Actressing. Here is the best of it, from this decade at least. Short blurb right.
15) Bjork, Dancer In The Dark
Supposedly Bjork has vowed never to act again after her experience on this film, and to be fair Lars Von Trier doesn't seem like the most accommodating of directors, but he does get results. One has to look no further then this great performance he extracted out of a person known primarily for being weird. But whatever the source of it, this is a great performance, and as much as it pains me to put Bjork in any kind of list, it would be dishonest not to.
14) Laura Linney, The Savages
I think what makes Laura Linney great is that she maybe the best actress around at communicating intelligence. There's something so thoughtful about all of her characters, regardless of whatever faults they might possess. I think her best performance is in this underrated middle class indie fest, in which the neurotic script fits in nicely with her usual intelligent delivery.
13) Audrey Tautou, Amelie
Yeah, fine. Tautou perhaps doesn't do much more than stand around and look designedly cute. But, she took a character that could in the wrong hands have been one of the most irritating in all history and made her one of the most likeable in all history, and that's as much of a skill as being intense I would have thought.
12) Nicole Kidman, Dogville
Speaking of intense. Another Von Trier leading lady, dealing with a biblical amount of brutality. Kidman is an actress I often find slightly overrated but she is very good here, and its a shame she got recognized for more middle of the road fare that shall remain unnamed.
11) Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Moore has perhaps more then anyone else been the benchmark for high quality indie cinema, and having her name attached to your film makes it about a thousand times more credible. This is perhaps because very few people convey inner emotional disquiet better then Moore. She gives the kind of performances that are great because of how contained she is. Except possibly, you know, Evolution. But this is the quintessential Moore performance, because she makes everything so awesomely repressed.
10) Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Babel is the weakest of the Innaritu films this decade, but it perhaps contains the best performance. Not from its leads or its stars, but from Ms Kikuchi, who in her performance as the almost tragically sexually frustrated deaf girl makes an unforgettable mark, and it takes quite a lot of skill to steal the movie from the array of talent present here. One of those great performances where you know the actress is destined to return to the obscurity from when she came as soon as their done.
9) Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
There had to be a Winslet here in some form, so rather then go with conventional wisdom I'm putting up her performance in this, the quite underrated Sam Mendes' 50's marriage disintegration movie. Its a really great performance, perhaps not getting as many plaudits as her Eternal Sunshine bit, or The Reader but it really should have. The smartest and subtlest work she has done.
8) Judi Dench, Notes On A Scandal
Its an awesome role, and pretty much any actress worth her salt would have been good, But Dame Judi lends a relatability amidst the craziness. There's a real sense that what she does she does simply to connect with someone, rather then just cardboard crazy being the go to. Its a thoughtful portrayal of real human villainy.
7) Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
In a movie full of Bob Dylan's, who would have thought that the closest capture would come from a woman in a jewfro wig. Blanchett may have had a backlash of sorts lately, but one only has to watch this movie to see how good she is at what she does.
6) Ellen Page, Hard Candy
The tiny Canadian will feature on many of these lists I would think, but probably for Oscar nominated turn in Juno. And while she is excellent in that movie, it didn't hit me quite as hard as her performance in Hard Candy. Its the performance that instantly announces a real and present talent, and she, with the help of a stellar supporting performance from Patrick Wilson, creates perhaps the most terrifying and powerful female antagonist/protagonist, depending on your perspective, this side of Y2K.
5) Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Biopics, as much as I loathe them, do draw out great performances. And Cotillard as Edith Piaf pretty much covers every emotional state known to humanity, and does so without missing a performance. A great, grandstanding performance.
4) Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
Mulholland Drive is a very difficult film to be good in. And Watts doesn't just manage it, she does it in a way that nearly upstages all of Lynch's weirdness and unanswerable mystery. It gave her a career as one of the most respected actresses of the decade and quite fairly so.
3) Penelope Cruz, Volver
Cruz recently won an Oscar for her stereotype confirming near cameo in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but she is so much better in Volver its hard to compare why she was ignored for this and recognized for that. You hear the term strong woman bandied about quite regularly in film without it actually meaning anything, but it means something in Cruz' performance here, in which she lends a real authority and power, yet vulnerability when the occasion calls for it.
2) Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky
When you saw the trailer for this film , you could have sworn that Sally Hawkins was going to irritate the shit out of your face. And for the first ten minutes you're standing firm in that belief, but then you realize that she is actually being pretty awesome, and by the movie's end she almost becomes a role model in showing us cynical folk how to live happy. It takes a lot of talent to sell such blind faith in the world, but Hawkins does it fantastically.
1) Ellen Burstyn, Requiem For A Dream
And so to number one, which for me was only going to be Ellen Burstyn's peformance in Requiem For A Dream. And yes I know you could say its just two hours of someone tripping balls, but you'd be wrong. There's so much more to see here, and its just one of the greatest performances from anyone in anything. Full stop.