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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

December 31, 2009 at 11:11 AM

More great acting moments of the decade — and Happy New Year to all!

Yesterday’s discussion was a lot of fun, so let’s continue. Here are more of my favorite acting moments from the Decade About To End . . .
— Kate Winslet, in “Revolutionary Road,” sitting backstage after appearing in a failed amateur theatrical production, anxiously looking at her husband (Leonardo DiCaprio, also perfect) and hoping that he’ll tell her she was wonderful, but knowing that he won’t because it would be a lie, but wanting him to lie anyway. It’s all in her eyes.
— Meryl Streep, in “The Devil Wears Prada,” arriving at the office for the first time and greeting Emily Blunt with a long, monotone list of orders (call the caterer, call my husband, call my kids’ school, do this, do that), moving smoothly into interrogating Anne Hathway in a job interview (“That wasn’t . . . a question”) and then dismissing her (“That’s all”), without ever once raising or modulating her voice in any way. A classic comedy moment, all the more brilliant for being underplayed; Streep knows that the most confident people never raise their voices, because they know their underlings will do whatever they have to do to hear her.
— Tom Wilkinson, heartbreakingly going off the rails in “Michael Clayton,” blustering like King Lear as he breaks down: “I have blood on my hands!”
— Julianne Moore in “The Hours” and “Far from Heaven,” seeming as if she might crumble before our eyes in two similar roles: a porcelain-skinned ’50s housewife trying to keep from screaming.
— Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” in the scene in which he’s feeding himself baby food washed down with Scotch, curled up and reduced to a child by what he has seen and heard during the writing of “In Cold Blood.”
— Penelope Cruz in “Volver,” fiercely matter-of-fact as she deals with an inconvenient dead body, and lovingly matter-of-fact as she faces a ghost.
— And of course, a few obvious Oscar-winning choices: Heath Ledger, entering the party with a creepy “Good evening, ladies and gentle men” (it’s the gap in the word that seems so scarily perfect) in “The Dark Knight”; Marion Cotillard staggering from her apartment to the stage, reeling from terrible news yet needing to sing, in “La Vie en Rose”; and Helen Mirren, holding the telephone like it’s something unpleasant she’s been handed, in “The Queen.”

Keep on sending your favorites, as we wrap up the year. I’ll be back Monday, and wish all of you a happy holiday weekend and much joy in 2010 — at the movies, and everywhere else.

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