Here’s the much-belated fourth installment of my “Favourite Performances of the Decade” series. I’ve seen a few more amazing performances since I compiled my original list, so I’ll likely be posting another five performances soon.
Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There (2007)
Tilda Swinton was quite good in Michael Clayton, but I was shocked when she won the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2008 Oscars, over Cate Blanchett. Blanchett was one of six actors to portray Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, and though she was the only female in the cast, her performance was hands-down the most captivating and convincing performance of the bunch. Playing “Jude” (each of the six actors has a separate storyline, all of which show different facets of Dylan’s life) Blanchet loped, squinted, and mumbled her way to a pitch-perfect Dylan impersonation. She had this great aura of cool in her gender-bending performance, which made her segment of the story infinitely captivating.
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood (2007)
He’s one of the best working actors, but Daniel Day-Lewis took his career to new heights with his unforgettable role in P.T. Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece, There Will Be Blood. Over the top in the truest sense of the phrase, Day-Lewis’ performance is amazingly fun to watch. Plainview is already a bit of a caricature, and Day-Lewis’ performance – though hammy – is perfectly demented, and really draws the audience in. Other actors might have looked foolish when reciting lines like, “I…drink…your…milkshake! I DRINK IT UP!” (which became 2007’s most unlikely cinematic catchphrase), but Day-Lewis brings just the right tone to it. The movie staggers around in this kind of surreal, woozy state of semi-consciousness, and as Plainview makes bloody blows and sells whatever is left of his soul, Daniel Day-Lewis slips into his character wholeheartedly.
Amy Adams – Junebug (2005)
Amy Adams shines as the eternally optimistic Ashley in Junebug. Stuck in a dead-end Southern town with a husband who seems to resent her presence, Ashley is still bubbly and excitable. When her brother-in-law visits with his new wife from the city, Ashley finds herself eager to please. Adams plays the demonstrative young mother-to-be with a sparkle in her eye that feels like a giant breath of fresh air. Her genuine performance is at times hilarious, melancholy, and heartbreaking. Adams has since gone on to bigger roles, and she always brings wonderful poise to the screen, but her breakthrough performance in Junebug is unforgettable.
Renee Zelwegger – Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Though I may not be a huge fan of Zelwegger, but her motor-mouthed turn as the chain-smoking Bridget Jones was irresistible. Armed with a spot-on British accent and loads of charm, Zelwegger made the romantically unlucky thirty-something relatable, and provided many laughs throughout the film. Bridget Jones was a top-notch romantic comedy, and Zelwegger helped to elevate it beyond the usual fare. She had great chemistry with Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, and whether she was flubbing a public speaking engagement or her own dinner party, she was frothy, light, and hilarious. Forget Chicago, and try this infinitely watchable film, instead.
Joquin Phoenix – Walk the Line (2005)
In an ingenious bit of casting, Phoenix portrayed The Man in Black (aka Johnny Cash) in 2005’s Walk the Line. The dark edge to Phoenix is perfectly suited to the troubled country star, and his brooding acting style fits the tone of the film to a tee. Though Walk the Line is a fairly by-the-numbers biopic, Phoenix’s performance helps to elevate it. He makes the best of clichéd material and embodies the musical legend so believably. The musical numbers are a treat to watch (who knew Phoenix had such a great voice?), and whether he’s falling in love with his wife-to-be (played by Reese Witherspoon) or having a meltdown, Phoenix’s presence is undeniable.