Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Top Twelve

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I’ll be featuring a “top twelve” list for the rest of 2012 each Thursday, with a variety of themes. Please leave suggestions for future focuses in the comments!

Over the past twenty years, David Fincher has directed just nine films, and he’s slated to team with Kevin Spacey again in the upcoming Netflix series “House of Cards.” Oscar voters have only come around to him for his last three films, but some of his early work, like the underrated “Alien 3” and cult classics “Se7en” and “Fight Club” are also quite good. I’ve seen all of Fincher’s work, and though I didn’t care for either “The Game” or “Zodiac,” he’s definitely quite talented, and he has a knack for eliciting strong performances from his actors. Here are the best among them.

The Top Twelve Performances Directed by David Fincher

#12: Stellan Skarsgard (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) As Martin Vanger, one of the reclusive members of the dynasty at the heart of Mikael and Lisbeth’s investigation, Skarsgard stands out among the ensemble in an unnerving turn, perfectly balancing hospitality with hidden motives.

#11: John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac) The actor from “The Drew Carey Show” and “Fargo” is better known for his comic work, but he is the only memorable part of an otherwise dull and slow film, knocking his scene as a mysterious suspect out of the park.

#10: Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) This performance is nothing like #4, a carefully composed and beautiful interpretation of backwards life as experienced by the very unique Benjamin Button. Pitt’s facial expressions and the way he carries himself play into his fascinating transformation as he becomes increasingly more youthful.

#9: Morgan Freeman (Se7en) In the role of the veteran cop preparing for his retirement, Freeman wears his years of experience on his face as he gets sucked into a horrible final case, frequently displaying his expertise as he tries to keep his new partner on the right track.

#8: Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) The always peculiar Carter turns in a devilishly off-kilter performance as Marla Singer, who channels her depression by crashing support groups and hanging around with the wrong crowd.

#7: Armie Hammer (The Social Network) Hammer jumpstarted his career with his fantastic dual performances as twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, playing off of himself and making what could have been throwaway characters an utterly essential part of the film.

#6: Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Playing a character made famous by a book and then by another actress is tough, but Mara proved that her brief scenes in “The Social Network” were signs of serious acting ability. Mara’s Lisbeth Salander was believably anti-establishment and winningly witty to boot.

#5: Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) The new Spider-Man made his true American debut with an extremely memorable turn as Mark Zuckerberg’s best friend who got left behind after Facebook became a hit. Garfield’s performance is spirited, passionate, and natural.

#4: Brad Pitt (Fight Club) One of Fincher’s favorite actors also appears in “Se7en,” but it’s his maniacal performance as bad boy Tyler Durden that ranks right up there with “12 Monkeys” as one of Pitt’s most simultaneously unhinged and controlled performances. It’s hard not to be intoxicated, just like the narrator, by Durden’s outlook on life.

#3: Edward Norton (Fight Club) Opposite the eccentric Pitt, Norton’s nameless narrator spirals out of control, achieving happiness when he’s most at odds with society and delighting in perverse perceptions of the world. Norton is always excellent, and this deliberate, mesmerizing performance is no exception.

#2: Kevin Spacey (Se7en) Spacey isn’t credited at the beginning of the film because his appearance was supposed to be a surprise, and it’s easily the most terrific, terrifying thing about the movie. He’s not a deranged killer, but rather a methodical, meticulous man determined to mete out biblical justice. It’s a riveting, immensely watchable turn.

#1: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) Playing a well-known public figure is both an opportunity and a challenge. Eisenberg’s method was all about the material, and he managed to create a stunning protagonist so wrapped up by his own self-confidence that he can’t comprehend anything else. His delivery of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is exceptional, and he’s the best detestable anti-hero cinema has seen in a while.

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