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My Favorite Performances of this Decade – Part 2: The Top 10!

June 13, 2015

Hello all. Mark here.

I recently unleashed part one of my 25 favorite performances of this decade (so far) list. It was a random collection of random performances that formed an eclectic mix. I was stoked to see the support for the post and I was pleasantly surprised at all the Paul Walker Hours love. It has been fun writing the post because I’ve been able to revisit some amazing performances. It was surprisingly easy picking out my ten favorite because I’ve been championing these roles for a long time. They’ve stood out from the pack and transcended what could be stock characters. What I love is the performances seem effortless but must have been grueling. I am still amazed at what these actors were able to accomplish as they took solid material, put their spin on it and created some amazing performances.

Here are the top 10! Enjoy!


10. Jason Clarke – Zero Dark Thirty

Whenever Clarke pops up in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Lawless, White House Down, Great Gatsby or Terminator: Genysis I always think “Dan from Zero Dark Thirty!” Clarke’s role as a CIA intelligence officer is a fantastic example of an actor at the top of his game. I loved the way Dan comes across as a “bro” in the interrogation room until he starts waterboarding you. This guy is amazing at his job and he knows how to deal with each suspect differently. Dan is scary, monstrous, charming, intelligent, driven and can blend in anywhere. The way he switches on and off between interrogations speaks wonders of Clarke’s performance . With his limited screen time Jason Clarke stole the show.

Jason Clarke Dan Zero Dark Thirty


9. Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

Imperator Furiosa is a marvel of a creation. In the six months that Charlize Theron spent filming in the African desert she and George Miller created a character for the ages. She is a one-armed badass who has no problem going head to head with a guy called Immortan Joe. She drives a massive war rig, commands respect from her subordinates, battles Mad Max and can shoot a gun like a pro. Charlize Theron is one of my favorite actresses and I loved her in Young Adult, Arrested Development and Mad Max. In movies like Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman she was stuck in the icy villain role. In Max, Furiosa has a warmth to her that goes along with her effortless badass.

What I love most about Theron’s performance was nothing was forced. Sometimes when tasked with playing a post-apocalyptic war rig driver the actor would go over the top with bluster, bitchiness and a weird deep voice. Theron’s Furiosa wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t quite know what she is getting into. She is obviously respected by her peers and Immortan Joe respects her enough to send his entire War Boy party after her. Furiosa at times seem close to tears but has no problem skeet shooting the foes that come at her.




8. Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

She is like a southern gothic novel heroine come to life and starring in a movie called A Streetcar Named Blue Jasmine. Blanchett’s performance is on a level that pretty much nobody can reach. She deserved the Oscar and owned every second of this film. Her mental decline is a thing of beauty as Blanchett juggles intelligence, stupidity, stubborness and insanity in rapid succession. I will let Roger Ebert sum up the performance.

Blanchett fabulously goes above and beyond her duties as the wilting faux flower of the title. From her sweat-drenched underarms during a particularly intense meltdown to her mesmerizing slit-eyed sensuality whenever Jasmine gets her way, the actress is a tour-de-force tinted-blonde tornado that elevates her every encounter with a member of the movie’s estimable ensemble.

Blue Jasmine Cate Blanchett


7. Brendan Gleeson – Calvary

Calvary starts with a confessional scene in which Brendan Gleeson’s character Father James is given a week to live. The camera holds on Gleeson’s face as his potential killer tells him to get his affairs in order. The killer hates the church because of past sexual molestation and wants to take it out on a good man. What follows is a beautifully bleak film that is wholly original and remarkable.

Father James is a good man who came to faith later on in life. He is a widower, former alcoholic and father of a troubled yet loyal daughter.  You can tell he won’t take any sh*t yet is too smart to allow himself to be shaken. He has come from a rough life and that is what makes him so effective as a priest. There isn’t judgement in his eyes. He understands the world yet you can see that it tires him.

Brendan Gleeson is amazing in Calvary.

Calvary movie poster


6. Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon – The Trip

The Trip was a wonderful surprise.  It topped my list of favorite 2011 films and is a mainstay on my Netflix queue. Watching Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan bicker for 90 minutes while traveling though Northern England never gets old. Their impersonations and understanding of each other make for a dynamic duo who have been perfecting their shtick since 2005’s Tristram Shandy.  The two are so immensely likable that you could spend hours listening to their Michael Caine impersonations.


The Trip to Italy


5. Emily Blunt/Tom Cruise – Edge of Tomorrow

Emily Blunt was an effortless badass who wasn’t simply a Tom Cruise love interest. Her character wasn’t a plot device and I loved that. She imbued a soul and personality into a character that was stuck in what seems like a very uncomfortable costume. What I love about the performance is that you 100% bought every moment of alien smooshing and Tom Cruise killing. Blunt gave humor, physicality and stoicism to a character that could have easily been one-note.

Tom Cruise did something that many A-listers won’t do. He played a big time weasel who dies many times, get squished often and takes a backseat to a badass partner. There wasn’t much ego to the role and I loved how his character changed so dramatically. After Jack Reacher I was worried that Cruise had become so ego-inflated that he was untouchable in films. However, Edge of Tomorrow was a course correction that proved Cruise had no problem sounding silly whilst being crushed by a truck.

emily blunt


4. Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive

Tilda Swinton is amazing in everything. In Snowpiercer she is a bonkers right hand man to a bonkers train conductor. In Only Lovers Left Alive she is the definition of cool as an ancient vampire. In We Need To Talk About Kevin she is a white-collar suburban mom who is stuck raising an evil little punk. The roles differ greatly and are all characterized by totally different traits. Swinton can be weird, earthy, chill, evil, frustrated, motherly and hostile. She has been this decades MVP.

Snowpiercer axe


3. Sean William Scott – Goon

Doug Glatt is an earnest wrecking ball that has a heart of gold and fists of fury. He fights for his team, respects women and will take a punch to the face when he deserves it. Goon is one of my favorite films and it is anchored by a heartfelt Sean William Scott performance. You can tell Scott believes in the role and you believe in him 100%. The character could exist in the real world and you cheer for Doug Glatt as he fights his way up to the big leagues.

Sean William Scott Goon fighting


2. Brendan Gleeson/Don Cheadle –  The Guard

You know, I can’t tell if you’re really motherf**kin’ dumb, or really motherf**kin’ smart.

With these immortal words you fall in love with The Guard. Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson look like they loved every second they spent together on-screen. Brendan Gleeson plays Sgt. Jerry Boyle who teams up with Cheadle’s Agent Everett to take down some literate criminals. Their banter and frustration with each other is amazing and I still have no clue why Cheadle wears his fantastic suits in small Irish pubs. You will love every second of Jerry trying to piss off Everett while they hunt down snarky criminals. Just imagine Cheadle and Gleeson during this exchange.

FBI agent Wendell Everett: I have two boys. Stocken is five years old and Hughie has just turned three months old. I’ve got a picture of them.

Sergeant Gerry BoyleDon’t want to see it.

FBI agent Wendell Everett: Excuse me?

Boyle:  I don’t want to see it. Babies all look the same. The only time a baby doesn’t look like every other baby is when it’s a really ugly baby. So unless you’re about to show me a photo of a really ugly baby then I don’t want to see it.

Everett: That’s pretty f**king rude.

Boyle: Maybe it is maybe it isn’t.

the guard top 10


1. Michael Shannon/Jessica Chastian – Take Shelter

Take Shelter is a heartbreaking film about a man trying to protect his family. Is the world ending or is he getting his first symptoms of genetic paranoid schizophrenia?  Take Shelter glued me to my seat and I sat through the credits trying to absorb what I had just watched. Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Mud) is a unique director who has a firm grasp of blue-collar life and the importance of family.  His direction alongside the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain create a wrenching film that lingers long in your memory. The final song by Ben Nichols is heartbreaking as well. Take Shelter is cinema at its most beautiful and absorbing.

Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain are incredible in this film. They find the right balance of compassion, paranoia, frustration and dedication. The final moment of the film always puts a tear in my eye and I’m still amazed that Chastain and Shannon are able to capture so much with no dialogue.

Take Shelter Michael Shannon


What performances do you love? Let me know!









5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2015 3:34 am

    Great post …Love your taste

  2. John Leavengood permalink
    June 18, 2015 11:18 am

    Not a complaint or criticism, but most of the featured actors ALWAYS do a great job. They are actors to follow. Emily Blunt and Brendan Gleeson, for example, may have never disappointed me in anything. They always impress.

    • June 18, 2015 12:10 pm

      Ok…….There are many actors who are always good. But, there are certain performances that are highlights of their filmography. Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever and he had games/moments that have become iconic. The best in the world can have moments that stand out.


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