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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The 15 Best Oscar Winning Performances of The Past 15 Years

15) Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)

Category: Best Actor
Year: 2001
Reasoning: Maximus' most memorable line from the film is after he has slain another opponent in the Colosseum and he screams, "Are you not entertained?!" We were all entertained by Crowe's performance, and the Academy was as well. Crowe plays a war hero who gets captured as a slave and is forced to win the hearts and minds of the people by winning in "cage matches" in the Colosseum in order to take down the Emperor Commodus played by Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix.

14) Reese Witherspoon as June Carter (Walk The Line)

Category: Best Actress
Year: 2006
Reasoning: Joaquin Phoenix was really good as Johnny Cash, but Reese Witherspoon was amazing as June Carter. I think Phoenix is an incredible, incredible actor, but Witherspoon blew him off of the screen every time they appeared together. It also helped that Phoenix was doing an imitation of Johnny Cash, whereas Witherspoon WAS June Carter. Who knew the ditz from Legally Blonde had it in her?

13) Tim Robbins as Dave Boyle (Mystic River)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 2004
Reasoning: In the very beginning of Mystic River, a young Dave Boyle gets taken away by a stranger. It is both heart-wrenching and tragic. It's the type of traumatic event that will always stay with a person. And Robbins' makes sure the audience knows that by the choices he makes, and the pain behind his eyes that he chooses to show. This character in lesser actor's hands comes across as over-the-top and too showy, but Robbins' plays it perfectly.

12) Christian Bale as Dickey Eklund (The Fighter)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 2011
Reasoning: The opening shot of David O. Russell's The Fighter starts off with Dickey Eklund walking down the streets of Boston  and the crowd going nuts for him. As it turns out, the crowd is in a tizzy because Dickey happens to be with Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the famous boxer. Even though the film is about Ward and his story, the best part of the movie is Bale's character. The audience is showing up to see the titular character, we stay because of Dickey Eklund. Just like in the opening sequence.

11) Alan Arkin as Grandpa Edwin (Little Miss Sunshine)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 2007
Reasoning: Eddie Murphy for his role in Dreamgirls was actually the favorite to win this category, but it was Alan Arkin that actually came hold with the gold. Urban legend has it that Murphy lost the Oscar win because his next film, Norbit, was being advertised heavily while Oscar ballots were being submitted, and that didn't sit right with the Academy. Or maybe it's just because Alan Arkin was better and was great doing his Alan-Arkin-thing that was perfect for Little Miss Sunshine.

10) Sean Penn as Jimmy Markum (Mystic River)

Category: Best Actor
Year: 20004
Reasoning: "Is that my daughter in there?! Is that my daughter in there?!" Why yes Jimmy Markum, that was your daughter in there. Somebody murders Markum's daughter at the beginning of the film, and we follow the struggle that he must go through between grieving for her as well as getting revenge of the person who did this to her. It's an amazing performance by Penn, that even if you strongly dislike what he stands for, you can't not love Sean Penn's performance in Mystic River.

9) Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson (Fargo)

Category: Best Actress
Year: 1997
Reasoning: Fargo is easily the best film the Coen Brothers have ever made. It's all about Midwestern sensibilities and the appearance it has for nativity, simplicity, and stupidity. However, there's a lot more than meets the eye underneath this facade. With Marge Gunderson, there's brilliance underneath her facade. She may come across as a simpleton, but she's smart as a whip and solves everything. "I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper?" McDormand does a great job conveying the simpleton outside with the genius inside.

8) Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint (The Usual Suspects)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 1996
Reasoning: I could have also gone with Lester Burnham, Spacey's character in American Beauty for which he won his second Oscar in 2000, but I ultimately went with Verbal Kint because I just love The Usual Suspects more. Verbal Kint is such a meek, timid little man. It's just impressive to see Kevin Spacey play the powerful Frank Underwood in Netflix's "House of Cards" when you know he's capable of performances like this. Kevin Spacey is really just amazing at whatever he puts his mind to.

7) Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote (Capote)

Category: Best Actor
Year: 2006
Reasoning: Philip Seymour Hoffman is easily one of the greatest actors of his generation, if not one of the greatest actors that has ever lived. His recent passing is not only a tragedy to his family, but to movie going audiences everywhere. However, Hoffman will remain immortal because of the wonderful movies and roles he left behind. His portrayal of Truman Capote is truly a work of art, and one of Hoffman's best acting performances.

6) Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh (No Country For Old Men)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 2008
Reasoning: The Best Supporting Actor category of the Oscars have been dominated by villains in recent years, and it all started with Bardem's portrayal as a ruthless and relentless hit man who used some sort of air tank gun to kill his victims. We'll see a few more bad guys on this list a little later, but Bardem plays a villain so damn well, it's good that he received an Oscar for it.

5) Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles (Ray)

Category: Best Actor
Year: 2005
Reasoning: Jamie Foxx did not just look and sound like Ray Charles. He WAS Ray Charles. Guys like Philip Seymour Hoffman portraying Truman Capote and Foxx portraying Ray Charles dominated the Academy Awards in the mid to late 90's, but it's because they became a completely different person. Especially when you see Joaquin Phoenix just act like Johnny Cash instead of becoming him, or Daniel Day-Lewis acting like Abraham Lincoln instead of becoming him. Performances like what Foxx did are just wonderful.

4) Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Category: Best Actress
Year: 2013
Reasoning: In my mind, Jennifer Lawrence's acting in last year's Silver Linings Playbook was the best Oscar winning acting performance by a female that I've seen in the past 15 years. She was fun, sincere, playful, dramatic, and just an overall tour de force on screen. And to be so amazing while obviously being about 5-10 years too young for the part, is just a true testament to how good of an actress J-Law is.

3) Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 2010
Reasoning: The second of the "villains winning Best Supporting Actor Oscar" on this list, Christoph Waltz won his first Academy award for playing the Big Bad in this Tarantino WWII epic. Not only is Waltz freaking incredible in this movie, he's freaking incredible in 3 different languages. Waltz could have won this award on the 30 minute opening scene in that small French home alone, but he continues to get better and better as the movie progresses.

2) Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood)

Category: Best Actor
Year: 2008
Reasoning: Because he drinks your milkshake. No, Daniel Day-Lewis deserves a spot on this list because he is the greatest actor ever in the history of Hollywood. Philip Seymour Hoffman may be the Prince of acting, but Daniel Day-Lewis is the the freaking King. He's the God of acting. DDL is the only actor in the history of cinema to earn 3 Best Actor wins, and his best performance out of all 3 is his performance as Daniel Plainview is this Paul Thomas Anderson classic.

1) Heath Ledger as The Joker (The Dark Knight)

Category: Best Supporting Actor
Year: 2009
Reasoning: Not only do I think this is the best acting performance of the past 15 years, I think Ledger's performance is the single greatest acting performance in the history of all American movie cinema. The Dark Knight is a great movie with or without Ledger because it's a Christopher Nolan script and a Christopher Nolan directed film, but it's one of (#1 in my mind) the greatest films ever made solely because of how excellent Ledger is. The Academy strongly dislikes gives out posthumous Oscar nominations (they've only ever given out 2 for Best Supporting Actor) and dislike handing out wins even more. Ledger is the only actor to earn a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar win. That goes to show how freaking awesome Ledger was. In the same vein that Jamie Foxx and Philip Seymour Hoffman became Ray Charles and Truman Capote respectively, Heath Ledger became The Joker. The reason Nolan chose Ledger to play this iconic villain? "Ledger is fearless"

Who Do You Think Gave The Best Oscar Winning Performance of the Past 15 Years?

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