Top Ten Tuesday: BEST OF NATALIE PORTMAN – We Are Movie Geeks



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Natalie Portman has been cleaning up at the Awards Shows this year for her role in BLACK SWAN. With her new film NO STRINGS ATTACHED opening this week, we figured it’s about time to pay tribute to one of Hollywood’s’ most notable actresses.



“I guess it wasn’t the dove”. MARS ATTACKS! was based on a crazy pack of bubble gum trading cards from the 1950’s that featured exploitative gore not tolerated in films of the time — people burned alive, trembling women ‘threatened’ by nihilistic, gleefully violent skull-headed Martians — you know, the subtle approach. The movie reruns the alien invasion playbook as it might be envisioned by Mad magazine, zeroing in on the formula with inspired anarchy. Natalie Portman is part of a truly ridiculous ensemble cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Pam Grier, Tom Jones, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s head on the body of a dog (it’s usually the other way around). Natalie plays unimpressed First Daughter Taffy who has one of the funniest lines in the film and, when the dust finally settles, stands as the only semi-official personage left alive in the Federal Government.


Natalie Portman plays the employee of a magical toy store in 2007’s whimsical MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM. Co-starring alongside Dustin Hoffman, who plays the eccentric 243 year old Mr. Edward Magorium (think Gene Wilder’s WILLY WONKA), Portman is Molly Mahoney, a young women who feels like her life is at a standstill by working at a toy shop. Portman convincingly comes across as young person filled with self-doubt who only needs a push to prove to herself that “she was something more than she believed.” With her string of dramas like V FOR VENDETTA, CLOSER and GOYA’S GHOSTS, it was enchanting to see Portman in a kid’s movie.


The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Portman’s performance has the range and depth unlike anything she’s done before. In THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, Natalie Portman truly shows it by playing the ill-fated 2nd wife to Henry VIII played with such cruelty by Eric Bana. The monarch takes Anne Boleyn as his new wife when his current spouse, Catherine of Aragon, is unable to bear him a son and heir to the throne. When she’s unable to perform the same required job, all the ambitiously calculating schemes ultimately cost the queen her head.


Teenage pregnancy has become pretty darn glorified this past year… (Thanks MTV). In WHERE THE HEART IS, Natalie Portman plays a 17 year old who, after finding out that she is pregnant, decides to run away to California with her boyfriend. Well, big surprise, he’s a jerk and abandons her at a small town Wal-Mart. With no money and no place to go, she secretly lives inside of the Wal-Mart until her baby is born, and though the kindness of strangers, builds a brand new life for herself. This film is based off of the book WHERE THE HEART IS, which was a national best-seller. Kudos Miss. Portman, for making a pregnant teenager actually look responsible, rather than like the spoiled brats on tv today!


In installation six of the series, although numbered three, pregnant Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) is leading the fight against the Separatist galactic civil war along with the Jedi Council. She is secretly married and with child, while her husband, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen), is constantly away on the campaign against the Separatists. She proves once again she is a strong independent woman, but filled with love and compassion, and not just for her family, but the whole galaxy. Portman displays a grown married woman evolved from the once pouty young queen she played in STAR WARS:EPISODE I-THE PHANTOM MENACE. Her devotion leads her on a quest to save her husband and unborn, but ultimately proves futile in the end of the film and thus bridges a large gap in story lines that started back in 1977.


Albeit it a small part, Portman’s portrayal of the young widow Sara in Anthony Minghella’s 2006 Civil War drama COLD MOUNTAIN is unforgettable. Trying to protect herself and little baby, Sara befriends a confederate soldier (Jude Law) seeking refuge from the Union Army. Portman is resolute in displaying the inner strength of this frightened woman to do what she must when attacked by the Union soldiers even it means killing them. You’ll find yourself totally empathizing with her ultimate choice.


THE PROFESSIONAL may be one of Natalie Portman’s earliest performances, but don’t let her age fool you. Portman plays a young girl named Mathilda, orphaned from her abusive, drug-addicted family by a corrupt cop (Gary Oldman) and his posse of thugs. Despite his better judgment, an assassin named Leon (Jean Reno) takes Mathilda in and protects her. As it turns out, Leon is actually a kind, gentle man beneath the killer exterior, but Mathilda is drawn to revenge and convinces Leon to teach her the ways of the assassin. Together, Reno and Portman shine magnificently, but on her own, Portman proves she has the acting chops at an early age. One minute she’s young and innocent, the next she’s cold and heartless, but always a child forced to mature at a rate more demanding of a child than anyone should ever ask.


After taking a trip to the somewhat optimistic universe of George Lucas’s Star Wars, Natalie traveled into the dark world of the Wachowski brothers (via writer Alan Moore) in James McTeigue’s 2006’s film version of the graphic novel V FOR VENDETTA. Unlike the swingin’ London of CLOSER, this is the capitol of a futuristic fascist state. Evey is returning home from her job on a TV show when she is attacked by the State Police. Luckily she’s rescued by the masked anarchist avenger known only as V (Hugo Weaving). Soon Evey befriends the man in the Guy Fawkes masks and returns with him to his underground lair-shades of Batman and the Phantom of the Opera! Eventually Evey aids V by dressing up as an innocent school girl (almost a nod to THE PROFESSIONAL ) to tempt a corrupt priest and gain more info to topple the government. Evey’s access to the sanctioned TV channel allows V to humiliate the Chancellor live on air. At the end Evey helps V carry out his final plan to destroy the Parliament. Though the film initially gained press by Natalie’s commitment ot her role (She shaved her head! For real!! ), it stands as one of the better movie adaptations of a comic book story. Natalie’s next film taken from the comics (she’s Jane Foster in THOR) will have a lot to live up to.


While many dramas concern themselves with the conflicts in a romantic triangle, CLOSER is a rare film about a romantic rectangle. Natalie is one of the angles in Mike Nichols’s 2004 film along with Jude law, Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts. We first meet Alice ( or is it Jane? ) walking down a London street flashing a smile at Dan ( Jude ) right before she’s struck by a car. She’s still flashing that smile while lying on the ground as Dan tends to her injuries. That’s quite a spin on the movie “meet cute”. After they hook up, we learn that she’s relocated in the UK after a bad split in NYC. She becomes the subject of a novel by Dan and continues working as a waitress with a side job at a strip club. Then Dan meets up with photog Anna (Julia) and things go right to Hell. Soon Dan and Alice break up and she’s hooking up with Anna’s hubby Larry (Clive) at a “gentleman’s club”. After a couple more twists and turns she re-connects to Dan, but it’s not to be. The film’s final moments concern the mystery around Alice/Jane. Natalie may not be that convincing as an exotic dancer, but she holds her own with this impressive cast while sporting a great variety of multi-color wigs.


GARDEN STATE, written and directed by Zach Braff, who also plays Andrew Largeman the friend/love interest of Sam (Natalie Portman), creates quirky and lovable characters both of them. She is a very believable pathological liar with a neurological disorder that meets Andrew in the doctor’s office. The audience gets pulled into this peculiar scenario of the meeting, friendship, and minor journeys they take together. Portman moves throughout this film as if she has always played a character like Sam, in the same situations and same odd living conditions. The weird and strangely wonderful attraction of the two characters does not seem so outlandish because of her ownership of the role of Sam and his genuine portrayal of Andrew. The film leaves you with a fairly open interpretation, but a satisfactory sense of closure and happiness.


BLACK SWAN marks Natalie Portman’s greatest performance to date, drawing upon her subtlety and innocent charm – despite what many of us know to be a deviant side, as displayed in a certain music video. We get that there’s something not quite right about her character Nina, but it’s through a carefully regulated flow that her true condition emerges. Meanwhile, the audience is introduced to Nina, slowly revealing the fragile side of her persona. By the time we first get a glimpse of what she hides, the metamorphosis is already under way. Portman manages to succeed in the handful of humorous scenes, as awkward as they may be, as well as the scenes intended to creep the viewer out, showing she and director Darren Aronofsky were working in sync to create this fascinating film.