Tuesday, January 14, 2020

10 Best Performances in 2019

By sati (harlequinade) Tuesday, January 14, 2020 , , , , , , , , , ,
Here we are again, the most wonderful time of the year when we get to celebrate the best movies and performances we saw over the last 12 months. Usually I start my lists with the best scenes, but I still haven't watched 1917 and I think it may have a shot at that, so this year we begin with the best performances.

Honorable mention: Brad Pitt as as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Granted, Pitt may not be doing all that much in this movie. He is just there, being cool. But much like Hardy made Venom watchable, Pitt single-handedly makes Tarantino's latest appalling drivel possible to sit through. DiCaprio does his usual and Robbie simply exists on screen so it was Pitt carrying this thing with his effortless charm. He will most certainly win his first Oscar for this performance and as much as I hated this movie, I'm all right with that.

10. Laura Dern as Nora Fanshaw in Marriage Story
Laura Dern has given us so many wonderful performances over the years. She has strength and charisma that always make her characters vivid whether they are maternal and loving (Wild) or unapologetic and ferocious, like here with her fierce, ruthless lawyer who walks just the right balance between genuine concern and artificial performance for the client, the judge and everyone who surrounds her. There are so many little brilliant things she does here - kicking her shoes off when she is speaking to Nicole in a "we're just gal pals hanging out" kind of way to get her to open up, taking her jacket off in the courthouse to distract everyone, suddenly switching to polite conversation and praising Charlie's accomplishments in the middle of official meeting - that really create this image of a woman and a lawyer who has it all figured out. It's a wonderful, entertaining and unforgettable work. 

9. Jennifer Lopez as Ramona in Hustlers
Lopez's showstopping entrance alone is spectacular and gets a lot of well-earned praise and applause but her entire performance is just as good - ruthless but not immune to feelings, her Ramona is a total badass and it's a perfect part for Lopez to play. She is fiercely charismatic and it's really hard to take your eyes off her. She is almost always few steps ahead of everyone else and you cannot really tell if she has any scruples left. Hustlers is a brilliant film but it wouldn't work without the diamond in the center of it and that's her.

8. Florence Pugh as Amy March in Little Women
I have never read the novel the movie is biased on but my understanding is that Amy wasn't well liked by the readers. But with lovely Pugh playing her and Gerwig writing and directing with sympathy and love for every single character in this movie, it's really hard to dislike Amy. We see her in different phases of her life - when she is jealous and angry with Jo and then when she is trying to become someone great, all the while realizing that the only path for a woman to take is that of marriage. Pugh plays Amy with so much energy and youthful charm, it wasn't hard for me to believe she is playing a very young girl and that's even considering how deep and serious her voice is. I simply loved her Amy.

7. Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc in Knives Out
No one had as much fun playing a character in 2019 as Daniel Craig did playing Benoit Blanc. Craig is an absolutely phenomenal actor who has been sadly tied down to 007 franchise and you can tell just how miserable he is starring in those movies. Seeing him outside of the series is always such a joy and in Knives Out yet again he made me excited to see what he does when he is finally done playing 007. Here he isn't afraid of being totally over the top and ridiculous with his hilarious accent, singing and amusing reactions to mayhem happening all around him, but his character never loses his warmth and compassion towards those who actually deserve it.

6. Bill Hader as Ritchie Tozier in It: Chapter Two
It's always the most impressive thing when the actor manages to give an amazing performance in a mess of a movie. I an still stunned by the choices director Andy Muschietti made when it comes to this film, none stranger than using inferior, less dramatic takes when it came to Hader's performance. But even with the insane choices and poor script, Hader managed to create one of the most memorable and moving performances of the year. His Ritchie is heartbreaking and you really feel his pain and loneliness, but Hader also provides the movie (with the help of great James Ransone) with fantastic moments of humor and fun. It's a brilliant performance, one that deserved a much better movie surrounding it.

5. Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems
Sandler has shown he can pull off dramatic work years ago but lately it seemed like he disappeared into Netflix bullshit that they appear to make just to keep him on a payroll. But he has never been better than he is in Uncut Gems - stressful, surreal, fever dream of a movie that only works because we actually care about his character (well, at least we care just a little bit) even though he is far from being a good person. And he is just so entertaining to watch even though observing him make a bet after bet is like watching a car crash unfolding in front of you - you are simply too mesmerized to look away.

4. Lupita N'yongo as Adelaide Wilson & Red in Us

is one of the biggest disappointments of the year and that's simply because of Peele's sloppy, ridiculous script. But Lupita delivered not one but two brilliant performances while also making both women feel like two parts of the whole. She is so incredible on the screen and makes that film worth watching. Her work as Red is especially chilling and her entrance in the movie is unforgettable. The way she sounds, moves and acts in frighteningly manic way is chilling, but so is her Adelaide, who will do anything to survive and keep her privileged place in the world.

3. Florence Pugh as Dani in Midsommar
This has been Florence's year and I'm so happy about that. I don't think I ever had one actress take more than one spot on that list. Florence is such a talented, exciting young actress and it's wonderful that she is getting cast left and right these days. She has anchored this manic dream of a movie so brilliantly, flawlessly portraying Dani's isolation, sadness, insecurity and the pain of feeling like she doesn't belong anywhere. Without her, the movie would have collapsed but she instantly makes us care about this lost, lonely person and we feel the terror and the joy along with her. We want her to be all right and in the end we hope that even in the prison she found herself in, the madness will set her free and she finally finds happiness.

2. Adam Driver as Charlie in Marriage Story
Driver is a tremendous actor. I have never seen a bad performance from him - regardless of the overall quality of the movie he always brings his A game. And his work in Marriage Story is exceptional - he plays a character who isn't someone we should root for or even like - he is selfish, arrogant, he cheated on his wife. But Driver infuses that character with so much humanity and at times even childlike naivete with his belief that things will turn out all right just because he wants them to. It's a beautiful performance, one that makes you laugh and makes you cry.

1. Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat in Doctor Sleep
While the movie itself isn't the greatest, I genuinely believe that Ferguson's performance will manage to make it into a cult classic all on its own. Her Rose is pure evil and Ferguson plays her like an addict - addicted to the shine that gives her her life-force, her youth and her high. It's an absolutely delicious performance that makes the movie all around her worth seeing just to witness her. She is so fun to watch and the whole look of the character is incredible - the messy braids, the grunge shirts - the hat is the least of it all. If I were to choose my one favorite cinematic thing in 2019, it would be that performance.


  1. I love all of your picks and yay for Adam being so close to the top! It's embarrassing he's not going to win an Oscar for this performance but the dude climbing into the fridge for no reason will. *heavy sigh*

    1. It is but history will not look at Joaquin's win fondly and those 11 nominations are already getting ridiculed

  2. always enjoy lists like this. still have so much catching up on 2019 movies to do! really got to acknowledge pitt's performance, makes me smile just thinking about it!

    1. Pitt was the only truly great thing about this one!

  3. So many good choices here Sati. Well done. I wish Jennifer Lopez got an Oscar nod. She was crazy good in Hustlers. Probably one of the best performances she's had in years.

  4. Great list! Nice to see Daniel Craig get some love. He made Benoit Blanc his own; I can't see any actor give it a performance similar to his, and I can't wait for the sequel.

    1. Yes, I can't wait for the sequel too! His character was just brilliant!

  5. Tremendous list. What a great year for Florence Pugh!

    You've reminded me that I still need to see It Chapter 2, Hustlers and Uncut Gems...I know I know I'm slacking hard this year!!!

  6. All of these choices are phenomenal! I have become such a fan of Pugh. Her portrayal of Amy was something I had not seen in previous adaptations of Little Women. She breathed real personality into a character that could have been SO unlikable and bratty. She deserved that Oscar nom for sure.

    And Daniel Craig. I honestly think this is the first movie I've seen him in where he shows his comedic talent. Just amazing. It reminds of when I first saw Brad Pitt in a humorous role and I was just blown away. I cannot wait for a sequel.

    And of course, Bill Hader. I liked IT Ch 2., but he was by far my favorite part of the entire thing.

    1. You should check out Logan Lucky, really sweet movie and another comedic performance from Craig!

    2. thanks for the recommendation! I'm going to check it out.

  7. It was only recently I realized Amy was an unpopular character! She's always been my favorite March sister :)

    And Rebecca! She was so great as Rose I always feel like she's the best part of so many movies she needs to find a really great project all around that can support her!

    1. She really is! I fully expect her to steal the show in Dune too