1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street-A career-best performance for DiCaprio in his thrilling latest collaboration with Martin Scorsese. He gives off machine-gun bursts of energy as Wall Street crook Jordan Belfort and shows an amazing knack for both physical and verbal comedy that his often-serious portrayals don’t let him bring out. It’s both loud and rambunctious and deeply nuanced. (Added Dec. 30)
2. Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha-This fantastic turn is the stunning result of Greta Gerwig’s New Wave collaboration with director Noah Baumbach. While also serving as co-writer of the movie, Gerwig captures a rocky period of this 27-year-old dancer wannabe’s life with a contagious charm. The movie is very much built around her unpredictability, and she captures the pain and anxiety of post-college youth without overplaying her hand. She is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl whose dreams are her own.
3. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen’s latest simply wouldn’t have been as good without this thunderous performance from Cate Blanchett. She manages the difficult task of creating a loathsome woman that also elicits pity. After a long string of privileged existence, Jasmine is finally forced to confront the depths of her mental instability when her Madoff-esque husband is caught. Blanchett gazes unflinchingly into the abyss of depression with raw feeling and crucial sympathy.
Gargantuan doesn’t even begin to describe a Daniel Day-Lewis performance. One of the greatest living actors, if not the greatest, he towers over other actors of his generation with a surreal dedication to his roles. Known as a definitive method actor, he stays in character from the time a movie starts shooting until the time it finishes production. This practice has won him 2 Oscars out of four nominations. He only does a project when he can truly commit himself to the grueling experience he goes through to prepare, which is why we don’t see him every year. When we do though, it’s one goddamn hell of a show.
George Clooney is the essential American. The essential white American upper class male to be politically correct, because being politically correct is something Clooney takes quite seriously. His nature is calm, collected and suave, being as cool and crisp as a Labor Day afternoon. He delivers his lines with poetic insistence and looks at the other actors with sharpening charm. His onscreen talents are limited to a character that can match up with his own personality, but he plays them so damn well it doesn’t matter. Though his range is limited, he smartly remains diverse in his characters, avoiding becoming a one note pretty face actor like a similar storied Jenifer Aniston. After making his break for being a hunk on the hit show ER in the late 90’s, Clooney slowly evolved his career by working with Steven Soderbergh in the Ocean’s series and the Coen brothers along with other notable directors, turning his off-screen GQ cover aura into living characters with the same wowing affect. A handful of philanthropy efforts and notable directing, writing and producing jobs which won him awards. But lately, Clooney has brought back the kind of class movie stars used to carry and embody in the 40’s and 50’s. Though it may not appear so, Clooney’s talent is making it look so easy with the utmost esteem and adoration, making him the original class act of the new Hollywood. Continue reading →