Top Ten Movie Actors

The art of performance is an art form that’s hard not to find an appreciation for if you love movies. As a result of this appreciation, this is a list that has been in the works for a very long time. To preface this list of the people I consider the greatest actors in existence I’d like to make a few things clear. This is a list of actors that are all around the greatest performers, but it’s also a list of actors whom, on a personal level, I just enjoy watching. Along with the names of my favorite actors I’ve also listed three films in front of each actor. I want to make it apparent that these three films aren’t necessarily the three best films to come out of that actor’s career, it’s a list of that actor’s three best performances. This is a broad list so I’d like to start with a list of Honorable Mention (in no particular order).

Honorables

  • Brad Pitt
  • Edward Norton
  • Jim Carrey
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • Ralph Fiennes
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Liam Neeson
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • George C. Scott
  • Marlon Brando
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Morgan Freeman

And here we go…

10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Most, if not all, will be surprised to find actors like Morgan Freeman, Marlon Brando, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt on a list of Honorable Mention while Joseph Gordon-Levitt is right here at number 10. There’s never a need to justify or rationalize one’s opinions when it comes to discussing something as subjective as film. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s aura of charisma any time he’s on screen. He knows how to do what he does and he does it perfectly. I respect him a lot.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

2. Brick

1. Looper

9. Robert De Niro

This list would be incomplete without the great Robert De Niro. He deserves every ounce of praise he gets for any role he plays. There is certainly an intensity to the way he becomes engrossed in his characters and like any brilliant actor, he really does have such a broad range. Whether he’s playing the awkward and psychotic Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver or the calm and collected crook in Heat, he always manages to put a very raw touch on any performance. The industry wouldn’t be the same without him.

3. Taxi Driver

2. The Deer Hunter

1. Raging Bull

8. Michael Fassbender

Whether he’s playing a robot or even the main character in an X-Men movie, Michael Fassbender always has such a powerful presence. He first caught my attention when I saw him in Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, Inglourious Basterds. He didn’t play a huge part in the story, but couldn’t help but command the screen. He has such a naturalism to the way he acts making every single one of his actions feel completely real. If you want to watch truly flawless performing watch Michael Fassbender become his character in Shame.

3. Inglourious Basterds

2. Prometheus

1. Shame

7. Tom Hardy

Its slowly starting to be realized by all with each movie he’s a part of, but Tom Hardy is a truly masterful actor. Its a sight to behold anytime he acts. He makes such lucid choices and stays absolutely consistent. Any character he plays becomes so ridiculously defined due to his flawless work as an emotive performer. At this point I can expect nothing less than greatness anytime he chooses to act in a film. It’s always enjoyable to watch him do what he does regardless of the part, be it a charismatic action hero or a feral and emotionless monster of a man.

3. Warrior

2. Bronson

1. The Dark Knight Rises

6. Al Pacino

I feel as though there’s an unspoken competition when it comes to the legendary actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. I would have to go with Al Pacino. Every character he plays is made so intensely human due to a dedication to his work. Realism is what it seems to be about with Pacino. Whether he’s chewing apart the screen in Scent of a Woman or playing a more cool-headed ex-con in Carlito’s Way, with confidence he always manages to bring out the humanity in the men he becomes. Al Pacino is a true master at what he does.

3. Insomnia

2. Dog Day Afternoon

1. The Godfather (Part I + II)

5. Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman is a brilliant character actor who is more than capable of playing the leading man as he sees fit. He has one of the widest ranges of any actor who has ever performed. He can play a ferocious villain in an action movie such as Air Force One and he has the ability to play a more subdued protagonist in a complex drama like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. With maturity and grace, Oldman makes everything he does so completely memorable. Gary Oldman is still working today, but he’s already left such a lasting and magnificent legacy with the fascinating ways he takes on the vibrant characters he plays.

3. The Professional

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

1. The Dark Knight Legend

4. Jack Nicholson

Ever since I fell in love with the art of film, I’ve always considered Jack Nicholson one of my favorite actors. It’s hard not to love the actor when you look at his track record. He is extraordinary, that’s all there is to it. Due to his work as a magnificent performer he is partly responsible for some of the masterpieces fundamental to the progression of cinema. He’s always having fun just doing exactly what he does best, perform flawlessly. Jack makes you feel it no matter what it is. When he laughs, yells, cries, breathes, it’s not him,  it’s his character. Jack Nicholson is an incredible artist and one of the best there is.

3. The Departed

2. The Shining

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

3. Christian Bale

There is something so miraculous to the way Christian Bale completely throws himself in his roles. Regardless of the character, he makes you believe it. As Batman he’s heroic, as Patrick Bateman he’s psychotic, as Dicky Eklund he’s pathetic, as Alfred Borden he’s enigmatic and I could easily go on. It’s as if he just has some kind of vast knowledge on exactly how to tap into the mind and shoes of the characters he portrays. Christian Bale defines a generation of actors who have learned a lot from a long, long history of film and excels because of that knowledge.

3. The Fighter

2. American Psycho

1. The Dark Knight Legend

2. Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis is a phenomenal artist and the greatest actor working today. He is incredibly deliberate in the choices he makes and I don’t just mean in the ways he chooses to portray a character, but also in the characters he chooses to play. He’s touched on such a broad spectrum of emotions and he does so flawlessly. No one does it the way Daniel Day-Lewis does it. You want to talk about intensity in performance, just watch him tear through the scenery as the violent villain, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is coming soon and I just can’t wait to see what Day-Lewis does with it.

Daniel Day-Lewis blows me away any time he takes on a performance, but it’s in There Will Be Blood where he really hits his stride and shows just how extraordinary a performance can be. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is an epic character study about consumption, greed and the American nightmare. At the heart of the film is the complex and depraved oilman, Daniel Plainview. Rarely does the film have a scene without its black-hearted protagonist. It’s one of the juiciest roles in all of film and as always, with precision and dominance, Daniel Day-Lewis plays the character to perfection.

3. Gangs of New York

2. Lincoln

1. There Will Be Blood

1. Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger is the greatest artist to have ever acted in film and its a shame to think about what could’ve been. The Australian actor was only 28-years-old when he passed away and all we have of him is an enigmatic and extraordinary career that was tragically cut very short. Even since a very young age, Heath showed great promise when he took on any role. No matter what it was, be it an rollicking adventure movie like A Knight’s Tale or a serious drama like The Patriot, Heath Ledger showed more than potential to be one of the greats.

A turning point that marked the career of a mature and defiant actor was Heath Ledger’s performance of Ennis Del Mar in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain. This was a role that needed a powerful and honest performance and Heath Ledger responded with a portrayal that exceeded those necessities. Heath Ledger is an extraordinary actor who never needed to prove anything, but if he did, he proves it here. You’d be hard-pressed to find other performances that are as touching and real.

Heath Ledger is the kind of actor who just seems to have fun with whatever he’s doing. He loves doing what he does and just happens to be the best at what he does. Never did he have more fun with a role than when he gave not only the greatest performance of his career, but the greatest performance in the history of film. In The Dark Knight, Ledger was universally praised for his realistic portrayal of one of the most iconic villains in the history of stories. In The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger crafted the greatest character in film, which is in part due to a landmark performance that cements Heath Ledger as the greatest actor to have ever performed.

3. The Patriot

2. Brokeback Mountain

1. The Dark Knight

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True Grit Review

True Grit was a film that I walked out a bit disappointed with to say the least. It was a film I saw at the midnight premiere and walked out a bit downtrodden because what I saw wasn’t the movie I expected to see at all. Looking back over True Grit I began to do what all of the Coen Brother’s movies force me to do. I began to think. In my pondering over the past few days after seeing what was for me the most anticipated movie of the year, I realized yes, True Grit wasn’t the movie I was expecting to see, it was better.

Before delving deep into that conundrum and my review I’d like to state that I’ve never seen the original True Grit nor have I read the original book. I went in completely blind and will review this movie based on the movie it was not how well it followed the book or original John Wayne movie. That being said, True Grit, like almost all Coen Bros. films, was a masterpiece. I just didn’t quite realize it at first.

Now when I said, I went in expecting something different, that obviously begs the question, what did I expect? What I thought True Grit would be, was some kind of guns blazing, dark look into the west. A movie that would kind of mirror the themes of No Country for Old Men, but in the west. A western that might even surpass my favorite western, Unforgiven. What True Grit was, was actually one of the most light-hearted of the Coen Bros. films and on top of that, one of the most light hearted westerns I’ve seen.

Sure there was some gunplay, but for the most part, it was dialogue driven. It was a film that cared not about its action, but its story. We get to know these characters well and join them on their journey of “retribution”. Maybe True Grit isn’t the greatest western or all time and maybe its not the most enjoying, but it is undoubtedly the most real. Its not a western that’s looking to tell of a journey through the west complete with different villains, escapades and epic showdowns. It’s a film that makes you feel as if you’re right there on a horse having a whiskey with good ol’ “Rooster” Cogburn.

It was a film written and directed as well as a movie can get. I can’t expect much else from my favorite filmmakers in existence. Jeff Bridges was downright brilliant in what might just be my favorite role of his. The main character though was newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, there’s nothing profound about her performance that I’m sure you haven’t read anywhere else suffice it to say, from what I was reading, I expected a lot and she blew me away.

Early I stated that it was “better” than what I was expecting it to be. I’d like to jump into that comment a little more. I explained that what I expected was kind of a combination of my favorite western, Unforgiven and my favorite Coen Bros. film, No Country for Old Men. That’s a lot to expect out of a film. No I’m not saying that True Grit is “better” than either of those films. I am merely saying that it’s “better” that True Grit was the movie that it was.

I realized in my pondering that I don’t want True Grit to be No Country for Old Men because if I want to watch No Country for Old Men, I’ll just watch No Country for Old Men and I realized that no western will ever come out that will be better than Unforgiven. Of course better movies might come out, but no other western will because Unforgiven is a brilliant commentary on the entire idea of the west and the western genre. That being said, True Grit isn’t No Country for Old Men and its not Unforgiven, its just True Grit and what True Grit was, was a masterpiece.

Grade: A+

Crazy Heart Review

There are always rare points in cinema where an actor will get a script and due to their performance and good directing, a movie will feel so immensely real that almost every moment, good and bad, is pleasing to watch. That’s what you get in the movie Crazy Heart. With Crazy Heart you have Jeff Bridges, a phenomenal actor, in what might be the performance of his career and with his prior accomplishments, that is saying something.

Crazy Heart tells the tale of an old alcoholic country star far past his prime. Known only to his fans as Bad Blake. Blake’s routine usually consists of waking up hung over, drinking, driving to his next gig in the middle of nowhere, which is usually some bowling alley or bar, drinking some more, sleeping with an old groupie, drinking, oh and did I mention the occasional drink here and there. Blake is considered lucky if he gets the chance to open for his once prodigy and now big time country star, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) , Blake considers it a kick in the head. One day a reporter (Maggie Gyllenhall in a fantastic performance) comes along looking for an interview from the washed up country star.

Crazy Heart is very comparable to the movie The Wrestler. Both are fantastic movies that required outstanding performances. They are a bit different though. In Crazy Heart, I think you’ll find a light hearted take on  this similar story. It all depends on you which you enjoy more. I lean a little more towards The Wrestler as a whole, but performance wise I think I’d lean toward Bridges, but only slightly.

Crazy Heart is one you won’t want to miss if only to see one of the greatest actors of our time in one of his greatest performances. The movie would not and could not have been the same with out the powerhouse performance that Bridges gave. He really threw his all into the character and its always a pleasure to see a performer do just that.

Grade: A-

The Men Who Stare At Goats Review

The Men Who Stare At Goats was exactly what I expected it to be. It wasn’t an amazing movie by any means, but it was however a very fun film, with great acting and worth a lot more watches. It’s really just a fun bit of entertainment that will most likely be overlooked, but shouldn’t be. It told a very entertaining tale, told it well, and along the way made me laugh hysterically.

Its a story of the government attempting to train psychic soldiers or “jedi” to fight with in war instead of weapons. The story is supposedly based on true events, but instead of saying so, it says “More of this is true than you’d believe”, or something along those lines. Clooney plays and ex-jedi whose on a mission to rescue his leader (Jeff Bridges), while Ewan McGregor plays a reporter writing his story and joining in his adventures. Kevin Spacey is expertly thrown in as a rival psychic.

Everyone was fantastic and its really what you’d expect. If I had to pick a favorite I would say I absolutely loved Jeff Bridges in this flick. He was hilarious every time he came on screen. All and all, the movie was a nice bit of entertainment, certainly worth a watch, if not a few.

Grade: B

Iron Man Review

This was my first time going to the theater in 4 months, which is disturbing to me. Let me just say that I need to get back on track with movies because if the rest of the movies to come out this summer are even half as spectacular as Iron Man, than I will have found heaven. Iron Man was the best superhero movie I’ve seen since Batman Begins, and it could’ve even have been better then that (I haven’t decided yet). Iron was more than just a superhero movie though, it was a well acted, well cast, full blown entertaining, colorful, extravaganza. Iron Man is exactly what a movie should be. A movie should have good acting, have a good story, and be entertaining throughout, and that’s what Iron Man was. Robert Downey Jr. was born to play this role, as if his entire career just led to him playing Tony Stark, he was amazing and we’ll be seeing him more often. Jeff Bridges was the perfect pick for the villain in this movie because you can see Bridges as a fun loving comedic guy and than he just switches on you, he was so much fun to watch. Gwyneth and Terrence were also great for their parts. The special effects in this movie didn’t seem like special effects at all, every little inch of that beautiful suit was detailed and thought out. Go see this movie, you won’t regret it. 

PS: Stay after the credits, you won’t regret this either.

Grade: B+