#7 : Best Actors Today
Friday, September 22nd, 2006
What constitutes a best actor, in my not so humble opinion, is one who acts and acts well. Deceptively simple definition, isn’t it? Not really, given many actors these days “perform” more than act. Tom Cruise is a performer. Al Pacino is a performer with acting tendencies (when he’s not hamming it up with a hu-hah! here and a hu-hah! there). Denzel Washington’s bravado blocks my view of his acting…mostly. Brad Pitt used to act now he’s mostly “Brad Pitt” in a movie. When I go to a movie, all I want is to be genuinely entertained and that always includes solid acting. With more and more films coming out with non-actors, models turned actors, musicians turned actors, socialites turned actors, it’s a wonder there are any actors acting in films at all. The casts for films read like guest lists to a not so exclusive party.
Here are my nominees for today’s best actors in films (in no particular order):
(Nil by Mouth (director), The Fifth Element, Immortal Beloved, True Romance, and The Contender)
The ultimate chameleon, Gary Oldman is one of the best actors of all time. He can do comedy as well as drama and that’s a rarity. His portrayal of Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in Fith Element was priceless. Quite amusing and so well acted without being over the top. He was the perfect Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. He played the best white “rastafarian” gangster I’ve ever seen in True Romance. The man can do almost anything. He makes you forget he’s Gary Oldman playing a role. He becomes the character. Isn’t that what an actor does. Oldman has also directed one of my favorite films, Nil by Mouth. Look out for Oldman later this year in Bosque des Sombras and The Dark Knight, another installment of the Batman series also starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Morgan Freeman.
(Syriana, Angels in America and Broken Flowers)
I don’t remember Basquiat in which Wright plays the famous 19 year old artist of the same name. But I do remember Wright’s undertstated character in Syriana, his flamboyant character in Angels in America and his centered character in Broken Flowers. Now if that’s not range, I don’t know what is.
(Season 4/Episode 14 of Scrubs (TV show), A Home At the End of the World, Ask the Dusk and Intermission)
The thing about Colin Farrell, unfortunately, is that he’s been labeled as a hot, Irish, bad-boy. Poor him. No really. I never took any note of him because of it. Such labels turn me off. But then I watched A Home at the End of the World through Netflix some months ago and was amazed by Farrell’s acting talent. Then I remembered seeing him in Intermission, and thought he was pretty good in that too. Even on an episode of Scrubs in the 4th season, he was quite fun to watch. He’s more interesting to watch than Johnny Depp these days. Lookout for Farrell in Pride and Glory due out in 2007
Gael Garcia Bernal
(Y Tu Mama Tambien, Bad Education)
Not only is Mr. Bernal a hottie, he’s a hottie who can act, gets praise and still selects roles that challenge his skills. Look For Bernal in Babel, which opens later this year, and The Science of Sleep, now in theaters.
- Heath Ledger
(Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain)
I noticed Heath Ledger in Monster’s Ball though he wasn’t in the film for long. I hadn’t noticed he was the same actor who played the somewhat rebel Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You. His role as Ennis Del Mar as a gay cowboy in 1963 Wyoming was much more than noticeable, simply outstanding. Lookout for Ledger in I’m Not There coming out later this year, and the umpteenth installment of the Batman series The Dark Night where Ledger will play The Joker and which will also star Gary Oldman, Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman.
(Circle of Friends, X2, and The Anniversary Party)
Alan Cumming can sing, can dance, can act. Cumming’s is a chameleon-like actor who can easily, so it seems, get under the skin of the character he plays. He played a creepy, desparate, chubby-chaser in Circle of Friends opposite Minnie Driver (the chubby he was chasing). He played the deeply religious, sensitive but scary-looking Nightcrawler in X-Men 2. He played a typical married man opposite Elisabeth Shue (as his wife) in The Anniversary Party. You can also find Cumming on the stage. Notably, he played “The Emcee” in Cabaret in 1993 in London and again in 1998-99 on Broadway. Check out his site here.
(Gladiator, Walk the Line and To Die For)
Perhaps one of the most overlooked and talented actors of my generation, Joaquin Phoenix rocks. He was so convincing as the very naive uneraged lover of Nicole Kidman’s character in To Die For. I loved him as the convincingly tormented son and prince in Gladiator. And he was just brilliant as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Lookout for Phoenix in Reservation Road and We Own the Night, both due out in 2007.
- Leonardo DiCaprio
(What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator and Gangs of New York)
I was determined to hate Leonardo diCaprio after seeing his silly performance in an even sillier movie, The Titanic, one of the most overrated films of all times. (Which will be the title of one of my Lists…coming soon) Though I thought his performance as the mentally retarded (retarded is a scientific term FYI) Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, was excellent, I couldn’t help but dislike the man. But, then I saw Gangs of New York, Cath Me If You Can and The Aviator and reconsidered his acting talents. He was especially moving in The Aviator playing the eccentric Howard Hughes who suffered from OCD. DiCaprio is also an avid environmentalist. Check out his short flash movies on water conservation and global warming at his official site here
- Matt Damon
(The Talented Mr. Ripley, All the Pretty Horses and Good Will Hunting)
Not too sure about Matt Damon’s choices these days. There sort of bland and non-descript. Syriana, Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 13 (due out in 2007), The Departed (due out later this year) and so forth. I guess, since seeing his stellar performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley, I was hoping for more interesting and perhaps more tortured roles. But, he’s still one of the best actors of my generation, and I have faith…but not too much patience. So, Mr. Damon, get on with it! ;0)
- Ralph Fiennes
(Schindler’s List, The Constant Gardener and End of the Affair)
The man is stunning and an exceptionally deep actor. His portrayal as the very sadistic and tortured Amon Goeth in Schindler’s list was fabulous. He was great in The Constant Gardener opposite an equally wonderful Rachel Weisz. Look out for Fiennes in Land of the Blind due out later this year.