Tag Archives: Jared Leto

10 Unsung Performances of the 00’s

A few months back, I wrapped up my Best Performances of the Decade series. But while that list included a lot of familiar names and acclaimed performances, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the performances that not everyone has seen. This list contains no Oscar or Golden Globe nominated roles, and I’ve limited myself to performances that received little or no awards attention and were relatively overlooked by audiences (as much as I think that Jim Carrey, Peter Sarsgaard, and Rebecca Hall should’ve been nominated for Oscars, they did receive a considerable awards attention elsewhere for the roles in question, which disqualified them from the list). Here are ten unfairly under-recognized performances from the past decade, in alphabetical order.

Daniel Bruhl – Good Bye Lenin!

Inglourious Basterds may have introduced German actor Daniel Bruhl to a wider North American audience, but it’s 2003’s Good
Bye Lenin! that really showcases his skills. Bruhl’s charismatic performance carries the film, and he nails the sense of whimsy that permeates every scene. Heartbreaking at times and hilarious at others, Bruhl’s performance shows enough genuine charm to cross all language barriers.

Clifton Collins Jr. – Capote

Clifton Collins Jr. is a solid character actor who has lately been favouring tiny roles in big studio films (Star Trek, Brothers). But if there’s one film that proves why he should get bigger roles, it’s Capote. Playing one of the two murderers that Truman Capote investigated for In Cold Blood, Collins makes his character Perry disarmingly and chillingly sympathetic. Collins is every bit as good as lead Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the scenes that they share together are breathtakingly intimate.

Abbie Cornish – Bright Star

Abbie Cornish’s performance as Fanny Brawne, the young love interest of poet John Keats, is just as beautiful as the cinematography in Bright Star. She revels in Fanny’s feisty modernity, but also reflects the melancholy of her restrained life. As Fanny’s relationship with Keats evolves, so does Cornish’s performance – ranging from star-struck to distraught over the course of the film. It truly is a breath of fresh air.

Robert Downey Jr. – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

A favourite performance among his fans, Robert Downey Jr.’s work in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang proves why so many people love him. He’s hilarious, bumbling, and sexy as our protagonist and snarky narrator. Always a scene-stealer, Downey is the epitome of charisma here.

Emile Hirsch – Into the Wild

Previously best known for his work in the teen sex romp The Girl Next Door, Emile Hirsch stunned audiences with his raw performance in Sean Penn’s directorial debut, Into the Wild. Playing a young man who gives up his material possessions and sets out for the Alaskan wilderness, Hirsch is often the only person on screen throughout the film’s 2.5 hour running time. Hirsch takes what could have been a purely preachy character and injects a sense of vulnerability that makes his optimism admirable. He’s entirely charismatic and compelling.

Jared Leto – Requiem for a Dream

Ellen Burstyn received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her work in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, but the unsung MVP of the film is Jared Leto. Leto’s strangely iconic turn as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life coupled with his foray into emo music has made him something of a critical punching bag, but he proves what an amazing actor he can be here. Much like the film itself, Leto’s performance as Harry is dark and harrowing. It easily could have become caricature, but his performance as a drug-addled optimist cuts right to the bone.

Daniel Day-Lewis – The Ballad of Jack and Rose

As one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, it’s surprising to see how often Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in The Ballad and Jack and Rose is overlooked. It may not be as “big” as some of the other performances that he gave in the past decade, but Lewis’ work here is just as good as anything else he’s done. Playing a quietly desperate, confused man, Lewis’ performance is heartbreaking and unforgettable.

Guy Pearce – Factory Girl

Always a chameleon, Guy Pearce’s turn as the legendary Andy Warhol is uncanny. To me, the entire film is underrated, but Pearce’s performance is certainly the highlight of Factory Girl. The character is often downright unlikeable, and Pearce’s snarky screen presence is striking.

Sam Rockwell – Snow Angels

Sam Rockwell is an actor who is just starting to get the recognition that he deserves, and it’s easy to see why with a film like Snow Angels. David Gordon Green’s story of small-town tragedy is disturbingly beautiful, and Rockwell is stunning as a recovering-alcoholic-turned-evangelist. The film’s bombastic final moments are only amplified by the quiet, desperate journey that Rocwell’s performance takes us on.

Mark Ruffalo – You Can Count On Me

You Can Count on Me is a film that I recently caught up with, and while it provided my favourite Laura Linney performance to date, the real stand-out for me was Mark Ruffalo. His character is an insufferable screw-up, yet rather than making him a downbeat loser, Ruffalo revels in his messiness and makes him a purely charming, memorable guy. There are no big “cinematic” moments in the film, but this allows Ruffalo to give an all-around great performance, rather than relying on select scenes to stand out.

Honourable Mentions

Samantha Morton – Control

Michael Angarno – Snow Angels

Ryan Gosling –The United States of Leland

Keri Russell – Waitress

Jason Bateman – Juno

Benicio Del Toro – Thing We Lost in the Fire

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Every once in a while, you see a movie that really sticks with you. Something about it speaks to you on a higher level than merely just being an enjoyable piece of film. And even though I just watched Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream yesterday, I know that this is a movie that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Everything about it was strange, chilling, and oddly beautiful. Some people would definitely not enjoy this movie, but I think that it’s an important movie for just about everyone to watch at some point in their lives. I’ll skip the plot synopsis – all you really need to know is that Requiem follows four ambitious people who are destroyed by addiction.

All four of the actors are great. I thought Jennifer Connelly was amazing in A Beautiful Mind and Blood Diamond, and I now have even more respect for her after watching her heartbtreaking, subtle performance. All four stories are horrific in their own ways, but I think I was most disturbed by the person that Connelly’s Marion Silver character becomes. Ellen Burstyn is certainly deserving of her Oscar nomination as Sara, an older woman addicted to diet pills. She’s separated from the other cast for most of the movie, and her apartment becomes a claustrophobic, nightmarish setting which she must battle alone. But while I expected great things from Connelly and Burstyn, I was surprised by the two male leads. I guess I’ve always dismissed Jared Leto as a bit of a prettyboy/emo hack (surely, you can forgive me – have you heard any of 30 Second to Mars’ music?) But not having actually seen much of his acting work, I was taken aback by how convincing he was as Harry in Requiem. Leto somehow made his character vulnerable, pathetic, despicable and likeable all at once. Marlon Wayans was also surprisingly strong as Harry’s friend Tyrone, though he had more understated performance than the others.

I also loved the style that Aronofsky brought to the film. Many of his camera angles and techniques were very inventive, and highly effective. The whole film played out like a horror film, in a way. The soundtrack, bleak settings, dark subject matter, and camera work all created this crazy amount of tension. I look forward to watching this movie again in the future, and watching for all the stylistic touches that I missed first time around. And not to give away the ending, but the last few minutes of this film were edited so wonderfully, and it created this whirlwind climax. It was very difficult to watch, but only because it had such a visceral impact.

And let’s talk about that soundtrack for a second. I’ve heard that same string part in umpteen billion ads for various other products and movies. I actually didn’t know that it was originally from this film, and it sounds best in its originating form. At one point, the instruments are slightly out of tune, and it works amazingly. It created so much dread, and, like with many true horror movies, I found myself almost unable to watch the screen, for fear of what was going to happen next. Like this movie, the soundtrack is pretty much perfect.

So in conclusion, go out and watch Requiem for a Dream! It’s heavy and depressing, but it will really make you think.

10/10