For this week’s recommendations, I thought we’d take a look at the movies starring Oscar-winning actress, Natalie Portman.
Just in case you don’t know who that is, here’s a brief summary for you; Natalie Portman is an Israeli-born American actress. She has had an extensive career in film since her teenage years and starred in various blockbusters and independent films, receiving multiple accolades such as an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Portman began her acting career at age twelve, when she starred as the young protégée of a hitman in the action drama film Léon: The Professional (1994). While in high school, she made her Broadway debut in a 1998 production of The Diary of a Young Girl and gained international recognition for starring as Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).
Now without further ado, this week’s recommendations:
- V for Vendetta (2005) Directed by James McTeigue
V for Vendetta is a dystopian political action film from a screenplay by the Wachowskis. The film is set in a future where a fascist totalitarian regime has subjugated the UK. It centers on V (portrayed by Hugo Weaving), an anarchist and masked freedom fighter who attempts to ignite a revolution through elaborate terrorist acts, and Evey Hammond (portrayed by Natalie Portman) a young woman caught up in V’s mission. Stephen Rea portrays a detective leading a desperate quest to stop V.
V for Vendetta is a thought-provoking, insightful look at the political world. Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman are fantastic as V and Evey, and in my opinion, this is the film to watch that really highlights how impactful and skilled an actor Natalie Portman is.
2. Black Swan (2010) Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
The film stars Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder, and revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet by the New York City Ballet company. The production requires a ballerina to play the innocent and fragile White Swan, for which the committed dancer Nina Sayers (Portman) is a perfect fit, as well as the dark and sensual Black Swan, which are qualities better embodied by the new rival Lily (Kunis). Nina is overwhelmed by a feeling of immense pressure when she finds herself competing for the role, causing her to lose her tenuous grip on reality and descend into madness.
This is the film that earned Portman her Academy Award for Best Actress. Black Swan is gripping from the start and personally, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen for the duration of the movie. The story is superb and Portman’s portrayal of Nina is incredible. The chemistry between Portman and Kunis really drives the story along and shows how physically, mentally, and emotionally straining to be a professional dancer can be. As well as showcasing lengths people will go to when competing for a job/role.
3. The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) Directed by George Lucas.
The trilogy consists of Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). The films follow the training of the powerful youth Anakin Skywalker (the father of the original trilogy protagonists Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa) as a Jedi under the tutelage of Jedi Masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, his fall to the dark side of the Force, and rebirth as Darth Vader. The trilogy also depicts the corruption of the Galactic Republic, the annihilation of the Jedi Order, and the rise of the Empire under the secret Sith Lord and future Galactic Emperor Palpatine.
While I, myself prefer the Original Trilogy of Star Wars, I think that the Prequels add depth to Vadar’s character, and does an excellent job of setting up the story of the Original Trilogy. Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi is a stand-out performance, and while Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s portrayals of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala, respectively, were met with mixed reviews, their chemistry is very believable, and that makes the audience more invested with their character’s story.
4. Mars Attacks! (1996) Directed by Tim Burton.
Mars Attacks! is a comic science-fiction movie based on a popular trading card game of the same name. It was released theatrically by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on December 13, 1996, and received mixed reviews from critics. The film grossed approximately $101 million in box office totals, which was seen as a disappointment. But since then the film has gained a cult cinema following and is considered an unintentional spoof of Independence Day, which came out the same year, because of how close the plot of both movies are.
Mars Attacks! is what I would call, a ‘mindless comedy’, in that you don’t need to think about the plot, character development, or any of that in-depth stuff, but just sit back and close your mind and enjoy the light-hearted funniness that Tim Burton seems to have a knack at doing.
5. Garden State (2004) Directed by Zach Braff.
Garden State is a 2004 American romantic comedy-drama film, written and directed by Zach Braff and starring Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ian Holm. The film centers on Andrew Largeman (Braff), a 26-year-old actor/waiter who returns to his hometown in New Jersey after his mother dies. Braff based the film on his real-life experiences. It was filmed in April and May 2003 and released on July 28, 2004. New Jersey was the main setting and primary shooting location.
Garden State is a heartfelt tale of mental illness, grieving, and self-acceptance. The message is incredibly powerful and is completely unexpected from Braff, who is most notable for his comedy roles, and although there are funny moments throughout the film, they are perfectly timed to not take away but to enhance the main themes of the story. I would recommend Garden State to people who are looking for an emotional outlet, or a more ‘profound’ storyline.
6. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Directed by Wes Anderson.
The film stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Schwartzman as three estranged brothers who agree to meet in India a year after their father’s funeral for a “spiritual journey” aboard a luxury train. The cast also includes Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan, Barbet Schroeder, Anjelica Huston with Natalie Portman, Camilla Rutherford, Irrfan Khan, and Bill Murray in cameo roles.
If you are a fan of Wes Anderson, I highly recommend this movie. It is funny and heartfelt, whilst also feeling familiar and relatable. Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman have incredible chemistry, and the relationship between the trio is very brotherly and convincing. The Darjeeling Limited is funny, emotional, and promotes acceptance in one’s self, others, and situations beyond our control.
7. Jackie (2016) Directed by Pablo Larraín.
Jackie is a 2016 biographical drama film directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Noah Oppenheim. The film stars Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy. Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and John Hurt also star; it was Hurt’s final film released in his lifetime before his death in January 2017. The film follows Kennedy in the days when she was First Lady in the White House and her life immediately following the assassination of her husband, United States President John F. Kennedy, in 1963. It is partly based on Theodore H. White’s Life magazine interview with the widow at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in November 1963.
Portman was again nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the titular character, being beaten out of the award by Emma Stone. Anyone who knows anything about Jackie Kennedy will know that this movie will be emotional, and it is. With themes including grief, suicide, miscarriage, murder, and drug use, it is not for people in the mood for something fun or light-hearted. Portman’s performance is exceptional, and the film sheds some much-needed light on what happened to the former First Lady in the direct, and later aftermath of her husband’s assassination.