Sunday, June 18, 2006

75 Great Performances: 50-46

50. Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday (1953)

Though this isn't what I (and I'm sure many others) consider the definitive Audrey Hepburn performance (that one has a much higher ranking in this list), it's her first major role. And she won an Oscar for it. Before all the modern runaway princess movies, there was Roman Holiday, a delightful trip to Rome with always admirable actor Gregory Peck and always charming Audrey. Though she displays here a commendable range of emotions, she is best when in her stupor (immediately after leaving her residence) and while enjoying her momentary freedom with Peck. Watching this movie will convince you (if other things haven't yet) that there is and has been no brighter, more luminous, more sincere, more real star in Hollywood than the great Audrey Hepburn.

Image from IMDb

49. Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck in 21 Grams (2003)

In a world where de-glamming yourself physically can often win you accolades left and right, there are certain performances whose de-glamming is more emotional or spiritual than physical, and these are the roles that truly show a greatness that deserves high praise. In my film awards of 2003, I had named Charlize Theron the Best Actress. But now, in retrospect, I believe that Naomi Watts should have won that award and the Oscar for her raw, searing performance in 21 Grams. She still looks amazing, but the hauntedness in her eyes, and the crucial scene where she breaks down, and the small changes in her expressions all show the depth of emotion that Watts had invested into this performance. It easily pays off, as she gives what I think is one of the best performances in recent film history.

Image from IMDb

48. Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Not necessarily a better performance than Watts' (#49), but it definitely can be argued that this one is more memorable. Kate Winslet is always charming and vulnerable despite some hidden strength (see Sense and Sensibility, or Finding Neverland), but nowhere does she show that better than in the amazing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Like one reviewer had said, Winslet's Clementine is the type of girl you'd easily fall in love with and would never want to let go, whatever the circumstances. Clementine is whimsical, a fairy with as many colors in her personality as she has in her hair. If more girls were like her, the world would be much more interesting. And if there were more actresses like Kate Winslet, we wouldn't need great stories (which this film has) to see a movie.

Image from IMDb

47. Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990)

"I'm your number one fan." In 1990, Kathy Bates played to great effect every celebrity's nightmare: the psychotic fan. Bates deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Misery, the adaptation of a Stephen King novel. She is undeniably chilling and terrifying, keeping Paul Sheldon (James Caan) captive on a bed and wielding a sledgehammer in arguably the most memorable way in cinematic history. In these times when fame is such an easy thing to get, it would be nice to set loose an Annie Wilkes who'll show all the wannabes what it really means to have a fan.

Image from OutNow

46. Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The great actor Ian McKellen is fantastic in all three Lord of the Rings films, but it is with the more vulnerable and unsure Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that he shows the greatest range (though as I'm writing this, memories of his awesome performance in Return of the King are giving me second thoughts). Even McKellen himself has said that he prefers the role of Gandalf the Grey to that of Gandalf the White, the all-powerful version of Middle-Earth's mightiest wizard. He should have easily won the Oscar for his performance, showing depth and power of emotion despite the prosthetics, but like Alec Guinness before him (as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars), it was probably too fantastical a role for the Academy to take seriously. In both cinema and literature, there is probably no more iconic wizard than Gandalf (ok, maybe there's Harry Potter...), and McKellen was able to give him life.

Introduction and #s 75-51


la pirata said...

I liked that you mentioned Emma Thompson in Love, Actually. She was amazing, actually. And I am very appreciative that you mentioned Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth very early. She deserved the Oscar that year.But sweetie, where is Geoffrey Rush -- in practically everything? His performance in Elizabeth was absolutely unforgettably frightening. And Shine. And Robert de Niro in Godfather II and Taxi Driver? Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry. How about Christopher Walken in the campy B movie The Prophecy (also known as God's Army)? And Vigo Mortensen as a chilling Lucifer in the same movie. Well, why not put Amanda Plummer in there as well. ;)

la pirata said...

I'm adding for your consideration John Hurt as Quentin Crisp in the Naked Civil Servant (that's one of my favorite performances no matter what you might think); and Robert Downey Jr as Charlie Chaplin. I actually met Quentin Crisp in person in New York. John Hurt was almost indistinguishable from him.