SPOTLIGHT: Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett has come a long way in a short period of time.  One of the actresses to gain momentum in the 2000’s and rise quickly to critical praise, she has become an actress that everyone has seen in at least one movie.  It was probably Lord of the Rings, but in no way does that tiny part reveal to us the extraordinary skill this woman posseses.  She garnered much of her fame for playing Queen Elizabeth, and became the first person ever to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar-winning actress (Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.)  She selects roles that will take her somewhere new, and by extention she takes us with her.  Whether she is a school teacher drawn into an affair with one of her students or Bob Dylan, Blanchett never hesitates to go to places other performers would stumble.

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SPOTLIGHT: Laura Linney

Few actresses stay under the radar and still garner as much acclaim as Laura Linney.  She hit her hot streak in the 2000’s with rich, respectable roles in small movies.  However, she has transcended the “indie darling,” label with struts onto the small screen in John Adams and her new headlining act on Showtime on The Big C.  Linney doesn’t just pick movies to make bank.  She does projects where the female characters she plays aren’t jokes, even if they tell them.  She has a knack for both comedy and drama, but her real gift lies in the middle ground (The Squid and the Whale, The Savages).  Few actresses can garner a chuckle and gasp in the same scene, but she does it expertly.  Though she often shares the spotlight with gifted male counterparts like Liam Neeson or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, she never lets them steal it.  She’s that rare actress that doesn’t try to steal scenes but still ends up doing it quite often.

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SPOTLIGHT: Angelina Jolie

As if she didn’t have enough cameras flashing on her, I’ve decided to shed even more light on the career, not private life, of one of America’s biggest obsessions.  As one-half of a Hollywood power couple, Angelina Jolie’s screen presence often takes the backseat to her personal life.  Like her husband, her career is full of impressive roles.  As I mentioned in my Salt review, Ms. Jolie seems to have two types of screen performances she excels at.  There is the emotionally charged Oscar contender, and the kick-ass action heroine.  While acclaim is shoveled upon her for the former, the latter brings home the bacon.  Jolie, like Meryl Streep, is an undeniable box office draw for the female market.  The number one success of a movie like Wanted will never be attributed to James McAvoy.  As Jolie’s career continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how she manipulates her public image and directs it towards a cause, or to making people feel something for that character on the page. Here are her current five best performances.

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SPOTLIGHT: Jack Nicholson

For our new Spotlight series, I decided to kick things off with one of the greats.  While this segment of the site may not always focus on big names, they don’t get much bigger than Jack Nicholson.  Exploring a career as acclaimed and a man as legendary as this is no easy task.  What these pieces will consist of are commonalities in the career of the subject, as well as five key films to see their work in.  As always, give us feedback about what you think!

Career: As previously mentioned, Nicholson’s career has been legendary for decades.  One of the greats of both the old and especially the new American cinema, he has forged an identity on the screen that is both iconic and consistently shifting.  A lot can be done with those eyebrows, and he finds something new every time.  Whether he raises them in madness (The Shining) or in smug victory (As Good as It Gets), they are part of what defines him as an actor.  Of course the other thing is that talent.  He has given us some of the most legendary movie characters of all time and also influenced many other fine actors.  His off-screen life is kept largely private, though he makes notorious awards show appearances and is a legendary playboy.  It would be ignorant to keep him out of those shows, since he alone has won three Oscars and been nominated for 12.  At the forefront of American screen legends, Jack is not afraid to take risks, and has made it a point to work with every director he’s wanted to work with and only rarely cashing in on his image (The Bucket List).  Though there are far more than five great performances from him, here are the highlights that showcase a different side to Hollywood’s definitive wily renegade.

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