CINEMATIC PASSIONS’ MEMORABLE PERFORMANCES OF 2009

This was a fun post to put together. But it was a much larger challenge than last year. There was a lot of superb acting to choose from in 2009.

Obviously, I can’t discuss every single magnificent turn I ran across over the course of my cinematic journey.

But I can certainly illuminate a fabulous cross section.

GEORGE CLOONEY – UP IN THE AIR

GEORGE CLOONEY has used the last decade to show the world that he’s got more than gorgeousness and mesmerizing charisma at his fingertips.

His performances possess a depth and complexity that many people didn’t realize he had at the beginning of his career. Plus he is now a well respected director.

As RYAN BINGHAM, GEORGE plays a charmer in his forties who has isolated himself effectively from meaningful relationships and emotional ties with other members of the human race.

He’s constantly on the go and is rarely in one city for more than a few days at a time. (He flies all over the country firing people.) He has no children and has never been married. Apparently, he has also never lived with anyone or even had a serious romance by any sensible person’s definition.

He’s experienced plenty of casual dating and on going flings, though. He’s not even close to his own family.

That’s precisely the way that he likes it. He doesn’t see himself as removed from the world. It’s just the way he’s set his life up.

But rules are made to be broken.

He meets a woman who has a similar job. They’re alike and they see the world in the same way.

RYAN doesn’t fall in love. It would never occur to him to let someone else have that kind of power over him.

But slowly (very slowly…) he develops some kind of an attachment to her. Need turns to expectation and then unfortunately heartbreak is right around the corner.

Raw and vulnerable are certainly not the words that you would normally associate with a description of GEORGE’S performance.

But here he has utilized these qualities perfectly and taken it to the wall.

Sometimes people can surprise you in ways that you never dreamed.



CLIVE OWEN – THE BOYS ARE BACK/DUPLICITY/THE INTERNATIONAL

All too often, cinematic artists do great work and are tragically overlooked for awards recognition. It’s often political in nature…and it’s particularly infuriating.

In 2009, CLIVE OWEN gave three spectacular performances.

In THE BOYS ARE BACK, he is JOE WARR, a happy go lucky journalist whose wanderlust is brought up short when he is forced to become the sole caregiver to his two young sons.

In DUPLICITY, RAY KOVAL is a former M16 agent who’s turned to industrial espionage to make a tidy profit. He also has a contentious passionate rocky relationship with the woman of his dreams CLAIRE STENWICK (JULIA ROBERTS).

Are they in love? Were they ever? Are they together technically? Will they be in the future?

Even he doesn’t know for sure. The pressure – in his work as well as in his private life – is mindboggling.

But he’s learned to take it in stride. He’s a trained professional, after all.

And in THE INTERNATIONAL, LOUIS SALINGER is a perpetually dishevelled, brutally haunted former Scotland Yard inspector who made the jump to Interpol. He needs to bring a high profile bank to justice for some morally reprehensible dealings that they’re involved with.

He has become so obsessed that he has gone above and beyond the call of duty. LOUIS has no personal life and his job will be on the line soon.

But he can’t stop himself. He’s also gotten very close to a married colleague that feels just as strongly about the situation as he does.

ELEANOR WHITMAN (NAOMI WATTS) is a tough as nails New York district attorney. She is far too honourable to cross the line with LOUIS. He understands completely. He possesses precisely the same moral fibre as she does.

But there is a mutual admiration society and a bond between them that can never be broken. When it looks like ELEANOR and her family will be brought under fire by the enemy (with potentially deadly consequences), LOUIS is more than willing to sacrifice his safety – his life if necessary – to protect his friend and her loved ones.

How many actors could take on diverse parts such as these and infuse them with such energy and intensity?

CLIVE OWEN is badly overdue for another OSCAR nomination. It should happen again…and soon.

DIANE KRUGER – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

As the classic movie goddess BRIDGET VON HAMMERSMARK, DIANE KRUGER easily fulfills the expected criteria that is naturally expected of such a role.

She is great looking and possessed of fierce charisma, grace and elegance.

But BRIDGET is much more than a gorgeous face. She’s been working for the Allies. So she has to know when to use her considerable artistic expertise and when to play the grand lady.

This is an amazingly rich performance from a very accomplished actor. Much of her dialogue is performed in German, her native language.

DIANE KRUGER has serious talent. The sky’s the limit.

KIM BASINGER – THE BURNING PLAIN

Aside from her glamorous appearance, GINA seems to be a typical middle class New Mexico wife and mother.

To look at her, you would assume that she is living a pleasant comfortable existence with a loving husband and children.

But GINA’S life is actually full of profound tragedy – the kind of precious secrets and complicated lies that would make anyone unravel emotionally if they were to consider it long enough.

KIM has given quietly powerful performances before (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR), but in this highly challenging part she does some of the best work she’s ever done.

GINA and her dark compelling soul haunt you long after you leave the theatre.

VERA FARMIGA – UP IN THE AIR

RYAN BINGHAM thought that ALEX GORAN would end up being his romantic salvation. In actuality, she was his emotional destroyer.

ALEX is an enigma. She’s a straight shooter, good at her job, smart, sharp, sexy. She radiates openness and honesty. ALEX is assertive. She always gets what she wants. But when the winds change, she knows where to jump.

However, that’s only the top layer.

ALEX has a ceaseless never ending need for freedom and excitement. She’s leading a complicated existence.

Was she dishonest with RYAN? Technically, of course she was. But what happened only took place because there was a crucial misunderstanding between them.

You never get the sense that ALEX was trying to hurt RYAN deliberately. But with her life the way that it is, it was almost inevitable that an unknowing lover would get caught in the crossfire.

ALEX’S feelings for RYAN were genuine. But she was simply unwilling to consider any other arrangement than what they had. She was used to compartmentalizing her life.

That was all there was to it. No compromises for her aside from the essential. That’s it. That’s all.

She never dumped him or treated him coldly. She just made it clear that she had no more to offer him than what she had in the past.

It is due to the great gifts that VERA possesses that you never remotely dislike ALEX. She comes across as a complete person.

Though she’s ultimately very flawed, she’s attempting to live by her own rules. She’s passionate about everything that’s important to her.

Watching this film, it’s obvious that VERA is a highly intriguing artist. She’s going to be one of the major actors of the twenty first century.

CHRISTOPH WALTZ – INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

CHRISTOPH WALTZ plays one of the most delicious villains in the history of film. You never want to think of Nazis as having any positive attributes.

But QUENTIN TARANTINO doesn’t let you off the hook that easily.

COLONEL HANS LANDA is handsome, charming, refined, polite and well mannered. Take off the uniform and you appear to have the quintessential German gentleman.

But naturally that’s far from the truth.

He’d double cross his own mother and send her to the gallows if it would get him what he wanted. He was perfectly content to order Jewish people to death and have them executed on the spot.

But when he bargains for a safe haven in the U.S. with LIEUTENANT ALDO RAINE (BRAD PITT) at the conclusion, he is openly contemptuous of everyone who branded him as a xenophobic murderer.

As long as he can get away with it, he’ll play the ends against the middle. Of course time will always run short on that jazz. You have to be an especially motivated player to work both sides of the field.

Everyone’s luck bottoms out eventually.

CHRISTOPH gave an exceptionally masterful performance and won a highly deserved ACADEMY AWARD for it.

Sometimes things really do work out the way that they’re supposed to.

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