1. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
I hate to go for the obvious, Oscar-nominated choice, but De Niro really is terrific in David O. Russell's twitchy romantic comedy, playing a presumably undiagnosed sufferer of OCD and father to a bipolar guy (Bradley Cooper) struggling to keep it together. The nagging, nudging mannerisms of late-period De Niro are perfect for this character, who retreats into rituals, routines, and superstitions in a life that ultimately he can't really, truly control. Some fans have mourned De Niro's suspended collaboration with Martin Scorsese (which may be rekindled in the next year or two), but his relationship with Russell (extending to a TV series they're currently working on) has its own pleasures in the development of De Niro as an older supporting actor. Of course, nearly everyone who has followed his career would prefer more Silver Linings than Dirty Grandpas in his future. But not following his most recent Oscar nomination with more awards bait fits the sense of surprise late-period De Niro can offer, even when it's kind of a "WTF" surprise. He's said that he does a lot of movies these days because he loves to work, and realizes he may not have much more time left to do so. Can anyone really quibble with that?
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