The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) - Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith is a force of nature when it comes to the acting world. She’s dominated both on stage and on screen and there is no example better when showing her prowess as this film. She plays a teacher at a prestigious school who is fighting for her girls to experience a richer life with more culture while simultaneously fighting other teaching staff who are questioning her unorthodox methods. A confusing and manipulative character really gave Smith room to flex her acting muscles and show off which won her an Oscar that year. Though this accolade is not the only reason this performance is commendable. The entire film hinges on the performance and is the reason this film is so great. Centring around one character is a difficult thing for a film to do and it is fortune that Smith carries the role so well as she also carries the film supported by the outstanding writing and directing. She was a tour-de-force then and it remains that way today.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) - Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
This rom-com stars not one, not two, but three of my favourite actors, so I knew going in that it would be good. Crazy, Stupid, Love avoids the clichés we see in so many rom-coms, but also uses the familiar format as we see different storylines weaved together.
If you haven’t seen it, Crazy, Stupid, Love follows Cal (Steve Carell), a family man forced back into the dating scene when his wife, portrayed by Julianne Moore, suddenly wants to divorce him. Taking him under his wing is suave playboy Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who teaches Cal how to rediscover his manhood, whilst Jacob pursues soon-to-be lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone).
The chemistry between Carell, Gosling and Stone is one of the highlights of the film, proven as this was the start of frequent collaborations between the three. Although they all paired off in separate projects, it’s obvious this was the perfect casting based on the films that followed such as The Big Short (2015), Battle of the Sexes (2017) and, of course, La La Land (2016).
Good Time (2017) - Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson is one of the most underrated actors in the business and that’s only because of one small Twilight sized blip in his record. Everyone assumes because of a few bad films he can’t act which can’t be further from the truth. He has worked his ass off since his unfortunate time as a vampire with several brilliant films and thankfully the movie industry is starting to notice. Starring in films like The Lost City of Z (2016) and The Lighthouse (2019) just goes to show how talented Pattinson is but there is one film that truly let him shine and any fan of his work (yes…even Twilight) should check out Good Time (2017).
From the directors of Uncut Gems (2019), this film is as the title suggests: a bloody good time. As chaotic as the Adam Sandler picture, Good Time is an unrelenting adrenaline rush from start to finish. Following a bank robber desperately trying to get his brother out of jail, the film explores how murky the morals of people can get, especially in the criminal underworld. It’s the first Pattinson film I saw since the trauma of Twilight (2008) and it completely changed my opinion of the actor and has me happily labelled as his number one fanboy and hyped beyond belief for his next projects.
So please for his sake and mine, when the name Robert Pattinson is uttered don’t think of Twilight, think of Good Time.
Little Women (2019) - Main Cast
I can’t pick a specific favourite actress or actor, but the cast of Little Women is superb. It has literally everyone I love: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep and Emma Watson (unpopular opinion, she’s excellent in some roles but her American accent is generally pretty terrible). It’s like Greta Gerwig did a Hollywood raffle and picked everyone I love to be in this wonderful movie. Oh, and I really love Eliza Scanlen after this film too.
Usually films that have this stellar of a cast have a poor plot, using celebrity names to boost viewership. However, Little Women is great and the cast just made my heart flutter a bit. They all have amazing chemistry (as seen previously between Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (2017)) and the bonds made in this film adaptation are genuinely wonderful to watch. I truly craved new Florence Pugh work after Midsommar (2019), and somehow I left this film loving her even more. And Saoirse Ronan as Jo March…the highlight of her career. I love her so much and every role she’s ever done, but this is outstanding. Oh and I love her hair in this- shoutout to the scraggly hair crew!
Honestly, every actor and actress in this film were perfectly chosen for their parts. Considering after reading the book most people dislike Amy, Florence Pugh managed to make her a fan favourite in this adaptation. This is also thanks to Greta for giving Amy more screentime chemistry with Laurie. Honestly, this film cast can never be topped, this is the peak for me. God bless Greta Gerwig.
Frances Ha (2013) - Greta Gerwig
Frances Ha is a gorgeous film, but I think my basis for Greta Gerwig being one of my favourite actors (as well as just favourite people) comes mainly from her performance in the live music video to Arcade Fire’s ‘Afterlife’ at the YouTube Music Awards in 2013. The five-minute clip features Gerwig in tears, kissing someone goodbye, before leaping into a set of a snowing forest and dancing as if the movements are just flowing out of her. Rhythmically capturing the jubilant beat of ‘Afterlife’ as well as its aching sadness, she powerfully fills the room, band, and audience with a vibrant and emotional energy.
It is this energy and the sense that the speech and movements are coming from a deep place of something very real within Gerwig herself, that makes her acting in Frances Ha so moving and successful.
Legend (2015) Tom Hardy
Choosing a film with my favourite actor/actress has probably been one of the hardest challenges of the 30 Day Film Challenge so far. To choose between Taron Egerton, Eddie Redmayne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Holland, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet is very difficult when you like a lot of films. Especially as they have each portrayed incredible characters in A LOT of popular and well-made movies.
However, I finally decided on Tom Hardy and his portrayal of the Kray twins in Legend. The fact Tom Hardy plays both Reggie and Ronnie Kray in dual roles is remarkable and shows his capabilities as an actor. It is a great gangster film, with violence, nerve and utter chaos (mainly involving Ronnie Kray) mixed in with humour and great one-liners that give the film an edge.
Legend follows the identical twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray as they rise through the ranks of London’s criminal underworld of organised crime and rule over the East End throughout the 1950s and 60s. Becoming England’s two most dreaded gangsters. It’s a great period gangster film, with an incredible cast of well-known faces from Taron Egerton (another favourite), Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Colin Morgan (who doesn’t love him from Merlin!) and Emily Browning.
I’m always amazed every time by Tom Hardy’s incredible portrayal of both brothers and his ability to show their differences through the dual roles, especially the slightly unhinged Ronnie Kray.
Before We Go (2014) - Chris Evans
Defying quite a few expectations by not choosing Tom Hiddleston for today’s prompt, but I’m determined to defend Thor: the Dark World (2014) later on…
Okay, so my love for Chris Evans hasn’t resulted in me getting a full-size cardboard cut-out of him yet (although if someone would like to fund me the £40 for that then I won’t complain), but it does mean I’ve seen Before We Go a fair few times.
Possibly one of my favourite romantic films ever, it sees Evans play Nick – a struggling musician – meet Brooke (Alice Eve) in Grand Central Station. Having missed the last train home, she’s set for unexpected night wandering around New York with the stranger, crashing a party and flirting with the law a little. All whilst Chris Evans not only directs but sports a wonderful, boyfriend-material beard. I would argue almost better than the one in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Yes, that good.
The 27% on Rotten Tomatoes can go away, I love this film and I love Chris Evans. The soundtrack is just as good; Bloc Party’s “So Here We Are” and a cover of “My Funny Valentine” are personal favourites, but I’d happily wander round New York listening to the whole thing…
Lady Bird (2017) - Saoirse Ronan
I have many many favourite actors and actresses – Tom Hardy, Lily Collins, Florence Pugh, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Margo Robbie, Brad Pitt…but I can’t not spend day 18 expressing my deepest love for Saoirse Ronan. While brilliant in Brooklyn (2015), Little Women (2019), Mary Queen of Scots (2018), her role in Lady Bird holds a special place in my heart. It helps that this film is also directed by Greta Gerwig, my queen.
Ronan does a brilliant job alongside Metcalfe of showing the messiness of life, the push and pull of what’s in front of you and what’s behind you. She does a brilliant job of showing how Christine interacts with the world around her and the relationship she builds with her mother so much so that it almost becomes painful to watch. This is a film that has so much heart and humour that my cheeks almost hurt from smiling every time Ronan is on the screen and that’s a lot. She deserves an Oscar, no 10 Oscars for her role in this film and for the “I’m probably no good at acting”.
Perhaps my favourite moment of this film is the dance. The montage of friendship and happiness that ensues there, the way Ronan shows the youthful abandon and the feminine camaraderie works perfectly to show that this film isn’t about heterosexual coming-of-age relationships anymore but about Christine shedding immaturity in a way that does not reduce her nor rely on another character rescuing her.
The Skeleton Twins (2014) - Bill Hader
I have a lot of favourite actors and actresses, I’m notoriously indecisive. However, I’m here again to talk about The Skeleton Twins. It stars Bill Hader, who rose to fame as an SNL cast member in 2005 and went on to act in many comedy movies. He also works as a voice actor, and more recently, a writer, producer and director for his HBO show Barry. Many a casual watcher has written him off as just a comedy guy, but I have some news for you. Through The Skeleton Twins and Barry, Bill Hader has proven himself as an extremely talented actor who gives 100% in any project, no matter what genre it may be.
So on to The Skeleton Twins. Trigger warning for content ahead- references to depression and suicide attempts. Hader acts alongside Kristen Wiig as the two portray siblings Milo and Maggie Dean. Milo reconnects with Maggie after years apart, following a suicide attempt. He moves in with her, and this movie follows their respective journeys and how they help each other along the way. Bill Hader portrays Milo Dean beautifully, and I struggle to visualise anyone else doing this character justice. Milo is a gay man who is battling with his mental health, and trying to overcome trauma. Hader commits to this role entirely, and he is barely recognisable as anybody else except Milo Dean. The serious subjects are dealt with respectfully, and even the graphic scenes don’t romanticise anything. It’s balanced out by intelligent humour, and Bill Hader is still hilarious as he is in anything. There’s even a scene of Milo and Maggie lipsyncing to ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’. What more could you want? The Skeleton Twins finds a clever balance between being emotional and funny. It’s realistic, relatable and absolutely heartbreaking. It’s some of Bill’s finest work, and I will not rest until this is recognised. Watch this movie!
The Room (2003) - Tommy Wiseau
Wow! What an actor, Mark.
I’m a bit worried that most people will have chosen this film too, but I have such great appreciation for Tommy Wiseau’s acting that it would be disingenuous for me to choose anyone else as my favourite actor or actress. Despite being Tommy’s first film, his performance in The Room highlights his incredible skills not just in front of the camera but also in screenwriting.
The film shows his immense versiltility as an actor; he plays a seductive heartthrob, a budding sportsman, a jealous boyfriend, a loyal friend. His fantastic range as an actor sees him showcase the whole spectrum of emotions, from envy and passion to despair and pure rage.
Each line of dialogue in The Room is perfectly delivered, from erotic classics such as “hi doggie!” to the highly controversial “let’s go eat, huuuuuuuh?” Tommy is even able to accurately mimic animals, in particular chickens.
His later works such as Best F(r)iends I (2017) and II (2018) are also worthy of accolade, but it is his portrayal of Johnny in The Room that first introduced me to this marvellous man of undisclosed age and undisclosed nationality.