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Entries in Best Actor (182)

Thursday
Mar312016

Happy Birthday, Ewan McGregor

Kieran, here. Today, we celebrate the birthday of one of the screen’s most magnetic (and gallingly non-Oscar nominated) stars, Ewan McGregor.

Looking at McGregor’s filmography, there are definite peaks and valleys though that's to be expected with any performer who has been active for over two decades. For McGregor, a lot of the valleys occurred in recent years, but man…those peaks are impressive, aren’t they? The best of Ewan McGregor makes us hopeful for what the future holds for the talented Scotsman. He makes his feature-film directorial debut this year with American Pastoral, which he also stars in alongside Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and “Orange is the New Black” breakout star (and awards magnet) Uzo Aduba. He also has a sequel to Trainspotting, the role that put him on the map, in the works. Rather than speculating about who he should work with, what projects he should choose and what direction he should take, we do what is done far too seldom for actors who have given us indelible screen performances—we simply say 'thank you' and 'more please'. 


His 5 Most Impressive Turns

5. Big Fish (2003) – I gather this will be a polarizing choice but have any of Tim Burton’s recent outings given us a turn as impressive and lived-in as McGregor’s here? McGregor is versatile, but he shines brightest and shows great skill when he's playing bright-eyed optimism as evidenced by Big Fish (and the top choice below.)

4. Trainspotting (1996) – Confession: I’m not as enamored with Trainspotting as most, but his performance is justifiably lauded and definitely worth your time. He renders addiction believably and charismatically in this black comedy. It’s an understandable worthy introduction to McGregor.

3. Beginners (2011) – It was McGregor’s co-star Christopher Plummer who (very deservedly) won an Academy Award for Mike Mills quirky and plaintive romantic drama, but McGregor anchors the piece so skillfully. McGregor imbues Oliver with beautiful specificity and world-weary warmth. Definitely worth a revisit for anyone who hasn’t seen the film since 2011.

2. Velvet Goldmine (1998) – When McGregor’s Curt Wild enters Todd Haynes’ colorful, electric narrative, a powerful shift is clearly felt. The way Brian’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) eyes light up with literal heart graphics when first gazing upon Curt Wild is completely appropriate. McGregor’s magnetism is undeniable. You can hardly take your eyes off of him.

1. Moulin Rouge! (2001) – How McGregor starred in a Best Picture nominee yet failed to land a slot on the 2001 Oscar Best Actor roster (which included Sean Penn for I Am Sam!) is still hard to fathom. Nicole Kidman’s sly, exuberant turn as the mysterious Satine wouldn't work half as well if it hadn't been a duet w/ Ewan McGregor’s career best. He certainly deserved to be a Best Actor nominee and I'd argue the winner. 

Happy 45th Birthday, Ewan! 

What’s your favorite Ewan McGregor performance?

Tuesday
Mar222016

Tues Top Ten: Best Performance of the Decade (Thus Far)?

Today's top ten was inspired by Robert MacFarlane who asked what the greatest performance of the decade was on twitter to a quick flurry of responses involving some usual suspects: Phoenix, Hoffman, Cotillard, Blanchett and some unusual suspects: O'Connell, Culkin, Pitt. But the question naturally lingered because who doesn't love ranking such unrankables?

Let's do this!

BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE DECADE (THUS FAR)
Ranking likely to change tomorrow. Oscar nominated roles marked with asterisk. Oscar winning roles with double asterisk 

Honorable Mentions (No Particular Order): Binoche in Certified Copy, * Keaton & Norton in Birdman, * Riva in Amour, ** Day-Lewis in Lincoln, ** Bale in The Fighter, * Rampling in 45 Years, and many others...

10 James Franco, Spring Breakers (2013) --look at his shittttttttt
09 * Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night (2014) --transcendent
08 * Cate Blanchett, Carol (2015) --daringly stylized, mesmerizing
07 * Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom (2010) --she did a great thing, sweetie
06 Charlize Theron, Young Adult (2011) --the layers. the layers
05 * Viola Davis, The Help (2011) --smart. kind. important. (and other wonderful adjectives)
04 Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike (2012) --lawbreaker in the house
03 Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy (2012) --Bless Charlotte Bless
02 ** Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine (2013) --from airplane to park bench, perfection
01 Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)


What are yours? 

Thursday
Mar102016

Where Does Will Smith Go From Here?

Kieran here. It may be heresy to admit this among other cinephiles, but I like Will Smith. I think he’s a talented actor. On a more personal level, I’m not nearly as irrationally annoyed by him or his children as many seem to be. Earlier this week it was announced that Smith and his Suicide Squad director David Ayer have inked Netflix’s biggest film deal to date with their supernatural police thriller Bright. He was once thought of as the industry’s last true movie star. With both this new project and Suicide Squad (out later this year), one wonders what’s on the horizon for Will Smith...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar022016

The New Actor Hierarchy: Oscar's Most Beloved Male Stars


Leonardo DiCaprio is now an Oscar winner but where does he stand in history?

If you're feeling celebratory -- and we've all lived through his rise into cinematic legend so why shouldn't we? -- you really need to check out this cute video of Leo getting his Oscar engraved or this silliness of a party of bros celebrating his win like mad men (hey it's better than the bro-ness of the pussy posse reuniting) or the once mocking memes that have turned into odes to Leo Joy. Good funny stuff.

Even if you weren't enamored with The Revenant (*raises hand*) or find it downright suspect, his filmography is so loaded with memorable films that surely anyone can find one therein to direct all their feelings towards in this momentous week for the 41 year old superstar. I'm choosing to view the Oscar as a career achievement Oscar for specifically prompted by Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet, and The Departed... love them all!) 

Last year when Julianne Moore won her long-awaited Oscar for Still Alice we quickly tabulated the All Time Oscar Actress Hierarchy; movement in the ranks at last!  Given that DiCaprio waited even longer for his eventual statue, nabbing his first nomination at the dewy age of 19 for What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), four years before Julianne Moore's first nomination, it seemed only right to do the same thing for the men in the wake of Leo's coronation. 

What follows is Oscar's 32 All Time Favorite Actors !
It's restricted to men with 5 or more nominations. Only the acting statistics are accounted for so George Clooney, for example, is not (yet) ranked. If you counted non-acting nominations, you'd also see DiCaprio jump a rank as he was nominated for producing Wolf of Wall Street two years ago and Brad Pitt would also factor in since he won Best Picture for 12 Years a Slave. Now that many major stars are involved in producing these types of extra nominations stats are likely to make Oscar lists of the future progressively murkier so we're opting not to include them for now. 

If you'd like to see how the ranks were determined (it's not as simple as basic addition or there would be many ties) that's at the bottom of the post.

OSCAR'S FOUR KINGS
And 28 other Royals 

after the jump 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb192016

Rest in Peace Harper Lee (1926-2016)

The world has lost one of its most important literary and cultural figures with the death of author Nelle Harper Lee. There’s very little to say about the importance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” that hasn’t already been said, both today specifically and in the nearly fifty six years since the novel’s publication. Having attended both high school and college in Georgia, I saw firsthand how much the novel rattled the consciousness of the deep South to its core. It’s still banned and its literary merits are still contested in many places in the South, demonstrating how much weight and resonance the novel still carries—we often turn away from truths that are too ugly to face.

Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in Robert Mulligan's 1962 Film Adaptation of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Though her impact in the realm of literature is clear, she also helped to shape the world of cinema. The 1962 screen adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird (which netted three Oscars, including a Best Actor trophy for Gregory Peck and a Best Adapted Screenplay prize for Horton Foote) left an indelible mark on the medium. She was also an uncredited researcher on her friend Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, which has been adapted many times over—most notably in Richard Brooks 1967 film.

For cinephiles, it’s hard to consider Harper Lee without thinking of Catherine Keener’s staid, impressive and underrated portrayal of the prize-winning author in Bennett Miller’s Capote. She played Lee as smartly observant, terse but incredibly perceptive. The scene on the train where Lee quietly picks up on the fact that Capote has paid the ticket agent to compliment his work is one of the film’s choice moments and is a wonderful (albeit fictionalized) window into the friendship of these two authors.

For what she gave to the world of literature, American culture and (inadvertently) the world of cinema we all love, we say to Nelle Harper Lee—thank you and farewell. Today will certainly not be the last time her name is spoken.

Thursday
Feb112016

Best Actor: The Year of the Ham

As noted by the recently departed Alan Rickman on his BAFTA win for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves "Subtlety isn't everything." As far as Oscar is concerned, this year Best Actor was go big or go home. Take a look the leading men outside the bubble and you'll find mostly nuanced performances like those from Michael B. Jordan, Tom Courtenay, and Tom Hanks with their scenery unchewed. Rewarding more broad work has made this the Year of the Ham.

Some of the bigger choices have been more welcome than others in this field, so let's have some fun assessing the hammage:

Bryan Cranston - Trumbo
Clearly the most guilty of going big for its own sake, Cranston's nomination leaves quite a sour taste in your mouth. The performance feels built upon arched shoulders and mustaches, even if Cranston is a game actor admirably going along with the film's schlocky tone. It's not just the scenery getting chewed, but the script, the costumes, the camera, and poor Diane Lane. It's so hammy, he even shows us his hams in a prison scene.
Level of Ham: SPAM - some people like it? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Matt Damon - The Martian
Here's a role that actually calls upon the actor to be a ham. Matt Damon gets to use more of his natural charm than he has in anything outside of the Ocean's franchise and spends much of his performance breaking the fourth wall. He leans in on the nerd humor that's heavy on puns and dirty words, but thankfully never goes full broski. Everything lands, including his unexpected emotional moments, but this a performance playing right to the crowd. The visible hams are an obvious emaciated stunt double.
Level of Ham: Honey-Baked - generally pleasing to everyone

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb102016

Silence of the Lambs Pt 3: Quid Pro Quo

image via FangoriaTeam Experience is revisiting 1991's Best Picture, Silence of the Lambs for its 25th anniversary.

In Pt 1 We met Clarice and Hannibal and heard about the horrifying Buffalo Bill case.
In Pt 2 The FBI's investigation picked up steam with the discovery of another victim and The Death's Head Moth. Finally, we met Buffalo Bill and his latest victim Catherine, now "the girl in the pit." When we left her she was a disembodied voice shouting for help. Why won't you answer me please?

Answers are coming but not without a price. 

Pt 3 by Nathaniel R

00:49:50 A smartly judged sharp cut takes us from the dark abyss of Bill's pit to the brightly lit FBI training facility. It's like blinking from too much sun when you leave a movie theater in the middle of the day. Though Silence of the Lambs deals with gruesomely complex psychology its binaries of good and evil are the lifeline for mass appeal I think. (Craig McKay was nominated for Best Film Editing, losing to JFK's collage and barrage of characters and information)

The students. Demme never gets any credit for his multi-ethnic casting but he was doing it long before people were hating on Hollywood for *not* doing it.

00:51:34 A news broadcast about Buffalo Bill at the training center attracts a large group of students. Turns out the Girl in the Pit is actually a US Senator's daughter so there's yet more pressure to get this case solved. Ardelia whispers to Clarice that it's so smart what the Senator is doing, repeating Catherine's name so often; get her would be killer to see her as human and maybe he'll show mercy.

00:51:35 Another jarring cut and we're back at the asylum. Chilton has had it with Clarice's secrecy. Jodie Foster's performance is so sharp in this movie. You can see our heroine getting bolder and more confident each time she steps out; her body language is more confrontational, too. [More after the jump...]

Click to read more ...