Brilliant Acting Defined by One Look

Saturday, December 06, 2014
Brittany at Rambling Film shared a great idea of Brilliant Acting Defined by One Look. Upon reading her awesome list, I was immediately excited to comb my favorite expressions that are unforgettable.

Sometimes during award show season it's easy to get caught up in the loudest performances; comedic actors who prove they are capable of being dramatic, actors who physically transform to the point of being unrecognizable, and life-changing themes that strike everyone's heartstrings. The most natural and memorable moments on film sometimes occur the most strongly when looks speak louder than words. I'm sure there are plenty more choices I could've added but I left this list at a solid ten picks. I hope you enjoy (and thank you Brittany)!

Lucille Ball - I Love Lucy
Uh oh, Lucy is up to no good again. All Lucille Ball had to do was give a glimpse at her husband Ricky, or friends Ethel and Fred, for us to know she was up to something. This crazy redhead was able to distort her face into so many wildly comedic and expressive looks. I don't think there's another comedienne who'll live up to the same amount of physical comedy.

John Krasinki The Office
The Office is a perfect example of how intricate the inner-workings of a show are. I'm such a huge fan of the U.S. series knowing it forwards, backwards, and in my sleep, and it's still mind-boggling to think of how the physical actions were so well-choreographed. There are hundreds of millisecond glances the cast makes towards the camera, and it's impossible to not to list some made by Steve Carrell and even more by John Krasinski. But I couldn't resist just this one - where one of Jim's gags goes horribly wrong. It's the equivalent of hoping if he doesn't move, an invisibility shield will cloak him into non-existence.

Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead  / Killer Within
In the early seasons of the show, it's a running joke with hardcore fans how many times Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes looks at the camera with an intense expression on his face. As the stories and sometimes the direction matured while the close-ups remained, Lincoln was able to express himself without looking directly into the camera, piercing his eyes into your soul. With Killer Within, as an audience member we knew what just happened to his wife. Knowing Grimes' was on a swing from rational to being the mayor of Crazy Town, it was difficult to think of how he might react. One turn towards the camera as his newborn baby cries for the first time, the realization hits - and oops, is that the sounds of everyone's hearts shattering?

Anthony Hopkins - Hannibal
As serial killer genius, Hopkins embodies a person without a soul but an intellect and an ability to mess with his counterpart's emotions and head. The close-ups are just plain chilling to the bone. During 'our' first visit to his cell, the light sharply hitting his face and displaying the heartless abyss of his eyes is something you never forget.

Alan Rickman - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Whether you abhor or support the relationship between Snape and Lily, it's impossible to dismiss the superb performance by Alan Rickman. In the first film, this single look defines how an actor knows his character's history, the importance of it, and his relationship to other characters. Legend has it that author J.K. Rowling let Rickman know what his character's connection was to Harry's mother, and it shows. Rickman didn't even need eight movies to establish that something is up with Snape. You just know, instantly - it's all there. Amazingly, Rickman repeats this subtlety again and again throughout the following seven movies that only grows with meaning.

Anne Hathaway - The Dark Knight Rises
As a devout fan of Michelle Pfeiffer's previous performance as Catwoman, my feelings were often on the fence about Hathaway's version. The scene of Bane is beating Batman to a bloody pulp shoots an arrow into my fangirl heart. Over time, when I thought about Batman's brutal loss, Hathaway's expression came to mind and my opinion gradually changed. It's such a still moment in the movie that reflects my own feelings. Only moments before she had trapped Batman into the sewers with Bane, perhaps with the small hope he would get out alive. She wasn't fully aware of what was going doing. And, then it does, and what is there to do but watch the massacre take place.

Matthew McFayden & Keira Knightley - Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennett's and Mr. Darcy's relationship takes a romantic turn in the rain, in the countryside as they confront each other about their pride and prejudice (yeah I went there). God bless director Jor Wright for creating this completely elegant and swoon-worthy moment for women and book nerds everywhere. If this isn't the most transfixing look of two people resisting to snog the hell out of each other, I don't know what is.

Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio - Titanic
The way that these two look at each other throughout the movie is like two magnets sticking together. I almost included the scene where they are glancing at each other coyly during the first-class dinner, but I felt like this one - where Rose is shuffled onto the lifeboat away from Jack - is the best one. I just like the gradual distance between them and how it's inevitable sign of things to come, despite their continuing efforts to stay together on the boat as long as possible.

Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart It's A Wonderful Life
Frank Capra's film It's A Wonderful Life centers around George Bailey and his inability to escape the smallness of his childhood town as well as his self-worth for unaccomplished dreams and lack of wealth. With a glimpse of an angel he sees what would happen to those nearest to him if he failed to exist. During Bailey's hardest plight the town comes together to rescue him financially, his younger brother breaks the news that he is now the richest man in town. The looks of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are timeless. In their home's parlor, the town rejoices in buoyant celebration. But he's shocked, she's quietly pleased, but they're entirely in disbelief. I think it's a small emotional scene that could've been filmed in an alternative way and had an entirely different impact.

Vivien Leigh - Gone with the Wind
I'm not sure if there is a performance by an actress as vividly expressive as Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind. With a glance at this Classic Hollywood starlet and the wondrous costumes she wore as Scarlett O'Hara, it's easy to get sidetracked into the wondrous exterior beauty this woman naturally exuded. A closer examination shows just how much her wheels are at work as a legendary on-screen character and extraordinarily talented actress. This is just one of her many looks awesomely termed in today's modern age as Get Your Bitch Look On. It doesn't get any better than that.

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