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The Snooty Ushers’ Top 25 Favourite Actresses – Part 2


Here we are again, continuing the countdown of our Top 25 Favourite Actresses. If you missed part 1, you can catch up here.

As we have stressed, this is a list of our favourite actresses, not necessarily the best or the greatest, but the actresses and performances that have meant the most to us.  So without further ado, let us continue the countdown with 15-6


 

No. 15 – Anna Kendrick

Anna KendrickWelshy: It pains me that Anna Kendrick is not my girlfriend… I seriously believe if she met me she would marry me in an instant.  We are destined to be together but kept apart by circumstance. That circumstance being Anna is a; beautiful, successful multi-talented, funny, clever, quirky young women on another Continent, whereas I am, well, me.  

Okay, so on a less sad and creepy note, I really like Anna Kendrick, I noticed her in the first Twilight film, yet it wasn’t until Up in the Air  when I actually took notice. She continued to shine in Scott Pilgrim vs the World50/50  and The Company you Keep.  In all of these roles she plays very realistic, distinguishable people. The role of inexperienced doctoral student Katherine McKay in 50/50 is spontaneous and nervous as it  deas with such an awkward situation. Yet her role as Scott Pilgrim’s weary sister-in-the-know could not be more different. She has gone on to some big roles in films such as Pitch Perfect and Into The Woods. It’s also interesting to note that her big break was in Broadway, making me even more impressed with her range both as an actress and a performer.

Not only does she play both comedy and drama equally well, Anna  is a master and juggling Hollywood and the indie scene. Several of her best roles are actually Independent and Mumblcore films.

Favourite Role:  Jill,  Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg, 2013)

A Mumblecore film that was filmed on location and was totally improvised. The cast even saying they were drunk during some of the filming. This in my opinion is her best role. She plays annoying, girlfriend to Jake Johnson.  She is so believable as a clueless and whiny girlfriend but manages to make you feel sorry for her especially within the films narrative. This is proof as to her ability as an actress  because she had to own her character, listen to her co stars and react honestly, to making a realistic  unpredictable story.


No.14 – Frances McDormund

Frances McDormundDave: My favourite directors of all time are The Coen Brothers, so I guess it is only natural that Coen regular Frances McDormund makes my list.  While she features heavily in the Coens work (she is married to Joel), it is not the only string to her bow.  She is one of the few performers to have achieved the so-called triple crown of acting, winning the Oscar, Tony and Emmy award.

Her debut came in Blood Simple (Joel Coen, 1984) as she plays the femme fatale in this gritty neon noir.  This was followed up  by an appearance in Sam Raimi’s Crimewave and  a difficult turn as a battered wife with a conscience in the brilliant Mississippi Burning (Alan Parker, 1988).

She has never shyed away from a difficult role, but at the same time is equally at home in lighter-hearted fare.  I think what sets her apart for me is her ability to total immerse herself in her roles.  While she is great in slight roles like Liam Neeson’s love interest in Darkman (Sam Raimi, 1990) or bringing credibility to daft sci-fi (Aeon Flux, Transformers) She shines brightest in her work with the Coens, they have written some brilliant parts for her, most notably her Academy Award winning turn in Fargo (more on that in a minute), the alcoholic wife of Billy Bob Thornton in the under rated The Man Who Wasn’t There or her portrayal of the borderline delusional, self obsessed blackmailer in the dark comedy caper Burn After Reading.

Recently she has branched out into voice acting, stealing Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Dreamworks, 2012) as the crazed Animal Control Office DuBois and more recently a touchingly gentle turn as Arlo’s mother in Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur (Peter Sohn, 2015).

She has had a varied career which has been under pinned by a few truly stunning performances.  I am a huge fan of this actress and while The Coen’s know how to write roles that get the very best out of her, she tends to steal any film in which she appears.

Favourite Role: Marge Gunderson, Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)

Marge Gunderson is second only to Jeffery ‘The Dude’ Lebowski as The Coen Brothers finest creation.  Frances McDormund brings her to life in her career defining performance. Her Minnesota twang and her pitch perfect delivery makes Marge a truly memorable character.  She is a small town chief faced with unspeakable violence, but manages to keep things together and keeps the film darkly comic and thrilling at the same time.  This is one of the all time greatest leading performances by any actor.  Ever.


No. 13 – Emma Thompson

emma thompsonJames: Like Helena Bonham Carter in the previous part of the list, Emma Thompson has managed to cultivate both a fully fledged Hollywood career and an impeccable reputation as an “proper” actor. My list is based solely on cinema roles, but she won an Oscar for her screenplay for Sense And Sensibility, and wrote the excellent Nanny McPhee and its sequel. Thompson’s first film role was in 1989, and yet 1995’s Sense And Sensibility saw her fourth acting Oscar nomination, a period of time that also saw her make her Hollywood debut in Junior alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. She was  obviously very good in Primary Colors (alongside John Travolta as a Bill Clinton facsimile and a young Adrian Lester) and has a memorable role in Love Actually.

In 2004 she joined the Harry Potter franchise as Professor Trelawny, and in 2005 her Mary Poppins inspired Nanny McPhee was released. These two roles led to an increase in her work in Hollywood, and a decade later she shows no signs of slowing down.

Favourite Role: I very nearly chose her short role in I Am Legend, where she plays the doctor who creates the virus that eventually mutates and destroys most of humanity. She is phenomenal in the few minutes she is on screen, and I am not being contrarian when I say she is my favourite part of the film. And many would choose Prof. Trelawny. However, I can’t not choose her role as P.L. Travers in Saving Mr Banks. Thompson is fantastic, bring the Mary Poppins author to life as a three dimensional character. There are arguments about how Travers’ acceptance of Walt Disney’s changes to her beloved character differed in the film as compared to real life, but Thompson takes us on a journey over the course of the film that we can forgive the slightly saccarine ending.


No.12 – Jessica Chastain

jessica chastainDan: Fewer actresses have risen from obscurity to become a leading lady in the film industry as quickly, and emphatically as Jessica Chastain. 2011 was a calender year for her, starring in Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Tree of Life, The Help, and Texas Killing Fields. Prior to that she was starring in episodes of E.R. and Law & Order.

Throughout her short career thus far Chastain has played a wide range of characters and done so brilliantly. From the doggedly persistent Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, to the sinister Lucille Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and to the concerned mother Samantha in Take Shelter, with every new film we see a different shade of her acting ability. By the time she is done with films she’ll have left behind an incredible legacy (We have all decided to overlook The Huntsman: Winters War) mark my words. Quite simply she has had a brilliant start to her career, and her casting in any film is something to loo forward to.

Favourite Role: Maya, Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

There should have been 2 Academy Awards to Zero Dark Thirty’s name at the 2013 awards ceremony. Unfortunately the academy saw fit to award the film industries lady of the moment Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. Now don’t get me wrong, it was a good performance, but Chastain’s performance was without a doubt bigger, and better than any of the other nominees that year. The role of Maya is critical to getting through the film, and it’s not a story about searching for Osama Bin Laden, it’s a story about one remarkable woman’s dedication, drive and emotional rollercoaster in completing a job with worldwide importance. If the wrong actress played that role, the film would have fell flat but Chastain brings to life a character who you rally behind, and emotionally push forward to get to her goal. It’s her best performance to date, and I couldn’t see anybody else doing it as well as her.


No.11 – Zoe Saldana

zoe saldanaDan: Zoe Saldana seems to have an incredible knack of appearing in some of my favourite recent films. Though it was behemoth Avatar that put her on my radar, it was roles in two films I enjoyed the most in 2010 that cemented her place in my list of actresses to watch. Those films were The Losers and Death at a Funeral. Since then she has truly came into her own with great turns as Uhura in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, playing Cataleya in Columbiana and of course being a part of pop culture phenomenon in Guardians of the Galaxy playing Gamora. With these roles Saldana has found herself at the forefront of action, and providing a great example of why more women should be involved in action films. I’d have her front and centre in the long rumoured female Expendables film. That being said she has tackled more dramatic work with just as much gusto as she has her action with solid shows in Out of the FurnaceBlood Ties, and Infinitely Polar Bear. If she hasn’t already got your attention, she will.

Favourite Role: Gamora, Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

This isn’t my favourite because I love the film, and it’s one of most recent, it’s because with the character she is at a high point of how she has evolved thus far as an actress. Gamora is not just an female assassin, she’s a character with a horrid past after being taken from her home, her parents and her way of life and thrust into a way of death and killing. It’s a pretty tortured role to play but she does so like it’s no big deal. We can’t wait to see more from her.


No. 10 – Amy Adams

amy adamsDave: Hardly a surprise that the latest actress to take on Lois Lane is on my list, but I have been a fan of this actress for a very long time.

Making her debut in the dark comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, she went on to work with Steven Spielberg on Catch Me If You Can.  Her breakout role, however came in the critically acclaimed Junebug, where she plays a sweet naive young pregnant girl.  This was an early indication that we had a special actress on our hands.

She has a very diverse filmography and is equally at home in gritty roles like The Fighter and American Hustle as she is in small indie fare like Junebug and Sunshine Cleaning.  What really stands her apart from me, is how easily she can adapt to lighter roles.  My daughter loves her in Enchanted and she is brilliant as Jason Segel’s long term girl friend in The Muppets.  Although things are getting better in Hollywood, good roles for women are still too few and far between, but Amy Adams seems to have a knack of picking the better ones, and well, she is Lois Lane isn’t she?

Favourite Role: Lois Lane, Man of Steel (Zack Snyder, 2014)

A no-brainer for me here, as great as she is in her more demanding roles, I had to go with her portrayal of Lois Lane.  A lot is said about Batman and Robin nearly destroying the Bat franchise, Kate Bosworth did a similar job on Lois Lane, so badly miscast was she, that it would take nothing less than a brilliant actress like Adams to take on the role.  One of the major issues with Lois down the years is that she is portrayed as this super investigative reports, but she could never figure out that Superman and Clark are the same person.  In Man of Steel, she tracks down and identifies Clark early.  She is modern, strong and independent and Amy Adams is the perfect choice to play her.


No. 9 – Maggie Smith

maggie smithJames: About 40 years into a highly decorated career that had garnered 2 Oscar wins from 6 nominations and numerous awards for her stage work both in London and on Broadway, this young Snooty Usher first saw Smith as The Reverend Mother in Sister Act and its excellently named sequel Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit. Like almost every British actor she was in the Harry Potter franchise, as the stern Professor Minerva McGonnagall. However, it is a trio of excellent roles that earned her such a high spot on my list, which also came as she was enthralling millions as Violet Cowley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey. These roles are The Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet, and The Lady In The Van – three imperious performances that show off her remarkable talents.

Smith became is one of the few people to have won the Triple Crown of an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award for work in film, TV, and on stage. A truly remarkable all-rounder.

Favourite Role: There are so many to choose from, and I wanted to give Quartet more publicity as I think it’s incredibly underrated by mentioning it in this prestigious list, but I have to go with Miss Shepherd in The Lady In The Van, showing that you can be a horrible character and still be watchable and entertaining.


No.8 – Rachel McAdams

rachel mcadamsWelshy: This is an actress who would be at home in one of our Dependables articles . She is a talented actress and has really tried to break away from romantic dramas that made her famous.  Now, I didn’t really care for Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)  I did like however her staring role as head bitch in the high school. A role she modeled after Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Ross. That alone made me think, hmm, maybe she is more than just a pretty face. Tina Fey (who wrote and starred alongside Adams in Mean Girls) cites her as the person who showed her how to act for a camera and not an audience. Another tick in the metaphorical good actress checklist.

Her biggest and most famous roles are in Wedding Crashers  and The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes 2004), the latter being a cornerstone of any romantic night in. It helped launch her career. She was heartwarming as Southern Belle Allie Hamilton.  Not content with just romance, McAdams has tried her hand at thriller and action. State of Play ,  Sherlock Holmes  and Spotlight come to mind as reliable examples. McAdams really studies for her parts and takes her work seriously.  She has turned down roles in Bond and The Devil wears Prada because she did not see anything in them. I cannot wait to see her in  Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange

Favourite Role:  Lisa Reisert, Redeye (Wes Craven 2005)

The film itself is very entertaining, simple in its premise and very tense. Rachel is great as Hotel Manager Lisa. she has intensity and doesn’t overact.  She works off Cillian Murphy’s villain really well, they make an effective pair. This was the first thing I think I watched her in and I was impressed then.


No. 7 – Sandra Bullock

sandra bullockDave: Sandra Bullock was no 1 on my overall list.  I love how she can bring weight, intense vulnerability and brilliant comic timing to her roles.  Following a blink and you’ll miss it cameo in the Hollywood remake of The Vanishing, Bullock’s break out role came as Stallone’s chirpy partner in the 90s actioner Demolition Man.  Then came Speed and she was catapulted to super stardom.  She has a knack of playing delightful heroines like in the heart warming While You Were Sleeping and the brilliant Miss Congeniality, it is the latter in which she really showed herself as a gifted comic actress.  I can take or leave a romantic comedy, but I will always watch one if it has Sandra Bullock in it, this has had its highlights like 2 Weeks Notice and The Proposal and its lows, like All About Steve. She also took on some more serious roles, like the idealistic legal student in the John Grisham adaptation A Time To Kill, a tortured cop in Murder By Numbers or a recovering alcoholic in 28 Days.  There have been a few mis-steps along the way, mainly the sequels to Speed and Miss Congeniality.

Now it would have been easy for an actress like Bullock to fall into a rut playing the kooky, lovable heroine, but she didn’t become one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses by playing it safe.  Her turn in Paul Haggis’ Crash, her oscar winning performance in The Blind Side and then there is Gravity, a truly brilliant performance where she is essentially, a few scenes with George Clooney aside, conveying a tough vulnerability played out against a green screen. Gravity was a gripping film and it really showcased Bullock’s versatility.  A final mention goes to her hilariously campy villainous turn as Scarlett Overkill in the hugely popular Minions movie and her role in the buddy cop movie The Heat shows she hasn’t lost her sense of humour.

A brilliant actress with wonderful comic timing, Sandra Bullock is my all time favourite actress.

Favourite Role: Leigh Ann Tuohy, The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009)

Not only was this the role that won Sandra Bullock her Academy Award, and yes she is incredible, completely embodies this character and owns every scene she is in, she elevates the film to something better than it should be.  In lesser hands, you would find this film on the Hallmark channel on a Sunday afternoon, but so good is Bullock that not only did it make in excess of $300m at the box office, it secured its lead a very well deserved Oscar.  A truly stunning performance.


No.6 – Kathy Bates

Kathy BatesDan: Make no mistake Kathy Bates, is and always will be my favourite actress until somebody more remarkable comes along, but I can’t see it happening any time soon. With an outstanding ability to transition from the dramatic to zany comedy she is a phenomenal actress with more talent that many of the performers gracing our screens these days. Really she’s the female equivalent of Jack Nicholson, powerful, funny, and a leader. We all know her brilliant standard setting portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery, but you just need to look at her roles in About Schmidt, Titanic and Dolores Claiborne to see how good she is. All of this dramatic flair aside, what truly makes her endearing to me is her talent to go from Annie Wilkes to Helen ‘Mama’ Boucher, Adam Sandler’s mother in The Waterboy. Which just demonstrates just how funny she can be, as well as serious. For some inane unknown reason she just isn’t as active in films any more, which is a crying shame and needs to be rectified. But in the meanwhile she is doing a fantastic job on the hit and miss TV show American Horror Story. Her role as Madame Delphine Lalaurie in series 3 is just as evil and twisted as Annie Wilkes, and is worth a watch just for her brilliant back and forth with another wonderfully experienced actress we need to see more of in Angela Bassett.

Favourite Role: Annie Wilkes, Misery (Rob Reiner, 1990)

It’s a role seared into my mind, and it should be in yours too. 100% brilliantly evil.


So, was your favourite actress in there?  We will be back soon with our top 5…

Thanks for reading, hope you folks enjoyed yourselves.  Catch ya later on down the trail.

Sam Elliot

About Snooty Usher Dave

Favourite Film : Ghostbusters (1984) Worst Film: Left Behind (2014) Guilty Pleasure: Pitch Perfect (2012) 40 year old family man from Hamilton, Scotland. I have settled in Gateshead with my wife and 2 beautiful daughters. Worked as a Cinema Manager (or glorified usher) for 14 years, now I run a chicken shop. Love Sport especially Football and Tennis. Love comic books, especially DC and particularly Superman. I own 58 Nicolas Cage films.

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