Thursday, June 26, 2008

Top 10 greatest Actress Roles

Most of you who know me know that I am a huge fan of film. I've seen just about everything ever made. Even though I usually avoid, romantic comedies, parodies, and remakes at all costs. Myself and some friends were talking about some of our favorite characters in movies of all time. I was able to compile a list of my top 10 favorite roles for actresses in film as well as a top 10 for actors. A common theme for these roles is that none of them take place in the future or are sci-fi films. Every single one of these roles is realistic and could happen in real life. The strength of the characters and their interactions with one another is the fuel that drives these films. Robots, Ghosts, Monsters, and High-speed chases need not apply to movies that are carried on the backs of capable actors.


10. ELLEN PAGE-"JUNO"- Somehow Ellen was able to take a screenplay that was a mish mash of crazy dialogue and make it her own. In the process of conveying the seriousness of teen pregnancy, she also manages to make the audience laugh just about every minute of the movie. Her sarcasm is flawless almost to a fault. The sign of any great character is that your focus remains on them, even when they aren't talking. Ellen definitely has that going for her in this film.

9. ELLEN BURSTYN- "REQUIEM FOR A DREAM"- I love it when older actresses who have been missing for a while finally get another role worth waiting for. In this film Ellen Burstyn plays a widow who is living alone in Queens. Her son Harry is a heroin addict that constantly steals from her. Her only real source of joy is a cheesy game show on tv. When she receives a phone call that she has won the opportunity to be on that game show, she goes through the roof. She wants to wear her favorite dress, but when she tries it on she realizes she's gained a few pounds. She goes on some diet pills that are basically a type of LSD. It starts off fine, but soon she is having to double and triple her dosage in order to keep up with the desired results. Her hopeful outlook coupled with the bleak truth makes for a nice duality to the character. Her downward spiral never really comes back up. And her journey into rambling insanity is played with the grace that only a veteran like Burstyn could pull off.


Scarlett Johannsson is now a household name and she has this film to thank for it. The first film that she carried from start to finish proved that she had the acting chops to hang with the heavyweights of Hollywood as she starred in this film with the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Colin Firth. She plays a peasant girl living in the mansion of the great Dutch painter Johan Vermeer in the 1600's. Her character isn't overly talkative but she does such a good job portraying emotion and thoughts with facial expressions that it should be studied by mimes everywhere!! Her character is thrust into a world so different from the poor life that she grew up in and her fear of the unknown is always evident. She inadvertently becomes the subject of Vermeer's most famous painting. Making Vermeer's wife and bratty children conspire against her. The cinematography is fantastic in this film but Scarlett is the one who powers it from start to finish.

7. JULIANNE MOORE- "MAGNOLIA"- Although she is only on screen for about 25 minutes of this movie. She succeeds in being the most gripping character in this 12 person ensemble cast. She is a money grubbing whore who marries a tv producer 50 years her elder for his money. She cheats on him, treats him like shit, and uses him. However now that he is on his deathbed dying from cancer, she realizes that she has actually grown to love this old man. Her guilt becomes unbearable to the point that she doesn't even want to inherit his fortune anymore. She is so completely erratic due to being on prescription meds as well as seemingly suffering from depression and bi-polar disorder. You can't take your eyes off her for a second. She kept me on the edge of my seat simply because she is so verbally and physically abusive due to her own inner turmoil. But within seconds she is back to acting compassionate towards those she hurts. Kinda scary.


For Marilyn Burns, acting and reality seemed to collide during the filming of the most suspenseful horror movie of all-time. Terror will never look this real again simply because she honestly was scared for her life. She was stuck in a house with 5 guys she barely knew. The hot Texas heat in the house was in the 120's and they had been shooting for days. All of the props within the house were actual animal carcasses and they were turning rancid in the heat. The entire crew began becoming delirious from the smell as well as dehydration. Creating for a bit of the 'ol temporary insanity. In the scene where the hitchhiker cuts the inside of Marilyn's hand with a "prop" knife the heat was so hot that it had melted the protective layer of wax on the knife and he slashed her deep. (Later on she would receive a great deal of stitches.) As she cried for the director to cut and for the actors to stop they just kept poking at her, harassing her, and taunting her to the point that she thought she was in a genuine snuff film and these guys were actually gonna kill her. They ran with that idea for the remainder of the film and Marilyn, although severely traumatized by the experience managed to turn in the best performance in the history of horror.

5.JENNIFER CONNELLY- "HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG" I love Jennifer Connelly. A true actress that usually avoids big payoff roles to pursue more realistic and slow paced drama because she can play off of other great actors so well. This was probably her biggest test as she goes head to head with Ben Kingsley. She plays a woman who has been abandoned by her husband and finds out not too long after, that her house is being repossessed by the bank. She successfully ruins the lives of the family who moves into her old house but we still sympathize with her due to her own misfortune. The scenes between her and Sir Ben Kingsley are so real and powerful that I doubt if any feud over property in film will ever look good again. She also succeeds in ruining the marriage of another man and his family too. Her selfish air of entitlement is a hammer that smashes everyone around her. She never comes across in the film as someone with bad intentions, but that is merely a credit to Jennifer's flawless acting.

4.NAOMI WATTS- "21 GRAMS"- Nobody does sadness like Naomi. In this film she loses her husband and 2 little girls in one tragic hit-and-run accident. She is also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict that adds depth to her character. Her husband is the one that got her sober and she feels empty now without her family. Also an interesting dynamic is the relationship between her and Sean Penn's character. Sean received a heart transplant from her husband before he died. Now Sean loves her apparently because that is the heart that has always beat for her. She is faced with the dilemma of giving in to this man. But her reluctance is evident. Can she honestly love this man who benefited from her decision to pull the plug on her dying husband to save someone else? I guess you'll have to watch it buddy.

3. EVAN RACHEL WOOD- "THIRTEEN"- Another relative unknown at the time this film was made was rocketed to super- stardom after this Indy Festival Film spread like wildfire. Evan plays a straight A student and the ideal daughter who quickly descends into a nightmare for her family when popularity knocks at her door in the 7th grade. She pickpockets her way into the hearts of the "cool kids". Before long an entire world of crime, drugs, sex, and manipulation open before her. It is a story based on the actual life of her costar Nikki Reed. Therefore the source of the material was always readily available for her. It truly made her character as authentic as possible. The true strength of this film comes in the relationship between Evan Rachel and her mother who used to be best friends before "Evie" drove a wedge between them. Her mother tries love and understanding to steer her 13 year old daughter back to reality. Evan Rachel just gives her the cold shoulder, and degrades her in front of people making for some of the most heartbreaking and real interactions ever captured on film. Quite a feat for such a young actress to topple such mature subject matter, it is sheer brilliance.

2.NAOMI WATTS- "MULHOLLAND DR." Naomi is the only actress on the list to have 2 spots and it is rightly deserved. Her character in Mulholland Dr. is played with an almost schizophrenic authenticity. The film is basically 2 segments. Her character is completely opposite in the two. The first half is the way her life was supposed to be. A beautiful young actress that takes Hollywood by storm. She is helpful, warm, and talented. She befriends a scared woman that ends up being the love of her life. Producers stumble over themselves to hire her for their next role. However that segment is merely a dream. The 2nd half is the bleak reality of the situation. She switches gears seamlessly to a broken down actress as ugly on the inside as she is on the outside. She is degraded by producers, made a fool of by friends, and nobody really seems to give a shit about her ultimately culminating in a decision to have the woman she loves killed by a hitman. Her guilt is draped around her, thick as a blanket and she wears her scowl and desperation so well we don't even recognize her as the same actress from the earlier half of the film. This film takes about 7 viewings to grasp its genius but it's well worth it if you have the time. It's actually my favorite movie EVER!!


1. SARAH POLLEY- "MY LIFE WITHOUT ME"- Sarah Polley isn't a household name but the Canadian actress continues to deliver some the best roles of her generation. In this film she plays a 23 year-old mother of 2 little girls. She has a nice husband who is a bit of a loser because he's always unemployed, and they live in a trailer behind her mom's house. It was never the life that she saw for herself but she feels she can't really do much to change it. However after a doctor's appointment she is told that she has uterine cancer and she only has a few weeks to live. Instead of telling her friends and family the bad news she opts to keep it quiet because she doesn't want her remaining days to be filled with people crying and being fake. She instead, writes a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies. In trying to complete this list she finds a passion for life that she never had before. There are so many times in this film that Sarah makes tears come to my eyes by the slightest of gestures or words. Sometimes less is more and all great actors know that. Even though this film is slow paced it's the single finest job of acting I've ever seen from an actor or actress. I challenge everybody to "Google" Sarah Polley and check out some of her films. She is even directing now and her first film won all the awards at the Toronto film festival last year and she also provided her lead actress with an Oscar nomination for best actress. Talent upon talent.
Honorable mentions:
Hilary Swank-"Boys don't Cry"
Annette Benning- "American Beauty"
Judi Dench -"Notes on a Scandal"
Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore- "The Hours"
Sissy Spacek- "In the Bedroom"
Christina Ricci- "Pumpkin"
Jennifer Connelly- "Blood Diamond"


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