It seems like an impossible task, does it not? To judge the acting ability of literally thousands of talented cinematic artists and then, somehow narrow them down to the "10 greatest actors of all time, ever." However, as things turned out, it was incredibly easy. Took us ohhh, about five minutes. In fact, we really don't see what all the fuss is about. These ten actors are so clearly superior to every other actor in the world, everyone else should just give it up and maybe go back to waiting tables, or whatever it is unsuccessful actors do.

In the unlikely event you disagree with any of our choices, you are welcome to send your concerns tolovenotes@portlandmercury.com. But you won't. Because we're right.

10 . GARY OLDMAN
Stupidly, the Mercury judges debated heartily over whether to admit Gary "Best Actor in the WORLD" Oldman into the prestigious hall of fame. The deciding factor was an impassioned filibuster from yours truly, explaining the superiority of Gary-the-God-Oldman over his chief hall of fame rival, "that midget lady from Dune." If for no other reason than Gary's spooky, deep-voiced performance as the one-eyed pimp in True Romance, he is obviously one classy piece of ass. But it goes way beyond that. Think about how dreamy he was in Bram Stoker's Dracula or the Oscar nominated Scarlet Letter, or how bad and drunk and Britty he was in Sid and Nancy. Gary can be handsome or ugly, mean or nice, arty or mainstream (try and forgive him for Air Force One), and even if the movie sucks, his incredible acting is always way WAY better than everyone else's in the film (See: Lost in Space). KATIE SHIMER

9 . JOHN RITTER
To the woefully ignorant, John Ritter may merely conjure images of white bellbottoms flopping over sofas. But to diminish The Ritter's achievements only to an innuendo-soaked sitcom ignores the sheer astounding girth of his work, both in film and television. From Peter Bogdanovich's Nickelodeon (co-starring Burt Reynolds!), to last year's excellent (and unfortunately ignored) Panic, The Ritter has consistently strived to expand his craft. And for every blunder like Problem Child and Hero at Large soiling his resumé, there is quality work like Sling Blade, and, well Nickelodeon and Panic. (Actually, maybe he's not so great. Forget I said anything.) BRADLEY STEINBACHER

8 . LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS
Like a tour of the South Seas, Lou Diamond Phillips is part Chinese, Filipino, and Hawaiian. Toss in a dash of Cherokee, a hint of Spanish, and you have an actor like no other; one capable of playing anyone from the "brown" ethnic groups (Native American, Inuit, Latino). During his cinematic heyday, Phillips starred as a troubled Latino youth in Stand and Deliver, a "knife-tossing Indian" in Young Guns, and an Eskimo struggling against the curses, the tundra, and white men in Shadow of the Wolf. And like the ill-fated teenage Latino singer Ritchie Valens (who Phillips played in his breakout film, La Bamba), this versatile actor who cornered the brown market could've been the greatest talent of his age, had his career not taken a sudden and inexplicable nosedive. PHIL BUSSE

7 . CYNTHIA STEVENSON
Cynthia Stevenson has an amazing knack for playing bleakly pastel, conservative women who hate their lives, but would never let you to know it. Her two most notable performances are the jealous-bitchy sister/mother/wife/ daughter Trish Maplewood in Todd Solondz' Happiness, and the jealous-bitchy sister/mother/wife/daughter Joanne Wedman in Jodie Foster's (hugely underrated) Home for the Holidays. These roles are stunning portraits of women "who have it all" but are hating every minute of it. She's the underhanded, homophobic big sister you despised but still loved, and the totally uncaring, but outwardly overbearing mother you had, but never wanted. M. LON FREE

6 . DARREN McGAVIN
Darren McGavin: Truly an acting giant of unparalleled talent. Though primarily known for his portrayal of vampire hunter Carl Kolchak in the '70s TV series The Night Stalker, this work pales in comparison to the greatest accomplishment in acting ever captured on film: his role as the father in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story. This movie is shown 50,000 times every Christmas--and with good reason. McGavin portrays Ralphie's father like a sputtering Mr. Magoo on crack; a role that reveals more nuance with each viewing. In fact, only one performance has ever come close to rivaling the unstoppable genius of McGavin--and it takes place in the same movie. Naturally, this was the yellow-toothed bully Scut Farcus who terrorizes Ralphie by screaming, "Why don't you CRY, baby? Go on--CRYYYYY!!! HA! HA! HAAAAA!" McGavin and Farcus: A perfect example of brilliance inspiring brilliance. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

5 . CHRISTINA RICCI
There is no excuse for not liking Christina Ricci, other than you have no taste. Are there any teen actors--in particular, girls--who have the verve or candor that Christina does? I think not. And here's the reason. While she is indeed well endowed, sexy as hell, and very bitchy, she is not blond and does not weigh 83 pounds. Yet she presents herself with such confidence and skill that no one cares. Well okay, it's true, her role in The Man Who Cried was extremely unfortunate, but that was a simple case of miscasting. She's not supposed to be in foreign movies--she's American, for Christ's sake!

But take her awesome performance in The Opposite of Sex, for example: The fantastic temper tantrums she threw, the hilarious/successful attempts she made at seducing her brother's boyfriend, the disdain with which she treated her mother. I challenge you to show me a single movie in which Julia Stiles mutters a line that doesn't sound like she's reading it directly from the script, let alone rendering a performance even half way as convincing as Christina's! Yeah. Didn't think so. KATIA DUNN

4 . JOSÉ FERRER
The first time I saw Cyrano de Bergerac (the original, 1950s version), I was tripping with a couple friends, and I believe I saw tracers shooting out of Ferrer's mouth. He cast a word-net made of love over us, from which we could not escape. The scene in which this swashbuckling master swordsman dispenses with hundreds of on-rushing attackers, with both rapier and rapier-wit, instantly turned my friends and I to stone. A part of me is still on that living room floor, hopelessly trying to comprehend the gift bestowed upon me that night--a gift I shall never hope to repay. AARON BEAM

3 . HELEN MIRREN
I know Helen Mirren won't make Number One on this list. No matter. She won't be ruining her pillowcase with mascara and tears just because you deny your favors. When I first saw her as Morgana in Boorman's Excalibur, I knew only that she made my peepee dizzy. Years later, I grew to appreciate her regal bearing in any situation, and her cool, hard exterior that hides not softness, but anguish. As Georgina in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, she endured brutality while somehow radiating both great dignity and raw sex. As the flawed DCI Tennison on the BBC's Prime Suspect, she skipped over anguish into cold despair.

Helen Mirren was acting the shit out of great roles while you were still in shortpants, fucko. You'd do well to remember it. SEAN TEJARATCHI

2 . GENE HACKMAN When you see Gene Hackman in a film, you automatically know three things: He will be an authority figure, he will be brilliant, and he will have an amazing ass. Think about it! 72 years old and STILL an amazing ass! But rest assured, his talent doesn't solely lie in those squeezably firm mounds of flesh. Consider this: A tough-as-nails sub captain in Crimson Tide, a heroic military commander in Uncommon Valor and Behind Enemy Lines, the baddest of bad guys in The Quick and the Dead, Unforgiven, and Superman. But here's the point: In each of these roles, and in every role, the Hack never acts. He may murmur or chew on a cigar, but he never works more than he has to. He knows what only the greatest of actors know: He is the blank canvas, and it is up to the audience to paint their hopes, dreams, and fears upon that remarkable 72-year-old ass. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

AND THE #1 GREATEST ACTOR IN THE WORLD:
PARKER POSEY
With a patina of mature bitchiness paired with a youthful vigor, Parker Posey grasps the mulled, humid indifference of Sharon Stone and Adrienne Shelly and twists squeezes wrings it out until it is dry and cutting, with the blunt, cold veneer of a speculum whisking across a virgin's thighs. Parker Posey captures the zeitgeist of a thousand generations, chafing persistently at a society that does not see the dystopia it has created and, indeed, does not want to. As the Dairy Queen girl in Waiting for Guffman, she portrayed a tragic star with big dreams stuck in a small town, devoted to acting and Mr. Mistys. As Darla Marks in Dazed and Confused, she poured ketchup on her school's freshmen with such spiky venom, no audience member was left unquivering. As Fay in Henry Fool, she toils endlessly over her work, hoping to find only light and beauty. Theda Bara, Katherine Hepburn, Barbra Streisand--eat your hearts out. Parker Posey is the Chameleoness of our Times. JULIANNE SHEPHERD