Friday, March 1, 2013

Top 5 Films Featuring Nicole Kidman




This list is in no particular order. These are just some of my favorite films that Nicole Kidman, the actor and one of the stars of the new film "Stoker" has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on their performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that they happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

Nicole Kidman is a frustrating actress to have an affinity towards. As often as she picks absolutely brilliant material to work with ("The Hours", "To Die For"), she also slums it quite a bit ("The Stepford Wives", "Malice"). Her career and filmography is nearly unclassifiable at this point with an assortment of genres covered from comedy ("Bewitched"), to Sci-fi/horror ("The Invasion"), to action/adventure ("The Peacemaker") to independent and more experimental fare ("Eyes Wide Shut", "Birth") and finally to the world of musicals ("Moulin Rouge"). The Australian born actress has this uncanny ability to move freely from one genre to another with the greatest of ease and although the films didn't always turn out the way one would hope for (the mantra, "Better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all" comes to mind), they were almost always interesting failures if nothing else. Even the stigma of being married to one of Hollywood's most notorious Scientologist's (Tom Cruise) and their eventual breakup wasn't enough to stop her juggernaut of a career. Heck, one might even say her quality in script choices actually increased after the two separated. Regardless of any hiccups her career has had over the years, she remains one of the finest and most reliable actresses working today. Here are the top 5 films that best represent her extensive and diverse acting career up to this point.

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Director Baz Luhrman's "Moulin Rouge" is a gorgeous film from top to bottom. From the immaculate set designs, to the dazzling costume designs, to the exciting musical numbers and the drop dead gorgeous Nicole Kidman as the oh so desirable sparking diamond of the Moulin Rouge, Satine, this WAS the movie that revitalized the Hollywood musical (forget "Chicago", which came out a year after this). It was easy to understand why Ewan McGregor became so enamored with Satine, Kidman embodied every vice a man could want in a woman. She's sexy but cute, untouchable but vulnerable, strong willed but emotionally fragile, all qualities that most dashing young men who believe in true love fawn over endlessly in their objects of desire. The way this tragic love story pulls at your heartstrings will leave a lump in throat of even the most jaded souls while also providing plenty of levity with some much needed comedic moments. Kidman and McGregor are what makes the film work though, their chemistry with one another and impressive musical talents help to create one of the most beloved musicals of modern times.  

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Gus Van Sant's "To Die For" was a game changer for Nicole Kidman's career. After playing in two lackluster films with her hubby, "Days of Thunder" and "Far and Away", it was high time she started taking on roles that didn't rely on who she was married to and the role of Suzanne Stone Maretto was the perfect gateway to freedom. Equal parts social commentary and satire, "To Die For" was a film that felt built from the ground up to showcase the many talents of Nicole Kidman that had up to that point been untapped. Sexy, seductive and dangerous, she embodied the role of the lethal siren like she was born to and with a strong supporting cast (including a then unknown Joaquin Phoenix) Kidman, like her fictional counterpart, blazed a trail to stardom that paved the way for many more challenging and rewarding roles to come.

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The scariest thing a movie can show you is nothing. Letting your imagination fill in the gaps can create endlessly more terrifying things than any creation the filmmakers could conjure up. That rule of thumb pervades this stylish and amazingly restrained haunted house movie about a woman (Nicole Kidman) and her two photo sensitive children (think of a vampire's affliction to sunlight) dealing with strange and increasingly baffling occurrences in their secluded country home during the aftermath of WW2. From the bleak setting, the enigmatic nature of the house and Kidman's stern but fearful mother figure (of whom she won a BAFTA and Golden Globe award for best actress that year), "The Others" is one of those rare scary movies that actually does scare you and will likely have you afraid of the dark for quite some time. When a film can have a scene that takes place in clear daylight and still send shivers down your spine, you know it has you and when it has you it makes sure to toy with your mind in every way imaginable until we reach the breaking point when the film's secrets are revealed and your jaw drops to the ground once one of the greatest cinematic twists ever occurs. "The Others" is a fantastically frightening film experience that draws you into its atmospheric world, takes a hold of you and never lets go and Kidman was at the top of her game.

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A classic thriller in ever sense of the word. Made well before she was a known quantity here in America, Kidman turns in a brave performance as the wife of fellow Aussie Sam Neil who is terrorized by this stranger they find adrift in the middle of the ocean they take on board and of whom is played by a frazzled but endlessly entertaining Billy Zane. Even at such a young age, Kidman showed a willingness to put herself out there for a physically and mentally demanding role. As for the film itself, it won't win any originality awards but it does a fine job of taking the classic scenario of a couple picking up a murderous hitchhiker and being relentlessly terrorized because of their kind nature and transferring it to the open sea with only Kidman, Neil and Zane on screen the entire time. Not exactly high art, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun.

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Out of all the experimental roles Kidman took on over the years, director Lars Von Trier's "Dogville" stands tall as one of the most daring performances of Kidman's career which is saying a lot when you look at her filmography. The most jarring aspect to this challenging film is how it is presented to the audience, the entire film takes place on an empty sound stage that is supposed to represent a small backwater town during the Great Depression era. There are very limited amounts of physical objects for the actors to work with, their homes, cars and general surroundings are marked with chalk on the ground. The closest comparison to the look and feel of the film is how much it resembles a stage play. There is a story as well and anyone that has a particular affinity towards revenge stories will eat this up. Kidman is the star of the show which features an assortment of great actors and her personal journey will have you on the edge of your seat with anticipation of how it will all eventually end. This is about as unconventional as films get and if you can either accept or embrace the visual style Von Trier uses, there is a very rewarding experience awaiting you on the other side.

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