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Friday
Sep282018

Happy 50th to Naomi Watts!

by Nathaniel R

the actress at Venice a month ago

Happy 50th birthday to Naomi Watts, born on this day in England. Many of us think of her as an Australian actress since that's where she first emerged but she didn't move there until she was 14. The first two movies I personally saw her in were Flirting (1991) and Tank Girl (1995). Flirting really ought to be enshrined and preserved for eternity since it gave us early looks at four enduring careers. Naomi has a small role but the three principal players are Nicole Kidman, Noah Taylor, and Thandie Newton. 

Naomi is so young in this clip of the girls "arriving" to a cross-school dance, that she's almost unrecognizable. She's the one in the pink with her hair up. But it's Nicole and Thandie that the cameras follow...

Why besties Naomi & Nicole haven't made another movie together is beyond our understanding but it's still fun to occassionally see them together at events. Last year at right about this time they were at a fashion show together.

But back to Naomi, solo.

Like many moviegoers I didn't sit up and take notice until David Lynch's failed TV pilot cum critically obsessed-over movie Mulholland Drive (2001). That surreal sapphic nightmare elevated her career to "in demand" status. Since then things have been wildly rocky for her in terms of success, even as high profile acting careers go. But for her birthday let's discuss her best work in the comments. Opinions probably vary wildly but here are my treasured handful:

05. King Kong (2005)
04. The Impossible (2012)
03. I ♥️ Huckabees (2004)
02. The Painted Veil (2006)
01. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Yours? 

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Reader Comments (45)

01 21 Grams, 2003
02 The Impossible, 2012
03 Eastern Promises, 2007
04 Funny Games, 2007
05 Fair Game, 2010

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

1. Mulholland Dr.
2. Twin Peaks: The Return
3. The Painted Veil
4. The Impossible
5. 21 Grams

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGabe

1. Mulholland Drive (some of the best acting I've ever seen)
2. Twin Peaks: The Return
3. I <3 Huckabees
4. The Impossible
5. Eastern Promises

Also, she's really been killing it on red carpets this year.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

I’m pretty sure it’s not Watts in that dance hall clip but you can definitely see her here in another NFSA clip from Flirting https://aso.gov.au/titles/features/flirting/notes/#/titles/features/flirting/clip1/

Apart from Mulholland Drive (the standout), I have a soft spot for her early role in Brides of Christ, a very good Australian TV mini series. And I’m still amused by this ad from 1989 and the Tom Cruise reference. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fH_Ar2h6Q-U

Watts deserves to be working more than she does, in better material. Perhaps a return to TV now that’s it’s no longer seen as second best?

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermsd

Pretty much agree with your top 5 (and the order). I used to be a fan of her performance in 21 Grams when the movie first came out (I think I was even rooting for her against Charlize). Sadly, I see the cracks in that performance now. She has beautiful moments in that movie, but it doesn't feel like a coherent and holistic characterization (that editing doesn't help). It's sad when a performance you used to esteem goes downhill after subsequent viewings––but whatcha gonna do?

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

All you wanted was to post that pic with Nicole. Confess!

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I've watched that clip of Flirting thrice and for the life of me still can't ~see~ Naomi in the girl with her hair up in a pink dress.

Agree with bvr about her work in 21 Grams.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMya

Bless you, Nathaniel, for thinking she's better in King Kong than 21 Grams. I thought I was the only one who feels that way.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Never liked her

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Yeah, I don’t believe Watts is in that scene, but you can see her throughout the movie: http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/5900000/Naomi-in-Flirting-naomi-watts-5951702-1280-720.jpg

Anyway, her best work by a long shot is Mulholland Dr.

1. Mulholland Drive (2001)
2. King Kong (2005)
3. Mother & Child (2009)
4. Lo Impossible (2012)
5. I ❤️ Huckabees (2004) or Ellie Parker (2001/05) — both so good

Also have a soft spot for Diana (2013), which is *not* a good film but she’s good in it. And she already has done TV (Gypsy, Twin Peaks: The Return), but maybe Kidman can throw her a bone and get her cast in an upcoming HBO limited series she’s producing. (It’s a shame The Danish Girl didn’t come to fruition with Kidman and Watts; that would’ve been something.)

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I can make a top 10:

1. Mulholland Dr.
2. 21 Grams
3. The Painted Veil
4. I ♥️ Huckabees
5. King Kong
6. The Impossible
7. Twin Peaks: The Return
8. Birdman
9. The Ring
10. Mother & Child

But she really does so many crappy movies and doesn't always fare well on the better ones.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterremy

I have a huge soft spot for Naomi Watts, I’m always rooting for her.
The Painted Veil is an underrated gem of a movie.
Might need to go back and re watch 21 Grams, because I remember her being outstanding in that, but taking in to account the above comments that might need to be reviewed.
Love her in King Kong, even though the movie is a drag. And her performance in Mullholland Drive is one of the greatest of all time.
That movie she did with Robyn Wright, where they shag each other’s sons - haha - that was a bit of a guilty pleasure.
She’s had a real run of bad luck, pretty much everything she does looks good on paper, but just never comes together.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJB

Not a big fan but have seen many of her films,she pales in star vehicles but pops in ensembles,I like her subtle work in The Painted Veil,her venom in Mother and Child,her few quieter moments in 21 Grams,I like her spunkiness and off beat choices in I Heart Huckabees,the Audition is masterclass movie moment flimmaking,She was ok in The Ring but grates in King Kong,Eastern Promises,Fair Game,Birdman and The Impossible.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

BVR I was a real Charlize fan in 2003 and agreed Watts has great moments in 21 G but all that chopping and switching around we never attach to her grief like we should so when she goes for it the "SLOW DOWN" SCENE we are left wondering "where did that come from" then we are back into a quiEter moment,it's a polarizing performance and one I can go back n forth on,watch it again in 5 yrs and see what you feel then.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Would have loved if you'd posted a clip of her "Amish bag lady" from I Heart Huckabees to juxtapose with her normal glamour. ;)

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

I believe she's the girl who points at -we assume- the guys (min 2:08)

Would kill for a film with Kidman, Watts and Newton to be quite honest.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJ.

Yorgos Lanthimos would be a good fit for her. Hope he considers her for anything in the near future.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Have you seen Ellie Parker, Nathaniel?

1. ELLIE PARKER
2. MULHOLLAND DR.
3. I HEART HUCKABEES
4. KING KONG
5. UNDERTAKING BETTY
6. FUNNY GAMES
7. TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
8. THE RING
9. 21 GRAMS
10. WE DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE

Bonus Points: As herself on BOJACK HORSEMAN

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

01. Mulholland Drive
02. 21 Grams
03. The Impossible
04. The Ring
05. King Kong

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

1. Mulholland Drive
2. The Impossible
3. I Heart Huckabee's
4. 21 Grams
5. King Kong
6. Ellie Parker
7. Persons Unknown (an obscure 1996 film that needs to be seen)
8. We Don't Live Here Anymore
9. The Ring
10. Undertaking Betty

I'm still waiting for that film with Nic and Naomi together. Hopefully it's a buddy comedy set in Australia.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I would love to see her in more major films.... without Kidman!

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrdg

Her audition scene in Mulholland Drive is immortal. One of the best scenes in film history and an acting masterclass. Will never forget watching that for the first time.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Lately, I feel like she gets the hand-me-downs of roles that Nicole, Julianne, and Cate pass on, but she deserves better!

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

What? She seriously does not look a day older than 30. Geez, Hollywood is making old people look younger and younger everyday. Seriously, Susan Sarandon looks like she's in her late 40s.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

she is absurdly great in Mullholland Drive, The Painted Veil + King Kong.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Agreed, Aaron - simply stunning. And maintains it on rewatches.

Happy Birthday to Naomi Watts - one of the actresses I'm most fond of, and may her career go from strength to strength.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I would love if she could speaks French, Spanish and German fluently, because think in...

Almodóvar
Claire Denis (in foreign language films)
Haneke (in foreign language films)
Pablo Larraín (in foreign language films)

directing her? She deserves a lot better!

My favorite performances of her (and my Oscar noms and wins*)

01. Mullholand Drive
02. 21 Grams*
03. King Kong
04. Eastern Promisses
05. The Impossible*
06. Twin Peaks: The Return
07. J. Edgar

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJon

Her and Laura Dern were terrific in We Don’t Live Here Anymore

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterParanoid Android

Mulholland Drive, I Heart Huckabees, Brides of Brides... I've still never seen The Painted Veil.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

1. Muholland Drive
2. Muholland Drive, still
3. Huckabees
4. Birdman... guys, she's great in this! Why isn't it on more lists?!
5. Twin Peaks

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

My birthday wish for Naomi Watts is a Helen Mirren-style renaissance in her 60s.

Remember, Mirren was a two-time Supporting Actress nominee (and mostly TV actress) when Hollywood decided to anoint her as a great "overdue" cinematic talent—with nothing resembling a worthy filmography to back it up. Watts has two Best Actress nominations, Best Picture appearances, Mulholland Drive, and plenty of amazing indie credits on her resume. She's the real deal and the industry remembers it periodically.

The lower profile suits her. She disappears into roles more easily than some of the A-List women listed above.

September 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

I thought she was 35. Still has so much potential.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJono

she's mediocre at best

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

I hope that:

Darren Aronofsky
David Fincher
Kathryn Bigelow
Alfonso Cuaron
Andrew Haigh
Andrea Arnold

writes a kick ass role for Watts

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Mother and Child is such a beautiful film. Loved her in Birdman as well.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

My top 5:

1. The Painted Veil (love this movie!!!)
2. Eastern Promises
3. Fair Game
4. I ♥️ Huckabees
5. 21 Grams

She is quite a stealth wonder. Didn't realize I loved so many of her performances until making this ranking.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterV.

1. Mulholland Drive (yes, the audition scene is magic. Naomi has publicly described it as such and she speaks truth :)
2. Ellie Parker (I have to revisit this film, it's so funny and centered around such an original character - Naomi should do comedy like this more often. Should've at least been a comedy Globe nominee.)
3. Birdman (this movie is the definition of electric and her presence only adds to the electricity)
4. Funny Games (a frightening horror film - I had to sleep with the lights on after I watched it - she plays terror perfectly).

She has such a natural, sweet, wounded vulnerability to her presence...I would love to see her play the opposite of that more often. I want some more fun, bitchy divas and camp villains.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

It was The Ring that brought her to my attention, but my favorite performances from her are Mulholland Dr., Birdman, King Kong, I Heart Huckabees, and The Impossible.

Weird that four of those feature her playing an actress.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

1. 21 Grams
2. Mulholland Drive
3. Mother & Child
4. The Impossible
5. The Painted Veil

Watts consistently excels, bringing a raw naturalism to her performances.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

She's an odd case for me. I think she's miraculous in Mulholland Drive, and I consider her work in that one to be one of my favorite performances by anyone. But outside of that I think she's very hit-and-miss. I didn't think she was all that convincing in 21 Grams (way over-the-top in spots, and it doesn't help that I dislike the movie itself), and a lot of times I think she's fine but doesn't necessarily add (or detract) from the movies she's in (I felt that way about her in Birdman, for example).But then sometimes she's excellent in so-so movies (like King Kong).

Anyway, she seems to work regularly and there's no signs of her slowly down, so hats off to her. My favorites performances of hers are:

* Mulholland Drive
* King Kong
* Mother and Child
* The Impossible

I thought she was terrific in those. Beyond that I'm not sure there's anything else I really loved her in. In fairness, I have not seen "The Painted Veil" or "I Heart Huckabees," which people seem to really like her in.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

1. 21 Grams
2. King Kong
3. The Ring
4. The Painted Veil
5. The Impossible

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

I absolutely love her in The Painted Veil, Birdman, and King Kong. Thinking about her in those three movies makes me want to rewatch them.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

She is so great in King Kong that I think Peter Jackson deliberately cast actors ill-suited for their roles (Black and Brody) so her interaction with Kong would seem more meaningful.

Also I agree that people aren't talking about Birdman enough. Honestly, I'd give her the award over everyone nominated. It was a weak lineup of nominees, but still.

September 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom G.

1. The Impossible
2. Fair Game
3. Birdman
4. Mother and Child
5. While We're Young

I regrettably haven't seen Mulholland Drive yet.

September 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJuan Carlos Ojano

happy to see the love for BIRDMAN which was just outside this top five of mine. it's such a great movie top to bottom with every actor slaying their roles.

September 30, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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