Best TV Performances of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

The extra-special-bonus Best of the 2010s lists keep arriving all this week! Yesterday, it was the Best Film Performances, now we’re moving to the small screen with the top TV Performances. And while the screens were smaller, the roles were arguably bigger, at least in terms of running time.

Regarding eligibility: all Lead and Supporting (but not Guest) performances from any show that aired at least one full season between 2010 and 2019 was eligible. Actors who played multiple characters in the same show were considered one performance. Actors who played the same character across multiple shows were also considered one performance.

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This Is a Movie Review: ‘Destroyer’ is Worth Admiring for Nicole Kidman Inhabiting a Detective Whose Soul and Psyche Are Paralyzed by Undercover Work

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CREDIT: Sabrina Lantos/Annapurna Pictures

This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Jade Pettyjohn, Bradley Whitford, Scoot McNairy, Toby Huss

Director: Karyn Kusama

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Rating: R for The Nasty Violence, Sex, and Drugs of Police Work at Its Most Unmoored

Release Date: December 25, 2018 (Limited)

Destroyer plays a bit like Memento, with its irregular temporal structure and out-of-sorts lead character investigating some unsavory behavior in Los Angeles. But besides a few moments in which everything clicks into place, Destroyer‘s narrative approach is more maddening than brain-tickling. Where Memento‘s backwards arrangement was both revolutionary and strikingly purposeful, Destroyer‘s propensity towards flashbacks and withholding information just feels haphazard. Perhaps director Karyn Kusama and screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi had a clear purpose in mind, but that does not really come across in the final product. But at least they have a typically riveting performance from Nicole Kidman to hold everyone’s attention.

Kidman plays LAPD detective Erin Bell, who is basically the epitome of someone whose life has been destroyed by working undercover. The events cut back and forth between her time infiltrating a criminal gang and nearly two decades later when the leader of that crew re-emerges. With perpetually puffy eyes, chapped skin and lips, and dusty hair, she is a walking husk of a person, and you get the sense that she has been that way every day for quite some time. The message seems to be that the lying and identity warping of undercover work cannot possibly be worth whatever good it accomplishes, to which I say: you didn’t have to make an entire grungy movie to convince me! There are a few pleasures to be had when you finally realize why certain memories are as traumatic as they are for Erin and why the opening scene is what it is. But it is a big ask to go down into the muck with Kidman for two hours, although she is at least decent company.

Destroyer is Recommended If You Like: Appreciating the full range of Nicole Kidman’s oeuvre, The dry skin-cracking Los Angeles sun

Grade: 3 out of 5 Spoiled Relationships

 

This Is a Movie Review: Stronger

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CREDIT: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown

Director: David Gordon Green

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: R for Bombing Gore and Boston Profanity

Release Date: September 22, 2017 (Limited)

Inspirational stories of recovery typically focus on people who are working towards some major goal that is waylaid by an accident or a tragedy. But what about the people who are just getting by in life? Many runners were injured at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but so were many spectators. Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs to the blast, is one of the latter. He was there to support his on-again/off-again girlfriend Erin Hurley, as she made her way to the finish line when fate destructively intervened. Without any sort of motivation to get back out on the pavement driving him, what would the road to recovery for Jeff be like? Stronger opens up the curtain on that frustrating process.

Bauman achieved fame in the wake of the bombing when a (graphic) photo of him being pulled away from the blast site became iconic and also when he gave a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the FBI upon waking from a coma. This led to media appearances like throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game that served the purpose of solidifying the Boston Strong mythologizing of his hometown.

But the public image of everyday heroes obscures the painful struggle behind the scenes. As Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal makes clear, Bauman was not at all eager to play this role. His scraggly hair and deep pupils complement his physical and emotional breakdowns in the face of any pressure. It certainly does not help that his family – loud, crude, overbearing, fiercely protective – fits the Bostonian stereotype to a T. Director David Gordon Green makes sure to have an ever-present feeling of claustrophobia.

The cruel joke at the heart of this all is that Jeff has a reputation for never showing up to the important moments in his life. Cheering his girlfriend on at the race is totally out of character for him. It is the major divisive factor causing the strife in their relationship. It drives the engine of his feelings of inferiority that prevent him from fully committing to his recovery. As Erin, Tatiana Maslany bears the brunt of the agony of these shortcomings, registering the pain all over her face. Even when Jeff ultimately turns a positive corner, the damage is done, and the scars are lasting.

As a title, Stronger is more wish than fact. The movie concludes with Jeff trying to do his best, but the major lesson to be gleaned from his story is that not everyone can summon the willpower to stand defiantly against the evils of the world as easily as catchy slogans and media mythmaking may want us to.

Stronger is Recommended If You Like: Jake Gyllenhaal in all his versatility, Million Dollar Baby, Sticking with people through their lowest points

Grade: 3 out of 5 Gallows Jokes

Orphan Black Season 5 Review

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I give Orphan Black Season 5 3.8 out of 5 Sestras: http://newscult.com/orphan-black-season-5-review-final-adventures-clone-club-start-off-little-slow-ultimately-immensely-satisfying/