Paul Thomas Anderson has developed a reputation for collaborating with some of the highest-caliber actors in the world, so it came as a bit of a surprise when the then-unknown Vicky Krieps was cast as the co-lead to Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread. When Krieps emerged in PTA's romantic drama as one of the most special discoveries of the decade, she was a breathtaking force to be reckoned with. Combining a classically enchanting screen presence with a demeanor of pure, unrelenting ferocity, Krieps improbably feels like the most watchable movie star in the world when she's on-screen (and the fact that she's subsequently gotten so few notable roles is criminal). Calling her the "secret weapon" of Phantom Thread would be condescending and reductive, for she arises as the star of the show, carrying Alma's twisting character arc in a way that hits all the beats, both vulnerable and invincible, both cunning and nurturing, both refined and juvenile. It's no easy task to go toe-to-toe with one of the all-time greats at the top of his game -- and Krieps not only rises to the challenge, but totally steals his spotlight with her impenetrable gaze and bewitching smile.
Willem Dafoe is like no other actor I know of -- insanely prolific yet always fully committed. He's been everywhere this decade, from delving into the psyche of Vincent van Gogh to just kicking ass as Marcus in John Wick, and yet none of those performances are quite like his unruly turn as Thomas Wake in The Lighthouse. So unsavory that you can smell the flatulence, Dafoe creates an amazingly watchable crusty old lighthouse-keeper and defines him with an accent for the ages fit to break out into a rousing sea shanty at any moment. A truly larger-than-life piece of acting, Wake's unraveling into insanity becomes impossible to look away from, all while Dafoe generously plays off of his committed co-star, at times ruthlessly tearing into Pattinson and other times sharing a drunken dance with a comedic edge. Dafoe's feat in the confines of this space is one of a great theatricality, a legendary achievement. When he bellows as thunder crashes above him, this atheist becomes momentarily convinced of the existence of God.
We’ve known for years that Adam Sandler is a talented performer, who would rather hang out with his friends in Hawaii, and use it as an excuse to shoot a movie in the process. Sometimes Sandler goes stretches his chops a bit more, and tries to do something different. Uncut Gems is the culmination of this. It’s a movie that plays to Sandler’s strengths, allowing him to build a huge sandbox out of a morally questionable but fascinating character. Sandler is charming and cunning as jewel collector Howard Ratner, who is stubborn in his persistence to obtain what he wants, even going as far as getting involved with some truly scrupulous people. It’s a true powerhouse force of a performance from Sandler, he lays everything out there, and it’s well above my favorite work of his, surpassing Punch Drunk Love. It really shows what he’s capable of, when he gets involved with good filmmakers.
Synthesizing past ghosts of loss of faith and doubt with a new, violent urge to reach some kind of action, Ethan Hawke's performance here is nothing short of one of the finest accomplishments of the decade. "I'm fine," he smiles assuredly. That delivery is nearly as haunting as his screams when he realizes Mary is coming.
Krieps made my top 15 while Dafoe hit my top 10. Love love love them.
Sandler was alright but I was nowhere near as impressed with him as most. I did like how he played with the schmuck persona he's established for himself to explore something darker, but the execution of this concept was just okay.