical marvel but it has a very strong heart at
the center of it - wonderful, highly relatable story of a human being
with flaws and imperfections, struggling to survive and achieving just
that because of the beauty and the capability of human spirit. In the
world filled with so much evil, it's important to make films like that -
that show us that humans can achieve wonderful things too. If only by
staying alive and appreciating the very miracle of it.
Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic and delivers his best work in The Wolf of
Wall Street. Mikkelsen is incredible in The Hunt McConaughey is nearly
as good as he was in Killer Joe in Dallas Buyers Club. But Hanks
delivers his career best work as Richard Phillips. And when you say
'career best' about someone with career like Hanks' you should be
careful. But when you see the ending to Captain Phillips' - the year's
most shocking, beautiful, moving, powerful, intense and cathartic
moment, I have a sneaky feeling you'll agree with me.
Over the years Cate Blanchett has given us so many wonderful,
unforgettable performances. But her shaken, broken, struggling Jasmine
is a whole new level of greatness. It's a difficult performance to pull
off but Blanchett manages to do that with her usual grace. This is the
masterclass of acting.
Hill is a damn good actor. You can talk shit about him, I don't care. He
is genuinely funny and even if the jokes in his comedies cross the
line, he makes them work. He was my win for This is the End until I saw
The Wolf of Wall Street. He was so great. DiCaprio is amazing but Hill
never lets him overshadow him. From the little things he does - from the
panicked look he has while he is sitting alone in the office after Brad
was arrested - to explosion of comedy like his ridiculous scream during
Lemmons scene, this is a wonderful performance all the way.
This is what usually happens to
me in this category. With the exception of Chastain in The Help several
years back, Best Supporting Actress is always a choice of mine that
biggest awards choose to ignore. And Sarah Paulson layered, nuanced work
in 12 Years a Slave deserves all the praise. Months after seeing the
movie the loudly applauded performances of Eijofor, Fassbender and
Nyong'o are all but gone from my mind while it's Benedict Cumberbatch's
wonderful performance and genuinely interesting character and Paulson's
broken, bitter woman covering her heartbreak and flaws with cruelty and
icy demeanor that stayed with me. Mistress Epps doesn't hate slaves. She
doesn't make life unbearable for them. Unless they have the misfortune
of her husband being attracted to them. We don't know much of her past
but the ferocious jealousy, contempt for her husband and her life and
overwhelming bitterness drive her to cruelty, much like fondness for
alcohol drives her husband. And her kind of cruelty is much more
interesting to watch than his.
Christopher Nolan's masterful conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy is
not only a step up comparing to previous two movies, it's also one of
the most epic and incredibly well made action/adventure films I've seen.
Directed with much skill, done with great scope and featuring stellar
performances from the cast, the movie has been my number 1 of the year
for the last six months and though some films came close, not one of
them managed to dethrone it. The film has one stand out performance -
that delivered by Anne Hathaway as suave and clever Selina Kyle - but it
doesn't have the biggest issue The Dark Knight had - the performance so
fantastic it puts everyone in the shadow, making the film uneven. Lead
by wonderful Christian Bale, the cast delivers earnest performances that
are never overshadowed by the film's incredible action set pieces and
It is a true art to create powerful performance in average movie. Denzel
Washington created incredible work based on the mediocre script - his
astonishing performance is the only thing driving this movie, preventing
it from derailing. The anguish, self loathing, desperation and finally -
redemption - without Washington all of those aspects of his character
would be completely hallow. With him playing Whip, they are brutally
real and powerfully honest.
Rapace's powerful work in Ridley Scott's Prometheus was not easy - after
all she would inevitably be compared to one of the most bad ass
heroines in the cinematic history - Sigurney Weaver's Ellen Ripley. As
Dr Elizabeth Shaw she is naive, curious and trusting - at first. She is
driven by her desire to meet her makers and uncover the unknown. In the
process of the movie we see her becoming strong and fearless, prepared
to do whatever has to be done to survive. Rapace delivers a performance
of a heroine who is admirable, inspiring and strong but she never stops
being human and never loses her innocence.
De Niro finally delivers amazing performance - his Pat is a loving
father, devoted husband and slightly obsessed football fan. As you can
see this category was very competitive and we truly got a whole variety
of wonderful supporting performances this year, but none of those amused
me and moved me as much as De Niro's work. He was both hilarious and
powerful throughout the movie and there is no way the film would work as
well as it did without his scenes, especially his final lines to his
In the film that features so many talented actors, Anne Hathaway managed
to completely steal the spotlight. Though her work as Selina Kyle isn't
quite on the level of the iconic Catwoman created 20 years ago by
Michelle Pfeiffer, Hathaway delivers fun, sexy and cool version of the
character that brought the classic depictions of Catwoman to mind. Her
work here is miles above her overrated turn in Les Mis and I only wish
she was as cool and suave during Oscar season as her character is in the
Although without question "Shame" is much braver film it is also
definitely one of the heaviest and most overwhelming movies I ever
seen. Also we must ask the question - what if the movie would be made
without Michael Fassbender's exquisite performance? With "The Artist"
all the elements are top notch. It's the most magical, enchanting movie
I've seen since "Amelie", a film that paradoxically by telling a story
set almost a century ago, in a matter from a century ago, feels so
edgy and unique - precisely because it went back, doing something
nobody thought about doing. Almost wordless film, without any stars in
it, captures the audiences everywhere - because of the talent and pure
love for cinema of everyone involved.
Michael Fassbender's harrowing performance as Brandon, a young, rich,
successful sex addict struggling to get through the day is perhaps in my
top 5 of the best performances ever. It may be even higher since the
only performance that comes to my mind that has a shot at being better
than what he did is what Fiennes did in "Schindler's List". Fassbender
captured the void and desperation of his character in a matter so
painful and powerful I wept during last 15 minutes of the movie,
precisely because he completely became his character and during those
minutes we get to see him hit rock bottom. There were many great male
performances last year, but in comparison to what Fassbender does here
they all look silly.
Mara's performance may be my favorite of the year - when I saw "Shame" I
knew Fassbender will be great. But when I went to see "Dragon Tattoo" I
had no idea that this, pretty much unknown actress will create one of
my all time favorite performances. Mara is so amazing here she makes
Noomi Rapace's version of Lisbeth Salander look one dimensional, almost
like a mannequin artificially brought to life. In Mara's
interpretation Lisbeth cares, feels, takes care of others and even
smiles. But she is also capable of great violence and cruelty. Her
performance is truly worthy of this fascinating girl created by Larsson
and so beloved, all over the world. She is Lisbeth - girl you want to
have as ally and you would never want to have as an enemy. The girl you
root for and feel for.
Rickman's performance as unlikeable and harsh professor Snape has always been a highlight of "Harry Pottermovies
but it's only in the last part of the series we get to realize just
how important the character was in reality. The series was always
filled with amazing actors who had very little screen time to establish
strong performances, but they always managed to do so - however
Rickman, during the series's most emotional and beautifully tragic
moment manages to channel so much beauty and sadness with his
performance it left the audiences all over the world shattered. It is a
performance that is superior to McKellen's Gandalf, yet it was
mercilessly snubbed during Award season.
If you would ask who the hell Jessica Chastain was two years ago,
nobody would know the answer. But in 2011 she appeared in so many
movies it would be exhausting to list them and delivered all around
beautiful work. Although beloved by movie goers and critics for her
performances in "The Tree of Life" and "Take Shelter" Chastain is most
highly praised for her performance in "The Help" where she stars as
sweet, naive and innocent Celia Foote. In a cast with so many great
actresses and performances Chastain manages to shine the brightest
being hilarious, adorable and when the script needs her to - completely
heartbreaking. He scenes with Octavia Spencer are the best and most
touching in already very moving film.
Darren Aronofsky's beautiful portrayal of decay of the mind and strive for perfection is a mesmerizing picture which has only one flaw - that it ended. I can't find flaw in this film and to this day I remember that I actually stopped breathing when I saw Nina dance her coda. Clint Mansell's terrific score, the cinematography and the great performances are all unforgettable and the film's script and terrific elements of body horror are so clever. Though many years have passed and many films were seen, Black Swan is still my favorite movie of all time.
Yes, Firth was better a year before in A Single Man. Yes, The King's Speech is an Oscar bait of a movie. But it doesn't change the fact that it was still a very moving, very well done film and Firth fully deserved his Oscar win for this one. The film's pivotal sequence of King's speech when he is carefully uttering every word to his subjects and everyone just stops and listen to him is so beautiful. I remember when that sequence came up the entire cinema full of people were completely silent and in awe. But it's not just this scene that Firth nails - he is wonderful for the entire film creating such a sympathetic character with so much compassion and heart.
Natalie Portman's best work as an actress, one that I don't think she will ever top, remains her performance as Nina. A huge credit has to go to Aronofsky - he brilliantly cast Portman as a ballerina who has all the right intentions, works hard, but perhaps lacks talent to be great. That is also true for Portman, no doubt a gifted actress, but never so gifted she could be one of the best. Though Portman was brilliant before - in her Oscar nominated turn in Closer and even more so in her supporting role in Cold Mountain - under Aronofsky's direction she truly shined as Nina. My favorite thing about the performance is the duality Portman nailed - she plays Nina as this lonely, shy, sheltered girl so well and then it is contrasted so well during the times Nina's dormant sexuality comes to light with Portman's fierceness and that dangerous spark in her eyes.
Winter's Bone is a great film which still remains as the movie Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps most overrated actress working today, gave her best performance. But the film belongs to Hawkes, a terrific actor, who brings so much charisma here. When Hawkes is on the screen he totally dominates it and it's a performance that was rightfully nominated by the Academy.
Mila Kunis's performance, when it comes to pure demands of the script, was probably the hardest role in Black Swan. Kunis had to play two Lilys - one that was perhaps after Nina's career, sabotaging her and the other that was sweet, friendly and helpful. The key was that neither Nina nor we, the audience could ever know which Lilly was best. The sabotaging Lilly part was easier because it was not as subtle as kind Lilly. But Kunis mastered this part too. There is this moment in the movie where Nina and Lily go to the pub together. A sleazy waiter hits on Lilly and she shots him down. She looks at Nina ready to laugh at the guy but she noticed how embarrassed Nina, who is never around people socially and probably never hits on is. There is look of such empathy and sadness on Lily's face then. It's a tiny moment but one that I can never forget and one of the proofs that Kunis really understood her character so well.