Friday, 2 July 2010

Encore’s Greatest Voices: #50 - #41

The title may be a bit misleading, so I’ll explain. A few weeks ago Heather of Movie Mobsters wrapped up her excellent feature counting down the fifty screen villains she considered most dastardly. She did them in bouts of them until the final leg. The blogosphere is the only place where unoriginality isn’t reviled so I’m making my own list of 50, but not of villains and not exactly the best voices actors. I always wonder if voice-work alone will ever be able to constitute an Academy Award nomination…probably not. Herein I’ll be counting down the fifty voice performances that have impressed me the most over the years. Essentially it’s all animated (save for three live-action films, which we’ll get to). Now obviously this list is as subjective as can be, so I’ll depending on you to weigh in and tell me how off the beam some of my choices are.
#50: Sacha Baron Cohen in Madagascar
as King Julian
I like to move it, move it.
I can’t confess any significant appreciation for Madagascar which is one of those implausibly successful children’s films that does little for me. In the midst of the most uninspired voice work and a turgid story Cohen’s insane King Julian was a delight. Cohen is known for his physical humour but he knows something about using his voice to full effect (see Pirelli) and his voice-work is easily the standout of the film.
#49: Joanne Woodward in The Age of Innocence
as The Narrator
It invariably happened, as everything happened in those days, in the same way.
Unlike many narrators, Joanne Woodward’s “character” is not a part of the film. She uses her voice only to give us little musings on New York society at the turn of the century. She is wry, she is affable and she is charming...really, she's almost a character herself.
#48: Woody Allen in Antz
as Z
Actually, I generally just make belittling comments and snicker behind death's back.
Woody Allen isn't noted for his voice and Antz is one of those animated films that has become easily forgotten. Still, Allen's dubious protagonist who (surprise, surprise) is just the slightest bit of a neurotic is an interesting change of pace for the icon.
#47: Glenn Close in Tarzan
as Kala
And you will always be in my heart."
I'm not overly fond of Tarzan, it's really all been-there-done-that (and better), but Glenn Close's performance as the maternal Kala is a brilliant piece of voicework. Yes, she's given a number of overly sentimental lines (see above), but she makes them work and finds the sincerity in this slightly convoluted (albeit, diverting) film.
#46: Ralph Fiennes in Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were Rabbit
as Lord Victor Quartermaine
You can hop, but you can't hide!
When it comes to Ralph Fiennes talents, I remember him for his ability to act without using his voice. In that way he seems like an unlikely candidate for voicework, and I don't even like Wallace & Gromit. Yet, Fiennes carves a delightful stodgy villain (or should that be moulds) and provides the film with a good deal of laughs.
#45: Eddie Murphy in Mulan
As Mushu
Hey! Dragon. *Dragon*, not lizard. I don't do that tongue thing.
Eddie Murphy’s brand of, usually, broad humour is hit-and-miss for me, but like so many great comedians his knack for using his voice proved invaluable to success of Mulan. Mulan is another Disney flick of the late nineties that’s become somewhat forgotten, but it was an entertaining (if inaccurate) romp through history. As Mishu Murphy was the perfect sidekick.
#44: Robin Williams in Happy Feet
As Ramón
Just a moment. I hear people wanting something... ME!
Really...what is there to be said? Williams has a talent for adept voicework and Ramón in Happy Feet is over the top, he is theatrical and he is everything that Williams can do, excellently. It's ridiculous, but it is still enticing. And those line readings!
#43: Mike Myers in Shrek
as Shrek
Donkey, two things okay? Shut... up.
Shrek has reached a dismal end, and many forget the slice of delight it was back in 2001. I’ll admit, after the sequel, things headed down but Myers’ ogre was an amusing hero and Myers was able to bring the funny without going overboard. With an accent like that, it could not have been difficult but he kept Shrek realistic, but unbelievable at the same time.

#42:Eleanor Audley in Cinderella
as Lady Tremaine
Above all, self-control.
Incidentally Cinderella is often forgotten - part of that must be attributed to its mostly forgettable score. Still, within everything Audley gives a thoroughly chilling performance as the Step Mother. She's so scary because she's always so calm and her voice is just scary.
#41: Peter Ustinov in Robin Hood
as King John (and King Richard)
Mother... Mother always did like Richard best.
Sure, this version is not Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland classic (or Men In Tights) but it's a diverting Disney romp and Ustinov's double role is a big part of that. Of course, it's the villianous John who gets those delicious one-liners and is responsible for showcasing Ustinov's talent. What is with villains?
There! The first round on the count to the top of memorable voice performances. What do you think of the first ten?


MovieNut14 said...

Oh, this is going to be a cool list. Can't wait for the next one!

Robert said...

Fantastic choices! Robin Williams was the best thing in Happy Feet (which you know I'm not a big fan of ;)) I love your choices of Eddie Murphy and especially Elanor Audley - such definitive work as the stepmother.

Heather said...

Oh what a wonderful choice adding the Stepmother!

I love your spin on this list. I know you will have Cruella and Scar on here eventually and maybe even Ursulla? I cannot wait.

Jude said...

Ooh I do hope Jeremy Irons as Scar in "The Lion King" will top this list...

Kaiderman said...

Yeah... Woody Allen kind of worked for ANTZ> I think I actually like ANTZ a bit more than A Bug's Life! Sly was great in it too!
I also love that you gave Murphy love for Mulan. The old Disney cartoons did these characters so well and Murphy did a great job in it.

Simon said...

Eddie Murphy was pretty great in Mulan (but awful in Shrek).

I like Antz the same as I like A Bug's Life, maybe a little less because of my hatred of 'z' replacing 's'.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

movienut glad you're liking it.

robert yes, williams definitely was best in show, even though i liked happy feet much more than you.

heater stop trying to see my hand :)
i take it we're mob approved ;)

jude i'm keeping mum.

kai antz trumps a bug's life for me too.

simon i felt like he was playing a crazier mushu in shrek though i did like it.

TomS said...

Fascinating look at movies from a little-discussed perspective.

My movie love goes way back, so I will reach across the decades to offer Kim Stanley in "To Kill A Mockingbird", who provides the same nostalgic quality as your excellent choice of JoAnne Woodward in "Age of Innocence".

I am of the opinion that if the Academy wants to reward voice-over work, it should create a separate category, and not use the current acting categories.

Luke said...

Oh my gosh - this is such a great idea! There certainly is a bevy of great voice acting out there. I greatly appreciate your inclusion of the wonderful Wallace and Gromit on here. Now I hope some of the other actors get mentioned later... (Who am I kidding?! We're talking about HBC, so of course!)

Runs Like A Gay said...

Great list, with some lovely inclusions so far. Intrigued by what's to come though.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing the rest of this list being unveiled.

One of my favourites is Vincent Price narrating...Vincent! Price's distinctive voice is great for any type of narration, but in Tim Burton's tribute, it's just magical! His voice is up there with George Sanders - At the moment, I'm not aware of Sanders narrating anything other than All About Eve :)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

tom i would LOVE a separate voice category. perhaps not even lead or supporting - just male voice, and female voice.

luke stop trying to guess:) i don't like wallace and gromit but i do love hbc...

runs like a gay glad you are, some surprises WILL be coming.

roisin glad you're on board too...i'm bursting to tell you if someone you mentioned is on the list - but i won't :)