(countdown to Cinematic Corner's first birthday - 1 day)
10. Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth the First in Elizabeth
Best scene: I am not your Elizabeth. I am no man's Elizabeth. And if you think to rule, you are mistaken. I will have one mistress here... and no master!!!
For me Cate Blanchett will always be Queen Elizabeth. If there was any justice in the world she would have won Oscar for her work in Elizabeth, instead losing to overrated Gwyneth Paltrow. Blanchett perfectly shows Elizabeth's transformation from innocent girl to fierce and admirable ruler, willing to sacrifice her own happiness and love of her life in order to be the best at what she does and protecting her land. She also sneaks in a lot of humorous bits that make her character easy to like while at the same time being admired for her strength. Blanchett has delivered many beautiful performances, including the one in sequel to Elizabeth - Golden Age - but for me this is her best work.
9. Shelley Duvall as Millie Lammoreaux in 3 Women
Best scene: Millie by the pool
Most of movie fans probably remember Shelley Duvall from being hysterical and ever screaming wife of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. While her performance there is - how do I put it - controversial, her work in 3 Women deserves all the praise in the world. Duvall plays painfully lonely Millie, who is always talking, appearing to be joyful and happy to everyone else. It's only after some time in the movie you notice that though she is talking - no one ever talks back. She is talking, talking and talking to fill the loneliness and going on pretending she is popular and liked, when the truth is that she is being ignored by everyone around her. Much like Lynch's Mulholland Drive, Altman's 3 Women shifts in the different story many times, which gives Duvall opportunities to play many different versions of the same character. And she excels in every single one of them.
8. Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster
Best scene: The final kill
Theron's work in Monster, though not as close to my heart as what she did in North Country and Young Adult is definitely the best out of three. It's not only the biggest and most impressive physical transformation I've seen (not counting Christian Bale's annual shenanigans in hoping he will get an Oscar, which fortunately ended when he won for The Fighter) but also genuinely incredible portrayal of a woman who could have been dismissed as white trash and cold blooded killer but in Theron's interpretation she is so much more - she is capable of love and she feels remorse, guilt and comes off, primarily, as a very unfortunate soul.
7. George Clooney as Michael Clayton in Michael Clayton
Best scene: Do I look like I'm negotiating? I'm not the guy you kill. I'm the guy you buy! Are you so fucking blind that you don't even see what I am? I sold out Arthur for 80 grand. I'm your easiest problem and you're gonna kill me?
I may be the only person out there who preferred Clooney's work in Michael Clayton to Daniel Day Lewis's performance in There Will be Blood back in 2007 but I don't care. Clooney's subdued yet intense work as titular character never fails to impress me - he is simply outstanding at playing a man whose anger and frustration hides just beneath the surface, waiting to explode. The most amazing thing about the movie is that it never really explodes, at least not fully - it goes away, peacefully, gradually, in one of my favorite movie endings where Clayton sits in the taxi and we look at his face as hundreds of different emotions go through his heart and mind.
6. Michael Sheen as Mark Furness in Dirty Filthy Love
Best scene: Watching the wedding video
Sheen is one of my absolute favorites and his work always mesmerizes me - from Fantabulosa to Frost/Nixon through Unbreakable and The Deal to The Damned United. But it's his performance in very little known British TV movie Dirty Filthy Love that deserves the highest of praise. Sheen plays an architect whose life stars to unravel because of his OCD - he loses his job, his wife leaves him and he slowly becomes unable to control his life, as he is obsessed with many things - walking up and down the stairs dozens of times, fearing the germs and anything dirty and repeating things over and over again. Sheen is so amazing at portraying that disease you completely forget you are watching the movie and you are looking, horrified, at this poor man who is unable to control his own body
5. Tilda Swinton as Julia in Julia
Best scene: And it's time *my* luck changed. And it's time something went right for *me*!
Tilda Swinton is one of my favorite actresses and her brilliant Academy Award winning work in Michael Clayton almost made the list - but it's her performance in Julia, the movie that would be unremarkable without her, that is the most precious to me. Swinton plays a hopeless alcoholic who kidnaps a little boy for money. As the story progresses she bonds with the child and despite behaving irrationally and brutally at times, she tries to keep the kid - and herself - alive. It is the single best portrayal of desperation I have ever seen on screen. I'll never forget the look on her face when she mercilessly drives over a man with her car. Such a powerful, unforgettable performance.
4. Michael Fassbender as Brandon in Shame
Best scene: I was just telling your pretty girlfriend here, that I’d like to fuck her in that tight pussy of hers.
Michael Fassbender is a relatively new star, having had his breakthrough only few years ago with Hunger. But it's in Steve McQueen's second movie where he gave his best performance - as young, handsome Brandon who hides his destructive sex addiction from everyone, including his own sister, perhaps the only person who truly cares for him. Fassbender does many brave things for his role but it never overshadows the fact that he completely became Brandon on screen - his despair, self loathing and the need to feed his addiction is visible in his every action. Fassbender plays a man who is fighting for his soul, pushing everyone away because of his shame, secretly praying for redemption and fully knowing he may never receive it.
3. Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in The Schindler's List
Best scene: I mean, when they compare you to vermin, to rodents and to lice. I just, uh, you make a good point. You make a very good point. Is this the face of a rat? Are these the eyes of a rat? "Hath not a Jew eyes?" No, I don't think so. You Jewish bitch, you nearly talked me into it, didn't you?
Ralph Fiennes has many wonderful performances - such as those in Quiz Show, The Constant Gardener, Red Dragon and In Bruges - but he will forever be remembered as ruthless Amon Goeth who fights with his affection towards the Jewish maid that works in his house. Cold blooded murderer, someone who can easily be called a monster and just a Nazi executing orders - Fiennes never makes his character this easy to categorize. He created moving and downright frightening portrayal of a man, who was so indoctrinated and tainted by the things he was ordered to do that nothing can save him, not even a chance for love.
2. Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain
Best scene: Jack leaves, Ennis is in despair
Heath Ledger won his Oscar for The Dark Knight and there is no denying that his portrayal of The Joker was terrific and legendary. But for me what he did as Ennis Del Mar was far more impressive and challenging - as a tough guy, who barely talks, Ledger plays mostly with his body language and his eyes. You can feel his pain just by looking at him and you can see the force of the love he has for Jack in his every single look, in every movement. His heartbreak when he finds the shirt of his that Jack took and hid for all these years is so crushing, you can't hold back tears. And every time I see the scene when right after their trip to Brokeback Jack leaves and Ennis cries and punches the wall, my heart breaks too, into million pieces.
1. Naomi Watts as Betty/Diane in Mulholland Drive
Best scene: Engagement announcement and Diane's reaction
Watts isn't a particularly great actress - she has given some wonderful performances, such as those in 21 Grams and The Painted Veil but she also has some work in her resume where she is doing the minimum and she pretty much stands there, somewhere in the frame, like she did in The International. However, it's her work in Mulholland Drive, that is my all time favorite performance and none of the others on the list came close. As Betty and Diane she is required to play two different women who are essentially the same person - only living in different realities. Because of all the gestures, looks and emotions those women feel different but due to Watts's acting it's not hard to believe they are the same person. Her performance in the last 30 minutes of this movie is an absolute masterpiece - the anger, sadness, despair and hopelessness all in one look she gives to the woman she loves. Her fury will stay with me forever.