Last week, we received the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, and I think it’s fair to say there were some shocks and surprises hidden amongst them. However, I also thought that the release of the nominees up for Oscars in 2017 has created the perfect opportunity for me to have my own little awards season celebrations. To start off, I’ve compiled a collection of my favourite Oscar winning performances of the noughties. I’ve chickened out a bit as they’re in no particular order, but these are ten of the most memorable performances of the most recent decade.
10. Hilary Swank (Maggie Fitzgerald, Million Dollar Baby)
Million Dollar Baby did so well at the Oscars in the year 2000 by winning four awards including Best Picture, but I think what makes this film so memorable for me two years after first watching it is Hilary Swank’s performance as the lead character, Maggie Fitzgerald – a young woman who dreams of becoming a boxer despite the many hardships she’s faced in life. It was such a moving performance in a film that certainly isn’t one you’d watch if you needed your mood lifting, but the fact that I can remember so many different parts of her performance after all this time says something, hence why I’ve included her here.
9. Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin, The Last King Of Scotland)
To watch Forest Whitaker become this Ugandan dictator, you wouldn’t believe that he was portraying a real person. Idi Amin was a very charismatic leader that hid his agenda behind charm and magnetism, and Whitaker captured these characteristics wonderfully with this Oscar-winning performance. It was chilling to watch his transformation from the start of the film right to the end. It showed just what this Whitaker’s capabilities are as an actor, and is, again, a performance that hasn’t completely left me behind just yet.
8. Russell Crowe (Maximus, Gladiator)
I may have chosen this performance purely because I loved the film so much, but it cannot be denied that Russell Crowe was on form as Maximus in this epic tale of revenge in Ancient Rome. It is yet another performance that I haven’t seen in some time so it is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember revelling in every moment of the film, and every second of Crowe’s performance. It is absolutely appropriate to say that this is a creation of epic proportions, with terrific contributions from everyone involved.
7. Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund, The Fighter)
I have to be honest, this list is dredging up some right blasts from the past. I think it was 2013 when I saw The Fighter, the story of Micky Ward and his rise through the ranks with the help of his brother, Dicky Eklund, played by the ever-brilliant Christian Bale. Bale finally got the recognition for his skill set that he had been deserving for at last five years before that with his Oscar win for the role. It was another performance that saw Bale undergo a significant physical transformation, although his acting alone would have been enough here.
6. Sean Penn (Harvey Milk, Milk)
When I was working through the contenders for this list, two performances from Sean Penn were in contention – his turn as Jimmy Markum in Mystic River, and this performance as Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay politician. I loved this very insightful biopic about Harvey’s political career, and so much of this was down to Penn’s unbelievably moving performance as the title character. I have told so many people about this film since seeing it last year as I think it is a story that more need to know about, and Penn makes the telling of it so much more impactful as well.
5. Denzel Washington (Alfonso Harris, Training Day)
It would be wrong of me not to include Denzel Washington in this list. He was another charismatic character as the dodgy detective, and what I think is so great about his performance is that you never really know what side of the law this guy is really on. Despite this though, the way Washington portrayed Harris made it hard for me to dislike him. Was he an anti-hero? Or was he the real villain? I’m not entirely sure, and I keep going back to the each time hoping to find answers to those questions, but because of how Washington plays it, I’m never quite sure.
4. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Erin Brockovich)
My favourite performance by Julia Roberts was her turn as Erin Brockovich. I was forced to see the film by my mum who is a hardcore fan of the actress, and I’m so glad she made me see it. She showed every bit of determination that seeped out of every part of the real Erin Brockovich’s being and really was a joy to watch as she took on the water companies and won. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, I would highly recommend it – it is a fascinating watch made all the more so by Roberts’ tour-de-force performance.
3. Christoph Waltz (Hans Landa, Inglorious Basterds)
A character that many have argued to be the best ever created by Quentin Tarantino is Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds. Christoph Waltz is someone I will always happily watch purely because of his performances in both the Tarantino films he has starred in, although I couldn’t pick Django Unchained over this as it was made in 2012. This was a performance with which you could just soak up every ounce of evil that radiated from the character, and I doubt many other people could tell me an actor who could have played it better.
2. Daniel Day-Lewis (Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood)
The final two films on this list went head to head in the same year. Winning Best Actor in 2008 was Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of greedy oil prospector Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Day-Lewis is always memorable no matter what role he takes on. It is in epics like this film that I believe he is often at his best. The story that unfolded surrounding Plainview’s life would not have been anywhere near as riveting if it wasn’t for the show put on by Day-Lewis – it is a film that I think is elevated so far solely because of his work.
1. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men)
Quite possibly one of my favourite performances ever in one of my all-time favourite films was given to us by Javier Bardem – one of my favourite actors (as you can see, he made bit of an impact here). No Country For Old Men won a number of Oscars in 2008, and was often pitted against the previous film I spoke about. As Anton Chigurh, super villain extraordinaire, Bardem was spectacular. His performance was talked about for months after in my house, and is still referenced at some points now. It was an award that Bardem deserved every part of, and if I had to name my number one favourite Oscar-winning performance from the noughties, this would be it.
It’s fair to say that sometimes in the past, the Academy have gotten it wrong, and I’m sure they will continue to have some outrageous slip-ups in future. I hope you will agree with me, however, that they got things right with this lot. As always, let me know what your thoughts are, and stay tuned for another Oscars run-down next Tuesday!