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    Tuesday, July 11, 2006

    The five best lead performances of the 21st century

    5) Sean Penn in Mystic River - I happened to sneak into Mystic River right after seeing 21 Grams. I'm glad I did. While I found Sean Penn's acting in the latter impressive, the script was so ridiculous, I couldn't buy into it. On the other hand, his grief and rage were so commanding in Mystic River, I couldn't look away.

    4) Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive - Wow. What a way to leap onto the radar out of nowhere. Remember that soap opera audition scene? Where the innocent ingenue suddenly metamorphoses into a creature of pure lust? Did I already say wow? Can I say it again?

    3) Nicole Kidman in Dogville - Before The Stepford Wives, before Bewitched, before marrying yet another loser, Nicole Kidman was still kind of interesting. In one of her riskiest moves, she plays the martyr to a corrupted town, displaying a masterful arc of strength and vulnerability. And for Lars Von Trier no less. But since she wasn't wearing a fake nose, I guess no one noticed.

    2) Adrien Brody in The Pianist - Existential in his suffering, Brody's Wladyslaw Szpilman was heroic by not being a hero. Rather than tell us about his pain, he just survived any way he could, while the devastating tolls writ themselves on Brody's thinning face and every one of his stricken actions.

    1) Sibel Kekelli in Head-On - Is there an emotion that Kekelli doesn't register with searing depth in this movie? She's psychotic, she's suicidal, she's romantic, she's resurrected, she's overwhelmed. And that's just in Head-On's first twenty minutes.

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