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« Oscar Narrows the Documentary Feature Field | Main | AFI Top Ten: No "Coco", Yes "Wonder Woman" »
Thursday
Dec072017

The New York Times' Great Performers' Shorts, Ranked

by Ilich Mejia

Every year, The New York Times Magazine picks their greatest performers of the year. This year's top ten each got to star in their own silent, "Horror Show" themed short. Italian-Canadian photographer Floria Sigismondi directed the group as characters that wouldn't be out of place in Beyoncé's haunted house. Hopefully next year, the magazine will branch out and recognize some of television's equally terrific performances. Check out the spooky standouts after the cut...

10 Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project) in The Demon Child

 

We'll start with Prince. Maybe too cute to really sell demonic, but she sells that final jump scare! 

09 Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger) in The Damned

 

In Jake's defense, this is better than most things he did in Okja!

08 Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) in The Cannibal

Have we talked about how well Timothée wears clothes? This one doesn't rest on pretty. Will be fun to watch him experiment with his style once Elio's heartbreak takes him out of Italy and into Hollywood's biggest red carpets. Also good to see he's working on breaking through that manhood here.

07 Daniela Vega (Una Mujer Fantástica) in The Vampire

Can you say someone was underused in a one minute short? Luckily I don't need your permission because I'll say it: Daniela was transcendent in Sebastian Lelio's Mujer Fantástica because of how devastating her face can be and we barely see it in this clip! Something's off when I'm complimenting the Christmas tree in the horror film.

06 Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) in The Mannequin

The make-up and hair team did such a great job with most of these, but I haven't decided if it's genius or lazy that they slapped a wig cap on Saoirse and called her a mannequin. Her eyes and the sound editing team certainly pick up that scalp slack.

05 Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) in The Psycho Killer

Kaluuya, after being given clear instructions to run not walk, has not yet learned his lesson and is still hanging around white girls. He works a close-up magnetically in Get Out and is almost as good in his clip. Prada should be texting his team right now because, despite being covered in blood and agony, he sure sold every thread of that killer costume. 

04 Cynthia Nixon (A Quiet Passion) in The Ghost Bride

Nixon has the campiest set up, but she grounds it with her bride's genuine disorientation. Tyra Banks would be proud of how much emoting she's showing through a cloudy veil. It's also very kind of Nixon to give us a preview of what will haunt our houses if we don't wed her to an Oscar soon.

03 Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) in The Macabre Dancer

Brilliantly, energy-contagion and renowned raconteur Tiffany Haddish injects comedy into her piece without losing the fright. That poor skeleton has no idea she has a grapefruit hiding inside that gramophone... 

02 Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes) in The Demented Clown

A master body linguist, Serkis interacts with his props in the most twisted way. He proves here he's just as great selling a story without all the CGI that normally envelops him on screen. We don't know if it's scarier if there is a baby in that stroller or not, but our next nightmare will answer that soon enough.

01 Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled) in The Possessed

Kidman does the most with a familiar set up—reminescent of Andrzej Żuławski's Possession. They could have added a handful of adjectives to this short's title: aroused, afraid, delighted, irate. Rolling around in a puddle of eggs should be up there with doing your own stunts. What makes Kidman an often-complimented collaborator and an energizing presence on screen is her discreet awareness of what the camera sees her do. She doesn't let the camera see everything, but she sets herself up in front of it so the viewer can have enough information to—sometimes comfortably, sometimes not—decide how they feel about the characters she creates. Here, in The Beguiled, in Big Little Lies, and in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, she's given us enough to decide she's one of the greats.

Whose short should be adapted into a feature film ASAP? I wouldn't mind seeing the horror/comedy/romance flick that Tiffany and that skeleton are teasing.

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Reader Comments (18)

I thought Jake was great in Okja.

Kind of wish they’d revert to photos only since I’ve found every year of videos underwhelming — the only one that stands out is James Franco’s.

December 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

I always thought this concept they created was stupid as fuck, but this one is better than the one they did in the aughts (with Bardem, Damon, Portman, Douglas, etc).

December 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Gylenhaal and Kidman's shorts were both awkward and terribly acted. That was painful. What are you seeing tthat I'm not?

December 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

All I could think about while watching these embarrassing clips was that there's people dying of starvation in the world and here they are, spending money to create these conceptually ridiculous videos that could have come from the universe the movie Ghost World satirizes through Roberta (amazing Illeana Douglas)'s art class. Only Kidman comes out unscathed, but does she really need to subject herself to this?

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterart

That's .... not a SPOILER about "Call Me By Your Name".... is it....?

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Jake Gyllenhaal can be very good given the right material, but something about his acting style that bugs me sometimes. You can always see how much effort he puts into it. It works sometimes, other times it's distracting for me.

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterguest

Kidman demanded to support Trump after he was elected, but Sarandon got all the shit instead, especially from you Nathaniel. Why is that?

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMamacita Pfeiffer

@Mamacita Pfeiffer - She didn't support Trump. She said she believes in democracy and therefore she accepts Trump as POTUS. The interview was created in November 2016, but released in January 2017. She has previously supported and donated to Clinton's campaigns.

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterWhat could have been

Kidman is not good in this. Nobody can beat Adjani, but Rosamund Pike came much closer.

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Are these shorts vanity projects? Because they're hella weird in a very wealthy, upper-crust New York art scene kind of way.

Cynthia Nixon is giving me Beetlejuice 2049 in her clip. Glad to see her (and Haddish and Vega) recognized.

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I loved Kidman's too. It reminded me of her go-for-broke performance in "The Paperboy." The peach fuzz on Chalamet's lip is kind of funny. I'd love to see him as Laurie in a remake of "Little Women." He's reminding me of Christian Bale in his youth.

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Why is her friend James Wan not building an entire horror franchise around Kidman.

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterUKmg

The Vampire and The Mannequin did it best for me. Vega does so much emotionally with so comparatively little. And as a dancer I thought Ronan's movement was hella impressive. (Also you should look up Jaja Vankova to see Ronan's movement style done to perfection.)

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKJ

I'm surprised at all these comments. ;)

I'm happy to see Kidman mentioned as I thought she was nom-worthy in Sacred Deer and also very good in the Beguiled. Also, Cynthia! I hope she gets a mention somewhere along the line, and Kristen Stewart, too. I'm surprised they haven't been in the conversation at all (or Jennifer Elle for that matter, re: Quiet Passion).

December 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDavid S.

Mamacita -- out of curiousity because people keep projecting wildly all over me (you're not alone), I did a search for susan sarandon on this site. I haven't mentioned her much at all and haven't been trashing her (the most mentions are from several write ups of FEUD which I thought she was good in and a long retrospective of THELMA & LOUISE in which she is pure genius in). I did not write this article as it indicates at the top. so here we are again people projecting things on to me because they want to be mad at me.

So a quick fact check
do i like Susan Sarandon's politics? No.
do i trash regularly all the time at the site? No.

find something else to be mad about. it aint hard if you want to be mad all the time.

and please stop lying about Nicole Kidman who has never "demanded" that we support Trump.She just made one of those innocuous generic comments everyone makes around election time "we should support our elected leaders blah blah blah" and the timing or when her comments aired was bad and maybe she was naive (as so many wealthy people seem to be about the way our politicians hurt us) but i dont need to be mad at everyone when they make a mistake. we're all human.

I'm done with anger. especially other people's anger. it's boring and it divides people. Unless people are using their anger to motivate themselves out of complacency or rally to fight evil I have absolutely no use for it anymore. it's poison.

December 8, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Preferred the Burberry ad.every time.

December 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJKD

I thought Chalamet's was one of the best. I love Kidman, and her short was mesmerizing, but I wanted more specificity.

December 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

well said, Nathaniel!!!

FO, Mamacita

December 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMONTAGE

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