Wednesday, 1 October 2008

10 great overshadowed performances

You get a lot of lists about scene stealers, actors who've given such great performances that they've left the rest of the cast in the dust. So this list will attempt to shed light on those times that maybe this wasn't entirely fair to other actors, who have been punished for the crime of choosing to be subtle over grand-standing. This isn't to say that the party doing the overshadowing is mind-blowingly, face-meltingly over-rated; but more to do with pointing out those who have been under-rated. Anyways the babbling is done and here is what i've got in no particular order. SPOILER WARNING

1. Ian Holm, Alien

The shot to your left is pretty much an epitomy of how the audience responded to this movie. Holm can be as creepy and dead eyed as he wants, all we're noticing is Sigourney Weaver's strength and charisma. She managed to be progressively feminist in a role that had her mostly screaming and running. No mean feat. But the more I watch this film the more I think Holm's ash has been hard done by. His restrained and ultimately frightening performance is one of his best and never has there been such a chilling monologue delivered from a disembodied head.

2. Joseph Cotten, Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is perhaps the ultimate auteur's film. Written, directed, starred and more by Orson Welles, his name is synonimous with this, the all time favorite of so many critics in their 60's. Welles gives a great performance, but what sticks with me is Cotten's jaded partner/reporter and the destruction of this lifelong relationship is far more interesting then Welles' self destruction that occurs later in the movie.

3. Tommy Lee Jones, No country for old men

This film was in many ways the ultimate thriller. we've seen it all done before, but rarely so sharply and classily. The success of this film is in large part to the powerhouse of Javier Bardem, making what could have a joker with stupid hair into one of the best villains of all time. But his is not the best performance in this film. The most accessible and as bloggers love to say the most awesome. But Jones, in a more vulnerable and sensitive turn then we've come to expect from him, is excellent and his final scene is something i can unabashadly admit to being one of my favourite scenes of screen acting ever.

4. Ji-tae Yu, Oldboy

If Oldboy was in English, it would be in as many thirty-something's top ten lists as fight club is now. But to me there's no denying Oldboy is a masterpiece of dark, dark noir cinema, subtitles or no. At the head of it is a searing performance by choi min-sik, and rightfully deserved the praise he got for this film. But spare a thought for the villain of the piece, played with a cool intelligence and purposeness by Ji-tae Yu. As a calculating man driven by revenge, he illicits our sympathies while doing such terrible things to our beloved Oh Dae su. A complicated villain for a complicated film.

5. Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

Yes she got an oscar nomination, but in the general response to the film she really didn't receive as much attention as she deserved. Its a shame because she brings a lot to what otherwise would have been a role there purely as function.

6. Irfan Khan, A Mighty Heart

It amazes me that the only buzz this film got was for Angelina Jolie, because as good as she was, this was a tight, well executed movie that stays with you. What particularly impressed me was the way Khan and Winterbottom took what at first seemed to be a simple tertiary character and made him so memorable. As far as I know Khan is credited simply as 'police captain', which is funny as he truly owns the second half of this movie. Like a Pakistani Jack Bauer in a universe decidedly more real.

7. Anthony Hopkins, The Elephant man
I love John Hurt's performance in this film, but I doubt there have been few more generous supporting turn's then what Hopkins does here. These days Hopkins seems to alternate between phoning it in and going OTT, but in the Elephant man he portrays such an effortless intelligence, and in his underplaying allows Hurt to take a glorious centre stage. One of the best examples of utterly selfless acting.

8. Most of the cast, City of God
As far as I can tell for all the fantastic reviews City of God received, barely any acknowledged were the several excellent performances on display. The most obvious one to go to is Leandro Firmino's psycho (and also Douglas Silva as the young lil' dice. The kid will scare the shit out of you) but to me the most notable and deep is Seu Jorge's tragic anti-hero, the ridiculously named knockout Ned. His performance is more soulful and deep than it had any right to be. But all were ignored for the strength of the film itself and Meirelles direction. An entire cast ignored for its director then.

9. Julianne Moore, The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski is full of great and memorable actors and characters, and most seem to get their due. But one who has been ignored is Julianne Moore's ultra-weird uber feminist Maude. People will know all of Jesus the paedophile bowler's words, expressions and movements by heart, but people seem to consider Moore's bits the ones to be waited through until we get back to the . This is such an unfair consensus, because Moore is as hilarious as anyone else in this film. ( except John Goodman, who clearly deserved about 12 oscars just for 'shut the fuck up donny' alone.)

10. Edward G Robinson, Double Indemnity
I think this happened because Robinson's character is in many ways irrelavent to the film's plot. And only shows up every now and again to wisecrack ans snark his way through a scene. Barbara Stanwyck is the ultimate femme fatale. But Robinson is the ultimate wiseass, and deserved more then to be known as the guy Chief Wiggum is based on. You enjoy every second he's on screen. And yes, he plays himself, but it is great value for fans of movie smart-alecs.

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