Saturday, April 3, 2010

Decade Defining Performances

Somehow or another, each decade there is that one standout performance that trumped everything else for the decade. (I'm talking actressing here, sorry guys!) For the most part they are widely agreed on, with only a few dissenters.

For the 1930s, the big performane is (or seems to be)...

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind
(with the possibilities of Luise Rainer in The Good Earth or Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night)

For the 1940s, the big performance is (or seems to be)...
Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story
(with the possibilities of Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress or Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity)

For the 1950s, the big performance is (or seems to be)...
Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire
(with the possibilities of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard or Judy Garland in A Star is Born)

For the 1960s, the big performance is (or seems to be)...
Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
(with the possibilities of Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter or in Long Day's Journey Into Night)

For the 1970s, the big performance is (or seems to be)...
Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
(with the possibilities of Jane Fonda in Klute or Liza Minnelli in Cabaret)

For the 1980s, the big performance is pretty undisputed...
Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice
(with us non-Streepies the possibilities of Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond or Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys)

For the 1990s, the big performance is (or seems to be)...
Holly Hunter in The Piano
(with the possibilities of Frances McDormand in Fargo or Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry)

But what are the "big" or "landmark" performances of the 2000s? Most would agree that Charlize Theron takes the cake with her work in Monster, but in 20 years will it still hold up? That's what the other performances seem to have in common. They've managed to stay the test of time and have become loved. They're almost always on those "Best of..." lists when it comes to naming superb actresses. So here are some other suggestions for those big performances of the 2000s, the ones that will age splendidly.

Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!
Renee Zellweger in Nurse Betty
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Carey Mulligan in An Education
Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger
Amy Adams in Enchanted
Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven
Tilda Swinton in Julia

Which performance(s) do you think should be remembered as the landmark performance of the last decade?


  1. Maybe Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta? Helena Bonham Carter in Big Fish, Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, Carrie-Anne Mossin in Matrix, Diane Keaton (LOVE her) in Something's Gotta Give, Meryl Streep in Adaptation,Renee Zellwegger in Chicago, Liv Tyler in Lord of the Rings.

  2. Hello? Annette Bening in the nineties and the aughts, especially in the aughts.

    B. E. N.


  3. Wild Celtic- I second Renee Zellweger in Chicago! And I think Meryl's role in Adaptation. is one of her best but she's supporting in that.

    Andrew- Annette Bening in 2004's Being Julia should have been one of the suggestions! Whoops. I don't think she gave any one leading performance in the 1990s that nearly everyone agrees on. She seems to split people a little.

  4. I'd say the reason Annette Bening in Being Julia isn't timeless because the film itself is kind of sub-par. I think Joan Allen from Upside of Anger is a very good one to consider, as is Scarlett in Lost in Translation was Wild Celtic suggested. I'd also include Rosario Dawson in 25th Hour, Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, and probably a bunch of others I can't think of right now.

  5. Maybe Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose?

  6. I'll always root for Bjork in Dancer in the Dark! I'm also thinking... Kate Winslet for Little Children or Eternal Sunshine, both are such amazing performances. And I believe that Meryl in Devil Wears Prada and Ellen Page in Juno will age pretty well.

  7. I second Robert's choice for Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And Ellen Page for Juno. Well picked!

  8. Mike Lippert- That seems to be the thing with Bening movies. Each one that contains a great performance from her has both its ardent supporters and haters.

    Simon- One day, maybe people will stop hating Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose. I think the general opinion of people is in her favor after she blew everyone else out of the water in Nine. Not an easy feat in a movie like a cast like that.

    Robert (and Wild Celtic) - I was afraid to put Juno up because there seems to be so much backlash for Diablo Cody's "quirky" dialogue. I loved Juno though, so I should have included her.

    Is it weird that Kate Winslet never really does anything for me? My favorite performance of hers from the past decade is Little Children however.

    Meryl in the Devil Wears Prada is another great suggestion.

  9. Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice. Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada. Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Ellen Page in Juno xxx

  10. Anahita- Keira is one of my faves, so I definitely agree. I (unfortunately) don't think that her performance in Pride and Prejudice has the same appeal as some of those other decade defining roles though. I think Meryl, Ellen, and Nicole Kidman (in anything...) are the best bets.

  11. Gosh, wasn't Elizabeth Taylor FANTASTIC in Who's Afraid? Great choice on that decade. And, I just saw Sophie's Choice for the first time recently and I finally understand why that's Meryl's only full-on Lead Actress win. Powerful stuff. As for this past decade, I'm going to have to go with Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me, but I'd agree with Andrew and give Bening a close second!

  12. Luke- Elizabeth Taylor is amazingg in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    I wonder if people will remember Laura Linney in You Can Count on Me in 30 years.