A message board post I found myself going to town on at a message board. Please share your favorites as well. Please also check out 20 Great Actor/Director Pairings. This post has been published at gunaxin.com so as a way to ensure all traffic goes there, much of this page will be abbreviate and duplicate content will be eliminated:
Adrien Brody, Hollywoodland
Angela Bassett, Sunshine State
Amara Rakam-Darjeeling Linmited-She's very interesting as a steward aboard an Indian train who has a brief fling on a train with the protagonist's younger brother-a damaged boy who was probably never in a fit enough to enter into a relationship anyways.
Brendan Gleason, In Bruges (he did get a Golden Nom for best comedy, I concede, so he was the most acknowledged person on this list)-In this film where no character is exactly as stereotypes would play out, Gleason plays a hitman who's an art and history buff and more importantly, someone with a far better conscious than a man of his profession can tolerate. He wrestles with his consciousness endlessly and is the only beacon of hope for his partner who accidentally shot an innocent child and can't cope with the guilt.
Denzel Washington, Manchurian Candidate
Ed Harris, Radio-Like Ryan Gosling for Half-Nelson or Robin Williams for Dead Poets Society this is one of those inspirational parts of teacher/mentor that can easily get lost in the shuffle if the film's marketing presented the story as overly schmaltzy. I found a much more nuanced performance than I was expecting: Similar to Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side.
Forest Whitaker-Great Debaters-Obviously, with the solid material, the heavy themes, and the usual caliber of Whitaker as an actor and Denzel Washington as a director, you'd expect something great, but this was beyond what I expected. In Whitaker's character, we see a powerful juxtaposition in the eyes of his son between a most respected figure in the world of academia and a man stripped of his dignity by uneducated white farmers before the era of Civil Rights. Ultimately, he comes across as a father who's kids have every reason to be proud of him and Whitaker carries that juxtaposition well.
Gabriel Garcia Bernal, Blindness-The dystopic film about a massive epidemic that causes blindness was gritty and realistic. It was shot in a documentary style and that gave more authenticity to the film's characters and in the case of Bernal, made the villain easily scarier.
Gwenyth Paltrow, Royal Tenenbaums: What a massive surprise: The glamorous Oscar winner and Hollywood product plays eccentric, loopy and depressed: It's a part more for Ally Sheedy or Parker Posey, but Paltrow owned it.
Jude Law-Road to Perdition
Judy Greer, Adaptation-Cute as a button, this perky waitress only has a couple scenes but is priceless as a study of how attraction can quickly turn to sudden awkwardness.
Kate Beckinsdale-The Aviator-Cate Blanchett at Katherine Hepburn was just an impression. She was only interesting as far as the audience saying "doesn't she nail Hepburn?" Beckinsdale played someone who was interesting to watch on screen regardless of whether it was based on a historic character: A self-assured Holywood starlett who was Howard Hughes' match. If I had my choice of who I'd rather see a movie about, it would be Beckinsdale's character.
Paul Giamatti-Lady in the Water-Not necessarily a good movie, but that does nothing to take away from Giamatti's performance: It's got layers of subtext (he's a wounded soul), it's got physicality (he has a distinctive stutter), it's got dramatic moments, and it's got dynamicism (he grows to believe in himself throughout the movie).
Penelope Cruz-Vanilla Sky: She was just such a bundle of joy. Cameron Crowe is a romantic who writes movies about the girls he had distant crushes on in high school, so sometimes the women in his films like Penny Lane are fantasies. Still, she's enticing here
Robert Downey Jr-Soloist: An inspiring film with an inspiring performance at the center. Downey Junior, who's been great in everything lately, doesn't go for the big tear jerking moments but is very nuanced and subtle.
Russell Crowe, 3:10 to Yuma: Christain Bale also belongs here because the film's success has as much to do with the relationship between the two men as it does anything else. Crowe is just a Western bad guy but he delivers maxims and responses to his captor like a classically trained actor in a Shakespeare film, and he just about pulls it off.
Tom Hanks-Catch Me If You Can
Tom Hanks-The Ladykillers-I'm not saying I love every Tom Hanks performance, but he was the only bright spot on an otherwise drab film. He just has a knack for comedy and reacts to everything around him with assuredness even though things are most certainly not ok and his band of cohorts are all subpar.
William H Macy-Bobby