5. Matthew McConaughey
McConaughey’s career has had lots of ups and downs, and it’s possible to make conclusions by analyzing who’s around him in those phases.
With that said, what do Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Kate Beckinsale, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez have in common? They represent McConaughey’s darkest hour and his involvement in romantic comedies.
His earlier steps with Richard Linklater and in films like “Lone Star” and “A Time to Kill” were the midpoint. “Mud”, “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Interstellar” mark his best years in show business.
In this very unique film, McConaughey was clearly the highlight, delivering a very solid and convincing performance, unlike his co-stars Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon and David Gyasi.
TV Show: True Detective
Matthew McConaughey’s development as an actor can be compared to people’s lives, and his roles prove it. He started as a whimsical teenager, and later on, he worked with popular directors like Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg who spotted his talent.
A reckless but funny period followed with empty romantic comedies, but lately he’s chosen a dramatic direction and proved himself to everybody. “True Detective” was the ultimate opportunity for a holistic success, in terms of adaptation, and McConaughey passed with flying colors.
Detective Rust Cohle is a mixture of several old McConaughey characters: apathetic, intelligent, anarchistic, and a bit insane. Still young, he will certainly aggregate more timeless roles in his career, now that he seems to have found his way.
4. Clive Owen
Film: Children of Men
Maybe Owen had better performances in “Closer” (quite underrated and a film that earned him an Oscar nomination), “Inside Man” or “Croupier”, but “Children of Men” is the kind of masterpiece that will one day be remembered as a cult film and will drag Owen with it.
The actor was present in lots of bad TV movies and did many guest appearances on various TV series, but was always very versatile in collecting credits, even in advertising with BMW’s short films.
“Children of Men” is a product of geniality by Alejandro Iñárritu’s “hermano” Alfonso Cuarón, but was only possible with perfect performances that made the dystopian story realistic and, truth be told, Owen was the epicenter of it all.
TV Show: The Knick
“The Knick” is a very creative and extremely well made TV series and is still unknown among series aficionados. In short, it can be described as a “House M.D.” for very tough guys and with people who can run. The show is both ironic and realistic, being completely original when compared with its competition.
Without many stereotypes and entertainment formulas (yes, it’s possible), “The Knick” fits Clive Owen perfectly and helps him to blast. His straight-to-the-bone style was already used before in cinema, but on the show, he reaches another level in terms of impact and relevance. This isn’t just a tough guy’s show. It’s a tough guy in a tough society with tough beliefs and manners. Cool, yes?
3. Steve Buscemi
Many times credited as “the best supporting actor of all time” (an always ungrateful title), Buscemi has had lots of roles in amazing films, competing with many of the best actors alive. In “The Big Lebowski” he wasn’t a highlight, because Jeff Bridges and John Goodman had very charismatic roles and stole the show.
In “Reservoir Dogs” there are too many characters vying for attention, but Mr. Pink is still one hell of a character. In “Fargo”, he forms a legendary partnership with Peter Stormare. The darkly humorous picture was the perfect habitat for Buscemi’s skittish style, where the combination of comedy, satire and darkness resulted in a great film that put the Coen brothers on the cinematic world map.
TV Show: Boardwalk Empire
Steve Buscemi is part of that group of actors that few know their names, but everybody knows their faces. In films he mostly appears as surprise – “that guy!” – provoking smiles, but in “Boardwalk Empire” he gets an entire stage with lights pointed at him.
Surrounded by a great cast, Buscemi certainly surprised some with his awesome lead work, something that contrasts with his whole career. His achievement, confirmed with a Golden Globe, is even greater when he had Michael Pitt, one of the most promising actors today, shining as his co-star.
The TV series ended up confirming that those who tend to stay behind the spotlight aren’t less talented or capable. At least, Buscemi isn’t.
2. Mads Mikkelsen
Film: The Hunt
Mikkelsen is one of those cases where his birthplace locks what could be rocket ascension. Denmark is a country with very talented filmmakers – Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nicolas Winding Refn, for instance – but the linguistic barrier prevents full transmission of content. Performing amazingly in “Valhalla Rising”, “A Royal Affair” and “After the Wedding”, it was in “The Hunt” that Mikkelsen achieved a complete and flawless performance, which will resist the test of time, even in Danish.
A cult performance is built with details and that’s where Mikkelsen is majestic; “the look” he has in church as a sign of redemption is worth the whole film. For those who watched, it wasn’t just a look, it was THE look.
TV Show: Hannibal
In terms of acting, Mads Mikkelsen is like a superhero with the Midas touch: he can’t have a bad performance, even in awful films or TV shows. Versatility is his middle name, and he profited from the fictionalized figure he carries, and that’s why he works so well with “Hannibal”.
The TV show is cinematic experience in high doses, where every shot has a codified idea and watching it is like a demanding semiotic exercise. This is one of the cases where you clearly notice a gradual improvement, episode by episode, until Mikkelsen totally mastered the character and his meanderings. It’s not like he wasn’t doing it well in the beginning; he just took longer to go stratospheric.
1. Kevin Spacey
Film: American Beauty
There aren’t many actors who can say they’ve conquered a spot in cinematic history with a 13-minute performance. Well, Spacey did it in “Se7en”, a somewhat overrated film, but irrevocably a classic.
The same can be said about “The Usual Suspects”. Spacey’s performance there is reprehensible, but I’m not sure there was much more to add or to take from his infamous Verbal Kint; Benicio Del Toro was the mesmerizing element in that film. However, nothing can be contested in “American Beauty”.
The film is just one of those masterpieces that needed a great performance to work well and Spacey delivered top acting. There’s mysticism in each shot, the concept is strong, and the protagonist is unforgettable.
TV Show: House of Cards
Kevin Spacey is one of the best actors working today. His acting was always influenced by theatre, and like Daniel Day-Lewis, his bases are from the fifth art. Spacey is not as transcendental and picky with roles as Day-Lewis, but if he were, he might have fewer career missteps.
In “House of Cards”, Spacey is back on his game with a role that makes him feel like a fish in water. The TV show exceeds the original and Spacey’s talking-to-the-camera scenes are already a classic. The show is also a breath of fresh air in his career, as his image in cinema was becoming a bit damaged due to horrible choices (or bosses?)
Author Bio: Pedro Bento is a portuguese samurai, who travels with his wakizashi sword into the infinity of his mind, always forgetting his way home. He doesn’t believe in inspirational moments, but he likes to hide in a secret place, where heavy metal is always blasting and no one can bother him, except his apathetic girlfriend Inês. Yes, he’s a loner.