There are TWO this week!
Who are your five favorite actors, and what’s your favorite performance by each, and then who are your five favorite actresses, and what’s your favorite performance by each?
(Sorry to double up, but we’ve got some big Whatevers coming up and I didn’t want to spread this out over two weeks. Besides, you guys are you guys, and I know you can do it.)
1. Harrison Ford. It’s got to be Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I like Ford because he’s fearless in the sense that he’s not afraid to show vulnerability, be it physical fear in a fist-fight or emotional fear like in the scene in Patriot Games when Jack Ryan comes apart while trying to tell his wife that their daughter’s spleen has to be removed after they were almost killed by terrorists. For my money, he’s the greatest actor of all time.
2. Bill Murray. From the man who made me laugh in What About Bob? to the man who made me cry in Lost in Translation, Murray delivers in everything he does. As brilliant as his work was in the Wes Anderson outings he’s been in, including Rushmore, which is my favorite film of all time, I’m going to have to go back to the work he did in What About Bob? as a dazzling piece of sociopathic comic insanity.
3. Steve Martin. Like Murray, he can turn on a dime from hilarious to heartfelt. I loved him in Bowfinger but I’m going to have to go with Father of the Bride as his finest hour. My parents always let me watch his movies when I was little, and I thank them for that.
4. Denzel Washington. He’s awesome in everything, but he’s a man on fire in Man on Fire. Or that speech he lays down in The Siege: “Come on General! You’ve lost men! I’ve lost men! But you — You! — you can’t do this! What if they don’t even want the sheik? Have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums, like we’re doing? And put soldiers on the street, and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General … we do that, and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they’ve won. They’ve already won!” Whoa.
5. Christian Bale. This guy can do anything. And even though he showed us the heart of Bruce Wayne while still creating our most ferocious and powerful Batman, my favorite performance is his inspiring turn in Rescue Dawn, in which he plays a prisoner of war whose indomitable spirit brings so much hope to his fellow captives that they plan one of the craziest and most dangerous escapes in history. Bale brings total physical and emotional dedication to every role he takes on. Bravo, sir.
1. Cate Blanchett. She’s ethereal, and versatile, and utterly amazing in everything she’s in. But as much as I love all the characters she’s created, her channeling of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator is otherworldly.
2. Maggie Gyllenhaal. Like Christian Bale, Maggie’s another entertainer who’s gotten to the level she’s at by being totally emotionally and physically fearless. That’s why I’ve said before and I’ll say again that it’s hard to find a hotter case of the hots than the hots I’ve got for Maggie Gyllenhaal. She really grabbed me as Giselle in Mona Lisa Smile because I’ve known that kind of girl before and Maggie captured it perfectly. And one time, when I was in Chicago, I passed her on the street, and she is 11 times more beautiful in person than she is on screen. If that’s even possible. And it is. I should have said something. Oh, well.
3. Laura Linney. Beautiful, earnest, capable Laura Linney. Put her in something and I immediately believe her. I particularly loved her as the small-town sheriff in The Mothman Prophecies, which scares me to death just thinking about it.
4. Lauren Graham. Like Laura Linney, I immediately believe everything that comes out of her mouth. Her body of work as Lorelai Gilmore — in more ways than one, WHAMMY! — is the most powerful proof on the planet that the Emmy Awards are a friggin’ joke. And she makes me laugh. I love her.
5. Tina Fey. This girl came out of nowhere and has become one of the great comic actresses of all time, in a very short time. Though Baby Mama was beneath her, she was excellent in it. But as Liz Lemon on NBC’s 30 Rock, she’s as funny and as brilliant as they come. And sexy beyond all comprehension. “Chocolate! Chocolate! ACK!”