Last Sunday, twenty actors and actresses will be entering the Dolby Theatre with dreams to take home an Oscar. Whether it is their first, second, or third that they have won in their lifetimes, one thing is certain: they have worked their butts off to reach this point. In fact, due to the Academy’s habit of always being behind the curve, they rarely reward the actors’ best performances, and usually have to play catch-up. So, in order to give this year’s nominees the attention they deserve, I thought I’d end this year’s Best of 2016 with a collection of the Best Performances by the 2016 Oscar Nominees.
It’s a fairly simple concept: I’ll take the twenty acting nominees, and break down the best performance they’ve ever given. Some of these will be easy-certain nominees are in their sixties and have had long and distinguished careers-while others will be incredibly difficult-how do you pick the best work of an eighteen year old kid? Therefore, I’m not laying down any rules this time, just a simple guideline: I have to try and pick a different role than the one they are nominated for this year. Sure, I have some leeway for certain actors whose work is all in eighties French films or are just starting out, but if at all possible, I have to pick a different role than the Academy has this year. With that guideline laid out, allow me to present the Best Performances by the 2016 Acting Nominees!
Casey Affleck: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Let’s start with Best Actor, shall we? For all his issues and flaws, Casey Affleck is one of the most underrated actors in the business. He’s always an asset to the plot of the films he’s in, whether it’s a minor throwaway role like Interstellar or a truly great performance like Gone Baby Gone. He’s so underrated in his abilities to steal movies; I almost went with his ten-minute role as the idiot brother in Good Will Hunting, if only because of the way he sings, “Thought I had a double burgeeeerrrrrrrrrr!” However, there’s really only one film in his repertoire that really stands out, and that’s his incredible performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. As Bob Ford, Affleck portrays a man desperate for fame, caught up in hero worship and driven into madness. Like all of his best performances, the role is very low-key in nature, with much of his turmoil playing out on the inside, rather than going big with the role. However, that’s precisely what makes it such an iconic turn. Affleck fills the role with an icy obsessiveness that will eventually lead to his downfall, and predict decades of hero-worship and psychotic obsessives. Hell, the movie could be a John Hinckley, Jr. biopic and the only change that would need to be made is to translate it from the West to Washington, D.C., and it would be nearly the exact same movie. I’ve gone on and on about how I believe that The Assassination of Jesse James is one of the greatest movies ever made, but one thing I cannot stress enough is that this movie is not one of the all-time greats without the stunning centerpiece performance by Affleck. He’s so good in the role, he turns a very good movie into an instant classic.
Andrew Garfield: The Social Network
Andrew Garfield has sort of tainted his once-sterling reputation with a truly terrible six-year run. Sure, he was the best actor to play “Spider-Man” onscreen, but his Peter Parker performance was terrible, and those scripts really didn’t do him any favors. But let’s not forget that there’s a reason he broke onto the scene so fiercely, and most likely won him the role of Spidey in the first place: his portrayal of Eduardo in The Social Network. No business film, satire or serious, operates without the moral backbone that the main character screws over. While Orson Welles, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Michael Fassbender had Joseph Cotten, Paul Dano/that one kid and Seth Rogen, respectively, The Social Network gave us Garfield’s Eduardo to Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg. Often seen as the voice of reason and the one true friend Mark had, you can almost feel Mark’s pain as he is driven further and further away from his genius assh*le of a friend, leading to an act of betrayal that results in the movie’s best scene. Garfield unleashing his emotions on a shocked Eisenberg is what the movie was building to, and made for the film’s emotional climax. Sure, Eisenberg got most of the acclaim for the film, and that’s deservedly so, but it’s worth noting that the truly great performances are nothing without a straight man to play off of. And Garfield does this perfectly in one of the best films of the 21st century.
Ryan Gosling: Blue Valentine
Ugh, Baby Goose. How do I pick from your fantastic oeuvre? Ok, simple enough, throw out everything from 2005 and earlier (bye, The Notebook). And then forget about the films from 2006-2009 that I haven’t been able to see yet (sorry, Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl). Still, that leaves me with six of the most incredible years an actor has had. I mean, there’s his Wolf of Wall Street-lite performance in The Big Short (one of the most underrated in that film, in my opinion), his everyman in The Ides of March, and his tough guy with a heart in the crime epic The Place Beyond the Pines. I could always pick his smooth-talking comedian in Crazy, Stupid, Love, which may be my personal favorite, or his balls-out comedic performance in The Nice Guys, where he is almost literally a human Wile E. Coyote. Then there’s his critical masterpiece, the irreplaceable Drive, which put him on the map and made him the heir to Steve McQueen. However, if I’m being honest with myself, I have to go with the heart-wrenching performance of Blue Valentine. Blue Valentine is one film constructed out of two very different films, mixed together until they are inseparable. The first film is a meet-cute romance film, portraying a couple meeting against all odds and, choosing to beat the system, managing to find happiness. The second film is a depressing follow-up, where you witness an unhappy couple whose marriage falls apart. Both are films you’ve seen a thousand times, but you’ve rarely seen them mixed together so that you are forced to watch a couple you love be ripped apart by fate (I’m sensing a pattern in Gosling’s roles). What’s painful about this film is the naturalism of it all. There really isn’t a script to it-the actors just speak the way normal people do, court each other the way normal people do, and have sex the way normal people do. Because of this, whenever something happens, from a spark with Michelle Williams to the inevitable breakup, you witness the very-real emotional journey that Gosling is putting us through. And through this realism, the little traits and tics that Gosling gives this performance, his Dean moves beyond being just another character and becoming a person we truly care about, and watching his life fall apart truly crushes us inside. Damn you, Gosling. Being that emotionally vulnerable and that pretty just isn’t fair.
Viggo Mortensen: The Lord of the Rings
I wanted so badly to not pick the mainstream option here. I really wanted to pick one of Viggo Mortensen’s indie films, as those are the roles he cares most deeply for. However, I haven’t seen A History of Violence, I was mixed on Eastern Promises, and I hated his Oscar nominated role in Captain Fantastic. So this leaves me with one option, but one option I’m confident in picking, based on its caliber alone: The Lord of the Rings. Sure, Ian McKellen got the bulk of the acting praise, and Orlando Bloom got the bulk of the badass praise, but Mortensen was consistently the perfect mix of both. As the straight man of the Fellowship, struggling with the pain of his past and the weight of his future, Mortensen’s Aragorn is the undeniable leader of the group, smart, cunning, brave, handsome, and exceptional. When he gives orders, you follow them. When he does something awesome, you cheer. And in the end, when he’s finally crowned the titular King of Gondor, you absolutely bow. Quite simply, this character would be nowhere near as impressive if an actor of lesser caliber played it, and it’s a testament to Mortensen’s talent that Aragorn is now a beloved character worldwide.
Denzel Washington: Malcolm X
Confession: I had not seen anywhere near enough Denzel Washington movies before making this list. That’s a shocking statement, considering he is one of our greatest living actors, but it’s true. The only films I’d seen before last year were Philadelphia, Much Ado About Nothing, The Great Debaters, and about half of Flight. I’ve seen bits of Remember the Titans on TV, but that’s about it. None of these performances are ever even mentioned in the running for his greatest roles. So over the course of half a year, I’ve tried to catch up. And let me just say: boy, that man can act. I still have to see Training Day (which sits on my shelf) and American Gangster, but I’ve seen enough now to know why he’s the King. As for his best performance, there are three films I considered to be his very best. The first is Philadelphia, where he may have been overshadowed by Tom Hanks, but gave the biggest arc and, I’d argue, the best performance. Then there’s Glory, where he played a fairly stereotypical role that he made great just by being Denzel. However, I’m going to go with his 1992 classic Malcolm X, which is one of the greatest biopics of all time, largely thanks to Washington’s performance. He traces the journey of criminal turned advocate throughout his life, emphasizing the flaws as well as the faith and the heart that made him such a charismatic leader. You cheer for his victories and weep for his eventual demise, and feel the immediate pain of his struggle that pushes him to his beliefs and actions. And those speeches…my God, those speeches. These are some of the most fiery, passionate speeches I’ve ever heard, and Washington sells the living hell out of every single one of them. Thanks to Washington’s performance, Malcolm is brought to life on the big screen, and whether or not you agree with his aggressive approach towards civil rights (something explored in the recent film I Am Not Your Negro), you will at least come out respecting him as a man and as a leader.
Isabelle Huppert: Elle
So, funny story. I’m a little rusty on French films. So I have only seen one Isabelle Huppert film, and that’s this year’s Elle. The Piano Teacher is out of print, and Heaven’s Gate is just too long to get through on my schedule (although it’s one of my most exciting purchases-I’ll give you all a review soon). So I guess all I’ve got is her Oscar-nominated performance from this year. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as many people agree that this performance may be her crowning achievement. In many ways, the role is something of a Gone Girl-style character study, exploring the emotional complexities of a woman who’s had a bad hand at life, deals with the sexism of everyday life, at work and at home, and may in fact be a sociopath. And yet, that sociopathy is the only thing that can gives her the upper hand on the people in her life-her weak-willed son, the sexists who work for her, her serial murdering father who ruined her life, and even the man who raped her. This is a film I’m interested in reviewing in the near future (if only because of her performance-I have mixed thoughts on the film as a whole), but man, is she astounding in it. I fully understand why this woman is to France what Meryl Streep is to America (oh, and speaking of her, she’s coming up in a minute, too).
Ruth Negga: Loving
Ruth Negga just exploded onto the big screen this year, with little warning or notice. Therefore, she really doesn’t have any previous performance to draw on. Sure, I’ve heard she’s great on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she was supposedly the best thing about Preacher, but I never had a chance to watch those shows. So I’m forced, once again, to choose the role that she’s received her nomination for, her breakout hit in Loving. But once again, I do so with good reason. Negga is the heart and soul of Loving, having to prove herself the warm and compassionate woman who can set the film’s events in motion. Every scene she’s in, Negga plays things close to the chest, never letting her emotions show, but always showing her love for her husband. It’s the epitome of subtlety, and it makes me excited to see where the future takes her.
Natalie Portman: Black Swan
There are two Natalie Portmans who exist. One is the populist, the one who makes films like the Star Wars prequels, Thor, and No Strings Attached, and while never terrible, is so plagued by bad dialogue that she’s doomed to fail. The other is the one that makes people consider her a star, and that’s the one I want to focus on right now. In my opinion, outside of Jackie, one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen, there are three roles that people point to when they describe Portman as a great actress. The first, I have yet to see, and that is 2004’s Closer. I’m hoping to see it soon, but as you’ll see with many great performances on this list, I just don’t have enough time in the day. The second is her performance in Léon: The Professional, a film I adore so much you’ll notice my search bar quotes it. This was the performance I wanted to pick, especially because she was only twelve when she played it, but it’s a bit dishonest. No, Portman’s best performance is Black Swan, and we all know it. A haunting horror film studying obsessive compulsive disorder in the art world, and watching a young ballerina slowly lose her mind, Portman throws herself into the role. As Nina Sayers slowly loses her mind, Portman gives us the whole gamut: fear, anxiety, sexuality, and more, as Sayers’ idea of reality and fiction becomes so blurred the only outcome can be disaster. It’s also impressive to know she learned how to do ballet for the role, learning about 80% of the choreography herself to perform on camera. Jackie may be the culmination of her career, but Black Swan is where she proved she had the chops to back up her fame.
Emma Stone: Birdman
Ahh Emma. She’s America’s newest sweetheart. Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larson, and the previously mentioned Natalie can tell her about what it’s like to be the young ingénue breaking out in a complex role after a relatively short stint as a B-lister. However, while La La Land may be responsible for putting her firmly on the A-list, make no mistake: people have known of her talent for years. She damn near stole Superbad, and is the only good part of The Amazing Spider-Man series. She puts her all into films like The Croods, The Help, Crazy, Stupid, Love and Zombieland, helping launch them to the critical hits we all know and love. Hell, she even is remarkable with cameos, delivering two of the funniest one-offs in history with this year’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and Friends With Benefits (“Why don’t you just sh*t on my face? Because that’s pretty much the same as missing ‘Your Body Is A Wonderland.’ John F*cking Mayer!”). But there are really only two performances worth mentioning. The first is Easy A, where she creates the perfect cross of Molly Ringwald’s likability and Winona Ryder’s for the perfect teenage heroine (the scene of her belting “Pocketful of Sunshine” is so great it should be in her La La Land Oscar reel). I was tempted to choose this great role, just to shake things up. But I’m going to instead choose her role in Birdman, which is simply Stone being Stone for about 80% of the film, pretty much right up to, and right after, The Scene. If you’ve seen Birdman, you know the scene I’m talking about. The monologue. The scene where the camera zooms right in on Emma’s face, giant eyes bugging out, as she unleashes years of pain and neglect on her famous father. It’s message about the current technological and pop culture climate is absolutely satiric in nature, but there’s nothing funny about Stone’s delivery: this is true emotion, and Stone isn’t afraid to cut to the core. This is one of the best performances you’ll find on this list, and if anyone thinks that Stone didn’t do enough in La La Land to earn that Oscar (she did), then watch this film to see why the Academy has to make it up to her. Oh, and one side note, watch her in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. She’s just so. Damn. Awesome. In. Everything.
Meryl Streep: Sophie’s Choice
Boy, where do I start? I mean, the woman’s a legend. She’s at least good in everything she does, great in most things. I could pick a handful of great performances, from The Devil Wears Prada and Adaptation. to The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer. However, I’m going to go with the film that is indisputably her best (at least for now, and at least for this year’s pick), Sophie’s Choice. Throughout Sophie’s Choice, Streep’s Sophie is an enigmatic, complicated woman. You see a lot of pain in her eyes as a Holocaust survivor, and you understand the conflict that makes her incapable of making healthy choices in her life. As the film goes on, you want to feel sympathy, but something feels…off. And you keep waiting for her to make the titular choice between the two men she’s in love with. And then you learn: that’s not The Choice. Not even close. The Choice is something far, far worse. It’s the moment the film takes a hard left turn into Assh*leville. I won’t spoil it here, but needless to say, if you’re someone who thinks that Meryl Streep can’t act, or is overrated in any way, watch this scene. It’s a scene no human being should be able to perform. And yet Ms. Streep not only performs it, but she performs it flawlessly. Not only that, she does it all in Polish, German, and American with a Polish accent. This woman is a national treasure. At any rate, this performance is one of the greatest of all time, from anyone in history, and if you don’t believe me, then watch for yourself, and if you still disagree, know you are a failure as a human being.
Mahershala Ali: House of Cards
I feel a little ashamed I don’t know that much about Mahershala Ali. He’s a great character actor, but many of his roles have escaped me. His most famous to date is probably Marvel’s Luke Cage, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. Which leaves me with one role, but a great one: House of Cards. In his role as Remy Danton, he plays as a foil to Kevin Spacey’s Underwood, something of an equally corrupt by more respectfully moral alternative to the pure evil lurking in the White House. Danton is a self-serious businessman, ruthless in his backstabbing when necessary, but capable of good-natured fun, and never stooping to the lengths of Frank (note: I am only through Season 2 in the show. If this is wrong, my apologies). Ali embodies the role smartly and deftly, turning the character into a three-dimensional chess piece in the game of politics. He never allows Remy to be a pawn-on his worst days, he’s a bishop or a knight. It’s a smart, educated role the likes of which Hollywood doesn’t normally provide for African-Americans, and to see Ali chew it up is an honor to everyone. Moonlight may be the role that will open doors for him, but it is House of Cards that opened doors for Moonlight.
Jeff Bridges: The Big Lebowski
The Dude Abides. I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen many Jeff Bridges movies. Hell, I think I’ve only seen four, and one is Iron Man, which should in no way, shape, or form count. And I will say that he was absolutely great in True Grit and Crazy Heart, but those aren’t the performances usually listed as his best. However, while I haven’t seen any of the classics in which Bridges is listed as a cast member, I feel that doesn’t matter. Because only one of his performances has a religion named after it. And that’s his portrayal of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski in The Big Lebowski. Film noirs live and die on their “hero,” and The Big Lebowski is no different. Except here, instead of a rugged, muscular detective with all the facts, we have The Dude, a stoner hippie from the 60s who just wants everyone to get along, pulled into a situation he doesn’t like and asked to do things he doesn’t want to do, Bridges provides the Dude with a half-stoic, half Dada-ist take on life that borders on Zen and allows him to get through the day. His glory days behind him, The Dude has no problems just drinking his White Russians, smoking a joint, and solving his problems by bowling. It’s a sweet, funny, intelligent, and stupid performance all rolled into one, and it’s so ingrained into our memories that no matter how many Oscar nominations Bridges receives, or how great a legacy he’ll leave behind, he will forever remain The Dude. And that’s a legacy that any man should be jealous of.
Lucas Hedges: Moonrise Kingdom
It’s hard to pick the best role for an eighteen year old. I mean, there’s only so many movies he could have been in. Indeed, Lucas Hedges really only had a handful of roles under his belt before breaking out as Patrick in Manchester by the Sea. However, that didn’t mean he couldn’t be a standout. As it happens, some directors love to use talented child actors to tell absurdist stories. I’m talking, of course, about Wes Anderson, who used young Hedges in his whimsical children’s love story Moonrise Kingdom. Lucas Hedges didn’t have a large role-in fact, it was sort of a one-off character, but he certainly made the most of it. As the bully who became obsessed with capturing runaways Suzy and Sam after they injured him, Hedges plays the dogged “villain” role well. He fits right into the Anderson universe, delivering absurd dialogue with the trademark deadpan like he’s been doing it his entire life. In fact, my favorite line in the entire movie belongs to him-there’s nothing funnier than a bandaged Hedges glowering at Jared Gilman’s Sam and declaring, with no hint of emotion, “[You’re my enemy] Because your girlfriend stabbed me in the back with lefty scissors.” It’s the perfect example of scenery chewing, and the fact it came from a fourteen-year old boy is even funnier.
Dev Patel: Slumdog Millionaire
Dev Patel’s career was nearly destroyed six years ago when he signed on to play Prince Zuko in The Last Airbender. I’m not going to talk about this too much, because this movie was the biggest slap in the face I’ve ever experienced (I’m a huge fan of the original series), but I will say he was left out to dry and hasn’t gotten any great roles since because of it. But that just makes his breakout role stand out even more (I’m ignoring Skins, which I have yet to see). Yes, Patel is the heart of Slumdog Millionaire, bringing the titular character to life with a sort of earnestness that makes the movie sing. His portrayal of drive, luck, and, above all, love help make him one of cinema’s most likeable protagonists, and almost single-handedly helped the film win Best Picture (and seven other Oscars along the way). Patel’s performance is the heart of optimism, and in many ways is the inspiration for his performance in Lion.
Michael Shannon: Funny Or Die: Michael Shannon Reads the Delta Gamma Sorority Letter
Michael Shannon is one of Hollywood’s greatest character actors, mainly because of his borderline insane persona. He edges closer and closer to madness with each role, filling the space with comedy and terror in even parts. He’s had a storied history in Hollywood, having fantastic roles in 8 Mile, Midnight Special, and Elvis and Nixon. He’s had several roles that I haven’t seen but have only heard great things about, including 99 Homes, Take Shelter, and The Runaways. And then there are his cameos, the roles where he shows up for a few minutes and steals the film, such as The Night Before, They Came Together, and Loving. Hell, he’s even great in terrible films, like Kangaroo Jack and Man of Steel. For the best role in his career, I was going to go with his Oscar nominated role for Revolutionary Road, which was short and cliché, but incredibly well-acted. However, that would be dishonest of me. Because in my mind, there’s only one performance that defines Michael Shannon. And that’s his dramatic reading of Rebecca Martinson’s Delta Gamma Sorority email. In 2013, the well-versed vulgar queen Rebecca Martinson sent an angry email to her sorority sisters deriding them for not “acting inappropriately enough” for Greek Week, and its descriptive curse words went immediately viral. It was so crazed, so id-driven, and so coarse, only Michael Shannon could do it justice. And as you can see below, he did.
Viola Davis: Doubt
I have no qualms in making the following statement: Viola Davis is the greatest living actress. Better than Meryl, better than Huppert, better than everyone. She is consistently putting out fantastic performance after fantastic performance, from Traffic to State of Play to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. She’s stolen scenes on television with How To Get Aay with Murder and in film like Knight and Day. Hell, I even loved her in Suicide Squad. She is an absolute treasure. Now, I almost went with her performance in The Help, which was sweet and excellent, but the true best performance of her career is far and away Doubt. Doubt is a powerhouse of acting performances, with great performances by Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. But the moment of the film does not involve the other leads, but a twelve-minute sequence involving the mother of a young boy possibly molested by a priest, played by a then-unknown Davis. Streep is doing her normal scenery chewing, and she’s great, but during this set piece, the attention is all on Davis. Her emotions remain hidden, trapped, and suppressed, until they explode in an emotional release the likes of which I’ve never seen. In those twelve minutes, Davis proves to us that she is not only a talent, but one of the greatest talents in the business. Viola Davis is a goddess amongst man, and this role, like most roles, proves it.
Naomie Harris: 28 Days Later
Naomie Harris has been putting out solid work for years, but never really had a “breakout moment.” Sure, she was good in Breakfast on Pluto and A Cock and Bull Story, and she made the most out of a dumb role in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels (she was Tia Dalma/Calypso). She’s become a breakout recently with the James Bond series by bringing Moneypenny to life, and she’s turned the secretary into a badass heroine for the modern era. I’ve heard great things about her role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, even though I haven’t seen it, and I even loved her performance in the absolutely terrible Collateral Beauty. But outside of her current Oscar-nominated role in Moonlight, there’s only one role that really deserves our praise, and that’s her performance in 28 Days Later. 28 Days Later is a modern day classic horror film, and features strong performances from a talented cast. But in my mind, it’s Harris who stands out. Her Selena is a take-no-prisoners warrior, standing toe-to-toe with Cillian Murphy’s Jim, and is not afraid to make the tough decisions. It’s a stereotypical role, but it’s one that Harris plays well, setting a high bar for future horror movie heroines, especially The Walking Dead’s Michonne.
Nicole Kidman: Moulin Rouge!
I’ll admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of Nicole Kidman, especially due to the worst films in her repertoire (especially Batman Forever and Bewitched), but when she’s on fire, she is absolutely on fire. From her performance as Virginia Woolf in The Hours to performance as a grieving mother in Rabbit Hole, she is willing to put her all into every role. Hell, I’ll even give her props for the bravery of The Paperboy, even if she literally peed on Zac Efron’s face for the role. However, while these performances are all great, there’s only one performance that stands near and dear to my heart. And that role is Satine in Moulin Rouge! Halfway between dramatic and camp, Kidman is the heart and soul of Moulin Rouge!, playing the jaded cynic who finds love, while also dying of consumption. Sure, it’s a little cliché, but Kidman never gives in to the temptation, keeping things breezy when she has to and tear-inducing when necessary. On top of her decent singing voice, and great performance, Kidman makes Satine a legendary role, and it is one of my all-time favorites from this list.
Octavia Spencer: The Help
Octavia Spencer has spent many years trying to break into the industry. She spent many years working, but never had that key moment that gave her that big break. Luckily, her childhood friend wrote a role based on her, and gave her the role, meaning she could finally get the acclaim she deserved. Since then, she’s had several great roles, from Fruitvale Station to Snowpiercer to Get On Up, but in my opinion, she’s never topped that original greatness in that first breakthrough in The Help. The Help is known as a great vehicle for Viola Davis, but it’s Spencer who steals the scenes. As the sassy, no-nonsense housekeeper Minny, Spencer puts a lot of herself into the role, combining her sweetness and her spice, her humor and her struggles as she deals with the racism of everyday life. The fear and the fire in her face when she performs the famous “Pie Scene” is enough to win her a thousand Oscars. It’s the reason that America fell in love with her, and it’s the reason that she has the roles she does now, making Minny Jackson Spencer’s role to end all roles.
Michelle Williams: My Week With Marilyn
Who would have thought someone on Dawson’s Creek would actually be a talented actor (Jk, you know you still have my heart, JVDB)? Since her time on the teen soap opera, Williams has turned herself into one of Hollywood’s most talented character actresses. From her early role in the fantastic Dick to her tragic role in Brokeback Mountain, from her underrated performance in Shutter Island to her world-class role in Blue Valentine, Williams is one of the most reliable actors in the business. Asking me to choose from this incredible slate of performances is a Sophie’s Choice (throwback to earlier on the list). However, if you ask me, her best role is her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn. Truth be told, My Week With Marilyn is a mediocre film, not very interesting or well told. However, while the film’s not necessarily a home run, Williams’ performance certainly is. She absolutely throws herself into the role of Marilyn, making her sweet, sexy, damaged, and absolutely real. I can count the number of performances where I forget I’m watching an actor on one hand, and Williams in this film is absolutely one of them. She’s got the look, she’s got the voice, and she’s got the heart, and for this reason, she has established herself as one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy the Oscars tonight.