Who are the most ‘in form’ British actresses right now?

Now I was going to use the word ‘hot’ to describe this list, as in ‘they’re so hot right now’, but it seems a bit American for a list of British actresses. So for anyone into sport I’ve gone with ‘in form’, so you’ll get it – and I mean acting talent not physical form. Of course they’re all beautiful as well (goes without saying), but this is about their ability to convince us of their character and performance on screen.

Here are my favourites with some of their work listed; ones who have been lighting up the screen in impressive ways over the last few years. It’s a mixed list, which is a good thing.

Up-and-comers like Emilia Clarke, Lily Collins and Imogen Poots are still finding their feet and working on the odd clunker, whereas others like Alice Eve, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones really need to be in decent stuff a bit more often, given their talent.

I would say Emily Blunt, Kate Winslet and Carey Mulligan are leading the way as the most ‘in form’ at the moment. Plus Winslet really should get some sort of lifetime achievement award at some point. She’s got ten years on the rest of the women on this list and has consistently worked on good projects throughout her career – she’s so impressive.

Emily Blunt
Sicario, Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, The Adjustment Bureau
Hayley Atwell
Agent Carter, Ant-Man, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Lily Collins
Mirror Mirror, Love, Rosie
Carey Mulligan
Suffragette, Far From The Madding Crowd, Shame, Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis

Rebecca Hall
Iron Man 3, The Gift, Transcendence, The Town, Closed Circuit
Alice Eve
Starter For 10, Crossing Over, Star Trek Into Darkness
Emma Watson
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, The Bling Ring, Noah
Emilia Clarke
Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys
Rosamund Pike
Gone Girl, Jack Reacher, The World’s End
Juno Temple
Far From The Madding Crowd, Killer Joe, Cracks, Black Mass
Romola Garai
Suffragette, The Hour, The Crimson Petal and the White
Felicity Jones
The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy, Chalet Girl
Sienna Miller
High-Rise, Mississippi Grind, American Sniper, Foxcatcher

Imogen Poots
A Long Way Down, Filth, The Look Of Love, Cracks
Jessica Brown Findlay
Victor Frankenstein, The Riot Club
Naomi Watts
While We’re Young, Birdman, Insurgent
Kate Winslet
Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker, Labor Day, Carnage, Insurgent/Divergent

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Far From The Madding Crowd review

I must admit I’ve not read Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel, Far From The Madding Crowd. Had I done so before seeing the film I wonder if it would have affected how I interpreted the story and related to the characters?

I guess it doesn’t matter now.

I really just raise this point to say I went into this one fresh and with no knowledge. What I did know was that there hasn’t been a Carey Mulligan film (and performance) that I havent liked, from An Education to Shame to Drive, she’s never disappointed. In fact she’s often captivated and astonished me, she’s such a talent and holds the screen so well.

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Despite this story being adapted for the cinema numerous times before (1915, 1967, 1998) I’ll assume that you’re like me and don’t know it, or at least want a refresher. We start with Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan); she meets hunky shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthius Schoenaerts) living nearby and, as must have been the way back in the 1870s, within five minutes he’s proposing to her. She knocks him back, being too much of a free spirit to be tied down to some random shepherd, however strong, silent and hunky he may appear to be.

She moves away and gets left an inheritance by an uncle, one which includes a huge farm that needs returning to former glories. Through some shoddy shepherding Gabriel loses his flock and is forced to look for new work. He stumbles on a farm on fire and helps out and lo and behold it’s Miss Everdene’s new place. And so they are reunited.

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To keep things spicy he’s not the only man after her hand in marriage and following her around like a lost puppy. Through a bit of 19th century flirting she raises the interests of wealthy neighbour Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen), but he’s just too tame for her tastes. She also meets caddish soldier Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) who turns her attentions for all the wrong reasons.

Plot wise it’s fairly simple, albeit a little infuriating. Bathsheba has three guys vying for her attention: one caring and loyal but beneath her social status, one wealthy and stable but a bit dull, and one wild and roguish but not a particularly nice man, to put it mildly.

I suppose I’m silently screaming inside – like no doubt many people before me down the years – that we all know which man she should go for, but we cannot always get what we want, or know what’s best for us – so she dances round and round. Even without knowing this story I knew the story, or hoped I knew how it would end.

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Ultimately, it’s not so much about that though, it’s more about performances – and director Thomas Vinterburg was spoilt for choice with his cast. Michael Sheen gets the thankless task of making Mr Boldwood seem proud and noble, but completely unsure of himself when it comes to courting Bathsheba. His performance – as Boldwood unravels – is hugely impressive and heartfelt.

I’ve yet to see Rust & Bone, the film that put Matthias Schoenaerts on the map, but he’s got to be giving Tom Hardy a run for his money in the strong and silent category. As Gabriel Oak he says so much, often without saying anything at all. A consummate performance marking him as one to watch with interest in the future.

Then there’s Mulligan.

In other actresses’ hands Bathsheba could have come across as quite annoying; constantly doing the wrong thing, too proud, too stubborn, too blind when she has a good thing going. But the wonder that is Carey Mulligan keeps us on her side. She makes her likeable, wilful, headstrong, emotional, precocious – and she gives her depth and relatability. In short, she carries the film effortlessly and beautifully and was nigh on perfect for the role.

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I suppose, if I had any issues at all, it would be that the film as whole felt a little safe at times. A little slow and sleepy – and a little sanitised. On a basic level, for example, when Bathsheba is working the fields in a few early scenes she has a small smudge of dirt on her cheek. To show she’s dirty. But it was a Hollywood smudge and I wanted more grit and realism.

This was a small indicator of a bigger problem. The film as a whole needed more fire, more blood and thunder. Being as clueless as to the original story as I am, maybe this was a faithful adaptation. But maybe – beyond the impressive performances from the leads – a bit of a modern spark was needed to really make it fizz and ignite.

Top 10 thinking man’s actresses

Hello my film-loving friends. Today I wish to share with you my list of a thinking man’s top actresses. Ladies that have a certain allure in terms of intelligence, physical beauty, acting prowess and – to avoid using an overused French phrase – an indefinable something.

With each actress I’ve also mentioned the films that first made me fall in love with them. Now you may disagree and say some of these ladies are just a pretty face and nothing else – that’s fine. Hopefully I can state my case and change your mind.

  1. Natalie Portman – Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta
    It’s no secret I hold this actress in high regard and I’ve previously discussed her top performances in another posting. So I’ll just say she makes my top spot by being a perfect blend of intelligence, beauty and vulnerability – a winning combination.
  2. Eva Green – The Dreamers, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows
    Hypnotic, alluring, sensual – she got her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The DreamersThe Director described her as ‘So beautiful, it’s indecent‘. It’s not the world’s best film in terms of plot, but if you want to truly appreciate the appeal of this actress I highly recommend it.
  3. Anne HathawayLove and Other Drugs
    In this film I’ve mentioned she plays a character who has early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Some of her scenes – particularly in the third act – are heartbreaking and put her firmly in third place. Even without Catwoman in The Dark Knight she’d still be here, she’s that good in this film. If you’ve not seen it here’s a nice little clip.
  4. Amanda SeyfriedChloe, Alpha Dog, Dear John, Jennifer’s Body
    An actress with the biggest, most beautiful eyes in Hollywood. You have to love the internet, a quick search turned up a site dedicated to her eyes! That aside, she’s been in an interesting and varied bunch of films that slowly but surely convinced me of her inclusion. Out of them all I recommend you see Chloe.
  5. amber heardAmber Heard – The Rum Diary
    She’s the kind of actress that exudes an old-school Hollywood charm and mystique. But who am I to say these things you ask? Well if you don’t believe me listen to Johnny Depp – he compared her to Veronica Lake and other old Hollywood beauties, she clearly had quite an impact.
  6. Jennifer LawrenceWinter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook
    I heard a story once that Ms Lawrence was walking down the corridor in a Hollywood studio when a bearded guy in a cap stopped her saying ‘Are you the Jennifer Lawrence?’ Turns out this was Steven Spielberg. He’d seen Winter’s Bone and been captivated by her performance, as many of us were seeing her for the first time.
  7. beth albatrossJessica Brown Findlay – Albatross,
    Black Mirror, Misfits, Labyrinth

    If you only know Miss Findlay from Downton Abbey then you’ve missed a trick. I loved her in Albatross, where she plays a bit of a sexy troublemaker, seducing her best friend’s dad. She gives the character warmth, depth and vulnerability – with a sharp, sassy nature to boot.
  8. Marion CotillardPublic Enemies, Inception, Dark Knight Rises
    She won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf  in La Vie En Rose and I’m excited to see her forthcoming film Rust and Bone, where she plays a killer whale trainer. She was fantastic in Inception – intense, vulnerable and mesmerising. Watch the ‘waiting for a train’ scene.
  9. Mila KunisForgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends with Benefits, Ted
    I struggle with Kunis. She’s still Meg from Family Guy – a problem when she’s clearly stunning and likes to play quite fiesty, yet down-to-earth characters. The perfect girl-next-door, if you happen to live in Hollywood. There’s a rumour she might play Anastasia Steele in the forthcoming Fifty Shades film, an enticing prospect.
  10. Felicity JonesCemetery Junction, Albatross, Like Crazy
    Ah Ms Jones, great up-and-coming actress. She comes across as really sweet and genuine. Like Crazy cleaned up at the Sundance film festival in 2011 with her performance getting compared to Carey Mulligan’s in An Education. Emotional and heartfelt, watch the trailer.

So there’s my list. As ever I was ruthless with the cut – there’s probably a lot more that could have made my top 10 but there you go. I hope you enjoy this selection, until next time.