Friday, December 12, 2008

20 Favorite Film Femmes (Right Now)

I just had to get in on the 20 all-time favorite actresses meme that originated at The Film Experience. Trouble was, narrowing an all-time list proved to be too difficult. So instead I cheated and decided to name my favorite actresses working right now. That means no Grace Kelly, obviously. It also means that someone like Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio doesn’t make the list either, because it’s been too long since she’s delivered a performance worth getting excited about.

So here’s a list of actresses who get me excited to go to the theater right now. Favorite performances listed in parenthesis.

Amy Adams (Junebug)
Having not yet seen Doubt, which arrived in town today, Adams is still more promise than proven. But Junebug alone is reason enough to be excited for what’s to come.

Cate Blanchett (Notes On A Scandal)
In the parenthesis above, I could have put “Just About Everything.”

Helena Bonham Carter (Conversations With Other Women)
See Blanchett comments. Ditto.

Rose Byrne (Sunshine)
Sleeper pick! Byrne’s most robust work is in the otherwise mediocre Wicker Park. But in a tiny role in Sunshine I can’t take my eyes off her. I’m convinced she has a classic performance in her. It’s only a matter of time.

Eva Green (Casino Royale)
Think The Dreamers is memorable? Green is unforgettable in Casino Royale. The strength of Quantum Of Solace is the way Vesper’s spirit hangs in the shadows, serving as Bond’s Rosebud. We never see Vesper, sadly, but she’s always there.

Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
An accomplished career already, and her best days are ahead. Versatile. Fearless.

Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Her Unfaithful performance is one of my all-time favorites. Oh, and she’s sexy as hell!

Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World)
Yep, she makes the list on the strength of one performance – a performance that happens to be another of my all-time favorites. When Kilcher finally shows up in another film, I’m there.

Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights)
Even when she’s just average, she’s fantastic. Tremendous range!

Samantha Morton (In America)
Perhaps my favorite actress working today. She’s the highlight of Synecdoche, New York, and her Mary Stuart was the best part of Elizabeth: The Golden Age (take that, Cate!). Not to be overlooked? Code 46.

Michelle Pfieffer (Dangerous Liaisons)
If not for the magic she generated in Stardust, one of my all-time darlings wouldn’t have made the cut. But her Catwoman in Batman Returns remains one of the sexiest cinema creations ever. And then there’s Dangerous Liaisons, The Age Of Innocence

Natalie Portman (Beautiful Girls)
She’s been turning in memorable performances all her life. I’m not sure she’ll ever get a better part than in Beautiful Girls, but I’m hopeful that her best work is ahead. Best performance no one ever talks about? Cold Mountain.

Susan Sarandon (Bull Durham)
She’s still got it.

Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient)
I’ve Loved You So Long is a reminder of great talent that I hadn’t begun to forget. Must see her more!

Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe)
An actress we’re starting to see more of here in the States, to my great delight.

Audrey Tautou (Amelie)
She makes me grin like a garden gnome.

Uma Thurman (Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2)
Maybe the most underrated actress working today. The physicality of the Kill Bill films tends to overshadow the memory of her emotional vulnerability.

Rachel Weisz (My Blueberry Nights)
She’s enchanting in The Fountain. She’s heartbreakingly tragic in My Blueberry Nights.

Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind)
Has she ever turned in a poor performance?

Robin Wright Penn (Unbreakable)
Lucky to be on this list, per the Mastrantonio rule. But she actually made me consider seeing Beowulf. That’s saying a lot!

So, Cooler readers, let’s see some favorite actress lists – all-time or of-the-moment. Who did I overlook?


Fox said...

I'm so glad that you mentioned Q’orianka Kilcher. I had forgotten about her b/c, as you said, she's only been in one film. But damn she is great in that film. I really, really, really hope she shows up again soon. Good choice!

Also... dude, you've got it bad for Diane Lane. :) Not that that's a bad thing.

Craig said...

An eclectic, enjoyable list. It's always good to see recognition for Robin Wright Penn, so often overshadowed by her (ex-again?) husband, but turns in terrific work every time I see her. Michelle Pfieffer has never done anything for me; can't explain why. I'd prefer Catherine Keener and Laura Linney among actresses near her age (or any age). Diane Lane is an intriguing actress; I'm with you on her performance in Unfaithful and would enjoy it even more if it wasn't undermined by Adrian Lyne's usual moralistic deck-stacking. (He likes to arouse the audience and then punish them for it.) Lane has never quite hit her stride, but she's held my attention even in piffle like Under the Tuscan Sun.

I won't mention my love for Tina Fey (have I ever mentioned I love Tina Fey?) and instead praise other actresses who are doing or have done stellar TV work: Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds); Molly Parker (Deadwood); Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men). I think any of them are presently doing better work than Amy Adams, who already seems less interesting than she did a few years ago in Junebug and Catch Me if You Can, or Bonham Carter, whom I used to like (especially in Wings of the Dove) before she literally became another of Tim Burton's corpse brides. No argument on Uma or Eva, though.

Jason Bellamy said...

Fox: "dude, you've got it bad for Diane Lane."

Thank you!

Craig: Keener was on the bubble, but her stock is falling with me instead of rising. Laura Linney? You can count me as one who doesn't get all the love for her. She's fine, but kind of blah.

As for the TV actresses, I was going by films. And, alas, I don't follow any of those shows. But I've seen enough of all three on SNL and The West Wing to can see why you'd love them.

On Bonham Carter ... yeah, she's entered Burton's world, that's for sure. But I love her there. That said, watch "Conversations With Other Women." That'll cleanse the palate.

James Yates said...

Craig: interesting note on Mary-Louise Parker. Yes, she's phenomenal on "Weeds," but I simply cannot think of her as a screen actress. The ones that come to mind immediately are "Red Dragon," "The Spiderwick Chronicles," and "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford." I'm not at all suggesting that she does a bad job in these films, but they cannot hold a candle to "Weeds."

Sorry, this comment had nothing to do with the original post. I'll rectify that ASAP.

Richard Bellamy said...

My favorite film femme of this day and age is Kate Winslet. She never disappoints. My list would also include many of the actresses included in Jason's list. Some actresses recently have begun to disappoint me. If Catherine Keener plays another drawling, dope-smoking whiner, I'll scream. If Meryl Streep plays in another movie, I'll scream. And "Burn After Reading" made me weary of Tilda Swinton

Count me in the Diane Lane fan club; she's always excellent. I was recently watching "Lonesome Dove." When we first see her, she is sitting in the saloon looking hot and bedraggled in a torn and grubby dress - her face without make-up - but when she smiles, her radiance shines through all the drab atmosphere. Wow!

One of the best performances by an actress this year was Kristin Scott Thomas in "I've Loved You So Long." Another one was Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married." And not long ago, Ashley Judd was phenomenal in "Bug."

Joel Bocko said...

I just tackled this, though I kind of went in the opposite direction (though I like some of your picks, particularly Eva Green and the compulsively watchable Adams). I also included clips of some of their best moments or scenes - you can see it here: