15. Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl
Some have called this a comedy, it is more of a dramedy filled with plenty of awkward situations. If you were to say that Ryan Gosling’s character Lars Lindstrom is an awkwardly shy young man, that would be an understatement. Lars lives with his brother and sister-in-law in a small northern town. He is pressured by them to be a part of their family that has just welcomed a young baby.
Lars quietly takes part only to return to his apartment on the property. Soon he starts to speak of a new girlfriend, who also happens to be a sex-doll. The family, not knowing what to do, involve a therapist and the locals begin to treat Lars and his “girlfriend” Bianca as a real couple. Sex is not an option here for Lars. He wants a traditional courtship and with his family worried he begins to live out his relationship with Bianca in front of everyone.
Gosling plays a role that could have been a joke in the wrong hands. Instead, he plays it with earnest and his delusions come off as sad and sweet. The best scene involves an argument that ensues once between Lars and Bianca after Lars begins to show feelings for someone else. The performance really is a joy to watch for any cinephile.
14. Brendan Gleeson in In Bruges
London based hit men Ray (the surprisingly great Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves hiding out in Bruges, Belgium, after one of them screwed up their last assignment. Their instructions are to stay there for two weeks and their boss Harry (the wonderful Ralph Fiennes) will be in touch.
While they are waiting for Harry’s call, Ken, following Harry’s advice, takes in the sights of the Bruges. Ken falls in love with the magical small city and Ray does not. When Harry’s instructions arrive, Ken does not believe he can follow through on this job either. Upon hearing Ken’s response, Harry decides to take matters into his own hands.
Brendan Gleeson has an everyman like quality that fits ideally with his character of Ken. It is certainly a role that Gleeson relishes playing. He downplays the horrific events that lead them there in the first place and fills the screen with a performance that few could inspire to create onscreen.
13. Rachel Weisz in The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountian is viewed by many as either a masterpiece or a failed experiment. The story of three men from different frameworks of time who are embarking on the quest of eternal love is breathtakingly captured onscreen here.
Rachel Weisz plays the one who is adhered by these men. She is a Spanish queen to a conquistador, a dying wife to a researcher, and the living soul inside a dying tree of a space traveler. The casting of her opposite Hugh Jackman is key here. Without a woman that seemingly any man would die for, the film would not work. Her performance here is the best of her career. Each character is played with calculated precision.
12. Paul Giamatti in American Splendor
Harvey Pekar was one of the most enigmatic characters of the underground comic book scene that really paved the way for people in the industry today. He was an unhappy file clerk at the local VA hospital. Feeling that life is only full of superlative monotonous moments, Pekar goes from day to day just trying to live. Living a life of junk sales, art, reading, jellybeans conversations, writing, and listening to Jazz. His discussions with co-workers about these everyday monotonous activities leads him the need to create something new and original.
At one of the many junk sales he visits, he meets Robert Crumb, a greeting card artist. Crumb finds success some time later writing a series of comic. Pekar decides to create his own works based on his life. The idea Harvey sees is that comics can be a valid art form of appreciation even for adults. First published in 1976, the comic earns Harvey cult fame throughout the 1980s. Through his comic he meets Joyce Barber, and Harvey finds he true soul mate.
Most people would say that Harvey Pekar was someone that could be played by anyone, let alone even imitated, but, Paul Giamatti soars as the depressingly unnerved Pekar. Told with Pekar actually onscreen with Giamatti at times, you can see a man who has completely became Harvey Pekar. Even those closest to Harvey cannot help but marvel at Giamatti’s brilliant performance.
11. Heath Ledger in Candy
Candy involves the story of an Australian man (Heath Ledger) who falls in love with a woman who shares the same name as the slang word for heroin, Candy. In turn, they both begin a descent into a drug-filled madness. Each of them struggling to support their habit and each other. Love can be a disturbingly cruel thing at times. Finding love for another person and having that love reciprocated is hard enough; throw drugs in with that and it is impossible.
This is Heath Ledger’s 3rd best performances in his acting career (the other two are Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight). Here he changes drastically from a man who has great potential to an addict who only cares about two things: his love of two kinds of Candy.
10. Hugh Jackman in The Fountain
Divided among filmgoers was the reaction to Darren Aronofsky’s follow up to Requiem for a Dream. The film is ambitious, that is for certain. With many finding it a little too much so. It involves three different periods of time in which men are in the pursuit of their love and nothing, not even time will stop them.
Hugh Jackman stars as all three men in the stores, one a conquistador in Mayan country searching for the tree of life to free his captive queen; a medical researcher in modern day America looking for a cure for his dying wife, and a space traveler, traveling with the aged tree encapsulated within a bubble as he is moving upwards towards dying star. Each of them seeking eternity with his love.
The three stories are told in the non-linear form and intersect with one another. Hackman delivers a soul crushing performance as man who is on a quest for love.
9. Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition
Tom Hanks is a guy who is quite well known for being a nice guy, he usually tackles roles that embodies some sense of wholesomeness.
Here he is Mike Sullivan. He hired henchmen of the local Irish mob boss John Rooney (the late, and wonderful Paul Newman). Mike’s son Micheal Sullivan Jr. follows his father one night in the hopes of seeing what it is that he does exactly for Mr. Rooney. He witnesses a meeting gone wrong as Rooney’s son Conner kills the man they are there to meet. Knowing the Mike’s son can tie him to the murder. He decides to wipe them all out without his father’s permission. What happens next can only be described as heartbreakingly gruesome.
Sam Mendes has directed a period film that captures the soul of White Heat and others like it. This is quite possibly Tom Hanks’ most challenging role to date as Mike Sullivan. Hanks is scary, reserved, and disquieted.
8. Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive
After being involved in a brutal car accident in Los Angeles, California, Rita is the sole survivor but suffers mass amnesia. She finds herself wandering the streets and soon into a stranger’s apartment. The apartment belongs to Betty Elms, a young woman who has dreams of being the next big star in Hollywood. Soon the two begin a journey to discover who exactly Rita is and where she came from.
Few actresses can say that they have been a part of something as special as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Naomi Watts is one of those who most certainly never dreamed that a part this delightful would ever grace her talents, but it did. She embarks on a soul crushing journey into the blackheart of Hollywood as a determined wannabe starlet who dreams of being on the marque one day.