Daily Daydream: Favorite Actresses

A while back, I started wondering about actresses. My wondering turned into a couple hours of casual analysis and deliberation. I feel like I've seen enough movies now that I should be able to make a thoughtful, informed determination of my preferences. Still, it turns out that picking favorite actresses is quite a bit more difficult for me than picking favorite male actors. I don't seem to have as strong of an opinion on any one in particular and there are no clear favorites of mine. So how do I decide which actresses are my favorite? What criteria are most important to me for constructing this list of starlets? Perhaps the actresses I see most often are the ones that I like the best? Or should I consider the ones that I find most attractive? Although, when rating actresses, shouldn't actual acting ability be the defining measure? I explore each category below. 

Based on Volume

Maybe the actresses that I see most often in movies or shows are my favorite. Could it be that I am drawn to these actresses and subconsciously seek out their works? If that's the case, then my list top actresses would look something like this:

1. Jennifer Aniston - No show will ever top Friends in my heart. I've watched each and every episode a countless number of times. While Aniston's character, Rachel, wasn't my favorite of the bunch (that title belongs to the one and only, Baby Kangaroo Tribbiani) I honestly think that her and David Schwimmer put on the strongest acting performances and not just because they were the "main characters". Her expressions, inflections, nuances and comedic timing were consistently great and I feel that she handled the more serious scenes the most convincingly. Meanwhile, Perry (Chandler), Kudrow (Pheobe), Cox (Monica), and LeBlanc (Joey) each had a few of their own relatively weighty plot-lines and generally failed to impress. 

2. Amy Poehler - Star of Parks and Rec. Poehler, in my opinion, was the most consistently strong character in the series, especially in the later seasons. Lofty praise considering a cast that boasts fan favorites Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaze, Chris Pratt, and Rob Lowe. Through 7 seasons of Parks and Rec, I've seen more of Poehler than any other actress save for the ladies of Friends

3. Michelle Monaghan - This one came as a surprise to me. But she happens to be in so many of my favorite films: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Mission Impossible III, Gone Baby Gone, Source Code and HBO's True Detective.

4. Scarlett Johansson - As it turns out, Scarlett starred in one of the first movies I had ever seen in theaters: Perfect Score. However, it was so long ago that I had absolutely no idea that she was in it since I had no idea who she was at the time (to be fair, she wasn't yet famous). A year later, still oblivious to who she was, I saw her again during family movie night in In Good Company. So I was "familiar" with Johansson before I even knew her name. Considering her extensive filmography, I guess it makes sense that I would accidentally stumble upon a couple of her performances in my youth.  She was in The Prestige and Her, a couple of my favorites and her recent work as Black Widow in the Avengers series has been highly enjoyable to say the least. 

The thing is, even though I like Aniston, she alone is certainly not the reason I love Friends. Additionally, only one of her movies, Office Space, is in my list of favorites (and she plays a relatively minor part). Similarly, with Poehler, I don't think I can justify placing her in my list of top actresses for just one role.  Meanwhile, while it is true that Monaghan is in an impressive number of my favorite movies, I've decided that she contributes very little to my affection for those movies. When I think of those films, she's an after-thought. Her roles, though significant, are forgettable. As for Johansson, I distinctly remember Perfect Score and In Good Company as being quite bad despite my considerably lower standards at the time. Still, her impressive body of work since then earns her some points. We'll see. 

Based on Looks

What about looks? It's certainly a factor. Still, I'm hesitant to put too much weight in such a shallow category.

Emma Watson - Everybody's gaga about her and, for once, I totally get it. She's gorgeous and classily so.  I like that she seems kind and intelligent and that she carries herself with grace and dignity.

Carey Mulligan - Slightly less obvious pick but I've always felt she was pretty since first seeing her in Drive. Bonus points for being well-regarded in terms of her acting ability.

Rashida Jones - Thought she was really cute in I Love You Man. It's a shame that her character in Parks and Rec was mostly a waste of screen time in the later seasons. 

Rachel McAdams - Not a fan of Mean Girls (don't really understand the love for it) but I really like the roles she's been taking lately. I thought Midnight in Paris was decent and About Time was charming and delightful. 

I think she looks cute with bangs!

I think she looks cute with bangs!

 

Based on Acting

You would think that the most important criterion for determining my favorite actresses would be their ability to, you know, act. But in truth, I think that, once above a certain threshold (the line between average and truly terrible), I have trouble identifying and fully appreciating really good acting. There are times when a particular performance stands out and distinguishes itself in my mind but, for the most part, any decent acting job earns an A in my book. With that in mind, I let each actress' list of accolades determine the front runners for this category. 

Meryl Streep - Pretty much unanimously regarded as the best actress alive with 19 Oscar nominations and 3 wins. The next living actress with the most nominations is Judi Dench with 7 nominations and 1 win. 

Kate Winslet - Youngest person to acquire 6 Academy Award nominations.

Julianne Moore - The most recent Oscar winner for her role in Still Alice.

Amy Adams - 5 Oscar nominations and the actress whom I am the most familiar with of this bunch. 


And the Joshua goes to...

In the end, I decided that the most important factor to me, in regards to choosing my favorite actresses, is my enjoyment of the roles and characters she plays. Acting ability, attractiveness (including personality), and volume are also considered but I need to have a special fondness for the characters that they portray. So, without further ado, here is my current personal list of favorite actresses. 

Joshua Award for Favorite Actress

Anna Kendrick 

I think I'm in like with you. 

I think I'm in like with you. 

I've actually been asked before whether I like Kendrick. I think my response was that, while I like her, I wasn't crazy about her. As it turns out, she tops my list of favorite actresses. I've liked her in every movie that I've seen her in, big role or small. She was great in Up in the Air, adorable in 50/50, and showed off her pipes in Pitch Perfect. Even in her smaller roles in End of Watch and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, I felt that she was charming and delightful. 

On top of that, she's pretty, talented (besides starring in movies, she sings, she dances, performs in theater, and does voice acting), and I like her personality and sense of humor. To me, she seems really cool and fun. Distinguished with a penchant for goofiness, chill with a hint of sass. 

Favorite Role: 50/50

 

Amy Adams 

With 5 Academy nominations, she's one of the best actresses in the game right now. From Enchanted to Doubt, girl's got range. I like that she does all kinds of movies both silly and serious and pretty much everything in between. I thought she was one of the highlights of American Hustle and I quite enjoyed her smaller part in Her

Favorite Role: American Hustle

 

Anne Hathaway

What a long way she's come since The Princess Diaries. Since then, she's earned a reputation as an excellent actress; she is one of just 23 people to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Critics Choice Award for a single role (Les Miserables). I thought she was stellar in Interstellar and I really enjoyed her in Get Smart, a pleasurable and slightly underrated action comedy. 

I have very little love for The Dark Knight Rises, but it did have its moments. This is one of my favorite scenes and I think Hathaway was quite good in her portrayal of Selina Kyle. However, after all this time, I'm not at all ashamed to admit that my favorite film of hers is still The Devil Wears Prada

Favorite Role: The Devil Wears Prada

 

Scarlett Johansson

I really don't think I'm as high on Johansson as many others seem to be. I spoke about her a little in a previous section and my impression of her has been mixed. Coming into this, I never thought Johansson would make my list of favorite actresses. However, I can't deny that I happen to really enjoy a lot of the characters she plays, especially recently. She was great in Lost in Translation, captivating in Her, and kicked all kinds of ass in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Seriously, the Black Widow is almost certainly the best super heroine in the history of Hollywood. In addition, I enjoyed her in The Prestige, one of my favorites movie ever, and her small role in Chef was a delightful cherry on top. 

Favorite Role: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Also considered: Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Rose Byrne, Tina Fey, Natalie Portman, Zhang Ziyi, Keira Knightley


There you have it. The Joshuas have been handed out and my daydream has been concluded. Many of these picks were surprises to me- I feel like I learned a little about myself and I had a lot of fun doing so!