GREG KINNEAR (Griffin, in The Pitch):
Best work:As Good as It Gets. Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both took home acting Oscars (the last time one film has won both awards) in James L. Brooks’s misfit romantic comedy, while former talk-show host Kinnear, as a sensitive artist who is the victim of gay-bashing, settled for a nomination. Brooks’s comedy (parallel to this year’s Silver Linings Playbook) is the best example of Kinnear’s ability to mix affability and pathos.
Worst flop: Sometimes those same qualities feel like shameless manipulation, as in Godsend, a 2004 science-fiction thriller, with Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn as a grieving couple and Robert De Niro as the mad scientist who promises to clone their recently killed son. With a rousing 4-per-cent Rotten Tomatoes rating, it was not viewed as a Godsend by critics.
NAOMI WATTS (Samantha, in Homeschooled)
Best work:Mulholland Drive. David Lynch’s Moebius strip of a Hollywood thriller references Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Otto Preminger’s Laura, in a tale of a starlet – Betty Elms a.k.a. Diane Selwyn – who arrives in Hollywood and loses her identity. Watts’s characteristic mixture of warmth and reserve worked perfectly for this enigmatic film.
Worst flop: Playing a near-somnabulant character in other dream films has not served Watts as well. Those include Marc Forster’s 2005 film Stay (as a suicidal girlfriend to Ewan McGregor’s psychiatrist), or in Jim Sheridan’s failed horror movie Dream House, as a neighbour to troubled Daniel Craig, a writer returning from a psychiatric hospital. The lesson should be clear: Only David Lynch should try to make David Lynch movies.
HUGH JACKMAN (Davis, in The Catch)
Best work: Though best-known for starring as the comic-book character Wolverine in the X-Men film series and as Meg Ryan’s romantic lead in Kate and Leopold, Jackman’s best work was in Christopher Nolan’s historical drama The Prestige (2006), as a late-19th-century magician in a life-and-death rivalry with Christian Bale, where Jackman got to display his flare for showmanship, as well as his brawny good looks.
Worst flop: That would go to the clunky erotic thriller Deception (2008), in which Jackman plays a Machiavellian lawyer who gets a timid New York accountant (Ewan McGregor) into a secret sex club called The List. Jackman would probably like to scratch it off his résumé.
ELIZABETH BANKS (Amy, in Beezil)
Best work: A go-to actress for quirky-girlfriend parts, Banks has appeared in four movies with Paul Rudd, but her best work may be on TV’s 30 Rock, as right-wing political pundit Avery Jessup, the wife of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). In movies, her peak may be the sci-fi horror-flick spoof Slither (2006), in which she played Starla Grant, who gamely sticks by her husband even when he’s infested by a space alien and looks like ground meat.
Worst flop: Although Banks had a part in Guy Ritchie’s Madonna folly Swept Away, that wasn’t her fault. Her worst film must be last year’s Disney drama People Like Us, as a recovering alcoholic single mom who inadvertently almost gets involved with her estranged half-brother (Chris Pine). The mawkish premise might have actually worked better as a gross-out comedy.
WILL SASSO (Jerry, in The Pitch)
Best and worst: Sasso, the Canadian rep on Movie 43, offered an admirable recreation of Curly in the Farrelly’s The Three Stooges last year, but that wasn’t his pinnacle. Among his more than two-dozen MADtv characters, the most indelible was country singer Kenny Rogers as the drunken host of Jackass, attempting life-threatening stunts while wrecked on Jack Daniels. It was the kind of so-awful-it’s-great comedy that Movie 43 apparently aspires to.
UMA THURMAN (Fake Lois Lane, in Superhero Speed Dating)
Best work: Thurman's Oscar-nominated performance in Pulp Fiction (1994), as a beautiful, drugged-out gangster’s girlfriend in black pageboy wig, was electrifying. Time Magazine declared her “up there with Garbo and Dietrich in goddess territory.”
Worst flop: Thurman’s low point, if you exclude her cameo as an oversexed housewife in Gerard Butler’s recent Playing for Keeps, was her role as Emma Peel in the 1998 remake of the British television series The Avengers. Playing Peel or her evil clone in matching leather catsuits, Thurman’s performance tarnished the memory of Diana Rigg’s original character, proving somewhat less interesting than the dead guys in teddy-bear suits she discovered. Of course, Uma didn’t do it alone. The film earned nine Razzie nominations as the worst film of the year.