Saturday, October 3, 2015

Simply the Best: 2015 - 2010

By Sati. Saturday, October 3, 2015
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 years.

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 breathtaking moments.

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 son.


 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 movie.




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.




40 comments:

  1. Many great performances on your list! I admit I lost interest in Robert De Niro when he began appearing in lots of cash grab movies. I agree he nailed that performance in SLP, a return to form. Remember in an interview he teared up because bipolar is important to him in his (and David O. Russell's) life, and their passion showed in the movie. I rewatched SLP this year and liked it a lot more on second viewing.

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    1. SLP is a very good movie but I always thought Lawrence was really miscast - she is just too young for the roles O. Russell casts her in. That said De Niro and Cooper were terrific in this film

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  2. This is an interesting list! I love that Birdman is on here a lot, as is Mad Max. Can't argue that both are excellent at doing what they do. Not sure about The Dark Knight Rises though - honestly, when I first saw it I was euphoric. I really loved it. And then, I watched it again and a lot things unravelled with it. For me, it's easily the weakest in the trilogy, and probably one of Nolan's weakest films to date.

    At least your list has inspired me to finally see Black Swan!

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    1. I hope you like Black Swan! It's not for everyone but at the very least I think you'll like the cinematography, music and the performances

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  3. I'm not arguing with your list as this is just great and definitely shows how good the past 5 years are.

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    1. They are! I'm doing 2005 - 2000 now and I'm struggling over so many categories there because there isn't enough people truly worthy of 'the best' title :/

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  4. Wonderful work! Some great films and performances here. I'm so happy to see love for Paulson, Rapace and especially Rickman (he's my winner for 2011 as well). And the pictures you have for each award, they just look so beautiful, and they're all great moments from their films. Really, fantastic work!

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    1. Thank you! So cool that Rickman is also your winner, I thought I was the only one!

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  5. I agree with your 2015 picks completely. I think Del Toro was amazing and though I wasn't so excited about the movie itself, the performances there were great. But Though Hardy and DiCaprio respectively deserve the lead actor statue, I have to give Damon a chance for The Martian. For me, there was so much variety in him, and his comedic timing was spot on. I think even if he doesn't win, The Martian itself is going to get a lot of nods anyway.

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    1. I haven't seen the film yet but I heard a lot of good about it and Damon in it, I'm gonna try to see it this week!

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  6. Love this post. I'm still so mad that Fassbender didn't win for Shame! He was luminous in that film. I love your inclusion of Alan Rickman as well. After re-watching all the HP films I was reminded how amazing Rickman was as Snape.

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    1. He wasn't even nominated for Shame :( Rickman was so good, he gave the best performance in the franchise

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  7. Excellent picks! These people really do show some tremendous work here. I love that you mentioned Prometheus that everyone pretty much hated, but I watched it much later with some scenes that were cut when it appeared on cinemas and that made it a whole lot better (from why Theron's character was so cold and determined to why some of the crew got lost in the cave). Noomi Rapace nailed it.

    I loved flight. I though I was going to hate it when I first watched it, but the movie proved me wrong starting from the intense flight scene to Washington's demise and redemption.

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    1. Flight was good but it had some issued but Washington's work was really terrific - wonderful performance in merely a good movie

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  8. Love that you're tackling the whole decade to this point. Lots of great wins. Especially loving the wins for Pike, Hill, Norton, and John F'in Hawkes! Too early for me to tell about 2015, but happy to Mad Max get some love. I will say I'm surprised not to see Nicholas Hoult take the Supporting category here. I thought he was great. Then again, I haven't seen Sicario, yet. The only winners I wouldn't at least consider as noms are The Dark Knight Rises and Hathaway as Catwoman. Neither did it for me.

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    1. Well at this point I nominate Hault but Douglas in Ant Man, Statham and Spy and Del Toro are far above him for me, as good as he was

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  9. WOW I love a lot of your choices here Margaret!! Man if only your 2015 pick would even get a nom, but it's unlikely which is a travesty. LOVE that you picked Noomi Rapace & Alan Rickman, both were terrific in the respective films, yet got no love during award season. Rickman's Snape is a classic and one of my fave parts about the ENTIRE Harry Potter series. Mila Kunis was fantastic in Black Swan indeed, perhaps still her best role to date.

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    1. I think Theron and Del Toro may get nominated, especially Del Toro. Ferguson at least getting lots of exposure thanks to her work in MI5 so that's probably better than nominations :)

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    2. VERY true about Ferguson, I just want to see her getting meatier roles. I hope Theron gets a shot, and Fury Road in general.

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    3. Ferguson is gonna have pretty wonderful role on Girl on a Train, hope they shoot it soon cause I'm dying to see how they adapt it

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  10. Great post! Mad Max: Fury Road is truly worth of the title, and I really need to see Sicario. Gravity is so wonderful, I really hoped it would have won best picture. I have yet to see some of the performances you mentioned here - Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington's, in particular.

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    1. Thank you! Oh both Captain Phillips and Flight are very good but they are worth seeing for those performances alone

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  11. Definitely digging your love for Mad Max, and it's totally deserved! By far the best thing I've seen this year thus far, but the Oscar movies are inching upon us!

    So much yes to Robert de Niro in SLP and Fassy in Shame!! Great post, girl!

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    1. Thank you! i know people seem to love Carol but it doesn't seem like my kind of movie. i think Revenant or Spotlight can threaten Fury Road but it will be damn difficult to knock this off the top spot

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  12. Great picks here! I think we only match up with wins...once (Norton)...twice if you count the fact that we both give Hathaway the win, just for different performances, but regardless...LOVE THESE!!! Love the Byrne, Hill, Kunis and Fassbender wins especially.

    I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE THERON!!!!

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    1. Oh God you award the singing snot?:D Dude just...see fucking Fury Road already :)

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  13. Um, where's Margot Robbie? What the Hell? She's the BEST.

    All kidding aside, I love most of these picks. I'm such an idiot for dragging my feet on Birdman...but it's like I don't want to be let down or something. Weird.

    But Byrne? Denzel? Fucking Snape? BRILLIANT.

    And I always love your layouts.

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    1. Robbie was my number 2 in this category :)

      Jesus Christ, you haven't sen Birdman yet when you saw Zombiebeavers or whatever the fuck?:D

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    2. You know...I wasn't going to say anything...but this list is seriously lacking in the Zombeavers.

      But I get it. You include it and then it's fuck off to everything else that year. And that's no fun.

      Fuckery aside. ..I'll get to Birdman....one day.

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    3. Between Andrew not seeing Mad Max yet and you not seeing Birdman I wish I lived in US so I can just stap you both to a chair and force you to watch quality films :D

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  14. Great list! I mostly agree with every choice except for your 2012 ones. My best picture for that year was Ang Lee's Life of Pi. It was simply spellbinding in every sense and simply left me in state of shock and awe when it finished. Also, best actress has to be, IMO, for Jennifer Lawrence for SLP. I know you particularly don't like her and I personally think she has the grace of a buck-toothed platypus on a unicycle but she handled Tiffany's character with near perfection, giving a huge range and depth of emotions and inner workings of how complex her character was and I gotta give her that at least.

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    1. Thank you! I quite liked Life of Pi, it was definitely a gorgeously shot and moving film. Lawrence is my #2 for SLP but it was a very weak year for lead actresses imho. I also thought she was too young to play this character

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  15. This is a great list! I really like your picks for every year (except 2012 since I didn'i like TDKR xD). I specially like the love for both Birdman and Mad Max ^.^

    "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'" - I couldn't agree more with this~~


    I've been reading you for a long time now, you've said a lot of times how much you love Black Swan. So I was wondering if you've seen Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue (since BS is heavily influenced by this movie)? If you haven't I strongly recommend it xD

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    1. Thank you!

      I did see Perfect Blue - it's all right but I think the opinion that it Swan is heavily influenced by it is a bit of an exaggeration. Aronofsky borrowed some shots from it for both Swan and PBlue but the movies are really about different things. It's a good movie but I'm not very much into anime

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  16. Amazing post and love that gif at the start. Also have to agree with you on most of your choices (only a few I don't agree with (didn't like Birdman for example)) but I like your picks.

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    1. Thank you! Birdman seems universally loved so it's interesting seeing someone didn't like it, people usually complain about TDKR here :)

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  17. Awesome post! Love your choices, especially your Best Picture ones, all of which I adore. And we both have Fury Road, Ferguson, Gravity, Fassy, Black Swan, and Portman as winners! :D

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  18. I absolutely love the variety in your choices. Some I agree with and some I disagree. But that's why I like it. So many different types of movies and performances. Good stuff!

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