For all of Straight Outta Compton's many (and I do mean many) fine performances, it became difficult to recognize any of the onscreen talent with my movie list of the month considering their careers are just beginning to blossom. Therefore, I had to look to the cast's veteran performer, Paul Giamatti, as my source material for August's Movie List of the Month (check out July's list). Throwing out the disclaimer that I haven't seen a notable indie film from Giamatti's past, American Splendor, here's my take on the greatest performances from the talented actor.
Honorable Mention: Love & Mercy (Dr. Eugene Landy), Private Parts (Kenny aka "Pig Vomit") and Straight Outta Compton (Jerry Heller)
#5. Barney's Version
While I admittedly enjoyed Paul Giamatti's title role performance in Richard J. Lewis' comedy, Barney's Version, much more than the entire film itself, the casting ultimately landed Giamatti his first Golden Globe victory in a motion picture category. The film tells the odd story of a rugged tv producer who reflects on his life's successes and failures as he counts down to the twilight of his own existence. Giamatti captures the essence of Barney Panofsky wonderfully even though the film finds itself tragically over-extended.
#4. The Ides of March
In what's unquestionably the smallest role on the list, I refused to ignore Giamatti's diabolical character in George Clooney's compelling political thriller, The Ides of March. Giamatti's limited face time on screen only enhances the dirty antics of his rival campaign manager character, Tom Duffy. The Ides of March is a fantastic and cynical examination of the modern political game that impresses greatly with the aid of Giamatti's ruthless portrayal.
It's fair to say that 2004 put Paul Giamatti on the map when he starred as Miles in Alexander Payne's Oscar darling Sideways. Although his co-star and comedic presence, Thomas Haden Church, managed to land a best Supporting Actor nomination from the Academy, Giamatti walked away empty handed that year and had to settle for topping all of the major "biggest snubs" lists. Nonetheless, his iconic work as a middle-aged struggling writer who unknowingly embarks on a journey of self discovery through the California wine country with his best friend will certainly stand the test of time.
#2. Cinderella Man
Following his disappointing awards season for Sideways, Giamatti rebounded in grand fashion with the 2005 role of Joe Gould in Ron Howard's boxing drama, Cinderella Man. While many will argue that Giamatti's first and only Oscar nomination as a Best Supporting Actor in the film came on the coattails of his snub the year prior, I'd argue that this performance is far more memorable. As the boxing coach of former boxing champion, James J. Braddock (portrayed onscreen by Russell Crowe), Giamatti delivers a heartfelt performance in one of the best underdog films in recent memory.
#1. Win Win
And finally, my favorite Paul Giamatti performance comes from the underrated and exceptionally honest 2011 family drama, Win Win. Starring as Mike Flaherty, a struggling suburban lawyer and high school wrestling coach who finds himself in a complicated situation when the grandson of his elderly incapacitated client moves into his family's home. Mike is shocked to discover the teenager's historic talents for wrestling and learns the hard way what it means to be a good father and a real role model. Win Win is such a down to earth and overlooked film that shines ultra-bright thanks to an unforgettable turn by the always wonderful Paul Giamatti.