List

The Best Performances of 2019

The 10 Actors Who Blew Our Minds!

Some of the movies were unable to find their spots on my Top 10 Best of 2019 list, but there were some performances I would love to single out-the roles that stole the spotlight  this year. Let the countdown begin!

10.) Awkwafina in “The Farewell”

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This female comedian from such hits as “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians” has now taken a serious turn in “The Farewell” from writer/director Lulu Wang. I remember a lesson from Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert that actors can be great if they’re given the right roles. It’s about expanding your horizons, and comedy stars can posses the courage to do so. That’s what Awkwafina did successfully.

9.) Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems”

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Sandler is known for a number of comedies-guilty pleasures or nightmares-but with the Safdie Brothers’ next entry, he gives his best (dramatic) performance since “Punch Drunk Love.” He’s a gambling jeweler, who loves rolling the dice on bets, gold, and anything shiny he can get his paws on. And he’s also in major debt. Look at how well he portrays that man with a tougher voice and less goofiness. This is perfect for him.

8.) Joe Pesci in “The Irishman”

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Pesci is back on the screen with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” and he portrays his character Russell Bufalino on a low-key level. He isn’t the fast-talking wise guy like in Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” or “Casino;” he’s a gangster who welcomes Robert De Niro’s Frank Sheeran into the world of crime, and they grow old together over the years. But really, I’m grateful to see him acting again, kudos to Scorsese.

7.) Florence Pugh in “Midsommar”midsommar_ending_florence_pugh_interview_may_queen

I met and told this young actress I loved her in “Midsommar,” because in the film, she transcends from one emotion to the next. As Dani, she loses her family to a horrific murder-suicide, sees the terrors at a cult in Sweden, and learns the true nature of her boyfriend. She was also fine, this year, in “Fighting with My Family” and “Little Women,” but “Midsommar” distinguishes her tremendously.

6.) Taron Egerton in “Rocketman”

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As Elton John, he portrays him with style and emotions. He doesn’t lip-sync the classic hits; he sings them with his own unique voice, and allows the fantasies to keep him on a challenging, yet memorable path. Both Egerton and John have chemistry, and seeing the young actors play him is really iconic.

5.) Lupita Nyong’o in “Us”

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In Jordan Peele’s latest horror masterwork, she’s given a double role as a mother of two and as her evil clone. One had a dark childhood when she saw her evil self, and the other talks like her vocal cords were damaged. Ever since “12 Years a Slave,” Nyong’o is able to surprise us with one movie after another, and “Us” gives her a riveting balance between good and evil. Leave it to Peele to guide her on the right path.

4.) Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

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DiCaprio explodes as a fading actor Rick Dalton, who needs to get back in the game by taking his next TV guest appearance seriously. He channels Burt Reynolds and Steve McQueen without being so self-congratulatory, and he’s absolutely fun to watch in Quentin Tarantino’s 9th classic.

3.) Robert De Niro in “The Irishman”

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After panning De Niro in “Dirty Grandpa” and “The Comedian,” it’s a miracle to see him back in the form that Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola made out of him. In Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” he narrates himself as Frank Sheeran, who enters the world of crime, and both the past and present gives him beautiful and distinctive acting. The de-aging of his face is fine, but that’s not what made him so iconic. His ability to portray the real-life character reminds us of the good old days.

2.) Adam Driver in “Marriage Story”

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In Noah Baumbach’s latest autobiography, Driver and Scarlett Johansson play a couple in the early stages of divorce, and each scene represents their love and hate, which intertwine as their jobs, lawyers, and child keep them at bay. But the moment that really explodes is when they argue in Driver’s new apartment, and he collapses emotionally. When we see him cry, we’re crying as well.

1.) Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker”

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This is the role to win the Golden Globe or Oscar. Phoenix plays the Crown Prince of Crime in the early stages, as he’s a crazy man, struggling to overcome the hards realities of Gotham City, circa 1980. His laughter, green-dyed hair, and dark complexity makes him so memorable, that if we’re lucky, he could be the second Joker actor to be win after Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight.” The movie couldn’t make my Best of 2019 list, but this is still the performance of the year.

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