Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Rundown: Works Every Time

Last night we sat around with 37 other people thoroughly enjoying The Coen Brothers latest, Burn After Reading.

If your only exposure to Joel and Ethan thus far has been last year's outstanding No Country for Old Men, do yourself a favour and go pick up all their older stuff to get a feel for their brand of funny. It's not slapstick and pratfalls for these boys.

Once you're through with Fargo and O Brother and the rest, go see Burn because it's great.

One of the things that is so great about it is John Malkovich.

What makes Malkovich so great, in general, not specifically to this particular movie, is that he doesn't do a lot of films. He picks and chooses and absolute kills everything he does. That's the way he is. I mean, I would love to see him do more because Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman have shown you can be in all kinds of movies and still be tremendous every time out, but Malkovich is Malkovich. He'd rather sit around wearing ascotts on a daily basis and do a movie every couple years... and that's cool too.

He's not alone in that regard either; there are a fair number of outstanding actors who scarcely show up on screen but deliver every time they do. In fact, I'll run'em down for you shortly. But first, ground rules or at least some understanding of where my mind goes with this.

Consider this the Anti-Julianne Moore List. There is nothing inherently bad about Julianne Moore, it's just that for me, she's in a handful of movies each year and is always just Julianne Moore. She never really overly memorable or complex or creative or interesting to me and everyone on the list that follows is. There is also the Jodie Foster Factor.

A few years back, Jodie Foster would have easily ranked near the top of this list for me. But the strength of films like Taxi Driver, The Accused and Silence of the Lambs have been diminshed greatly by her work in The Inside Man, The Brave One and Nim's Island.

Now that that is out of the way, onto the list...

The John Malkovich 5: Actors Who Are Almost Always Awesome

5. Sean Penn
Think what you want about the former Mr. Madonna, but all I need to say is this: Sean Penn gave us both Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the titular Sam from I Am Sam. Mix in his shady lawyer in Carlito's Way, Dead Man Walking and his great performance in Taps and you have one of the best actors of his generation.

4. Michelle Pfeiffer
Scarface loved her. Both of The Fabulous Baker Boys loved her. Batman loved her. She is so incredible she even got a bunch of no-studying, broke ass high school misfits to love her. Clearly, I love her too.

3. Sir Ben Kingsley
He's a Sir and they don't hand that shit out to just anyone. In truth, this one is maybe the most debatable because Sir Ben still shows up on screen fairly often, it's just that now he does indie flicks and smaller films and not Hollywood blockbusters. So while everyone gets to see Nick Cage blowing shit up on a regular basis, they miss Kingsley's alcoholic hitman in one of my favourite films of last year You Kill Me. Or an awesome thriller like Suspect Zero. Or Sexy Beast.

2. Meryl Streep
You can't do an awesome every time list without Meryl Streep. You just can't, because she is in fact awesome every time she stands in front of a camera. That isn't an opinion, it's fact. If said to someone that Meryl Streep is just okay most of the time, that someone could very well punch you in the mouth and call you an idiot. When you've been nominated for 937 Academy Awards, you have to be doing something right.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis
C'mon... you had to know he was topping this list. I mean, he basically does a movie every three years, gets nominated for an Oscar and wins 50% of the time to boot. He went five years between The Boxer and Gangs of New York, two more between Gangs and The Ballad of Jack and Rose and then two more before doing There Will Be Blood. He's Mr. Selective and Mr. Awesome Every Single Time.

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