Top 25 1/2 Performances of the Decade

I intended on making a list of Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress (I did start with Supporting Actor). But I thought it would be better to lump them all into one solid and concrete list. I’m sure there is going to be much disagreement. So, let me know what you guys think.

25. – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”

I honestly think Gere gets a bad rap – he’s an extremely talented actor who began the second act of his career with “Chicago”. They found the most unbelievable actor to sing and dance – and he knocked it out of the park. Gere supports this film on his shoulders and completely holds it together. His performances in this film paved the way for his roles in “The Hoax”, “I’m Not There”, and “Brooklyn’s Finest”. And what’s with “rom-coms”? Can people stop fucking saying that? It’s so annoying.

24. – Anne Hathaway as Kym in “Rachel Getting Married”

I didn’t see this film until about a couple of months ago. I don’t know why I strayed away from it for so long. I’ve always had this love for Jonathan Demme (even though I think “Silence of the Lambs” is grossly overrated and “Manhunter” is a far superior film). The way Hathaway breaks out of her typecast and breaks our hearts is wonderfully painful to watch. A quick note: I love the movie a lot, but the part I find most distracting (no, it’s not the wedding montage, I liked that part) is the actor who plays the best man of the wedding is like this shitty hybrid of George Clooney and Kevin Spacey. Weird.

23. – Ray Liotta as Henry Oak in “Narc”

Ray Liotta has made a whirlwind of shit. He’s always enjoyable for me, even if he is walking through his role in “Wild Hogs”. I can’t help but always be captivated by him, I think he’s an incredible actor and has this way of commanding your attention. His performance in “Narc” is just fantastic. He plays the clichéd rage induced cop who’s seeking the killer of his partner. Liotta gained about 40 pounds for his role – and what adds to the gaining of weight, is the realism of the flashback sequences where Liotta’s character appears fit and trim. If you haven’t seen this film, do so soon.

22. – Robert Downey, Jr. as Paul Avery in “Zodiac”

This seems like an easy sell, Downey, Jr. playing an alcoholic, drug addicted and charming beat reporter. But this was really the first role that he got to sink his teeth into since he’s troubled past. With his past experience with drugs and alcohol I feel as if Downey, Jr. could really play this character that spirals out of control to full authenticity.

21. – Mickey Rourke as Randy the Ram in “The Wrestler”

This is one of the best performances I have ever seen. What keeps this from getting higher on my list is the fact that I’m not sure how much actual “acting” Rourke does. I think he took elements of his personal life and mimicked them to Randy the Ram’s life. I know some people disagree, but I think that Penn’s winning his second Oscar for “Milk” was the correct performance to reward. Without “The Wrestler” Rourke would have fallen back to Eric Roberts land.

20. – Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb in “Requiem for a Dream”

The fact that Burstyn lost to Julia Roberts makes me sick. I like Julia Roberts, she’s cute, funny, and has an amazing sparkle in her eye. That being said: she’s not an Oscar winning actress (although more so than Bullock or Berry). Ellen Burstyn gives the performance of her career in this film. This film may be the roughy of all roughies – and due to her performance this film will stay in my mind forever.

19. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Jack Slavin in “The Ballad of Jack and Rose”

Day-Lewis gives a remarkable performance in his most flawed film. He balances inner rage and compassionate love for his daughter Rose. You find yourself loathing his character due to his selfishness and incest riddled relationship with his daughter – yet you find it in your heart to forgive him, and to understand his true love for Rose.

18. – Paul Newman as Jack Rooney in “Road to Perdition”

Newman should have won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in this film. I felt that Cooper winning was his make-up Oscar for not even being nominated for “American Beauty”. I feel that Newman gives one of his most subtle performances in this film. He’s the loving father figure to Tom Hanks, but has to chose between his own son (Daniel Craig) and Tom Hanks. One of the most heartbreaking scenes ever filmed is when Tom Hanks finally catches up with Newman.

17. – Daniel Craig as James Bond in “Casino Royal”

This is how you reboot a franchise! I am a James Bond super freak and I own them all. I’ve had a liking for each individual Bond (even George Lazenby). I’ve felt that the producers have always gotten it right for 007. I remember being pissed when they signed Craig, I was a strong supporter of Clive Owen (who I still think would have been a great Bond – check out ANY BMW Films add on Youtube and you’ll see my point). Daniel Craig gives us the perfect James Bond. He’s a stone cold killer. The way James Bond should be.

16. – Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”

I want to be Patrick Bateman (well…not the homicidal serial killer part). But deep down inside, don’t we all have an element of ourselves that is Patrick Bateman? Don’t we all from time to time get filled with disgust and greed? Or is it just me?

15. – Cate Blanchett as Sheba Hart in “Notes of a Scandal”

Blanchett is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, and she’s one of the greatest ACTORS ever. She’s just remarkable in everything she’s in (well…maybe not that last Indiana Jones movie). As Sheba Hart she engages into an inappropriate relationship with a 14 year old student of hers, which is both erotic and haunting. What she’s doing is wrong, but what gets done to her by Judi Dench is ten times worse.

14. – Alec Baldwin as Juan Tripp in “The Aviator”

Baldwin is remarkable in the way he’s rebuilt his career over the past decade. The guy went from being a tabloids wet dream. His personal life took a tremendous toll on his profession career, but with an Oscar nominated turn in “The Cooler” it spring boarded him into working with Scorsese, Robert DeNiro and his staple, “30 Rock”. As Juan Tripp he’s one of the most menacing corporate villains, standing second only to Gordon Gekko.

13. – Sean Penn as Paul Rivers in “21 Grams”

This is one of the most heartbreaking performances ever. How he won for “Mystic River” over “21 Grams” is bullshit. Probably because it was a Clint Eastwood film.

12. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “the Butcher” Cutting in “Gangs of New York”.

Day-Lewis single handily saves this film from the utter nightmare it could have been. If he wasn’t in this film to counteract the terrible performance of Cameron Diaz and the miscasting of the decade of Leonardo DiCaprio – this film would have been a sheer train wreck of a great director’s most personal project. How he lost to Adrian Brody for “The Pianist”, I’ll never understand.

11. – Ted Levine as The Warden in “Shutter Island”

Levine was only in three scenes in this film. He had only one scene that last about ten minutes with dialogue. This is the perfect example of less is more; by showing us everything about this character without telling us one thing about him. Levine is absolutely jaw dropping in this role. He shows us what a great, great actor he really is. This film should pave the way for meatier roles on the horizon for Levine.

10. – David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, Good Luck”

I think there is always hesitation when an actor takes on the role of an icon like Murrow. David Strathairn has always been one of my favorite character actors – from his roles in “Eight Men Out”, “The River Wild” and “LA Confidential”. In “Good Night, Good Luck” he finally becomes the leading man that he deserves to be. He’s absolutely amazing as Murrow and gives the performance of his career.

9. – Heath Ledger as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” and Enis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain”

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about his performance as the Joker. I guess the SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar said all that there could be said. And for “Brokeback”, he was overshadowed by PSH for “Capote”. What a shame, a real shame. It’s hard for me to pick which performance of his is better? Sometimes I lean towards The Joker, and other times I lean towards Enis. Face it, they’re both perfect.

8 ½. – Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido Contini in “Nine”

Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest actor I have ever seen. I will challenge anyone who claims that someone is better. Sure, you can throw around Bogart or Brando or DeNiro. But I will stack his performance in “My Left Foot” and “There Will Be Blood” against any Brando or DeNiro performance. In “Nine” Day-Lewis talks with a genuine Italian accent, and sings (though he’s no Dean Martin) in an Italian accent. He is brilliant in this film, just fucking brilliant.

8. – TIE: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep in “Doubt”

This is truly a team effort. The entire film is a battle of showmanship between Streep and Hoffman. The way they fight each other is as epic as Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader. The display of their acting craft is monumental, and will bring anyone to their knees. Watch this if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s amazing to watch.

7. – George Clooney as Bob Barnes in “Syrianna”

Clooney completely broke his typecast in this role – more like fucking shattered it. He became an artist that year, actor, producer, director and writer. He’s a marvelous talent. This film is truly an ensemble piece that doesn’t have a lead actor – oil is the main focus and character of the film. But George Clooney brings the house down in his final scene. It floods me with overwhelming emotion every single time I see it.

6. – William Hurt as Richie Cussak in “A History of Violence”

This is the biggest example of less is more. The little screen time that Hurt is given, he uses it to the extreme. He’s absolutely unbelievable, and I think his character is much like that of Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now”, he’s the final trial of the main character’s journey to return home to his family. His performance is burned into my brain. There are very few actors with raw talent like William Hurt.

5. – TIE: Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in “Inglorious Basterds” and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men”

This is much like Ledger’s role in “The Dark Knight”. There’s nothing more I can say about their PERFECT performance. There is a reason both of them swept critics awards, won the SAG, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Oscar. This was their major introduction to American audiences. That’s one helluva break through! To be honest, I do have to give the edge to Waltz. He’s amazing.

4. – Julianne Moore as Charlie in “A Single Man” and for Cathy Whitaker in “Far From Heaven”

Academy, please give her an Oscar already! I don’t care if it’s for a lifetime achievement award! Just someone, do something! She’s absolutely brilliant. ‘Nough said!

3. – Colin Firth as George in “A Single Man”.

Colin Firth gave a performance like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ve never see a performance that is so…empty. He’s unbelievably touching and gives a beautiful performance that brings me to my knees each time I see it. We need to see more Colin Firth. Now.

2. – Jeff Bridges as Ted Cole in “The Door in the Floor”

This is hands down Jeff Bridges finest performance. If you ever want to see an excellent, perfect, mind boggling performance, try and seek out Tod Williams’ “The Door in the Floor”. Bridges is heartbreaking, just plain heartbreaking. Ted Cole will stay in your heart forever.

1. – Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in “There Will Be Blood”

This is the biggest tour-de-force performance ever on screen.

Expanded Review: “All That Jazz” – 1979 Dir. Bob Fosse

“To be on the wire is life – the rest – is waiting.”

I find “All That Jazz” utterly remarkable. The film is the biggest example of self-indulgence I have ever seen in a film, and it screams brilliance. The premises of the film came as a near death experience to director and co-writer Bob Fosse. Bob Fosse spent the his early career as a dancer on stage and screen, but due to his receding hairline he was forced to stay backstage, and became an acclaimed choreographer and stage director. In 1972 Fosse did something that in retrospect is nearly unthinkable, his film “Cabaret” was nominated for the major awards at the annual Academy Awards, and he won best director over Francis Ford Coppola for “The Godfather”, and Joel Grey won best supporting actor over, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan. “Cabaret” also won best actress for Liza Manelli, best cinematography, best art direction-set decoration, best sound, best editing, and best original score. So all in all the film won eight Oscars, five more then “The Godfather” – isn’t that remarkable? Fosse then followed that up with “Lenny” starring Dustin Hoffman as the legendary stand-up comic Lenny Bruce (Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor and Fosse was once again nominated across the board). During the post-production of “Lenny” and the pre-production of Fosse’s Broadway production of “Chicago” he had a near fatal heart attack. It was during this time that, “All That Jazz” was born.

It's Showtime, folks!

“All That Jazz” is the story of Joe Gideon: a pill popping, chain smoking, workaholic and sexaholic played marvelously by Roy Scheider (who passed away last year). We find Gideon in the midst of editing his new film, “The Stand-Up” (“Lenny”), and beginning tryouts, rehearsals, and pre-production for his new Broadway play (it’s untitled, but the musical number Gideon “re-arranges” is much like the cell block number from “Chicago”). In what little spare time Gideon has between the studio breathing down his neck about how long overdue “The Stand-Up” is, and the production team of the Broadway musical overbearing him with new musical numbers, how he has to stay within the budget – Gideon finds time for his wife, and their young daughter, his mistress, and a new girl he chose for the new Broadway play just so he could have sex with her. While we are watching this complex story unravel Fosse brilliantly crosscuts the story with Joe Gideon literally flirting with The Angel of Death played by Jessica Lange. While plot arcs unfold we are taken to this mystical place where Gideon is the most honest, as he talks to Lange about his life, and how he’s screwed up certain aspects of it. Death has never looked so beautiful, as Jessica Lange smiles, and flirts with Gideon.

The film’s opening ranks up with some of the greatest opening scenes in film history (“Kill Bill Volume 1”, “Goodfellas”, and “The Wild Bunch” – just to name a few). Gideon is walking a tight rope and says in a voice over, “To be on the wire is life – the rest is waiting.” Lange compliments Gideon on the line, saying it’s very “theatrical” and asked if he came up with it.

Gideon's mistress telling him, "I just wish you weren't so generous with your cock!"

Gideon says he wishes he did. The next scene is a quick cutting mash up of Gideon’s morning routine that is re-shot over the period of the film. It begins with a cassette tape being put into a tape deck and a classical song beings to play. Gideon then applies Visen into his eyes, drops two Alkazelser in a glass of water, takes a shower, applies more Visen and looks at himself in the mirror and says with a smug and smooth tone, “It’s Showtime folks!” – but as the film progress and the more wear and grinding that gets put on Gideon, the “It’s Showtime, folks!” become less enthusiastic, and less soothing and reaches a point where he can barely muster the words.

What makes this film brilliant and amazing is that it works on every possible front it can. The direction is unbelievably tight and masterfully commanded by Bob Fosse, the editing by Alan Heim (which he won an Oscar for) is flawless and has trumped my personal examples of perfect editing in “The Graduate” and “Ed Wood”. The script is so unbelievably compelling and so full of detail and perfection that it amazes me when I read excerpts from it. But what really is very remarkable about the film is Roy Scheider. I’ve always had a fondness for Scheider since I was young and saw him in “Jaws”, his role in “The French Connection” and “The Punisher” are the only other roles I have thought he was solid in. Scheider spent most of his career as a character actor and never really made it as a leading man, but as Joe Gideon he gives one of the best performances I have ever seen on scene, and that ranks him up there with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and William Hurt. Scheider becomes transparent, and you are truly watching Joe Gideon, not the actor Roy Scheider playing Gideon – but Gideon himself. Think about how in 1979 all the other bankable stars and actors there were to play this self obsessed, womanizing man of Godlike talent: Warren Beatty, Michael Douglass, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Richard Gere – those are just a few actors who I think could have played Gideon – but none of them would have been as effective as Scheider

Joe Gideon and Bob Fosse

The other element that makes this film great is Bob Fosse. This film had to have been a slap in the face to most people in his life. The actor who plays Dennis Newman (supposed to be Dustin Hoffman), the actor in “The Stand-Up” (“Lenny”) was the original actor who played Lenny Bruce on the Broadway play (which Fosse directed). The studio made Fosse get a name for the title role, and they gave him Dustin Hoffman. The Dustin Hoffman-esq character in the movie is degrading and thinks he knows absolutely everything about anything. It’s obvious from this portrayal that Fosse had nothing then contempt and utter dislike for Hoffman, and his ego. The stage and screen actress Ann Reinking who plays his mistress Kate in the film, dated Dustin Hoffman prior to filming (isn’t Fosse just the man!?) The direction of “All That Jazz” has got to be one of the greatest examples of a director not caring what his audience thinks, or even understands. We’re taken on this journey by Fosse to explore his life changing heart attack, and his fantasy of death. Fosse made this movie for himself, and no one else. That’s what makes it perfect.

"I think I'm gonna die!"

The film builds itself up to an earth shattering climax that is the biggest tour-de-force of an ending I have ever had the pleasure of watching. My heart was racing the entire time. The climax slowly starts to build with Gideon’s wife, mistress and daughter performing their own musical numbers to Gideon as he lays in his hospital bed, while a healthy Gideon is directing everything. Where the film really makes your heart race is Gideon’s command performance that lasts for the last 20 minutes of the film. It is a great song, and an amazing display of talent by Scheider that he never utilized before that, or since. What solidified the greatest of the ending for me was the subtle stationary dolly shot of Scheider as the second to last shot of the film (the ending actually inspired the best dream I have ever had).

The film was nominated in all major categories, and was up against “Apocalypse Now”, “Breaking Away”, “Kramer vs Kramer” and “Norma Rae”. The films was overshadowed and engulfed by “Kramer”. I could almost imagine the contempt the Academy had for Fosse for making a film such as this. How much they resented him for making it so perfect and so self indulgent. I recently watched “Kramer vs Kramer” because it beat “All That Jazz” in mainly every category. It’s a good film, but it’s mediocre compared to “Jazz” and I want to believe they gave Best Actor to Dustin Hoffman for “Kramer” instead of Scheider for “Jazz” as a fuck you to Fosse for making such an egotistical film.

“All That Jazz” remains to be a truly original film. It stands alone, and it holds up excellent to repeat viewings. This is one very rare cinematic treasure that not too many have encountered, especially from my generation and that’s a shame – it truly is. This film will always stand as both Fosse and Scheider’s masterpiece and is not only one of the best films from the 1970’s, but one of the best films I have EVER seen. After viewing this film for a tenth time in a week and a half I have re-evaluated my rating system, and makes me hold films up to the standards that Bob Fosse has put on me, all I can say is thank you Bob Fosse.

Review: 10/10

Top Ten Suppoting Performances of the Decade (Male) – Richard Gere, “Chicago”.

Number 10 – Richard Gere as Billy Flynn in “Chicago”.

The ruling on Gere’s performance in “Chicago” is that he was a lead.  I disagree, but the Screen Actor’s Guild didn’t when he was nominated for Best Actor in a Lead Role, nor did the Golden Globes when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.  But, the Teen Choice Awards did nominate him for best movie “villain”…even though he wasn’t…  In any event, I seem to be in the minority on this, so I digress.  In Rob Marshall’s “Chicago”, the role of Billy Flynn was the role that held the film together, in a predominantly female cast – Billy Flynn, the smooth talking, suave and charismatic lawyer was the role for a talented actor like John Travolta, or Kevin Spacey – an actor who could not only act, but sing and dance as well, and both Spacey and Travolta had that talent and I’m sure they would have made a fine Billy Flynn.  Rob Marshall decided to go with an actor who hadn’t been in previous films where he sings and dances (although in Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” Gere does show some musical savvy).  Gere, to this point hadn’t had a whole lot of hits, “Autumn in New York”, “Runaway Bride”, “The Jackel” and Robert Altman’s “Dr. T and the Women” were all films he had done prior to 2002.  They were mostly forgettable films, it appear as if he played out his card in just starring in “chick flicks”.  But that year Gere came out with two stellar films, with two great performances, one in “Unfaithful“, and the second of course being “Chicago”.

Richard Gere as "Billy Flynn" in Rob Marshall's "Chicago".

Richard Gere magically pulled off the dance and singing numbers that were required by this George Clooney esq character.  Gere was perfect on the outside he had all the makings of Billy Flynn, a dashingly good-looking man, that oozes with wit and charm.  But what Gere lacked was the vocal ability to sing the three numbers in the film that he is apart of.  I remember first seeing the film in theaters seeing Gere gliding around in his first musical number singing in a campy Chicago accent.  But Gere did pull it off.  Then he pulled it off again, then again, and again.  Gere proved something in this film that he hadn’t prior, and very well may not in the future either (although I’m calling a dark horse nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest”).  He showed us he is an amazing talent, that he can act, sing and dance.

I tend to agree with Sean Penn that Golden Globes are meaningless, that they don’t hold much clout.  I agree to a certain point (although if I won one, I would thank my Mom, and cry for joy) but in certain cases, I do believe that they mean a lot, they sometimes get it right.  When Colin Farrell won for “In Bruges”, and the best picture going to “Babel” and when Richard Gere won his Globe for Best Actor (Musical/Drama) for “Chicago”.  I was just pleased that he was recognized, and I was pleased that the SAG recognized him that year too.  I am saying that Gere gave the best performance that year?  Absolutely not.  Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best performance that year in “Gangs of New York”, a close second would be a tie between Gere and Michael Caine for “The Quiet American” but the Academy didn’t even nominate Richard Gere, and completely ignored him.  He must have had the Mickey Rourke syndrome of having burnt, no wait, blown up his bridges by being a tough star to deal with when he was younger.  But of course the Academy was being political and making a statement with Awarding it’s Best Actor, to Adrien Brody for Roman Polanski’s holocaust film, “The Pianist”.

Richard Gere with fellow winner Renee Zellwiger at the 2002 Golden Globes.

Gere’s outstanding performance in “Chicago” launched him back into the A list where he made “The Hoax” which in an incredibly underrated film where he gained weight and wore a prosthetic nose about a wannabe writer who sold his BS story to publishing companies about his character, Clifford Irving, was set to help Howard Hughes write his memoirs.  He also stared in “I’m Not There” playing the Billy the Kid persona of Bob Dylan.  I am very excited about Gere’s upcoming “Brooklyn’s Finest” where in the restricted promo trailer shows Gere waking up to his alarm clock and sitting up in bed – quick cut to Gere at his kitchen table in front of a bowl of cereal where he sits, isolated, and reaches and puts the barrel of his service revolver into his mouth.  My only fear is Gere peaked with “Chicago”, but I am hoping that his best is still to come.