Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Favorite Actresses Right Now - 2009 Edition

My friend Amy recently asked me to name my favorite actresses. I stopped and thought about it for a long time, and had some real difficulty coming up with more than five people that I could truly stand behind as favorites. It's been nagging at me ever since (I think I could only give her about three at the time), so I decided to come up with 10 and vaguely justify my choices. These are not in any specific order.

[Note that these are actresses currently working in film today. No Lauren Bacall's or Barbara Stanwyck's here, though they clearly deserve the highest honor. Also note that this list is based mostly on acting prowess and not looks, otherwise it would be filled with "Jessica's," "Scarlett's," and "Mandy's." Although I must be honest - if you're ugly (Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, etc.), you coincidentally don't fall into my "favorite actresses" category. That's not a conscious decision, but an accurate correlation regardless. You want 'em? Here we go.]

Kate Winslet

Favorite Performances: Titanic, Revolutionary Road, A Kid in King Arthur's Court
This woman has got it. I don't know what it is, but there's a remarkably charming quality about her on-screen persona in most of her films that just gets me. She's got range and she can play heavy drama with the best of them. Not to mention that sexy accent.

Diane Lane

Favorite Performances: Murder at 1600, Lonesome Dove, Hardball
Few actresses over 40 earn my respect like Diane Lane. I haven't seen her really shine in anything recently, but she's been a consistent favorite over the years and doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon. I'm still stoked for her new movie Killshot which should finally be released soon, after almost two years of distribution trouble.

Natalie Portman

Favorite Performances: V For Vendetta, Garden State, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
I'd say that Natalie is the actress on this list with the most potential. She's only four years older than me and has chosen her film roles carefully thus far, establishing a respectable career and graduating from Harvard at the same time. I love smart girls. Rock on, Ms. Portman.

Jennifer Connelly

Favorite Performances: The Rocketeer, Blood Diamond, Hulk
I must be honest here - JC makes this list mostly for her turn as the lovely Jenny Blake in the 1991 classic The Rocketeer. Unlike Cameron Diaz, whose pretty-face-introduction to the world of film (The Mask) was the only good thing she's ever done, Jennifer has moved on to become an "A-list" actress whose career I actually admire. While starring in things like Dark Water certainly won't help, I'm hoping Jen can take things to the next level in the next couple of years - preferably in a supporting capacity instead of trying to carry a whole film by herself. We all saw how that worked out for her in the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still (or did we? Burn!).

Catherine Zeta-Jones

Favorite Performances: The Mask of Zorro, Entrapment, The Phantom
Her Welsh heritage and solid performances over the years earn her a spot on this list. While I haven't seen her Oscar-winning turn in Chicago, I don't think it's necessary; I've seen The Mask of Zorro so many times I've almost got it memorized and she was near perfection in that one. Anyone who can hold their own against Billy Zane AND Sean Connery has a cemented spot on this list.

Rachel Weisz

Favorite Performances: The Fountain; The Mummy; Definitely, Maybe
I feel like Rachel is one of the most underrated actresses out there. She hardly gets any loving from the media, but that's because she's a pretty private person as far as I can tell. Good for her - keep your privacy as long as you can. Her performance in The Fountain was extremely intimate and I think she brings a great mix of humor and gravity to her roles. I'm really looking forward to watching her play the eccentric crazy girl in The Brothers Bloom later this year.

Michelle Monaghan

Favorite Performances: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gone Baby Gone, Eagle Eye
She's a relative newbie to the business, but she tore it up in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Hopefully that was enough to really boost her into the starring roles she deserves. She's got the ability to play the cute girl next door (see: Made of Honor. I didn't) or the serious cop with a heavy heart (Gone Baby Gone). Let's see what else you're made of, Michelle.

Rachel McAdams

Favorite Performances: Red Eye, Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls
Another rookie, Rachel has blown up over the past few years only to find her career slowly taking a dip in the past two or three. Luckily she's returning to high-profile films like State of Play and Sherlock Holmes this year to reconnect with audiences who loved her the first time around. Like Monaghan, she can play the serious or the vapid with equally enjoyable results.

Elizabeth Banks

Favorite Performances: Invincible, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Meet Bill
Talk about blowing up. Elizabeth was in an astonishing 6 films and 2 television shows in 2008 alone. Impressive. She plays the "girl who's one of the guys" part better than almost anyone right now, and she's now got her feet in the camps of both Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith - a smart move for any actress who enjoys comedic performances.

Isla Fisher

Favorite Performances: Definitely, Maybe; Wedding Crashers; The Lookout Come on, who didn't love her as the crazy chick opposite Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers? Holding her own against that crew deserves a standing ovation. And she's so dang charming - especially in Definitely, Maybe. Now if only she'll jump off the chick flick train and start doing some respectable movies again...

There you have it. It's not much, but it's a start. It got me thinking - why did I have such a hard time coming up with 10 women that I actually enjoy watching on screen? I could EASILY pump out 20 that I despise, but it was pretty tough to make a positive list. I wouldn't have near this much trouble coming up with a "favorite actors" list. Is that because I watch more male-centered films than chick flicks? Or because actors are more prominently main characters in American films than actresses, giving them more opportunity to showcase their performances rather than blend into the background? I've seen a lot of movies, so I'd like to think I have a vast array covered, but who knows? Interesting things to consider.

So are there any I missed? Leave some of your own favorites in the comment section, and tell me why I should have included them in this list. Until next time...

4 comments:

kikler duüm said...

I'll agree with Elizabeth Banks (I pretty much discovered her) and Rachel Weisz. The rest are pretty sub-par.

duüm further said...

Wait, I didn't see Natalie Portman. She is well above hyper-par. Forgive me, my dear.

Jacob said...

Here are some of my favorite (working) actresses:

1) Laura Linney: two words: You Can Count On Me (2000) ;-) Also loved her in The Exorcism of Emily Rose and just about everything else I've seen her in, even Congo...

2) Julianne Moore: Far From Heaven (2002) is one of the best films of the decade. Her list of good films is quite long, although most of them are pre-2002. Moore is really good at playing a desperate housewife or a cold-hearted bitch. Or someone in between.

3) Amy Irving: she was the sole survivor in Carrie (1976), the mom in Alias, and is appearing in a new movie called Adam that has gotten some positive buzz at Sundance. Other credits include Traffic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Crossing Delancey, and 13 Conversations About One Thing.

4) Rose McGowan. She was sassy and hot in Scream...she reminded me of a veteran B movie queen (Lynn Borden) in Death Proof, and I don't think anyone has ever looked hotter with a machine gun as prosthetic leg in Planet Terror.

5) Virginia Madsen. Not really a fave, but I loved her in Sideways. You really only sympathize with the women in that movie (Sandra Oh being the other main female character). Madsen comes off as authentic. She was also good in the creepy horror classic Candyman.

Anonymous said...

There is something about Marisa Tomei that I love.