As we find ourselves moving closer to Hollywood's night of the little golden bald man known as #Oscar, an overwhelming remembrance seems to linger. Have the Academy Awards ever let us down? Well, certainly there have been one or two statuettes we have collectively felt were given to second best as opposed to our favorites, but aside from last year's #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the biggest night in movies has never ceased to provide us with a sense of admiration.
Let us take a look back at the last decade of Oscar winners, from 2006–2015, to see how these gems from the recent past hold up in the current climate of moviemaking magic.
Best Leading Actress
10. Sandra Bullock — The Blind Side (2009)
While the whole white savior movie trope has been unfairly targeted as of late, I would say that the accusations are warranted for this film. Not sure if it is the convoluted plot filled with rich Tennessee households, privileged and underprivileged societies, and racial insinuations, but enough voters at the academy thought The Blind Side was good enough to give #SandraBullock an Oscar nod. Not that the film was all bad; it was just pretty hammy and while the acting was good, it wasn't great.
9. Meryl Streep — The Iron Lady (2011)
Yeah, this one hurts me, too! #MerylStreep needs no introduction, as her movie success says it better than any blurb could. However, having won Oscars early in her career for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice, Streep's third win was awarded for a performance that felt more like an impersonation of Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom, as opposed to an embodiment. Whenever she tries too hard, Streep’s performance is more distracting than a foghorn blasting your eardrum.
8. Kate Winslet — The Reader (2008)
#KateWinslet gives a leading performance in this film, playing an illiterate ex-Nazi guard (and executioner). The actress has the perplexing task of being an anonymously seductive train conductor in the first half of the film, a guilt-ridden enabler of the Holocaust in the second segment, a flashback. There’s plenty of philosophical morals at play here, but Winslet gets credit for her naive antihero.
7. Cate Blanchett — Blue Jasmine (2013)
#CateBlanchett plays a frustrated socialite who is sort of angry at her sister’s life choices, which say a lot when compared to her own. With plenty of emotion at play here, only a talent like Blanchett could convey them all, and then some. It helps a little bit if you consider this character to be probably one of the best written by Woody Allen, but it is simply Blanchett’s show once the opening credits roll.
6. Jennifer Lawrence — Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Depression and relationship problems never looked so humorous and attractive as they do in Silver Linings Playbook. Key moments? Probably when Tiffany and Pat (Bradley Cooper) are comparing their medications over dinner. Jennifer Lawrence's performance is graceful and artistic while also being abrupt and domineering.
5. Julianne Moore — Still Alice (2014)
It is a devastating performance at best, but #JulianneMoore is able to capture the essence of a talented linguistics professor who no longer feels talented as her on-set Alzheimer’s disease begins to diminish her spirit. There is no joke or pun that could be made for this one, so I will just say that Moore's performance remains outstanding enough for an Oscar.
4. Helen Mirren — The Queen (2006)
You know what’s better than winning an Oscar? If the person you portrayed praises that very performance. That’s right, Queen Elizabeth II made one or two positive gestures toward the biopic and Mirren’s defining performance regarding the royal family’s response in the days following Princess Diana’s death.
3. Natalie Portman — Black Swan (2010)
Not many thriller/horror movie performances get the recognition that Natalie Portman garnered as an unstable ballerina. She carries the physical burden of a devoted dancer while maintaining the emotional burden of a dual entity.
2. Brie Larson — Room (2015)
The most recent winner on this list also gives one of the best performances of the last decade. Ma, or Joy, as we later find out her name to be, gives a gut-wrenching portrayal of unconventional mothering and a two-hour case of intense sadness. Just in case the movie didn’t make you cry, thankfully we have the final scene to finish up the job for us.
1. Marion Cotillard — La Vie en Rose (2007)
At this point, it is difficult to imagine any other actress playing the iconic French singer Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard effortlessly carries the physicality of the troubled singer in a very complex role that pours out the troubled years. Her surreal rendition is what propelled this to be one of the few foreign film roles to have been bestowed with the Academy Award.
Best Leading Actor
10. Jeff Bridges — Crazy Heart (2009)
Not that Jeff Bridges’ performance was bad (I mean, the Dude is never bad), but this one felt more like a career recognition award rather than a performance-based one. Bridges does his usual laid back Jeff Bridges-esque tropes while playing an unoriginal drunken country singer of sorts inspired by Hank Thompson.
9. Matthew McConaughey — Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
When it eventually comes down to it, Matthew McConaughey’s performance as a real-life drug-procuring AIDS patient will likely be remembered for his drastic transformation rather than for the film itself. Which is somewhat a shame since Dallas Buyers Club gets props for not following the conventional plot structure of so many movies that came before it. Instead of a narrative that despising the LGBT community and then suddenly heaping love on everyone for plot purposes, there is a sense of transitioning ease that goes into McConaughey's portrayal of Ron Woodroof, which can largely be attributed to the actor's sensitive characterization.
8. Jean Dujardin — The Artist (2011)
“With pleasure!” is the final line of the great silent-movie actor George Valentin. Come to think of it, it is his only line really. It is no easy feat to carry and inhabit a character through only facial expressions and physical gestures, but Jean Dujardin— a comic and dramatic genius in his native France— makes the performance all the more worthwhile.
7. Colin Firth — The King’s Speech (2010)
George VI, the former king of the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, was a man of many insecurities. These insecurities were all portrayed amazingly by Colin Firth. The king's delicate demeanor is by no means complemented by the impending World War II, and Firth is easily the best part of this biopic.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio — The Revenant (2015)
The performance that not only finally gave #LeonardoDiCaprio his due, but also assassinated every single DiCaprio-Oscar meme that has ever graced the internet. Who knew that all it would have taken for DiCaprio to win his gold statuette was to grow out his beard to an unreasonable state, eat raw bison, sleep in a horse’s carcass, freeze his ass off and, of course, get ripped to shreds by a CGI bear?
5. Forest Whitaker — The Last King Of Scotland (2006)
It's pretty safe to say that former Ugandan president Idi Amin took megalomania to a whole new level. Forest Whitaker aggrandizes the tremendously tumultuous time of 1970s Uganda with enough flair to find him charming, but enough paranoia to find him utterly sadistic.
4. Sean Penn — Milk (2008)
Very rarely does an actor fully transition into the real-life person they're portraying to the point where you forget you are watching a cinematic performance. We couldn’t tell you when, but at some point during Milk we completely forgot we were watching Sean Penn portraying Harvey Milk and just watched the man himself.
3. Daniel Day-Lewis — Lincoln (2012)
Probably the quintessential presidential performance. The amount of alacrity that Daniel Day-Lewis brought to the table for the ultimate cinematic portrayal of the 16th US president is unfathomable. In complete contrast to what we have interpreted from the history books, Lincoln was a man of singular stature with a shrieking voice who was the ultimate anti-demagogue.
2. Eddie Redmayne — The Theory Of Everything (2014)
The movie never expurgates any unflattering aspect of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s disease and subsequent physicality. Rather, Eddie Redmayne's committed performance delves headfirst into the challenge and we are rewarded with a grand depiction of science and romance.
1. Daniel Day-Lewis — There Will Be Blood (2007)
There he is again! Before winning his third Oscar for Lincoln, Day-Lewis graced the Oscar stage with his second win five years prior with There Will Be Blood, a film that employs a corrupt character to give us a peek into the equally corrupt nature of the oil business. Daniel Plainview is a very textural character and a lot of that stems from the trenchant scenery chewing of one Mr. Day-Lewis.
So Which Best Picture Winner Is The Best?
10. The Hurt Locker (2008)
I know most people enjoyed this one, but the fuss never emulated to the final product. Jeremy Renner’s character was interesting, but the film never got past an overly compacted and inconsistent plot.
9. The King’s Speech (2010)
This is an Oscar decision that people will be looking back on in the same way Ordinary People beat Raging Bull or Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas. Yeah, the 83rd Academy Awards discarded David Fincher’s masterful The Social Network for another standard Oscar-eqsue biopic. The performances were pretty great and the shot composition was inspired, but most people don’t really remember what this movie was about and its unlikely to have a cultural impact in the coming years.
8. Argo (2012)
Ben Affleck trades in Charlestown for the Middle East in this retelling of how both the CIA and Hollywood worked together to help free a group of US Embassy escapees hiding out from hostage takers in Iran. It is one of those films where the story had to be true in order for there to be a movie based on it, less nobody would have given it any credit for realism.
7. The Artist (2011)
The Artist may not be as remembered or revered as other Best Motion Picture of the Year winners have been, but the film gets definite points for making black-and-white silent films interesting again. The acting, although with almost no dialogue whatsoever, is what really soars the film to amazing heights.
6. Spotlight (2015)
Last year’s Best Motion Picture of the Year winner reminded us how very important journalism still is and, even though some counter that it is a dying profession, it was relevant in 1974 during Watergate and is still relevant in the 21st century. This movie follows The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, who investigated sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church. Not a jovial Christmas movie for the family, but nonetheless an essential one.
5. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
For all the controversies surrounding its release, Slumdog Millionaire has maintained a prosperous position of not only being a coming-of-age tale with impoverished India as its backdrop, but also for being an underdog tale during a time when the world really needed some inspiration.
4. Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)
Part Hollywood satire, part experimental filmmaking, part character psyche study— there are a lot of parts to Birdman and each one serves as a fragment to the overall puzzle piece that is the character of Riggan Thomson. It is a masterpiece of a film that explores more themes than most movies in the last decade have.
3. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
It might be the most difficult movie to watch on this list, but it is a true testament to the film’s grittiness and surreal embodiment of human atrocities told through the eyes of Solomon Northup. On top of the complex, award-winning performances and great direction, we have a film that will likely be talked about for years to come.
2. The Departed (2006)
It is difficult to believe that this film is 10 years old, but #MartinScorsese’s return to the gangster genre (and hopefully not his last) easily became one of the greatest remakes of all time in a genre that has no shortages of remakes. The Departed tackles an intricate, convoluted plot with a brilliant ensemble cast that makes for an unusual Best Motion Picture winner, but a thoroughly deserving one.
1. No Country For Old Men (2007)
It seems that 2007 and 2009 offered both the best and worst years in film and performances (totally by accident,I swear) from the past decade. The 80th #AcademyAwards certainly illustrated the year's best (interestingly, it was the least watched Academy Awards ceremony). No Country for Old Men saw the #CoenBrothers at their finest, with a cleverly adapted screenplay from the very depressing Cormac McCarthy and enough dark humor and suspense to have the late Alfred Hitchcock at the edge of his seat.
What's your favorite performance or movie from the past 10 years? Sound off below in the comments section.