Joey Lauren Adams in Chasing Amy - If I had to pick a single performance over all of Kevin Smith's films that was my favorite, it would be Adams. She knocked it out of the park both in the small scenes and especially in emotionally anguishing scenes. She could open the character's heart so warmly when she answers the "Why me?" question, and then lets you feel the utter betrayal outside the hockey rink. Wonderful.
Ben Affleck in Jersey Girl - Going into this film cold--I didn't watch the trailer ahead of time--I was able to experience Gertie's death at the same time as Ollie. Now, unlike him, my Dad Switch turned on the day my boy was born. It was fascinating to watch Ollie come around to know what is most important. His monologue to his baby was magnificent. And his chemistry with his co-star is palpable.
Jason Lee in Chasing Amy - Lee as Brodie in Mallrats is marvelously smirking, but Lee as Banky in Chasing Amy is something else. Snarky as all get out, Lee brings depth to the performance, especially as the film progresses. That last scene when he mimes to Affleck's Holden is great. His "Sure" response to Holden's stunningly stupid proposal is just as good as his "That, my friend, was a shared moment."
George Carlin in Jersey Girl - My knowledge of Carlin almost begins and ends with Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I know, I know, but I just never got around to watching his shows. But him in this role as a crusty old grandfather who knows what's best for his son is really well done, especially on my second viewing. The little moments here and there show there's a lot of depth in him. Loved him in this role.
Michael Parks in Tusk - In both Tusk and Red State, Parks gives brilliant performances, but he shines in Tusk. His way of telling stories to Justin Long's character is mesmerizing. He makes you believe Howard Howe is truly insane in the most underrated way: the subtle approach.
Elizabeth Banks in Zack and Miri Make a Porno - In a romcom as only Kevin Smith could write--with porn--this movie wasn't my favorite. But Banks is this film's shining star. Her eyes open up Miri in such an honest way. The love-making scene is really well done, as is the ending when Zack finally gets his head out of his butt and realizes the truth.
Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp in Yoga Hosers - This is a film you watch for the performances more so than the story itself. The story is over-the-top, but the performances of these two actresses are stellar. I will happily watch anything these two are in, even if it is Moose Jaws.
NOTE: I made a point with this list to select one actor per role, but I really enjoyed Jason Lee in Mallrats as the pseudo narrator and Ben Affleck in Chasing Amy. Affleck's scene in the car when he lays out his feelings is his best of the film.
Honorable Mentions: [for a single scene]
Jeff Anderson in Clerks II - I'll be honest: for most of Clerks II, Randal annoyed the crap out of me. His merciless harassing of Elias, his ordering of Dante's going-away gift, and his general poor outlook on every human frankly irritated the crap out of me. But his raw declaration of love to Dante in the jail cell is so, so good. One of the best moments of the entire Smith filmography.
Brian O'Halloran in Clerks II - O'Halloran's Dante is constantly rolling his eyes at Randal's comments, but he's also a man stuck in a bad position. "She'll eventually get me" is his acceptance of his lot in life. While that's heartbreaking, the scene on the roof when Becky teaches him to dance is fantastic. When Dante sees Becky in a brand-new light, he realizes he loves her. O'Halloran does it in a single scene with no words, but it all there on his face. Best Dante scene in all the movies.
Ralph Garman in Yoga Hosers - I have listened to Garman do his impressions on his Hollywood Babble On podcasts for years. I listen to him every weekday on The Ralph Report. But I have never *seen* him do his impressions. This was a boffo performance that had me grinning from ear to ear, especially considering he spoke not a word in Red State and only a single scene in Tusk.
Jason Mewes in Mallrats - Of all the entrances Jay and Silent Bob did in the movies, this was by far my favorite. Jay's little dance makes me laugh every time. His constant bickering with Bob to stop trying to use his Jedi powers is a funny through line. And his simple "What else are we gonna do?" line, delivered in the most natural "Duh" voice is perfect.
Kevin Smith in Chasing Amy - Joey Lauren Adams aside, this one scene in Chasing Amy when Smith as Silent Bob spills this juicy nugget of truth to himself and all the folks who watch this film is golden. And he didn't deliver the lines with any sort of bravado. Bob was a defeated man here, a man living with the knowledge he let his Amy get away and now he's stuck with Jay. Just hearing him dish this tale you know Smith likely dealt with something similar. That he wrote these lines in the year or two before he met his wife probably helped him to appreciate her when they finally me.