Monday, 12 October 2009

The Best of the Best: Actors

And finally I come to the final acting category. Best Actor in a Leading Role. Here are the ten Outstanding men and four runners up. There are some omissions. It's not that I don't think Gregory Peck, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson have all given great performances. But they ain't my favourites. I'll begin with the four great runners up...

Runners Up…in order…

14.Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs
13. Laurence Olivier in Hamlet
12. F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus
11. Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote

10. Spencer Tracy in Boys Town
Why couldn’t he have won for Inherit the Wind...or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner  or The Old Man & the Sea? I’m not sure how I feel about Captains Courageous but Boys Town is a treat. It’s a bit tame…maybe even lightweight but it was from the thirties, so no pressure. And he is playing a priest after all, so it's all very much like Going My Way. But Spencer Tracy is great. I don't think that's really moot [is it?]. This may not be his best performances...but it's a great one nevertheless. And it's a favourite of mine.
9. William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman
I heard a rumour that it was only a few weeks before shooting that he took the role. He was actually eyeing the supporting role. Who knows if its true…but it’s still great. He was on a role in the eighties, this being the first of what should have been four consecutive Oscar nominations [ending with The Accidental Tourist]. I’m torn as to if this was his best [I’m gunning for Children of a Lesser God…but I can’t short Newman], but it was exceptional any way you look at it. This movie is underseen, but it's a treat.
8. James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story
This is the voice of doom calling. How can you not love Macaulay? We know Tracy does. And although he’s no C. K. Dexter Haven, he’s not bad. The win has become somewhat underrated claiming that it was a makeup win for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But that doesn’t make it bad. Shirley MacLaine and Judi Dench both won makeup Oscars giving good if not great performances. Those drunken moments by the pool and that terrible morning after are great stuff. He’s just as good as Cary and Kate and at the end of the day…that’s better than many of his peers could say.
7. Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond
A second of Kate's leading men. This film has become somewhat maligned and accused of sentimentality. But is it any less acting because there are no big moments? He’s playing an old man…how much acting can he do? His chemistry with Hepburn is wonderful and although some moments with Jane do seem strained it’s still a wonderful performance. Even in his old age you have to admit that this man has charisma and I don't mind the win at all.

6. Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood

 I don't really have much to say. Sure I wish he would have won for Gangs of New York. Sure I'm not really fond of the film. Of course I would have liked to see James McAvoy or Brad Pitt nominated and perhaps even winning. But that doesn't negate the pure awesomeness of this performance. It's not really a question of whether or not someone could have done it better. We don't really care. He's that good, we think of nothing but when we watch him in action. Genius.
5. Maximilian Schell in Judgement at Nuremberg
This is an underrated gem of a film. Featuring career best from Montgomery Clift [in under fifteen minutes] and Judy Garland, with a tour-de-force performance from Spencer Tracy and Maximilian’s Oscar winning performance. Stanley Kramer directed his best film here. Perhaps the potency of the theme don’t resonate as much in this new century but the film is still especially profound and Maximilian deserved his Oscar.
4. Sean Penn in Mystic River
It’s not his best performance, but it’s still a great one. This is a flawless performance and although it was down to him and Jude Law I don’t have any problem with his winning. A terribly great performance, a terribly great man. And can I just say that along with Marcia and Tim [and Laura, Kevin and Laurence] Clint Eastwood has the most talented cast ever to pass through his hands. Kudos to him for recognising this and capitalising on their prowess.
3. Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot
I don’t think anyone else could have handled this performance as well. This is almost an impossible character to portray but DDL does it wonderfully. A well deserved Oscar, and more surprising considering that he was not the favoured to win against Cruise and Freeman. And yeah, in my book he should have four Oscars. But half ain’t a bad number and he really is some kind of wonderful in this. The level of difficulty only makes this that much more impressive.
2. Kevin Spacey in American Beauty
For some reason, recently, this movie has suffered some extreme backlash. I can’t tell the reason. It’s still as good as it was ten years ago. Kevin Spacey’s Lester is somewhat of a despicable human…as are all the characters, but he’s able to find the goodness inside the character. And we do root for him, despite everything. It’s the performance that in a way defined his career and of course it could only be downhill from there. But the beauty of this performance will last forever. If I have to pick a favourite scene it’s the one where he finds Carolyn having her affair. The look on his face sells me every time.


WINNER: Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront
And this is not just because of the ‘I coulda been a contender’ speech. This is the quintessential Marlon Brando performance and it is done wonderfully. This is easily my favourite performance in this category. Brando is just great as Terry. He truly is the lead of his film and commands every second he’s on screen. And to think that he was so young only makes it more outstanding. Anyway you look at it, this was a most outstanding performance…and though he should have won for A Streetcar Named Desire it’s all good any way you look at it.

So there you have it. The Leading Men. I've covered all the acting categories. I'll post a semi review tomorrow. What say you. Which leading men will you make a case for?


Twister said...

Brando is probably the best of the best, as I was blown away by his performance.

Spacey definetley makes my list, along with Peck.

Anonymous said...

Who do you think is going to win this year, Andrew?

I say Morgan Freeman will win for Invictuis.

Tom said...

I didn't think Kevin Spacey was all that great in that movie. Didn't like the movie either. If I had a top 10, I would include Brando and Daniel Day Lewis for sure - these are two of the greatest film performances ever. But also Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest". That might be my number 1. Also Roberto Begnini in "Life Is Beautiful".

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Although I'm anxious for films I'm really nonchalant about the Oscars this year. On one side I would love Whishaw to make a big splash with Bright Star though I know it won't happen. I'd say Colin Firth in A Single Man but he bores me...

The last time Freeman teamed up with Eastwood I was disappointed. But we shall see. He does look baity. I have a feeling it's going to be a shocker that wins though.

joe burns said...

Good list. Haven't seen all of them though. But I really feel that Bill Murray should have won Best Actor that year. What do you think of his performance?

Alex in Movieland said...

yeah, Brando is a fine choice, even though you gave him a new name, Brandon :D

I would definitely have Hopkins in Top 3! and to me, Spacey is waaay too high

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

AlexEeek! Okay...fixing that. I was waiting for someone to comment on Spacey. I see Tom did too.

JoeMurray was good too. 2003 was probably the strongest Actor lineup in the last ten was Law, Penn, Murray, Depp, Kingsley but I could have seen any winning.

The Mad Hatter said...

Kinda surprised nobody has mentioned this yet, but I always lean towards Gregory Peck in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Seldom have an actor and a role been so inseperable!

Great post - loving this series!

Jude said...

I'm happy Jack and Anthony didn't make the top ten to be perfectly honest. I LOVE Kevin Spacey in American Beauty and am elated to see him rank so high on this list! I would probably have included Humphrey Bogart for one of Katharine's best movies, The African Queen, and Jeremy Irons for Reversal of Fortune, a movie and performance that are both INCREDIBLY underrated.

Univarn said...

Hmmm Gregory Peck at Finch #1. Jimmy Stewart in everything #2. Jack Lemmon in everything #3. Marlon Brando in anything #4... oh Tom Hanks is in my top 15 somewhere :). Good list though ;)