From time to time,
In what is arguably the best scene from Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (2010), an irate King John delivers a most dramatic death sentence for the iconic English hero; if the movie is largely forgotten it is however not the fault of Oscar Isaac, who even in his relatively minor role as the tyrannical King, made a clear impression on viewers of what was to come. While he had been on the Hollywood scene for some years prior to Robin Hood in small budget films, it was indeed that film that would see him proceed into a wonderfully productive decade of great movies.
2011 saw him in Drive with Ryan Gosling while his critically acclaimed performance in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), confirmed the talents of this Guatemalan born actor were destined for more than just bit parts. As the struggling folk singer in 1960s New York, he received a Golden Globe nomination, amongst other accolades.
Starring roles in 2014’s A Most Violent Year and 2015’s Ex Machina continued to earn him due praise, and he showed himself more than capable of embodying an assortment of roles; from a disillusioned business owner, an eccentric tech entrepreneur, to the cocky but
Yes, you’re reading that right.
Kristen Stewart, having endured years of venom at the hands of the Internet, has turned heads with a resume that stands as one of the decade’s most impressive and certainly one of the most surprising. In the wake of leading one massive commercial franchise (Twilight) and one commercial failure (Snow White and the Huntsman), Stewart has now solidified herself an indie darling in her shift towards smaller, more intimate films. A slew of strong supporting performances gave Stewart the opportunity to work with acclaimed directors, including Woody Allen (Cafe Society), Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women), and Ang Lee (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), and stretch her acting muscles regardless of the quality of those films. But certainly, the most stunning work of hers has come in the one-two punch of Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper, two collaborations with director Olivier Assayas that offer Stewart an outlet to channel her restrained acting prowess into something deeply profound. The stoicism that was once the go-to criticism of her work is now a secret weapon for heart-wrenching performances bathed in subtlety: her talent has led to a historic Cesar Award for the former (Stewart is the only American actress to win an award from the French Academy) and her name making rounds in Oscar conversations
Alia Bhatt burst onto the scene in 2012 with Student of the Year, a frothy disposable film out of India that doesn’t have much going for it outside of its extravagance, but within the machinery of the film, Alia’s performance still shone through, and since then she has been making interesting choice after interesting choice, being able to pull off a wide range of films with interesting filmmakers. She has held the screen with Shahrukh Khan and Ranveer Singh, and these other Bollywood superstars who exude charisma, and Alia has held her own every single time, always being the most captivating character to watch on screen, able to elevate material that would fall apart without her (*cough Kalank cough*).
Her best role of the decade is from one of the best movies of the decade, in Highway. Alia plays a character who is kidnapped on the eve of her wedding, and over the course of the next few days, she slowly falls in love with her captor. It is a beautifully layered and subtle performance, with an impassioned confrontation at the end that will shred your heart to pieces. It is crazy to see her go from that to Udta Punjab, where she plays a woman who forced into prostitution, and then she can go on to play a very strong-willed woman in Badrinath ki Dulhania, which is a more traditional masala style film, and she still infuses it with a specific poignancy that would be missing without her. And I haven’t even touched on Raazi or Gully Boy. Every performance she gives is different, every performance she gives has been thoughtful, and she isn’t afraid to challenge herself. Alia Bhatt is the most captivating screen presence that we’ve had over the last decade.
Of all the most prolific careers birthed in the 2010s, it would have been impossible to predict that the guy with the big nose from Girls would become one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, and not just because of his big nose. Landing the role of Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars trilogy would have been enough to cement him into the pop culture subconsciousness as a unique actor to keep an eye on. Unlike a lot of actors who land big blockbuster franchise roles, however, Driver has not let himself be tied to this one series or abandon riskier independent projects. If anything, his output of work has only gotten more expansive since Star Wars. For having such a young career, he’s gotten the opportunity to work with enough legendary auteurs such as Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman, a role for which he received his first Oscar nomination), Martin Scorsese (Silence), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Steven Soderbergh (Logan Lucky), The Coen brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis) Terry Gilliam (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote), and Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, The Dead Don’t Die); enough would make even the most seasoned acting veterans envious of his body of work. He’s also been a consistent collaborator with director Noah Baumbach for films such as Frances Ha, While We’re Young, The Meyerowitz Stories, and this year’s upcoming Marriage Story, which if the festival buzz is to be believed, may find Driver back in the Oscar race again, possibly even resulting in a win. As if 2019 couldn’t be more stacked for him with The Dead Don’t Die, Amazon’s political thriller The Report, and the final chapter of the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker still to come.
Incorporating herself into box office blockbusters such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Disney’s live-action Jungle Book, what makes Scarlett Johansson’s most recent run over the past decade all the more impressive is that she is able to balance the blockbuster while still doing projects that return to her beginnings starring in lesser-known yet acclaimed hits. Collaborating with the likes of the Coen Brothers (Hail Caesar!), Wes Anderson (Isle Of Dogs) and Spike Jonze (Her) Johansson boasts a resume that may not yield as many awards or gross the highest box office tallies (though that too is formidable) but it represents a strong balance between commercial and critical acclaim. While not every one of these roles has been a success (Ghost In The Shell, Lucy), the willingness to embrace films that span from children’s animation (Sing) to comedy (Rough Night) and indie horror (Under The Skin) demonstrate a wide-ranging showcase of her ability.
Now as she is poised to close of the decade in strong consideration this awards season (for Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story) and a standalone Black Widow film in the works, it feels like the only thing stopping Johansson is herself.