Saturday, August 6, 2016

Top 100 Actors: Part XX (#5 - 1)

Previously on JeffSCPresents...

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV
Part XV
Part XVI
Part XIX

5. Alan Rickman

About a year ago, when I decided I wanted to update my favorite actors list, I found myself going through a list of names of actors who I had previously not had as high on my lists, and when I got to Rickman, I found myself totally perplexed as to why I had essentially ignored him the last time I did this. And now, with him passing away only 6 months ago, I find myself in the awkward position of being seen as "that guy who only appreciates people after they've died", and was tempted to lower his final position on my list. But I don't feel like lying about the actors I love, and Rickman is one of those actors who I can say that about without hesitation. He got his name playing fun and memorably sleazy villains, all the while being fully capable of playing lovable and charming characters in his more Jane Austen-y films. But no matter the roles he played, he always put a good deal of himself into them, making every performance he gave all the more endearing and natural. There was nothing phony about his performances, whether he was bouncing around like a demented grasshopper or behaving like a soft spoken gentleman. With the kind of iconic voice that can't be mistaken as anyone else and an incredibly expressive face, Rickman has always been one of the main attractions in every movie I've seen him in.

Favorite performances:
Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
Harry Potter series
Die Hard
Galaxy Quest
Truly, Madly, Deeply
Quigley Down Under
Eye In The Sky
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Bottle Shock
Sweeney Todd
Love Actually
Sense And Sensibility

4. Max Von Sydow

I almost feel like he should go higher on this list, but since I haven't been able to fully immerse myself into his filmography and seeing as how he's found himself resting in the top 5, I don't think anyone could complain about his placing here. Over the past 60 years, few actors have managed to stay relevant that entire time and Sydow is one of them. Hell, most great actors can't even last half that long, but I digress. Though his appearance in films over the past decade or two has often been used as nothing more than a tool to surprise-reveal a villain (SURPRISE! It's the old Swedish guy), most of his work has been in powerful and moving dramas. This man has a presence and temperament that is not of this time. You can't teach someone how to dominate the screen like he does just by standing there. He has a natural gift for acting and complete control over every aspect of his craft. Whether he's the main character or only appears in two scenes, he does the work and makes every moment count. He doesn't rush through moments like a less-matured actor might, but rather allows the emotion and weight to become fully realized in every expression he makes and syllable he utters. A distinctly European actor and a living testament to the effectiveness of classic acting methods.

Favorite performances:
The Virgin Spring
The Exorcist
The Seventh Seal
Minority Report
Three Days Of The Condor
Hannah And Her Sisters
Flash Gordon
Through A Glass Darkly
What Dreams May Come
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Judge Dredd
The Magician

3. Gene Hackman

I have discovered through making this list just how hard it is for me to make lists. Putting Hackman, an actor I have admired for years and considered a personal favorite for most of that time, even as low as #3 pains me in such a strange way. And that's saying something, when being put 3rd of all time seems like more of an insult than an honor. But oh well, here we are, and Gene Hackman will never know any better. From the mid-late '60s and into the mid-early 00s, Hackman never gave a single poor performance: at least none that I'm aware of. And with me having seen roughly 30 of his movies, including garbage like Welcome To Mooseport and Prime Cut, I'd say it's fairly safe to assume he really never did. What's so funny about his acting, though, is how he never seemed to disappear completely into any of his roles. No matter what he played, from a hardboiled cop, to a high school basketball coach, and even cowardly movie producer, Hackman always had that twinkle in his eye that let you know that he knew just how awesome he was. And apparently that's just how he acted to most of his peers, treating everyone else like they were nothing compared to him. Which, to be fair, is kind of true...but that doesn't mean he should have been a dick about it. Regardless, there has never been an actor I have sought out more movies specifically to watch for one performance, and he was always worth the effort.

Favorite performances:
The Conversation
The Royal Tenenbaums
Mississippi Burning
The French Connection
Bonnie And Clyde
Superman: The Movie
Get Shorty
Twice In A Lifetime
Runaway Jury
Night Moves
I Never Sang For My Father
Young Frankenstein

2. Peter Cushing

Dr. Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Grand Moff Tarkin, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. That's a pretty high profile selection of characters for one actor to play, and it's made all the more impressive by the fact that he nailed every single one of those roles and stole every scene as them. Even if that's all he had done in his career, it would still earn him a place somewhere high on this list, but no, he actually gave plenty more great performances, often in horror films and always as one of the most magnetic aspects of them. Hammer horror films were often very stylistic, relying much more heavily on the sets and costumes than on character and dialogue. But even with that considerable handicap, Cushing's talents always managed to shine through and give fully fleshed out character portraits that both suited the movies perfectly, and elevated the material to being far more than standard Gothic horror fare. Excellent at playing both sides on the battle of good and evil, Cushing could become the most sinister madman alive, or win you over with his heroic charm and have you rooting for him to prevail. Also, he was an excellent tragic performer, possibly a side effect of the premature passing of his wife, which left him in an extremely fragile emotional state. It has little to do with his acting, but reading his quotes about his wife always stir up emotions and leave me with a better understanding of him as both an actor and as a man. Anyway, Cushing is a fairly recent actor for me to have fully embraced, as I have only decided to immerse myself into his filmography over the past few years, but any actor who can essentially force me to sit through something I would never choose to watch for any reason other than for the prospect of seeing him in it for a few minutes is an actor I know must have some serious talent. Also, he bossed around Darth Vader, and that's pretty badass.

Favorite performances:
The Curse of Frankenstein / The Revenge of Frankenstein
Horror of Dracula / The Brides of Dracula
Twins of Evil
Tales From The Crypt
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Star Wars
The Skull
Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.
Sword of Sherwood Forest
The Mummy
House Of The Long Shadows
The Beast Must Die

1. Daniel Day-Lewis

Yeah yeah yeah, I know, this is a boring and safe pick for #1. But just as Meryl Streep is obviously the greatest actress who's ever lived, I feel DDL fits just as no-brainerly into the male-equivalent list. Truth be told, I didn't understand the appeal with him when I first saw him in There Will Be Blood. I thought he was loud, the movie was kinda dull, and it just didn't totally sit well with me. And then I saw him in something else. When given a second look, I realized I had made a huge and weird mistake, and I had let my entire opinion of him as an actor rest on his performance in one movie that I didn't even remotely understand at the time. Not only did I miss the point of the movie, but I missed the fact that he isn't the person he plays in that movie at all; I didn't like him because he was too convincing. So, after that brief embarrassment, I embarked on a lazy man's mission, to find more of his movies and see what this guy was really all about. After only 15-20 movies, I ran out of things to watch him in. In spite of the fact that he has won 3 Oscars and has been nominated for 2 more, this man has barely been in any movies at all. How is that even possible? Well, if you've ever heard anything about his now-infamous commitment to method acting, you will understand why.

Now, that's just a little rambling about the back story of me discovering just how great Daniel Day-Lewis is. What really *makes* him great is almost the exact opposite of what I love about many of the other actors who are fairly high on this list. Fellow top 5-ers like Alan Rickman and Gene Hackman give great performances without totally immersing themselves into the characters and disappearing into the role. DDL tears himself down and rebuilds himself like some kind of sentient undercover robot. He ceases to be the actor and comes back into existence as the role he is going to play, shedding everything about his look, voice, mannerisms, and so on. Now, this level of extreme commitment can be seen as desperate, attention-grabby, annoying, and ineffective, and to be totally honest, it kind of is - when everyone else does it. But when he sinks his teeth into a role, he really goes at it and makes it work. Granted, there have been some mixed results (OKAY, NINE. HAPPY?), but the other 95% of the time, you can really tell you're watching a great artist at work. He's said before that he doesn't really like acting that much, and when you really think about it, I really can't imagine it would be very enjoyable for him. But thank god for the painstaking efforts he takes. Yes, it may be an easy pick for my number one, but he is legitimately my favorite actor, and one I can never go through an entire movie conversation involving actors without referencing at least once...or twice...or sometimes just start rambling about for an hour or two. Okay, I'll stop now.

Favorite performances:
There Will Be Blood
Gangs of New York
My Left Foot
A Room With A View
In The Name of the Father
My Beautiful Laundrette
The Boxer
The Ballad of Jack and Rose
The Age Of Innocence
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Crucible
The Last Of The Mohicans

Thank you thank you thank you, kind readers, for being this patient with me. I know 4 months is a long, long time to wait for someone to post a list, but I am grateful to everyone who has been able to stick around and read what I have to say over the past 20 posts. Truly, all 5 of you out there who actually read this crap, it means a lot to me that you're out there verifying my existence in the e-world.

If anyone has any thoughts whatsoever, don't be shy, I appreciate your kind words and criticism. Go for it.

No comments: