Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
This guy is very cool. So many thought that Nixon couldn't be done anymore. He's been played a ton of times. Every half-way decent comedian can pull out this impression. So why does Langella succeed so well? For one, he realy taps into what's important for this character. The chessplayer and the celebrity. For he is really playing a dude who's playing another dude. It's the nature of politics to be politically correct and he is playing Nixon at a time when he really has to play that role in instances when he ay not be able to and people are literally fightin
g him to break that persona. This movie would not work if this performance wasn't so strong.
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
No. I'm not putting him on this list because he died. That's a stupid way to honor someone. I'm putting him on this list because he did an amazing job. Ledger is an actor wh
o just started to intrigue me. I thought he wasn't that great in roles until Brokeback Mountain. Then with that and I'm Not There he really showed his strengths beyond just a pretty face. Here is the role that he will always be remembered for and it's a worthy one. It's a role that will forever be iconic and impossible to live up to. (Good luck Batman 3!) He was truly fascinating. Although the scenes without him are very good and well done, you still wish that we could see more of the Joker. It was a character who you never knew what would do next and Ledger's performance enhanced that madness and unpredictability.
Lee Pace (The Fall and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day)
I love Lee Pace. Does that make me gay? Probably not. Have you guys seen Pushing Daisies? Of course you haven't. If you have it wouldn't be CANCELED! I was thinking about that show and about what I missed most and I realized that it was Pace's performance. Luckily he's popping up in movies and I hope he continues to pick great roles like these. These two show his fantastic range and ability to be that guy in the room. He is beyond awesome.
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
This role was really important and if they hired the wrong actor, the movie would be ruined. So no pressure or anything. Luckily this guy did a fantastic job. He has to pack so much emotion from what his character has gone through with just facial expressions for most of it. One of the reasons I like this movie so much is because I believe it truly earns some of the scenes in the final act. It's not easy to do that and I give a lot of that credit to Patel's performance throughout the film.
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Whenever I see this guy's name now I have Bruce Springteen's amazing song playing in my head. Does that make me crazy? I hope not but I think I know why I do that. I'm not a huge fan of the movie, but I am a huge fan of Rourke and the character. I have to include both because Rourke's performance is so tremendous that I earnestly couldn't tell when he was acting. He absorbed this character. This was such a tour-de-force role that I hope the rest of his revived career will have more roles where he can shine like this. (Rumor is that he's going to be the villain in Iron Man 2)
Paul Rudd (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Role Models)
Paul Rudd is insanely cool. If it was up to me, he would be in every comedy. He's getting really close, but there are still a few that sneak by him. His character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was very fun even if it wasn't someone who lived in reality. He was someone who truly reset if people didn't give him enough attention. His character in Role Models was very real and the kind of character that I want to see in movies more. I love characters who are just very cynical and frankly, a jackass. Paul Rudd knows how to do that to perfection. He's one of the funniest people working today.
Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road and Shotgun Stories)
Watch out for this guy. He's going to be big, I know it. He was easily the best thing about the insanely overrated Revolutionary Road and he was amazing in Shotgun Stories. I first saw him in an underseen movie called Bug and he really showed me that he can play crazy. He knows how to have a presence on screen, which is something you usually hear associated with stage actors. I should look it up to se if he started there, but I'm lazy. I'm just saying...watch out for this guy.
Meryl Streep (Doubt and Mamma Mia!)
I don't know how this happened, but Meryl Streep must be on every best performances list. How? How does this keep happening? One can not kick this much ass for so long. It's abnormal. But she did it. She gave two performances that wasn't what I was expected from her. She was intriguing when she needed to be and charming when she needed to be. I hate HATE Mamma Mia! but she's still appealing in it. She is a wonder.
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)
I've always liked Marisa Tomei. She's had a lot of harsh words against her when a ton of critics spoke out against her winning an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny. Yet in the past few years she has given some truly fine performances and this is no exception. Throughout the movie she did things that weren't what I would have guessed she was going to do. There's a great scene in a clothing store where so many people would have overplayed some emotions, but she kept them strong and contained. Another great job.
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Wow. Kate Winslet has always been considered one of the greatest working today. Yet she did it. With this role, I think we have seen her very best performance to date. She has a very juicy role as a character who is riddled with mystery and Winslet knows the right things to do with every scene to make us start to understand her and question her at every moment. I want to see this movie again jsut so I can further look and see what she does with each scene with a different understanding of her. Why didn't I mention Revolutionary Road? Wasn't that great of a role. Yeah. I said it.