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Some movies make us laugh. Others make us cry. Then there are those that make us want to run home to our pets and give them the biggest hug imaginable.
Cinema has the ability to highlight the unique power of animals. The techniques of editing and framing allow filmmakers to structure stories from an animal's point of view, and the audience magically learns what life is like from the perspective of a horse, a dog, and even a rat. They're not quite human, yet the best movies give animals human-like qualities to earn the audience's sympathy and compassion.
To me, successful films about animals demonstrate cinema's potential to tap into our imaginations. They force us to dream of a world in which animals comprehend the human voice. Those of us who have pets know that we're never quite sure if our beloved animals actually reciprocate our feelings of love, but we give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them better than we treat ourselves.
Do you play with your dog more than your friends? Are you fascinated with nature and wildlife? If so, these movies about animals are for you.
GALLERY: 10 Must-See Movies for Animal Lovers
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If the trailer for Scarlett Johansson's upcoming action film Lucy is any indication, her character is going to kick some serious butt. The director of Lucy, Luc Besson, is known for his high-octane action flicks, and is shifting gears by handing the leading role in this picture to a woman. Men have traditionally played the action hero in Hollywood films, but every now and then, a woman will come along to show them how it's done. Below are 10 of the most dangerous female action heroes that you must watch before Lucy hits theaters in August.
1. Hit Girl
Mindy Macready may be a sweet, innocent child, but her superhero alter-ego Hit Girl is a force to be reckoned with. Chloë Moretz owns the screen as the foul-mouthed fighter who can take on any grown man in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, two of the most innovative superhero movies of the 21st century. Below is a clip that demonstrates why Hit Girl is a champion.
2. Beatrix Kiddo
Quentin Tarantino's epic revenge fantasy Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 features arguably the most heroic, empowering action hero ever put on screen. Uma Thurman is Beatrix Kiddo, a.k.a. The Bride (a.k.a. Black Mamba), and her purpose is to kill the men and women who tried to murder her on her wedding day. Every fight scene is epic, but the clip below is especially awesome.
3. Yu Shu Lien and Jen Yu
Ang Lee's masterful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is noteworthy for having two women who can match any male soldier. Michelle Yeoh is Yu Shu Lien and Ziyi Zhang is Jen Yu, and in the scene below, both women go toe-to-toe in an attempt to assert their authority. I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't seen the film, but in this clip, the fight ends in a draw, so it's only fair to include both of them.
In Joe Wright's techno-pulp action film Hanna, Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna, a 15-year-old assassin who is being tracked down by a government agency. As the film progresses, we see how tough and lethal Hanna actually is. Below is a user-generated montage of the film that provides a glimpse of Hanna's dangerous grip.
5. Ryan Stone
If you're one of the few people in the world who hasn't seen Gravity, you owe it to yourself to marvel at Sandra Bullock's heroic performance as Ryan Stone, an astronaut who is lost in space and uses her strength to find her way back home. The clip below is one of the more moving scenes from the film that highlights Ryan's courage.
6. Clarice Starling
Long before the television series Hannibal, we had Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs, which introduced the world to Clarice Starling, a feminist action hero if ever there was one. Jodie Foster won her second Oscar for her performance as Clarice, a strong FBI agent who overcomes sexism in the agency to track down a serial killer. The scene below shows the lengths Clarice will go to save the day, as she has a conversation with the creepy Hannibal Lecter.
7. Princess Merida
In Pixar's Brave, Princess Merida challenges conventions by playing archery and doing all sorts of activities "respectable" women aren't allowed to do. Brave is a wonderful movie that should inspire young girls to follow their dreams despite the obstacles that are in their way.
8. Mallory Kane
We don't know much about Mallory Kane in Haywire, but we do know that she's a fighter. Gina Carano emerges as the next Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme with her forceful star presence, proving that women can be iconic action stars as well. Below is one of the best scenes from the movie.
9. Sidney Prescott
Aside from being one of the best horror series in cinema history, Wes Craven's Scream franchise deserves credit for creating Sidney Prescott. Neve Campbell revises the "scream queen" trope with her performance as Sidney, a tough, no-nonsense teenager who refuses to be a victim. Unlike other slasher films with women at the center, Scream portrays its female protagonist as smart and sophisticated. Below is a clip that shows why Sidney is a unique, unprecedented female character in the slasher genre.
10. Foxy Brown
Pam Grier shines in this blaxploitation classic as Foxy Brown, a tough black woman who gets revenge on the mobsters who murdered her boyfriend. The blaxploitation films of the 1970s turned Grier into a star and sex symbol, and they inspired Quentin Tarantino to cast Grier in Jackie Brown, a modern revision of the genre. Below is a clip that shows why Foxy Brown is the coolest female action hero on this list.
FOX Broadcasting Co.
On the one hand, we're thrilled to live in a world where the most talked about new show on television is also the smartest: Fox's Cosmos reboot significantly enhances Carl Sagan's original production with digital effects and updated information, thereby introducing important scientific discoveries to a new generation of television viewers. Neil deGrasse Tyson possesses the ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a comprehensible manner, and his charisma and enthusiasm render the show entertaining as a result. For many curious viewers, in fact, Cosmos represents the best of both worlds, as it successfully merges education with entertainment. On the other hand, we do have to wonder if there's danger in placing so many eggs in the basket of educational TV. Can programs like Cosmos sufficiently substitute for classroom education, or do they merely complement more traditional pedagogical practices?
This question similarly applies to documentary films and Ted Talks. If an individual were to only watch educational programs, can the knowledge they gain from such programs suffice, or should they still enroll in classes, read textbooks, and engage in discussions with teachers and peers? There isn't a simple answer to this question, as the concept of "education" is amorphous and difficult to define, but there are perhaps a number of possible conclusions we can draw.
First, we must consider the fact that an education is never complete, and there are always new discoveries to be made and new perspectives to understand. A program like Cosmos may introduce the viewer to science, but the viewer should always keep in mind that Cosmos isn't a definitive scientific lecture. They would benefit from watching other science-related programs, taking numerous science courses, and reading a number of different textbooks. With each subsequent lesson, the goal is that the individual gains more knowledge on a subject while simultaneously leaving more unanswered questions that can be investigated in the next lesson. Therefore, you can watch the Ted Talk below about sleep cycles of the brain and learn something useful about this subject, but you shouldn't consider the Ted Talk the end-all-be-all of knowledge about circadian neuroscience.
The same applies to a classroom education as well. A big problem teachers that encounter on a daily basis is the lack of enthusiasm students display for certain subjects. Especially in middle school and high school, students are often bored by classroom lectures that consist of homework discussion, PowerPoint lectures, and group work. Moreover, whenever teachers decide to supplement their lesson plans with educational programs, they typically screen the most boring documentaries imaginable that make no attempt to entertain the viewer. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino describes these programs as "historical with a capital H." There are a number of reasons for this, but in general, there's a consensus that education and entertainment shouldn't mix, and school districts ultimately decide that text books and PowerPoint lectures are more "substantial" than educational programs like Cosmos. While these traditional pedagogical practices are certainly important, a student would also benefit from watching Cosmos to consider a different point of view.
So while Cosmos and similar entertaining educational programs shouldn't replace a traditional classroom education, teachers and school districts need to understand that these programs can help their students gain a more complete education. Instead of selecting one or the other as "better" or more "substantial," we should realize that both approaches are necessary and important. On Monday, a teacher should have students read a textbook and take notes, and on Tuesday, a teacher should screen an entertaining documentary or interesting Ted Talk that covers what the student read in a more captivating manner.
The pursuit of knowledge is a work in progress that can never be completed, after all, and by reminding students that they should always seek out new avenues to explore, society as a whole benefits by being smarter and more curious.
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are two of the funniest comedians in show business. On The Daily Show, Stewart mocks contemporary news coverage, while Colbert satirizes political pundit programs on The Colbert Report. For years now, the Comedy Central shows have joined hands in leading the empire of sociopolitical comedy, teaching America's youth about current events, and earning no shortage of Emmys for their troubles (The Daily Show has 19, and the younger The Colbert Report has 4).
Even though Stewart and Colbert are respectful colleagues and close friends, it's a lot of fun when they face off (albeit facetiously) for awards and the public's love. It's nearly impossible to choose considering that they both excel in different brands of humor, but the question must be asked: Who's funnier?
The Case for Stewart
The premise behind The Daily Show is simple. Each night, Stewart discusses the trending news stories of the day through the prism of media coverage, and his intention is to expose the faults and limitations of professional media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. The clip below, for instance, finds Stewart talking about the missing Malaysian airplane, but instead of offering his analysis of the topic, he calls the viewer's attention to the absurdity of the way the missing Malaysian airplane has been covered by the media. At times, Stewart is sarcastic and witty, but for the most part, he plays it straight and finds humor in CNN's ridiculous coverage.
It is fair to describe Stewart as an observational comic. To him, the media's inept coverage of most news stories is frustrating, but he overcomes his anger with humor, and adheres to the mantra "it's funny because it's true." Like George Carlin or Jerry Seinfeld, Stewart highlights his frustration with the ordinary world — in this case media and politics — and trusts that his viewers will similarly be frustrated by these truths to the point that they have no other option but to laugh about them together.
The Case for Colbert
The Colbert Report similarly covers media and politics, but Colbert's style of humor is radically different. Unlike Stewart's observational approach, Colbert relies more heavily on satire and hyperbole. Colbert has constructed a character that aims to mock the actual personalities of Fox News pundits like Bill O'Reilly. The intention is the same as Stewart's: to point out the absurdity of the contemporary media landscape. But nothing Colbert says is meant to be taken literally, whereas Stewart often acts as the voice of reason. The clip below is fascinating because it finds Colbert straddling the line between real-life comedian and constructed character.
The Colbert many viewers have come to know is a fictional creation, and the actual comedian is able to be offensive without any repercussions. In this particular instance, Colbert reacts to criticism in a gloriously non-apologetic manner. The fun in watching the show is figuring out where the actual Colbert stands on many of the issues the fictional Colbert supports. Ultimately, the sustained success of The Colbert Report is the comedian's ability to maintain the satirical tone throughout.
What do you think? Cast your vote below.
Joan Rivers is one of the most enduring comics in show business. She began her career as a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965 and recently returned to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon after a 26-year ban. This is a moment of vindication for Rivers and her loyal fans, as she experienced many professional and personal highs and lows in between. The fact that Rivers is still in show business is amazing, but it is not unfathomable. Rivers is a hard worker, and below are significant lessons that we can learn from her sustained success throughout the years.
Dare to Be Different
Rivers made a name for herself by being one of the first female comics of her day, and she wasn't afraid to tackle grand subjects like marriage, materialism, sexism, and social and cultural identity. It may be difficult to comprehend, but when Rivers began her career, she was pushing the envelope. The risk paid off and it established Rivers as a fearless female comic in a business dominated by men. Below is a clip from one of Rivers' early stand-up performances.
Work harder than anyone else
Despite Rivers' status as the first female late night talk show host, she hasn't rested on her laurels. She continues to do stand-up in less than desirable towns across America, and she currently appears on three separate programs, Fashion Police on E!, Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? on WE, and In Bed with Joan, an internet talk show. Rivers proves that you have to work hard to become successful, and you should never consider yourself "above" a certain job. Below is a clip from the television series Louie in which Rivers teaches fellow comic Louis C.K. a valuable lesson about success.
Always Maintain a Sense of Humor
Rivers has gotten through many tough times, including the suicide of her husband Edgar Rosenberg after he and Rivers were fired from The Late Show by FOX executives over creative differences. After Rosenberg killed himself, Rivers struggled with numerous debts and a young daughter to raise. Rivers describes this as the low point of her life, and claims that her sense of humor helps her persevere through difficult experiences. Below is an example of this, as Rivers jokes her way through a less than desirable gig in Wisconsin.
Unlike other public figures, Rivers doesn't hold anything back. In the conversation below, she is asked whether or not her public image represents her true self. "Who knows? Who cares?" Rivers candidly responds. She is self-aware enough to admit that fame has changed her, and that her devotion to her career has clouded her view of herself. The lesson here is that it's important to be honest and truthful, and in Rivers' case, this means owning up to the idea that she may not have an authentic self. How many other celebrities are brave enough to admit this?
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Johnny Depp used to be relevant.
Films like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood established Depp as an idiosyncratic performer willing to appear in offbeat projects. Who can forget his iconic performance in Jim Jarmusch's revisionist Western Dead Man, or in Terry Gilliam's drug odyssey Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? It seemed, for a while anyway, that Depp was a different kind of movie star. He was weird, for sure, but also accessible, and hundreds of teenage girls across the world idolized him and cherished his abnormality.
Then came Captain Jack Sparrow. To be fair, the first Pirates of the Caribbean is a great film, but the rest of the series represents a lazy attempt to cash in on the original chapter's unmatched excellence. Depp turned Sparrow into a caricature, and with each Pirates installment, the magic of the original performance rapidly diminished. If Depp wasn't making a Pirates movie, he could be seen in the latest Tim Burton project, or in The Rum Diary, a film that might as well be an inferior sequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Not all of Depp's recent movies are trash, but most of them are, and at the very least they suggest that Depp is more interested in making money than making quality movies.
Depp's forthcoming big studio film Transcendence might just be the final nail in the coffin. Is Depp, the once enigmatic auteur performer of the 1990s, officially over?
There's certainly room for a comeback, but at the present moment, all signs suggest that Depp has lost his cultural and cinematic significance. Like Will Smith, Depp continues to appear in Hollywood blockbusters and makes a ton of money for doing so, but his films are hardly as influential or important as they were in the 1990s. Moreover, I think we can all agree that The Tourist and The Lone Ranger don't work as mainstream entertainment in the way the first Pirates does. This is important to point out, because it's not necessarily Depp's constant appearance in mainstream films that is his problem (after all, it works well for Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney), but his inability to distinguish between intelligent blockbusters and mindless drek.
I understand that show business is tough to crack, and everyone, even Depp, needs to make a living. Who am I, after all, to criticize his career choices? I get it. But Depp has committed arguably the worst sin possible for a movie star. He's spent years selling the audience on his unique star persona, only to appear in lame tent-pole productions that are void of creativity, originality, and respect for the audience. Was this Depp's plan all along, or did he unintentionally fall off track at some point?
We'll never know, but one thing is certain: the jig is up, and the name Johnny Depp barely generates excitement from the same people who hung his poster on their bedroom walls. What do you think? Cast your vote below.
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The Twilight Saga is one of the most financially successful film franchises in history... which is perplexing, considering that the movies aren’t any good. For better or worse, the series has renewed audience interest in vampiric mythology, as exemplified by the success of The Vampire Diaries and the proliferation of more vampire films and television shows each year. This is fine, but those who believe that Twilight represents the best of vampire movies clearly haven’t seen much else. In order to correct this, below are 10 vampire movies that are better than Twilight.
Nosferatu is widely regarded as one of the most influential horror movies ever made. See it for the haunting visuals that represent the best of German Expressionism, and the terrifying depiction of evil on the actors’ faces. Unlike other silent films, Nosferatu isn’t dated, and still holds up to many horror films released today.
Let the Right One In
The American remake with Chloe Moretz doesn’t match the brilliance of this Swedish masterpiece by Tomas Alfredson. Essentially, Let the Right One In is Twilight for grown-ups, and it’s a reminder that vampire movies can be smart and sophisticated. The final climactic scene in the pool, in particular, is a work of art.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark isn’t as well-known as her Oscar-winning war flick The Hurt Locker, but it’s one of the best movies she’s ever made, and one of the coolest vampire films you’ll see. Even if you don’t care about Bigelow’s sly commentary on ennui and despair in Middle America, you’ll get a kick out of the lunatic vampires on display.
Even if you don’t like subtitles, it’s impossible to resist Chan-wook Park’s Thirst. Not quite an art-house experiment, not quite a horror film, Thirst is best understood as a melancholy love story. Be forewarned: it’s violent, sexual, and a little disturbing.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Everyone has their favorite version of this story, but mine is Francis Ford Coppola’s widely misunderstood rendition with Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps Coppola was never able to escape the high expectations he set for himself with The Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, but his version of Dracula remains the most moving vampire film ever made.
The Fearless Vampire Killers
Before Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown made him a star, Roman Polanski directed The Fearless Vampire Killers, an incredibly funny take on the vampire mythology. The film is worth seeing for its successful slapstick humor and satirical point of view.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Quentin Tarantino. Robert Rodriguez. Harvey Keitel. George Clooney. Juliette Lewis. Salma Hayek. Cheech Martin. Danny Trejo. Enough said.
Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon star in The Hunger, a movie so bonkers it isn’t worth explaining. All you need to know is that it’s director Tony Scott’s first movie, and that Deneuve plays a vampire.
Horror master George A. Romero shows everyone how it’s done with Martin, a story about a teenage boy who may or may not be a vampire. Romero is known for his zombie films, but Martin proves that he’s a master in more than one horror sub-genre.
Interview with the Vampire
In order to truly appreciate Interview with the Vampire, you need to understand that director Neil Jordan turned a hopelessly sappy novel into a surprisingly mature motion picture. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise play everyone’s favorite vampires (before Robert Pattinson stole their thunder), and Kirsten Dunst gives a star-making performance.
In honor of David Letterman's 20 year reign as late night talk show host on The Late Show with David Letterman, we're looking back at some of his most memorable interviews. Below are five of the most entertaining, which remind us why he's remained a constant presence in our lives, and why we're going to miss him when he goes. Nobody else can play caustic and abrasive as charmingly as Dave.
5. Joaquin Phoenix, 2009
At the time of this debacle, none of us knew that Phoenix was commenting on the absurdity of stardom with his surreal appearance on Letterman in 2009. We all just thought he was losing his mind. Despite it being a joke, the interview caused a sensation and Letterman's reaction is nothing short of hilarious.
4. Drew Barrymore, 1995
For Letterman's birthday present, actress Drew Barrymore flashed him in front of the live audience. There's debate about whether or not this moment was spontaneous or scripted, but it hardly matters. So often these celebrity interviews are boring and monotonous, and Barrymore spiced it up with a moment we're never going to forget.
3. Madonna, 1994
In 1994, the Queen of Pop caused controversy as usual when she cursed and talked about sex. At the time, half of the audience was annoyed with Madonna and the other half admired her courage to defy the rules. Now we're all grateful for this rare moment of off-kilter insanity.
2. Harmony Korine, 1995
Provocateur Harmony Korine deliberately annoyed Letterman in this uncomfortable interview that reminded viewers of the importance of knowing something about a guest before inviting them on the program. What else is to be expected from the guy who made Gummo?
1. Kristen Stewart, 2008
Kristen Stewart is an awkward celebrity in general, and her interactions with Letterman during this interview are painful to watch. You can tell she doesn't want to be there, and Letterman doesn't make it easier by asking her ridiculous questions and then mocking her answers in order to elicit a laugh from the audience. This is late night television at its finest.
Kanye West is a confrontational artist who refuses to rest on his laurels. His anti-mainstream music has ironically catapulted him to superstardom, and has turned him into a household name. Most people respect West’s artistry, even if they don’t exactly enjoy his music. However, few people respect West’s public persona. Conventional wisdom deems West an arrogant, self-absorbed artist, and a bully who only looks out for himself. After he infamously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs, President Obama called West a “jackass.” But in earnest, Yeezy could actually be a positive role model for celebrities and non-celebrities alike.
Putting aside West’s artistic innovation for a moment, the rapper deserves credit for the way he conducts himself in public. As a celebrity who receives constant attention, his biggest obstacle is the paparazzi. A recent encounter caused West to plead no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge against a photographer. Below is a clip from The Talk in which the hosts blast West for reacting the way he did.
There’s a fine line between freedom of speech and invasion of personal space, and when a photographer can profit off of West’s picture while simultaneously spewing any insult he or she thinks of, West’s reaction is telling. Obviously West's violent reaction is over the top and unnecessary as the hosts of The Talk point out, but there's only so much instigation a celebrity can handle before he or she snaps. I don't applaud West's violence here, but I do think he shines a light on the tense relationship between celebrity and paparazzo. His trend-setting refusal to simply “let it go” and smile for the camera is significant, even if he should express his frustration with the press in more productive, less violent ways. We must ask ourselves what we would do if photographers followed us around 24/7 in an attempt to capitalize on our moments of weakness.
Moreover, West is politically and culturally engaged, and doesn’t shy away from expressing his beliefs. After the Bush Administration’s botched efforts to respond to Hurricane Katrina, for instance, West publicly announced that, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” He received backlash for speaking out, as the video below demonstrates, but his controversial opinion highlights the inequities between black and white and rich and poor in 21st century America. West tells it like it is, and in an era where public figures lie to the masses in an attempt to be likable and appealing, West’s honesty is refreshing and worthy of emulation.
Finally, despite what many detractors claim, West is humble enough to take responsibility for his wrongdoings. After the Taylor Swift incident at the VMAs, for example, West was attacked by nearly everyone in the country for being an aggressive bully. Below is a video of West on The Tonight Show in which he apologizes for the incident and claims his behavior was irrational and inappropriate. In the video, West comes across as a self-aware individual who is man enough to take responsibility for his mistakes.
Regardless of whether or not Swift deserved the award (I think many of us will admit that Beyoncé did have the better video), West shouldn't have acted the way he did, and he acknowledges this fact himself. West shows that mistakes and poor decisions are inevitable, and that there's nothing wrong with owning up to them with an apology. We've all encountered individuals who continue to make excuses for their poor behavior, and West's humility to admit wrongdoing sends an important message to young children and adults.
This is not to say that West is without fault and deserves to be the next president. However, his brutal honesty, unmatched confidence, and passionate defiance make him an easy target, and as a result, he’s unfairly become the straw man in most debates. When public figures refuse to conform, they’re often met with resistance, and West is no different. This is unfortunate, and like the many great men and women before him, West is completely misunderstood by the mass public.
What do you think? Cast your vote below.
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Scarlett Johansson is one of the best actresses in Hollywood today. She plays an alien in her next film, the highly anticipated Under the Skin, and her performance is said to be daring, artistic, and unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the movie star. In celebration of this, below are Johansson’s best performances ranked from least memorable to most memorable. For brevity’s sake, the list is limited to 10 of Johansson’s roles, and we can only imagine that this is just the beginning of a remarkable career in the movies.
10. Rebecca in Ghost World
To Johansson enthusiasts, it’s this 2001 comedy that represents her cinematic breakthrough. Johansson is hysterical as a droll teenager who hates the world, and she perfectly captures the apathetic, indifferent disposition that represents 1990s emo culture.
9. Sondra Pransky in Scoop
Johansson and Woody Allen co-star in this offbeat murder mystery that should remind Allen fans of his earlier films like Manhattan Murder Mystery and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Scoop isn’t as good as other Johansson/Allen collaborations, but it offers enough laughs and insights to hold the audience’s attention for 90 minutes.
8. Alex Forman in In Good Company
In Good Company is a charming romantic comedy in which Johansson plays the love interest. There isn’t anything groundbreaking here about the film, Johansson’s character, or her performance, and that’s okay. Johansson proves that less is more, and her work is pure delight in a film that reminds us why she’s a movie star.
7. Griet in Girl with a Pearl Earring
Johansson tries out the costume drama as she plays Griet, the model in Vermeer’s famous paintings. Girl with a Pearl Earring isn’t as good as it strives to be, but Johansson carries the film with her quiet performance.
6. Christina in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Cristina finds Johansson flexing an acting muscle she thus far hadn't shown off to his degree: namely, her comic timing. She’s extremely funny as she recites dialogue from a typically brilliant script by Woody Allen, her third collaboration with the New York filmmaker.
5. Pursy Will in A Love Song For Bobby Long
Though it never gained a huge fan bade, Johansson delivers a powerful performance as a young woman coming to terms with her past in this film. This is a sad, tender story about heartbreak and disappointment, and Johansson shines in one of her first major roles.
4. Nola Rice in Match Point
No one writes sexy neurotic women like Woody Allen, and few actresses are able to bring them to life as well as Johansson. Match Point is her first collaboration with the master filmmaker, and she commands the screen as Nola Rice, a beautiful young woman who becomes involved with a married man. Johansson clearly illustrates Nola’s sex appeal, but underneath that are insecurities, doubts, and fears that consume her and stifle her satisfaction.
3. Barbara Sugarman in Don Jon
Johansson is hilarious as Barbara Sugarman, a vapid Jersey girl with a ton of sex appeal but not much brains. Don Jon is a satire, and Johansson’s characterization of shallow materialism is pitch perfect. She’s the kind of young woman interested in the idea of love... so long as it will elevate her status. We’ve all encountered people like Barbara, and Johansson finds a way to make her both obnoxious and endearing.
2. Samantha in Her
If my operating system came with the voice of Johansson, I’d have a hard time not falling in love with it. It’s a testament to her daringly brilliant work as Samantha, Theodore’s (Joaquin Phoenix) artificially intelligent computer, that we actually believe he would form a romantic relationship with the machine in Spike Jonze's timely Her. But we do believe it, precisely because Samantha seduces us with her every syllable, making us wonder what life would be like if her voice was the first sound we heard when we woke up in the morning and the last sound we heard before we went to bed at night. What a soothing sound it is, full of sweet longing and soulful tenderness. Make no mistake: Johansson’s vocal performance in Her is film acting of the highest order.
1. Charlotte in Lost in Translation
Johansson's star-making performance in Lost in Translation remains her greatest artistic achievement. Charlotte's ennui and isolation rings true, as does her inability to communicate with her husband John (Giovanni Ribisi). When she meets Bill Murray's character Bob, another lost soul who is much older, she is confronted with the sad reality of her future if she doesn't make a change in her life. She admires and respects Bob, but she doesn’t want to end up as miserable as he is. What transpires is a beautiful film about 21st century angst, and Johansson is transcendent in her role.