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 second one with my winners for Best Picture and best performances between 2009 and 2005:
In The Loop is the funniest movie I've seen in years. Thanks to that movie I saw the series it is based on - The Thick of It - and it quickly became my favorite TV series of all the time. Both are immensely rewatchable, hilarious and brilliantly scripted. In The Loop is a biting and clever satire on politics and one of the most quotable movies of all time. If you haven't seen it yet - do. You won't regret it.
Colin Firth's work in A Single Man is as beautiful as the gorgeous movie itself. He plays a broken hearted man who is set on committing suicide and we watch a final day of his life - when he finally notices the people and the world around him. It's a lovely, calm and deep performance. Firth would go on to win his much deserved Oscar a year later but it still pisses me off how the Academy chose Bridges over him here. It's the best kind of performance - one that is not showy but you can sense how much the actor understands the person he is playing.
Tilda Swinton is one of the finest actresses working today and her work in Julia remains my favorite performance of hers. She plays a desperate alcoholic and that key word here is desperate. Swinton plays the character with such power and conviction she makes the good movie great solely with the force of her performance. There is a scene here where she runs over a man and it's just one of the best portrayals of woman being prepared to do whatever it takes I've ever seen.
Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker is one of my all time favorite characters. The man everyone fears because his words have almost the power to annihilate. Capaldi is game for the craziness of his script and you'll never see anyone shout out offensive remarks with such fury as he does here. In The Loop has a whole variety of terrific little known actors delivering brilliant and hilarious performance but the movie wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't for Capaldi's Tucker.
Every once in a while an actor comes along that gives one performance so good they don't need to do anything else because thanks to that one performance they will forever have the place in cinematic history. Mo'nique is such an actress. Her work as the true monster is so frightening you will never be able to forget it.
Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon is the finest example of my favorite type of movie - the one where the tension is built on the interactions between two wonderfully portrayed characters and dialogue. Frost/Nixon is one of those movies I could watch every day. The performances from everyone - especially Kevin Bacon in the supporting role are just wonderful, as is Hans Zimmer's brilliant score. It is such a sharp movie portraying one of the most exciting events in media ever - a journalist getting a president to confess his sins - but it's also such an observant film that really makes us understand both sides of the conflict.
That this performance wasn't even nominated by the Academy is one of their greatest crimes.I think if an actor could sue the Academy for their stupid mistakes there would be no one out there with the stronger case than Leo. Jesus Christ, if he really wins this year for The Revenant, can you imagine what kind of a joy will the world feel? DiCaprio's intensity in this movie reminded me so much of Burton and Brando. He is just terrific and not just in portraying his character's insane anger but also in portraying his desperation for the life to finally be what he dreamed it to be and in his sadness in the film's final scenes. It's still his best work.
Winslet won an Oscar this year in what was perhaps one of the worst category frauds in the history of the awards - the Academy chose to reward her for her fine work in The Reader, which was very clearly a supporting turn. but Winslet was so much better here in a true leading performance. Her April is so disenchanted and she lashes out - the emptiness that she feels unloads in yelling, tears, violence and her final desperate act. Many criticized the actress for how flashy her performance was but I liked it and I thought it was one of her best. If the Academy wanted to finally award her they had the perfect performance in her April.
2008 would be a true bloodbath when it comes to supporting actor category - Kevin Bacon in Frost/Nixon, Brad Pitt in Burn after Reading, Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges, Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. It would be impossible to pick but Heath Ledger's work in The Dark Knight made the choice so easy. It's just horrible that he is no longer with us because he was such a gifted actor. Ledger's whole performance doesn't have one false bit in it and he makes every single one of his scenes memorable one. It's a performance so visceral and one where actor becomes his character so much everything Ledger does is so in tune in his character. I think the favorite moment of this performance for me - and probably the best in the movie - is when Batman is beating Th e Joker up so that he would reveal where he is keeping Rachel and Dent. The Joker just laughs maniacally telling him he has nothing to do with all his strength. His work as The Joker remains the finest supporting actor
performance in years. I wonder who is gonna top that but I'm sure it's
not gonna happen any time soon.
Farmiga is one of the best actress that show u in films and TV these days and she delivered her best work in very underseen and underrated Nothing but the Truth. In the film she plays an agent whose identity is exposed. Farmiga plays such a fierce character with so much conviction. It's truly a shame that her work was so unrecognized.
It was a tough choice between Michael Clayton and Jesse James and while Jesse James is a better film I still prefer Michael Clayton. Clever, sharply paced thriller has a great dose of nuance to it in portraying the struggle of a lawyer disenchanted by life who still does the right thing. Framed by James Newton Howard's fantastic score and beautifully directed by Tony Gilroy Michael Clayton is just a wonderful movie all around.
This is the year when I go the most against the tide when it comes to actors picks - everyone and their mother chose Daniel Day Lewis in There Will be Blood and while it's a great performance, I think Clooney's is so much better. I have never seen the frustration acted out so beautifully - while looking at Clooney in this movie you can just feel his character's quiet anger at life, at his family, at the world. Clooney's fierce last conversation scene with Swinton is just powerhouse of the acting as is his beautiful final scene where we just look at him in the cub. It's just a mesmerizing performance.
That's right, readers. Weep as I don't choose Cotillard for her work in La Mome which put her on the map. Look Cotillard is great but it's the quality of the movie, which is so aggressively terrible that brings her down. Meanwhile that very same year we had Keira in Atonement. I just love her work here - look at the scene where she is talking to the police about her sister. Her lover was just arrested yet Knightley plays her Cecilia as focused and unmoved. You can see she is devastated underneath but it's her anger that covers it - yet she utters her word about them being better not trusting her sister in a calm and steady manner. But the best part of her performance is the way she looks at her sister when she, with her voice breaking, apologizes for what she did. Knightley, who is just fantastic in showing so well what her character is thinking without uttering any words, shows how much she feels for her little sister. Out of all the actors it is McAvoy who was the MVP here but sadly I cannot award him. Knightley, who is just getting better and better with each role, played one of her best here.
I dont watch "The Assassination..." very often. It's a beautiful masterpiece but each time I see it I get so mad that 1. it's not beloved more 2. we still didn't get that director's cut that was one screened that even though it is 4 hours long I'd watch the shit out of. There are so many things to admire in the movie - the gorgeous cinematography, Brad Pitt's quiet, calm work as Jesse James, the stunning score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and incredible performance by Sam Rockwell who would be my win had it wasn't for Affleck.
The only actress who got Oscar nomination for Atonement was Saoirse Ronan. As good as Ronan was I was always stunned because my God, do you remember McAvoy crying over the bodies of those schoolgirls? Just how high are the members of the academy? Anyways, three actresses play the part of Briony - Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave. And it's Garai that for me was the best one. She plays Briony when she is already grown up and she comes into terms with horrible of effects the lie she told years before had. The whole of Briony here is the eponymous Atonement - how shy, sad and timid she is. There is this shattering moment when after getting yelled at by Robbie she begs her sister and him forgiveness - she almost recites the words but it's not because she is detached - she memorized them because otherwise she couldn't even utter them. The pain is just too great.
There were a lot of fine movies in 2006, mainly Babel and the Departed. While The Devil Wears Prada is my favorite in terms of how often I rewatch it, it's The Prestige that was the most impressive. I almost gave Hugh Jackman the win for Best Actor for his fantastic portrayal of obsession. While the female characters could be better - Hall rescues her with her acting but Johansson is hopelessly lost, everything else is fantastic.It's a trick within a trick - the art about art. Nolan uses the magic of cinema to tell a tale of magic and it's a mesmerizing and a very clever spectacle.
I really ought to see this wonderful movie sometime again but it just makes me so nervous. Throughout the entire film you care about Smith's character and his little son so much you really dread something awful is gonna happen to them. But in the end everything works out in one of the most uplifting and beautiful scenes in recent memory. Smith plays the role of caring father with such earnestness and warmth that even though Jackman was fantastic in The Prestige and Damon was just great in The Departed, the choice here was easy.
If there was justice to awards this would be Streep's third Oscar win. She is just sensational as Miranda Priestly, creating a character that is truly instantly iconic. Streep never makes her Miranda into a caricature and the script has enough of little moments - amplified by Streep's convincing performance - to let us know at her very core, Miranda is still very much human. It's a fantastic work in a truly charming film, one that to this day remains one of those movies I could watch over and over again.
That year is a real wasteland when it comes to this category. So much so that Walhberg, for his very fun but still one dimensional performance is winning here. He was nominated by the Academy and the award went to Alan Arkin for his charming and easy work in Little Miss Sunshine. But for me while Walhberg is far from best in the cast - Farmiga is so dedicated, Baldwin is so charismatic, DiCaprio delivers one of his best performances and Damon does deliver his best performance there - he is still one of the movie's most dynamic character with all his insults, colorful remarks and quips. It's not a great performance, but it's so fun to watch.
Before everyone loved Birdman and were shaking in anticipation for The Revenant (this is the third time I mention this movie in this post series), Inarittu was making smaller movies. They still had big stars in them and they still dealt with grand issues but they felt smaller. One of such movies is Babel, a very clever, albeit far from perfect movie, depicting the human's desire to communicate. Brad Pitt is just wonderful here as is Adriana Barraza but the show belongs to Rinko Kikuchi, barely 24 at the time the movie was shot. This is such an extraordinarily brave performance and the film's toughest role - she plays quiet schoolgirl who is so lonely she lashes out by acting in overly sexual way. The amount of things this girl gets to express just with her eyes is stunning - there is such sadness and desperation there. I haven't seen this movie in years but I remember this performance so very well.
That the Academy chose not to reward Brokeback Mountain as the best picture of the year is just a travesty. I remember Nicholson announcing it was Crash and it was just horrible moment all around. Crash is a fine movie but back in 2005 the films about gay romance were not that common and the message in giving this one best picture would be pretty clear and important. But Brokeback Mountain has always been the most important movie of that year - it is perhaps the film that captures love in the best I've ever seen. The intensity of the feelings between the protagonists is palpable in so many scenes - most memorably in the moment they part and withdrawn Ennis bends down under the pressure of his pain and punches the wall. Lee gets the best out of his actors, probably giving Anne Hathaway the best moment of her career, a moment so powerful that bad wig that comes with it doesn't matter - it is that quick scene of her talking with Ennis on the phone where Hathaway gets to show such maturity, nuance and understanding for her character and in her reserved way gets to express more sympathy than Ennis' wife ever showed him. It's a painful but beautiful film and not a single one of the similarly themed pictures that came after it came close to the level of this one.
This remains my favorite performance by Ledger and one of my favorite performances of all time. Throughout the movie the man doesn't act, he simply becomes Ennis, the walking, very rarely talking, creature of repressed feelings and sadness. His Ennis is such a tragic figure and watching him finally burst with violence - because everyone has their limits and sometimes you just crack - is incredible. The moment where he is overcome with pain after he leaves Brokeback or when he is holding that shirt? This is such a beautiful performance.
I HATE how underrated this movie is. It's a fantastic film about such important issues. It depicts the fight of Josey Aimes' who had to take a job in a mine, against the men who were molesting and abusing her. As Aimes Theron is truly a force of nature - she plays a woman who had a very difficult life but every single time she picked herself up and didn't let people get away with what they done. There is a gorgeous moment, which I'm sure those who didn't like the movie will call too sentimental, where one by one the people in the courthouse stand up to show their support of Josey. Theron wordlessly shows such disbelief, joy and relief and just breaks down in the face of it all as if she needed a moment to finally realize this is the fight she has finally won. It's one of her best performances so far.
Richard Jenkins is one of those actors who always brings his best. Thanks to that, even if the movie is terrible - my God, remember Eat Pray Love? - he makes it worth seeing just to witness his scenes. So when he is actually in a good movie the result is outstanding. And hugely underrated North Country is a very good movie. In it, Jenkins plays the father of Theron's character who for the majority of the story refuses to help her or even acknowledge what is happening to his daughter. But there is this moment when he finally steps up and defends her. It's a moment that is so powerful, earnest and stunning that is gives Jenkins the edge over Gyllenhaal very fine work in Brokeback Mountan
The Constant Gardener is one of the most unique romance movies of the last years - it's equal parts thriller, romance and in a way a ghost story. It shows a man getting to know his wife and truly, really love her only after she is gone. That man is beautifully played by Ralph Fiennes, in one of his best performances, but it's all about that woman - Tessa. Weisz delivers a very tricky performance here - it's not until some time into the story that we find out about Tessa's true personality. Up until that point the movie juggles the scenes depicting Tessa as determined, sensitive and perhaps very calculated and cruel. It's the best kind of writing because later on the film shows those scenes again and the perception of Tessa is completely altered. But Weisz plays the part so well, almost all of her scenes can be dually interpreted. It's not her acting that is changing, just the way we see her because of what we know at that point in the story. It's a beautiful work and the Academy did something wonderful this year - they actually recognized it as the year's best supporting actress performance.