Tag Archives: Jennifer Connelly

Favourite Performances of the Decade: Part 1

This is the first part of an ongoing feature where I’ll be sharing some of my favourite film performances of the decade. It’s impossible to compare and rank these performances, as they’re all very different and equally good, so I’ll just be posting 5 random performances at a time. It will probably be a five part series. My list is a work in progress, and I’ll be taking the rest of 2009 into account later on. These are just the acting performances that I liked best, so feel free to post your own opinions and suggestions! 

 

Ryan Gosling – Half Nelson (2006)

Ryan Gosling has proven himself to be one of the best young actors around, and he earned a surprise Oscar nomination for his turn as Dan, a crack-addicted school teacher, in Half Nelson. The Oscars seem to be all about big “actor’s moments”, but Gosling gives a great subtle, well-rounded performance here. His character is quite likeable, yet you’re left shaking you head as he continues his downward spiral. Gosling does a great job of balancing Dan’s teaching persona – where he’s charismatic, and seems to genuinely care about his students – with his hellish private life. When Dan is caught smoking crack by one of his students, Drey (played magnificently by Shareeka Epps), he develops a special bond with her as both teacher and student try to help each other. Through his facial expressions and body language, Gosling gives one of the most quietly moving performances that I’ve ever seen. 

 

James McAvoy – Rory O’Shea Was Here (2004)

McAvoy has proven himself to become one of the most popular young actors of the latter part of this decade (and has also managed to become an odd kind of sex symbol), but before he was getting starring roles in big films like Atonement, he played a young man with muscular dystrophy in Rory O’Shea Was Here (also known as Inside I’m Dancing). Playing Rory, McAvoy had the challenge of making the character charismatic and loveable, but also exasperating at times. Rory’s friendship with a young man with cerebral palsy is touching, and you’re heart goes out to the boys as you see their daily struggle to live a “normal” life, and deal with the prejudice that they face from others who do not understand their handicaps. Rory has a biting sense of humour, and McAvoy’s performance is both emotional and funny. For both fans and sceptics of McAvoy, I’d recommend checking out this movie. 

  

 

 Robert Downey Jr. – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

2008 was a great comeback year for Robert Downey Jr. with Iron Man, and his Oscar-nominated work in Tropic Thunder. But my favourite Downey role that I’ve seen from this decade is from a few years back. Though it was not a commercial success, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a hilarious crime caper comedy, where Downey plays Harry, a mediocre crook who finds his way to Hollywood posing as an actor, and gets involved in a real life murder plot. Co-starring with Val Kilmer (who is actually pretty funny!), the two have great chemistry. Downey is hilarious, charming, and sexy here. His delivery is brilliant, and he plays the everyman-out-of-his-depth role like no one else. Downey is his best playing a smartass, and there’s plenty of witty dialogue and clever subtleties to compliment Downey’s charismatic acting style. It’s a really fun movie, and a lot of that has to do with Downey’s great performance.  
 

Jennifer Connelly – A Beautiful Mind (2001)

In my opinion, Jennifer Connelly has got to be right up there with Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep as one of the best actresses around. Even in some of the so-so movies that she’s been in (think He’s Just Not That Into You and Hulk), she manages to still stand out and give a really solid performances. She was fantastic in 2000’s disturbing Requiem for a Dream, but her understated, mature performance in 2001’s A Beautiful Mind is what I see as her finest work to date. Playing the wife of Russell Crowe’s character, she must deal with her husband’s increasingly debilitating struggle with Schizophrenia. Connelly’s performance is at times vulnerable, moving, heartbreaking, and powerful as she portrays a woman who is far from perfect, but is trying desperately to make things work. 

 

Aaron Eckhart – Thank You For Smoking (2006)

In Jason Reitman’s directorial debut, Thank You For Smoking, Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, an incorrigible lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Armed with ridiculous spin tactics and an affinity for smooth-talk, it’s Naylor’s job to convince people (especially children) to take up smoking, and to downplay the health risks of cigarettes. Eckhart is hilarious and smooth in the scenes where he’s working his hyperbolic magic, and you can tell he’s having a lot of fun with it. And although his character is relatively despicable, Eckhart still brings glimmers of warmth and genuine likeability to his performance, which prevents us from truly hating the film’s protagonist. Eckhart shows real affection with his on-screen son, without falling into the sappy clichés that are so readily available in most films revolving around a single father. Here, Eckhart is larger than life in a very, very good way.

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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