Monday, February 24, 2020

In Character: 2019 Oscar Nominees

I know, I know. The 2019 Oscars have come and gone, and I didn’t make time to post my annual In Character Oscar piece. Still wanting to keep up the tradition, I present you with my favorite roles from each recent acting Oscar nominee. Be sure to share your favorites as well!

Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
Notable Roles: Bad Times at the El Royale, Broad City, The Outsider, Genius
Best Role: As the badass Belle from Widows. Still a damn shame that so many people slept on that movie.

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Notable Roles: Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Avengers, Under the Skin, Her
Best Role: It must be her charming, effortless innocence from Lost in Translation.

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women 
Notable Roles: Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brooklyn
Best Role: What a great career Ronan has had so far. Her leading work in Lady Bird still wins out for me.

Charlize Theron – Bombshell
Notable Roles: North Country, In the Valley of Elah, Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road
Best Role: Hard to imagine this being anything other than Monster.

Renée Zellweger – Judy
Notable Roles: Jerry Maguire, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, Cold Mountain, Cinderella Man
Best Role: Jerry Maguire will always hold a special place in my heart, but her best work is Judy.

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
Notable Roles: Philadelphia, Desperado, The Mask of Zorro, Spy Kids, The Skin I Live In
Best Role: Such a tough call, but I actually think I have to go with Pain and Glory. It felt like Banderas and Pedro Almodóvar’s careers had been leading up to the moment they could make that film together.

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Notable Roles: Catch Me If You Can, Revolutionary Road, Django Unchained, The Revenant
Best Role: It could be any number of roles, including the four listed above, but having let it sit for a few years, I feel comfortable calling his work in The Wolf of Wall Street his best yet.

Adam Driver – Marriage Story
Notable Roles: Girls, Paterson, Star Wars, Silence, Logan Lucky, BlacKkKlansman, The Report
Best Role: Marriage Story. Driver has become a huge player so quickly, and it’ll be a marvel to watch where his career goes from here.

Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
Notable Roles: To Die For, Gladiator, Walk the Line, Two Lovers, Her, Inherent Vice
Best Role: I can’t decide between The Master and You Were Never Really Here. He was so uniquely dedicated to each role.

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes
Notable Roles: Glengarry Glen Ross, Game of Thrones, The Wife, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Best Role: Oh god, how do you pick the top performance from one of the best character actors who’s ever lived? I’ll go with Brazil for now, but any number of performances are correct here.

Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
Notable Roles: Dolores Claiborne, Primary Colors, About Schmidt, American Horror Story
Best Role: It must be Misery. That movie, and Bates’ terrifying work in it, really hold up well.

Laura Dern – Marriage Story
Notable Roles: Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Jurassic Park, Citizen Ruth, Enlightened, Wild
Best Role: I will never be able to deny the full-tilt mania she brought to Inland Empire.

Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
Notable Roles: Ghost World, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Prestige, Lucy, Hail, Caesar!
Best Role: Yep, still Lost in Translation.

Florence Pugh – Little Women
Notable Roles: Lady Macbeth, The Commuter, Outlaw King, Fighting with My Family
Best Role: Her tortured work in Midsommar remains the stand out, though Pugh is going to have a great career.

Margot Robbie – Bombshell
Notable Roles: Neighbours, The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, I, Tonya, Mary Queen of Scots
Best Role: Sharon Tate, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood.

Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Notable Roles: Big, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Captain Phillips
Best Role: After all these years, I’m still so drawn to Andy Beckett from Philadelphia. The pain in his eyes.

Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
Notable Roles: The Remains of the Day, Nixon, The Edge, Proof, Westworld
Best Role: It can’t not be Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs.

Al Pacino – The Irishman
Notable Roles: The Godfather saga, Serpico, Scarface, Glengarry Glen Ross, Heat
Best Role: Dog Day Afternoon. I rewatched it a few months ago and damn does his work as Sonny hold up.

Joe Pesci – The Irishman
Notable Roles: Raging Bull, Lethal Weapon series, Goodfellas, Home Alone, JFK, Casino
Best Role: I’ve thought a lot about this over the past few months, and no bullshit, I think I have to go with Russell Bufalino from The Irishman. If Pesci never acts again, I think this will be considered one of the finest swan songs in modern film acting.

Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Notable Roles: Thelma & Louise, Se7en, Fight Club, Ocean’s Eleven, Moneyball, Ad Astra
Best Role: That would be Cliff Booth, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. You’re damn right.

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  1. For me so far...

    Cynthia Erivo-Bad Times at the El Royale
    Scar-Jo 3:16!-Under the Skin/Marriage Story (tie)
    Saiorse Ronan-Lady Bird
    Charlize Theron-Young Adult
    Renee Zelwegger-Jerry Maguire

    Antonio Banderas-The Skin I Live In
    Leonardo diCaprio-The Wolf of Wall Street
    Adam Driver-Marriage Story
    Joaquin Phoenix-Her
    Jonathan Pryce-Brazil

    Kathy Bates-About Schmidt (The Waterboy is a close second)
    Laura Dern-INLAND EMPIRE
    Florence Pugh-Lady Macbeth
    Margot Robbie-I, Tonya

    Tom Hanks-Saving Private Ryan
    Anthony Hopkins-The Elephant Man
    Al Pacino-Scarface
    Joe Pesci-Goodfellas
    Brad Pitt-Inglorious Basterds

    1. Scarface for Pacino - love it! Love all the other picks as well, most of which came in a close second place for me. Still need to see Lady Macbeth, damnit.

  2. I cannot wait to see what Florence does next and I hope she doesn't get tied down to MCU.

    Also....In character on Ben Mendelsohn, maybe? :D

    1. Oh god I completely agree about Pugh getting tied down with MCU. I hope she keeps challenging herself with great roles. And I've been wanting to cover Mendelsohn for forever so now I'm finally going to! I don't have time to watch The Outsider first though... is that a mistake?

    2. Honestly he is quite mind blowing in that. He plays this detective who is just so weary, tired and depressed but if you saw one interview with him you know he is like a hurricane on energy. Between this and again the amazingly convincing American accent I have no idea how he does any of this.

    3. Damnit, I can't not watch it then! I really want to dive into that show but just haven't had time yet. But it seems like it could potentially be one of his best roles yet, so I'm gonna check it out ASAP.

    4. I still have so many of his Australian movies to watch, but I am taking some exams in a month and can't get distracted....and he distracts me so so much :D

    5. I LOVE that you love him. He's so good.

  3. I think I missed your previous posts like this but what an amazing idea!
    I have such high hopes for Adam Driver's future, he seems to be working with some fantastic names.

    1. Thanks so much! Yeah I've done it for a few years now - fun way to keep track of everyone's careers! If you're interested at all, all the previous posts like this are down in the "O" section on this page.

  4. Great picks. I agree with a lot of these.

    Best Actress:
    Cynthia Erivo - Bad Times at the El Royale (she was easily the best part of that movie.)
    Scarlett Johansson - Lost in Translation (but her performance in Her comes very close. Such a great performance considering it's only a voice.)
    Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird
    Charlize Theron - In the Valley of Elah
    Renée Zellweger - Jerry Maguire

    Best Actor:
    Antonio Banderas - Desperado
    Leonardo DiCaprio - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (the more i think about this performance the more i love it. He should have won in my opinion.)
    Adam Driver – Marriage Story
    Joaquin Phoenix - Her
    Jonathan Pryce - Game of Thrones

    Best Supporting Actress:
    Kathy Bates - Misery
    Laura Dern - Big Little Lies
    Scarlett Johansson - Fuck it, let's go with Her this time.
    Florence Pugh - Midsommar (That movie still haunts me. I'm never visiting Sweden again.)
    Margot Robbie - The Wolf of Wall Street

    Best Supporting Actor:
    Tom Hanks - Road to Perdition (I would love to see Hanks tackle some more darker roles like this again.)
    Anthony Hopkins - The Silence of the Lambs
    Al Pacino - Dog Day Afternoon
    Joe Pesci - Goodfellas
    Brad Pitt - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Such a haunting performance. He should have already won an Oscar for this years ago.)

    Overall this was a better Oscar year than usual. I didn't mind most of the wins and loved that Parasite won best picture. Very rarely does my actual favorite movie of the year win or even get nominated.

    1. Love this. Elah is a great choice for Theron. That movie never got the attention it deserved but it really holds up.

      I dig the back and forth on ScarJo’s best! She gives such a solid performance in Her. And per Leo in Hollywood… I wouldn’t be surprised if five years from now, I consider that his best work yet. There’s really a lot of layers to that performance, but they’re kind of hidden because he’s playing it for laughs, and he's just such a good actor.

      For a lot of that movie, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio playing Rick Dalton playing someone else, and I dig that.

  5. I love this post! I agree with a lot of your "Best Roles" for me Joaquin's best is HER and for Margot Robbit, I actually think Bombshell was her best work. She was the best thing about that movie.

    I need to see Dog Day Afternoon still. My favorite Pacino is still Godfather Part II but I admittedly have not seen a wide enough range of his work.

    1. Thanks so much! I really need to watch Her again. I've only seen that twice, right when it first came out. Pacino is so very good in Godfather Part II, but he has a vulnerability in Dog Day that I've always been drawn to. Would love yo hear what you think!

  6. This is a great list, I agree with those I have seen, Pugh in Midsommar was above Little Women and should have been among the nominations. Bates in this list makes no sense with very many other amazing performances being snubbed this year. I was a bit underwhelmed with acting nominations this year. It seemed so.. uninspiring. There were many more indie performances like Sterling in Waves LeBeouf in Honey Boy and Booksmart girls and not to mention Parasite actors doing exceptional work. Though I say this without seeing The Irishman because sorry, three hours? Not ready to commit.

    1. I totally agree, in a surprisingly good year for movies, the acting nominations felt bland to me. It didn't really help that the four eventual winners were presumed to win before the Golden Globes even took place. Definitely agree that some Waves, Honey Boy, Booksmart, and/or Parasite acting love would have been great!

  7. Cynthia Erivo - Bad Times at the El Royale (nominated for a Wally last year!)
    Scar-Jo - Under the Skin
    Saiorse Ronan - Lady Bird
    Charlize Theron - Tully
    Renee Zelwegger - Nurse Betty (I feel like I’m the only person who remembers/loves this film)

    Antonio Banderas - Pain and Glory
    Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
    Adam Driver - Paterson
    Joaquin Phoenix - Her (tough decision, though)
    Jonathan Pryce - Brazil

    Kathy Bates - Dolores Claiborne (flat-out masterpiece in my book, even better than Misery)
    Laura Dern - “Enlightened”
    Scar-Jo - Under the Skin
    Florence Pugh - MidSommar (although she had a heck of a year in 2019)
    Margot Robbie - Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (she didn’t get enough to do but that sequence at the theater won me over)

    Tom Hanks - Cast Away (the third act of this movie still guts me and it all rests on Hanks’ performance)
    Anthony Hopkins - The Remains of the Day
    Al Pacino - Dog Day Afternoon (Attica!)
    Joe Pesci - Goodfellas (Oh man… tough one. I could just as easily go with Casino or Irishman)
    Brad Pitt - Burn After Reading (No joke. Pitt is at his best when he’s playing a goofball.)

    1. "Two in the head, you know they're dead!" Haha I love Nurse Betty, and agree that RZ is really good in it. That movie has such a singular tone; I'm a huge fan of LaBute's work from that time (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors).

      Love Hanks in Cast Away. That final act never got the credit it deserved. Hanks plays it so beautifully. Love the Burn After Reading choice for Pitt! I've always said he should've been nominated for that instead of Benjamin Button.