The Lists: Top 10 Nicole Kidman performances
It's a good week to be a fan of Nicole Kidman. First off, her deliciously scuzzy performance in "The Paperboy," Lee Daniels' ripe Southern-Gothic-meets-Southern-Comfort thriller, hits US screens on Friday -- months after hogging the headlines at May's Cannes Film Festival. While checking that out, meanwhile, viewers may be treated to the just-released trailer for another wild-looking genre outing for the actress, "Stoker," from an unlikely director who typifies her off-center taste in collaborators -- South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook.
The icing on the cake, meanwhile, comes tomorrow at the New York Film Festival, where the Oscar-winning actress will be celebrated -- and, of course, interviewed -- in a two-hour Gala Tribute, followed by the US premiere of "The Paperboy." This marks the first year the New York fest have ever done such tributes, which makes the honor all the more distinguished for Kidman, underlining her status as one of the leading actors of her generation.
So, as I said, a good week for Nicole Kidman fans -- a group among which regular readers might know I'm happy to count myself a member. Kidman's name is one that routinely comes up when people ask me to name my favorite contemporary (or, indeed, all-time) actresses, so this seemed as good a week as any to pledge my admiration in Top 10 form.
Indeed, at some level, a list -- albeit a roughly ranked one -- feels like the most appropriate way to honor a career perhaps best viewed in collective terms. Not that it wants for outstanding individual performances -- and in a formidable range of registers, from austere formalist drama to zonked comedy -- but it's really the vertiginous contrasts and unlikely similarities between these projects that make her oeuvre special.
Kidman may have peers or elders (Cate Blanchett, say, or Meryl Streep, or Juliette Binoche) who can equal or better her for technical aptitude and professional cunning, but it's hard to think of anyone who matches her for sheer recklessness of instinct. Her script selections range from the defiantly uncommercial to the befuddlingly fluffy -- sometimes foolhardily so, but she doesn't much fear failure either.
Both her best and her worst choices have often been driven by her adventurous taste in collaborators: she's braved Lars von Trier and Stanley Kubrick, coaxed such iconoclasts as John Cameron Mitchell into meeting her halfway, flirted with Wong Kar-wai (though we'll likely never see that come to fruition) and literally broken bones for Baz Luhrmann. Detractors may jeer flops like "The Invasion," but wouldn't you have wanted to work with Oliver Hirschbiegel after "Downfall?" (I'm less sure why she took on "Just Go With It" or "Trespass," but a girl's gotta eat, I suppose.)
In the gallery below, then, I count down the ten best performances to emerge from that combination of good taste, delicate technique and Down Under bravado. It's a greatest-hits portfolio that, for my money, can go toe-to-toe with the best of 'em -- and still it leaves out some strong work. Is her dumbly opportunistic floozy in "The Paperboy" -- a turn I described at Cannes as "sexually strident and earthily funny" -- good enough to make the cut? Check out the gallery, and be sure to share your own thoughts and favorites in the comments.
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
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