#309. Daniel Day-Lewis

Have you ever noticed that some actors seem to be in every critically-acclaimed movie? I’m not talking about the actors who win a lot of awards, but then also do some “low brow” comedies on the side. I’m referring to the actors who just seem to have a higher standard for the work they do. They usually aren’t the most prolific actors, but often they are the most awarded actors. It’s almost as if they have perfected the craft of acting and will only take on roles that they know will bring them the praise of critics and audiences alike. Daniel Day-Lewis certainly seems to fit into this category of actor. While he has appeared in more films in the early part of his career, lately his roles have been a little more spread out, but have earned him many accolades, regardless. This week’s two films highlight some of Daniel Day-Lewis’ most notable roles.

Gangs of New YorkGangs of New York
Year: 2002
Rating: R
Length: 167 minutes / 2.78 hours

Even though Daniel Day-Lewis has won multiple Oscars, there are still a few films where he was nominated for Best Actor and didn’t win the honor. It’s probably useful to note that these films were also nominated for Best Picture, but also lost to other movies. His first loss was to Tom Hanks in 1993 (for Hanks’ role in Philadelphia), despite a solid performance in In the Name of the Father (which itself lost to Schindler’s List). Fortunately, the only other time he didn’t win a nomination was in 2002 for his role in Gangs of New York (losing to Adrien Brody in The Pianist and the film losing to Chicago). Of course, Gangs of New York also garnered Martin Scorsese a nomination for Best Director. The only other time Day-Lewis and Scorsese worked together was for the period piece, The Age of Innocence (1993).

In Gangs of New York, Daniel Day-Lewis portrays William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, a man whose violent tendencies crushed a rival gang of Irish immigrants led by a Catholic priest (Liam Neeson). Having no trouble cutting up animals or men, his intimidating persona managed to keep the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan in a state of fearful peace for sixteen years. In the midst of the Civil War, a man by the name of Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives in New York and starts to stir up some trouble, becoming involved with William M. Tweed (Jim Broadbent), the boss of the newest rival gang to Bill’s “Natives.” As it turns out, Amsterdam has a connection to the previous gang war and it doesn’t take long for Bill to figure out who he was related to. Instead of running away to San Francisco, Amsterdam officially challenges Bill to a fight, which he accepts to his own peril.

LincolnLincoln
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 150 minutes / 2.5 hours

No other actor has won three Best Actor Oscars. Walter Brennan won three Best Supporting Actor statues, but everyone knows the highest honor comes with Best Actor. Daniel Day-Lewis has achieved this feat with only five nominations to his name. Even before he won his first Best Actor Oscar, he appeared in the Best Picture, Gandhi (1982). He would then go on to win his acting Oscars in the Best Picture nominees, My Left Foot (1989), There Will Be Blood (2007), and Lincoln (2012). Perhaps due to his first Oscar coming from My Left Foot, Day-Lewis collaborated with director Jim Sheridan twice more for In the Name of the Father (which earned him an aforementioned acting nomination) and The Boxer (1997). Still, it’s his performance in Lincoln that pushed his name into Hollywood history for having earned three Best Actor Oscars.

While the gang wars of New York were coming to a head in 1863, Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) made a definitive move in turning the tide of the Civil War by passing the Emancipation Proclamation. Unfortunately, now that he sees the end of the Civil War quickly approaching, he realizes that this wartime executive order might not stand up to legal scrutiny once the war is over. In order to keep the effects of the Proclamation permanent, he proposes the Thirteenth Amendment. This Amendment to the Constitution has a difficult road to ratification, considering the 16th President of the United States wants to have it approved before the end of the war so that the southern states re-joining the Union won’t be able to deny its passage and the freedoms it provides to slaves across the nation. It’s up to the men of Congress to ensure that Lincoln’s legacy remains intact, despite a sporty deadline quickly approaching.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 different Daniel Day-Lewis characters

Bacon #: 2 (Lincoln / Tommy Lee Jones -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

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#302. Robin Williams

“Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult.” Unfortunately, the one man who perhaps epitomizes this statement is none other than Robin Williams. His too-soon departure from this world is still a tragedy many years later, especially considering his comedic skills. Of course, this also begs the question: if comedy is difficult, is it more difficult than drama? Sure, there are many attributes of comedy which are hard to master, such as wordplay, observation, and . . . timing, but could the emotional complexity of dramatic acting be as equally challenging? If we examine a number of actors who made the transition from drama to comedy, we’ll find they are vastly outnumbered by the actors who successfully transitioned from comedy to drama. Even though Robin Williams was best known for his comedy, his dramatic roles were certainly notable as well. This week’s two films examine Robin Williams’ dramatic roles.

Good Will HuntingGood Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

A good indicator of an actor’s dramatic potential lies in his nominations for Best Actor. This Oscar and its Supporting counterpart can almost show the progression of an actor’s career. While nominations can happen early in an actor’s career as recognition of some underlying talent, sometimes it takes several years before they are actually recognized with the gold statue of a winner. Only seven years after his first leading role, Robin Williams was first nominated for Best Actor in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). His second nomination would come two years later for Dead Poets Society (1989), followed by his third nomination for The Fisher King (1991) two years after that. Finally, a decade after his first nomination, Robin Williams would win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting (1997).

When Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) finds that a difficult mathematics problem he posted for his students has been solved by an anonymous person, he finds none of his graduate students stepped forward with the solution. Upon leaving another, even harder problem, he finds that the janitor, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), was the mysterious mathematician. While Will has plenty of talent, he chooses to live his life simply, never pushing the limits of his possibility. It soon becomes clear to Lambeau that he must pass Will onto one of his therapist colleagues, Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). At first, Will doesn’t take the therapy seriously, but as Sean begins to open up about his own life and struggles Will eventually finds they share much of the same trauma. Now that his past is behind him, Will drives off to California to fully live his future.

Dead Poets SocietyDead Poets Society
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours

It’s interesting to think that, by 1989, Robin Williams had only acted in a dozen films. Sure, just like other comedians, he started out with a long and successful career in television, but by the 1990’s his transition into film was quite complete. By the turn of the century, he had tripled the number of his film roles with such classics as Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and Jumanji (1995). Amidst these comedic gems, he continued to perform in dramatic roles like What Dreams May Come (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999), and Insomnia (2002). Clearly, Williams was a master of both muses of acting: Thalia (comedy) and Melpomene (tragedy). Given the tagline of Dead Poets Society (1989), he certainly seized every day given to him, up until his very last one.

An alumnus of Welton Academy, John Keating (Robin Williams) has taken it upon himself as an English teacher to inspire the students under his purview at the same school where he once was one of them. One of these students, Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), is inspired by Keating’s encouragement to “seize the day” and decides to resurrect the Dead Poets Society, a group which once had Keating as a member. Neil continues to open up and learns that his passion for drama and acting does not align with his father’s wishes for him to be a medical doctor. With no other recourse, Neil takes his own life. This action causes the administration of Welton Academy to scrutinize Keating’s teaching style. After they come to the conclusion that Keating’s encouragement of free will was the culprit, he is forced to resign. However, the students resist the verdict and stand up for Keating one last time.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 wonderful Robin Williams roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Big Wedding / Robert DeNiro -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

#301. Matt Damon

If you had one Trillion dollars lying around, would you use it to save Matt Damon? A few years ago, someone threw some numbers together to estimate the amount of money spent on rescuing all of Matt Damon’s characters and the total was close to a Trillion dollars. Granted, Matt Damon certainly has some skill when it comes to being an actor, but why his characters always need saving is quite the question. Part of why this number is so large is due to the variety of Damon’s roles. From sci-fi epics like Elysium (2013), Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015) to modern-era films like Syriana (2005) and Green Zone (2010), Matt Damon has shown time and again that he knows how to act like he needs help. With so many excellent roles to choose from, this week’s two films highlight some award-winning films featuring Matt Damon.

The DepartedThe Departed
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 151 minutes / 2.52 hours

What helps set Matt Damon apart from other actors is the fact that he can remain as an individual in a cast filled with high-profile actors. From his role as Linus Caldwell in Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) to his role as James Granger in The Monuments Men (2014), few films with a star-studded cast including Matt Damon have been nominated for Best Picture. Unless you also want to include Good Will Hunting (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and True Grit (2010) in this list, in which case it’s happened three times. However, the only film to include Matt Damon alongside a cast full of A-list actors that also won the Oscar for Best Picture is that of The Departed (2006). Of course, partly because of the large cast of excellent talent, Damon was not nominated for an acting award for his part in this film.

Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has come a long way since his childhood in South Boston. As he proved his reliability in the Massachusetts State Police, eventually he was placed on a task force to rid the city of organized crime. What his supervisors do not know is that this position is a conflict of interest for him, since the mobster they are trying to catch, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), is the man who helped raise him. Soon Colin is trying to use his connections to find a mole in the mob while also trying to not be found out as the mole in the police. Both moles eventually learn each other’s identities, but when it comes down to loyalties, each one has to determine for themselves which side of this fight they want to be on. Unfortunately, with secret identities now revealed, the conflict explodes in a hail of bullets, leaving few alive.

Good Will HuntingGood Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

While The Departed did not garner Damon an acting Oscar, he has been nominated a number of times. This comes as no surprise as Matt Damon holds the eponymous role for such films as the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan, , as well asThe Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Jason Bourne (2016). His most recent nomination comes in the form of another eponymous role: The Martian. Before this, he was nominated for Invictus (2009), but merely in a supporting role. The real trick is, even though he didn’t win an Oscar for his acting in Good Will Hunting, he did earn one for this film. Along with Ben Affleck, the two of them wrote the screenplay for this coming-of-age film, immediately launching both of their careers for decades to come.

The titular Will Hunting (Matt Damon) works as a janitor at MIT where he comes across a mathematics problem posted for graduate students. His solution to the problem piques the interest of the professor who posted it. Realizing the genius who solved the problem isn’t one of his students, Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) gets Will out of some jail time by promising to mentor him. While this allows Will to avoid punishment, it also comes with a catch: Will must receive therapy. With Lambeau’s attempts to coach Will through his problems being unfruitful, Lambeau decides to hand him off to Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). Despite initial coldness, Will eventually opens up to Maguire, learning that they share some of the same struggles. At the same time, Will’s blue-collar friends gradually convince him that he’s meant for greater things and to take the opportunities he’s given.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 magnificent Matt Damon roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Rainmaker / Mickey Rourke -> Diner / Kevin Bacon)

#299. Ben Affleck

Have you ever tried to be something you’re not? Do you know someone who has succeeded at one talent, only to try and capitalize on the success by attempting a different talent? While Hollywood is filled with actors who want to be directors and directors who want to be actors, very few of them can succeed in both realms at the same time. Take Clint Eastwood, for instance. He was a great actor back in his heyday, and now he’s a great director, but there wasn’t much time where he was both. Somewhat similarly, Ben Affleck has shown he is an excellent director as of late, but his early acting efforts were not quite as exemplary. Perhaps Affleck has finally found his niche after being lauded for his writing skills early in his career. Of course, he still enjoys his time in front of the camera as well. This week’s two films look at the directing and acting of Ben Affleck.

ArgoArgo
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes / 2.0 hours

At age 25, Ben Affleck (along with his friend, Matt Damon) won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997). While he had acted in a few films before, including two by director Kevin Smith (Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997)), none of his roles could ever be taken seriously. Instead of pursuing his writing, Affleck ended up appearing in numerous films, most of which were forgettable or terrible (most still say Gigli (2003) is the worst film ever made). And yet, when he started directing full-length films, his acting seemed to improve almost overnight. Within five years from his directorial debut, Affleck would win his second Oscar, this time for the Best Picture, Argo (2012). While he also appeared in the leading role of this film, his performance was much better than most of his previous attempts.

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is astounded to learn that there are no viable plans to rescue the six escapees of the Iranian hostage crisis. While his exfiltration skills are top notch, he doesn’t have any better ideas. After a phone call with his son while Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) is playing in the background, he is struck with inspiration. Using the cover of a Canadian film crew performing site surveys for a sci-fi film, Tony heads to Iran to help coach the six individuals through his plan. Even though all the prep work in Hollywood has been done to make the film look like it is real, the hoax only works on the ground if the six diplomats can manage to convince the Iranian security forces that it’s truly what they’re there for. In the moment of truth, the group head to Tehran International Airport and attempt to leave the country the only way they can.

The TownThe Town
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

In 2007, Ben Affleck put on his writing cap and wrote the screenplay for Gone Baby Gone. Despite having directed a short film much earlier in his career, Gone Baby Gone was his first feature-length film as a director. While he did not appear in the film, leaving the leading role to his brother, Casey Affleck, when 2010 rolled around, he was back in front of the camera (as well as behind it) for The Town. Once again, audiences could see that Affleck does have talent for writing, as he wrote the screenplay for The Town as well. Despite the uproar of his casting as Bruce Wayne / Batman in the DC cinematic universe, this role, along with Nick Dunne in Gone Girl (2014), have shown that Affleck takes his acting much more seriously now, perhaps as a result of his directing. Time will tell if his most recent writing and directorial effort, Live by Night (2017) will be as well received as Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is just one of a group of friends who grew up together and are now partners in crime. Along with Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy MacGloan (Slaine), and Dez Elden (Owen Burke), the four friends rob a bank and take the manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), hostage. After they release her, they realize she lives in their neighborhood and could potentially identify them to the police. In order to find out what she knows, Doug starts following her, but eventually the two of them develop feelings for each other. Unfortunately, since the four friends are still deep in the world of crime, they continue to make robberies. Because these heists still occur, they eventually find that the FBI has figured out who they are. The Feds perform a sting at Fenway based on intelligence they received from a jilted ex, with few of the crew managing to escape.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 deftly directed pieces by Ben Affleck

Bacon #: 2 (Shakespeare in Love / Colin Firth -> Where the Truth Lies / Kevin Bacon)

#294. Haley Joel Osment

Have you ever noticed how some actors come in and out of relevance? Sometimes these actors use their success in one medium, like Television, to jump the gap to another medium, like movies. While I can’t say I’ve ever seen any Game of Thrones, I’ve seen plenty of the actors from it in a variety of different films. Even within the realm of cinema, an actor seems to be in almost everything for a couple of years, then fades into obscurity. Often, this is linked to receiving an Academy Award for acting, as they have now proven their merits as an actor, thus making them desirable for marketing purposes for other films. Sometimes this is due to a certain “look” an actor can provide, and once they change it (or grow out of it) they have trouble regaining their former glory. This week’s two films examine the former relevance of Haley Joel Osment.

Secondhand LionsSecondhand Lions
Year: 2003
Rating: PG
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

From 1994 to 2003, Haley Joel Osment was relevant in the realm of cinema. His first appearance on film as Forrest Gump Jr. in Forrest Gump (1994) gave him the springboard he needed to eventually star in other films. While his success as an actor came with The Sixth Sense (1999), he also had many notable performances, including the society-changing Trevor McKinney in Pay it Forward (2000). While Osment took two 3-year hiatuses, none of his recent films have captured that youthful charm that people recognized from his first decade of acting. Of course, perhaps his voice acting work, which he performed while in relevance as well as afterward, was merely his next medium. In fact, most people who have played any of the Kingdom Hearts video games will recognize his voice as that of the main character, Sora.

Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) finds himself abandoned by his mother when he arrives at the home of his great uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine). These brothers are leery of Walter, as they suspect he has been dumped on them to gain access to their rumored fortune. The crotchety old men eventually warm up to the teenager as he helps them acquire items to make their life a little more interesting. Due to their developing relationship, Walt learns the truth of his great uncles’ adventures might not be so far from the rumors’ claims. When his mother appears again, with a scoundrel boyfriend in tow, she tries to use Walter to gain access to the brothers’ fortune. However, an old lioness that Hub bought and was accidentally released into the cornfield comes to Walt’s rescue, thus solidifying Hub and Garth’s relationship with the boy as his guardians.

The Sixth SenseThe Sixth Sense
Year: 1999
Rating: PG-13
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

By now, we all know Haley Joel Osment’s most famous line from The Sixth Sense (1999), “I see dead people.” This line, along with his performance in the film, cemented him as one of the premier child actors of his time. In fact, his nomination for Best Supporting Actor only helped him to secure future film roles with big directors like Steven Spielberg, eventually appearing in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Of course, as is the fate of most child actors, puberty set in and his relevance changed. It’s a little weird to see an actor who used to be that baby-faced, token child in a film now with a beard and a couple extra pounds on their frame. Still, Osment has continued to work in cinema, even if the films he’s appearing in now aren’t nearly as notable or critically acclaimed as they once used to be.

The eponymous “Sixth Sense” of this film is held by none other than Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). He admits to be able to see the ghosts of dead people walking around as if they were alive. This admission is to Dr. Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis), a child psychologist who failed a former patient and was shot as a result. Cole uses his ability to help the ghosts attain a sense of closure with the world they left behind. With Dr. Crowe’s help, Cole reveals the true cause of the death of a young girl, thus saving the girl’s younger sister in the process. Despite the constant presence of ghosts in his life, Cole accepts the responsibility and begins to enjoy his life. After telling his mother of his ability, she is initially skeptical, but is convinced when he reveals details of her life and interactions with his dead grandmother. Meanwhile, Dr. Crowe comes to a shocking revelation of his own.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 heyday roles for Haley Joel Osment

Bacon #: 2 (Forrest Gump / Tom Hanks -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#287. Emily Browning

What’s interesting about child actors is watching them grow up on screen. As mentioned a few weeks ago, sometimes they seem to grow up too fast (like in the case of Jennifer Connelly’s more adult roles). Of course, this phenomenon always leaves the audience with the sense of loose familiarity. They’ll ask themselves, “Isn’t that ‘so-and-so’?” only to find out that the completion of puberty can sometimes drastically change an actor or actress. Depending on how committed to acting they are, these child actors will sometimes undergo a hiatus to finish schooling before committing their careers to acting. Because of this hiatus, the change can seem just that much more extreme. Of the number of child actors still acting today, Emily Browning has moved into the role of a more serious actress almost seamlessly. This week’s two films highlight recognizable films on either side of her hiatus.

Sucker PunchSucker Punch
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

A lot can happen in seven years. A sixteen-year old girl can grow up into a twenty-three-year old woman in that time. However, with a number of starlets at that age, it can be easy to interchange them. For instance, Emily Browning was chosen to be the main heroine of theTwilight series, but turned it down, thus opening the role to Kristen Stewart. On the other side of this exchange, she has replaced a number of actresses in a number of films. From replacing Mia Wasikowska in Sleeping Beauty (2011) to replacing Ophelia Lovibond inSummer in February (2012), Browning has stood in and made the roles her own, thus making it seem like she was meant to play these roles as the first choice, instead of the second. One of the first films after her school hiatus, Sucker Punch (2011), saw her replace Amanda Seyfried in the main role of Babydoll, but I don’t know if I could ever envision anyone else in that role.

Wrongfully imprisoned in a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) imagines her new home as a brothel where her fellow inmates are dancers for high rollers. For her first dance, she hallucinates a world filled with giant robotic samurai, but she also meets a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), who tells her that there are four items to an escape, as well as a fifth, unknown item. With each subsequent dance, she hallucinates a different scenario to help her gain the items. From steampunk war trenches to obtain a map to killing a dragon to obtain fire to disarming a bomb on a train to obtain a knife, most of these items are obtained without incident. However, the knife operation was botched and one of her friends died. Finally understanding that the fifth item is a selfless sacrifice, it is revealed that the whole scenario was a pre-lobotomy vision in Babydoll’s brain.

Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Year: 2004Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

Before she went back to school to complete her education, Emily Browning already had a number of films under her belt. While the one she is most known for was the one released prior to her hiatus, Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), wasn’t nearly as dark as her other films. From Ghost Ship (2002) to Ned Kelly (2003) to Darkness Falls (2003), these films were decidedly more dramatic or horrific than the more family-friendly fare of Lemony Snicket. This is what makes a recognizable role a bit of a problem. Just because an actress appeared in a film that made her name recognizable, doesn’t mean that the rest of her filmography fits in that genre. If anything, Lemony Snicket was an outlier in a career that has since become much more serious and much more adult.

The eldest of the Baudelaire children, Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), holds their small family together after their parents’ deaths. Along with her younger brother, Klaus (Liam Aiken), and baby sister, Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), Violet outsmarts their closest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who is only interested in them because of the money he could inherit from them. In a series of unfortunate events, including a near-miss with a train, the poisoning death of an uncle, a violent hurricane, the leech-related death of an aunt, and a play with false pretenses, the children manage to survive only to be found by Count Olaf again and again. In the last event, he manages to marry Violet and is thus entitled to the fortune of her parents. Fortunately, at the same time, the two younger Baudelaires discover the origin of the fire that killed their parents while also saving Violet from her marriage.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best from Emily Browning

Bacon #: 2 (Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events / Meryl Streep -> The River Wild / Kevin Bacon)

#285. Jennifer Connelly

In the world of child actors, very few last long enough to continue working in the industry. Sure, there are exceptions; actors and actresses who eventually develop their craft into award-winning performances. Most people could count the number of these exceptions on one hand. This begs the question: what helps a child actor eventually arrive at success? It is my opinion that the earlier a child actor can work with an excellent director, the greater their chances are of achieving recognition later in life (should they not be hindered by alcohol or drug addiction before then). One of these anomalies is Jennifer Connelly. Her very first role in film was in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) when she was only 14. She’s only gone up from there. This week’s two films look at Jennifer Connelly’s best roles.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

While Sergio Leone’s crime drama was her first role, many consider Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) to be her breakout performance. That being said, there was plenty more to be desired for her acting. Fortunately, she has managed to stay out of the limelight partly because of her heavy involvement in independent films. Granted, this is often seen as the reason why she mostly appears in darker and more nudity-filled films (which may also be tied to shedding the “child actor” label), but it’s what eventually landed her in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). If audiences didn’t consider her a serious actress before this film, they certainly do now. A decade and a half later, she would team up with Aronofsky again for the Biblical epic, Noah (2014), but most claim their previous collaboration as one of their best.

Harry (Jared Leto) spends most of his time shooting heroin with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Because it is such an expensive addiction, they decide to turn to drug dealing in order to pay for the habit, as well as to realize their dreams of starting a business, becoming a clothing designer, and moving out of the slums, respectively. At the same time, Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), is convinced that she has been chosen to appear on TV and takes drastic measures to lose weight so she can wear a favorite dress again. Through this process, she becomes addicted to amphetamines while her son and his posse find their own unwholesome fates, including hospitalization, incarceration, and prostitution. In a hallucination, Sara imagines that the world is all right for her, her son, and his girlfriend. That dream is far from the truth.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

Another big-name director who cast Connelly in their films was none other than Ron Howard. We all have forgotten about the regrettable The Dilemma (2011), but Jennifer Connelly likely wouldn’t have appeared in that film had she not impressed Howard earlier in her career with her work in Inventing the Abbotts (1997). This inspiration is what led him to cast her, along with Russell Crowe and Ed Harris, in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001). Not only did this film win Best Picture and Best Director, but it garnered Jennifer Connelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She had already worked with Ed Harris on his directorial debut: Pollock (2000), portraying the mistress of Jackson Pollock (who himself was played by Ed Harris), but it took many years before she appeared in another film across from Russell Crowe: the aforementioned Noah.

John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a promising mathematics student at Princeton University in the late 1940’s. Because of the high hopes for his career, he is under large amounts of stress to publish, but he wants to publish something original, not just a derivative work. While at a bar with his mathematics friends, he develops a new idea that leads to his publication of the Nash equilibrium (a modified game theory). Meanwhile, he falls in love with, and eventually marries, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). At first, their life together is idyllic, but soon Alicia discovers that John’s roommate in college never existed, and John’s “boss” from the Pentagon also doesn’t exist. Despite John being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and his refusal to take his medication, Alicia stays with him and helps him to an eventual recovery.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 key Jennifer Connelly roles

Bacon #: 2 (A Beautiful Mind / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)