Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Discuss: Favorite Movie Roles

Doug: I love Sean Connery's turn as Jimmy Malone in Brian dePalma's 1987 reimagining of The Untouchables. Classic tough guy, and really hit on what it must have been like to be a cop in Al Capone's Chicago. Who are your favorites?


William said...

Untouchables was a great flick, Doug. It was not only one of Sean Connery's best, it was also one of Kevin Costner's as well.

As for myself, this is a tough one, because there are so many great moments by so many great actors out there. But when I really thought about what I felt were great performances, one movie popped into my head, and that was Schindler's List.

I had never really wanted to see Schindler's List because I find realistic movies about man's inhumanity towards man very hard to stomach. (Especially when they are true). So I avoided seeing the film for years, even when my local video store made it available for free.

But then one night it was being shown on TV uncut, unedited, and with no commercial interruptions, and I just couldn't avoid it any longer. And even though it was indeed hard to take in some parts, I found it to be an excellent movie. One of Spielberg's very best in fact. And there were two performances that I thought really stood out (among many great performances) and that was Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth. I think that was the best that I've ever seen either of those actors perform. Some amazing and powerful stuff, that made me a huge fan of them both.

Doug said...

I couldn't agree with you more, William. Ralph Fiennes gave one of those performances that sent chills down the spine whenever he was on screen. Totally unpredictable.

In a movie of a wholly different genre, Heath Ledger's Joker had that effect on me, too. I just recall feely very tense during his scenes the first time I watch "Dark Knight".


Doug said...

I guess as long as intense films have come up, the performances by Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking" were gripping.


Edo Bosnar said...

There's lots of fine performances by many actors/actresses that I've enjoyed, but for some reason, your post has got me thinking about favorite performances by actors I normally don't like - or at least don't think too much of.
Example: Charlie Sheen's cameo in the police station in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (best piece of acting he's ever done; as far as I'm concerned, he could have threw in the towel after that).
Or David Caruso as the mute CIA agent (code-named "KitKat") in Hudson Hawk (crappy movie otherwise) who communicated with little note cards.
And my all-time favorite in this category: Matthew McConaughey as this crazed, amphetamine-addled and super-paranoid truck driver in Larger Than Life (a really underrated movie starring Bill Murray).

Colin Jones said...

Charlton Heston: "We did it, we really did it - damn you all to helllll !!!!" - of course he should have said "ah, so that's how the apes were talking English" :)

J.A. Morris said...

I had the good fortune of being dragged to a revival of 'Casablanca' by my parents when I was 7 or 8. Bogart as Rick Blaine is one of the all-time best performances. But I was shocked later on when I found out that Bogart played "the heavy" in lots of gangster movies before he became a star. It was weird to see "Rick" shooting at defenseless victims.

Sure, I love him in lots of other films, but 'Casablanca' is tops for Bogie in my book. And I'm glad the first time I saw it was on the big screen.

Anonymous said...

As to "gripping", the first one that made an impression on high school aged me was Christopher Walken in the Deer Hunter. That DeNiro guy wasn't too bad either. The violence and tension in that movie would probably seem lame compared to what is depicted in films nowadays. But that was the first movie I remember going to and doing a lot of eye closing and squirming in my chair.


William said...

Another one came to mind for me. Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner. His "tears in the rain" speech was truly heart breaking. A brilliant piece of acting, especially considering the fact that Hauer changed some of the scripted dialogue and ad-libbed much of the scene on the fly.

Garett said...

Untouchables was a very enjoyable show, and like J.A. I'm a Bogey fan. More recently, Timothy Spall was great in Mr. Turner, playing the sometimes unlikeable character of the famous painter.

I'd like to see The Big Heat with Glenn Ford again, where honest cop Ford goes from light and romantic to tough and intense. It was playing at a local cinema last night but I was unable to go. You also get Ford playing off a young Lee Marvin.

Humanbelly said...

I. . . am going to go in a completely different direction.
There are two beloved films that I know I have seen more than ten times each, and with every viewing I am sucked into the leading man's performance even as I marvel at their subtlety and craft.

The first is Alistair Sims as Scrooge in the 1950 version of SCROOGE/CHRISTMAS CAROL. How many versions of that tale have been on film or screen? About a bajillion? It's a deeply beloved story for me (I've been in five productions, and done Scrooge twice, in fact), and yet it has historically and almost universally been cast with actors who solidly and enthusiastically nail the unrepentant old miser at the beginning, but then are unconvincing as the emotional walls start to crack, and clearly have to stretch to convey the buoyant transformation by the end. Sims is invested in each aspect of Scrooge's Journey throughout, and his joy upon discovering his Christmas morning reprieve is pefectly heartfelt and genuine and youthfully energetic and unfettered. . . and truly fun. He is the definition of what the words on the page are trying to convey.

The second (which keeps right along with the holiday theme) is Jimmy Stewart in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Oh sure, I can hear the groans-- but in a career of brilliant movie roles, this was a crowning achievement that was rather overlooked as such. Apart from being very physically convincing with the age range being portrayed (roughly 15 years or so-- spanning from new college grad to middle-aged father), Stewart creates a deep, deep inner life for this good-hearted, repressed everyman that is conveyed between the spoken lines in scene after scene. It's as though you can hear his thought-bubbles even though there's no voice-over. Example: scene at the train station where his brother's new wife lets slip about Harry's job opportunities? You see. . . YOU SEE. . . him weigh the decision to chuck his own ambitions aside for his brother's sake during that brief, non-descript cross along the train platform; make the choice; swallow his regret; and put his happy-brother face back on. It's not big, it's not obvious or hokey-- it's just there, and so wonderfully real. And he does that throughout the film. And this from an actor who had been out of films for the entirety of WWII, and wasn't confident that he'd be able to pull the role off.

Man-- now I'm feeling all Christmassy again-- well, we're almost at the halfway point, eh? Woo-hoo!


Anonymous said...

@ J.A. Morris: I think Bogart had a lot of unforgettable roles...I really can't imagine anyone else in Maltese Falcon; when I read the book, I hear Bogart's voice in my head!

How about Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China? It looks like they're doing a remake with The Rock in the lead, but I can't imagine anyone nailing it like Russell did.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

HB, I'll 2nd the motion on George Bailey. I LOVE It's a Wonderful Life! So many great moments in that movie. I think I also relate because I used to be in the building and loan (well, S&L) business. The everyman/small businessman who truly looks out for his fellow man going up against big, evil, nasty corporate greed...I love the scene when he agrees to go to work for Potter and shakes his hand then realizes what he's done, goes from happy to disgusted and tells 'em all off. "And that goes for you too!" Classic!

Never been a big fan of A Christmas Carol but I'll be watching for the Alistair Sims version now.

Merry Christmas!


J.A. Morris said...

Humanbelly, as you may know, I blog about Christmas specials/movies/episodes (and episodes/specials of all the other holidays)when I'm not blogging about comics and I agree wholeheartedly with your Yuletide selections. Also, if HB or anyone else is suddenly feeling "Christmassy", you may want to visit this link to a blog operated by a friend of mine:

Humanbelly said...

Season's greetings right back atcha, Tom!
Aaaand J.A.-- I have immediately bookmarked that sight-- thank you so much!

Doug/Karen, do you suppose come the true yuletide season we might consider offering a "How do you decorate your home/workplace" type post? Hmmm? (At least, for those of us goobers who hurl ourselves into such things at Warp 10?)


Anonymous said...

Yes,thanks J.A. On that note, I am about to go into the backyard and take the first dip of the Summer in my pool.


pfgavigan said...


Quatermass and the Pit, or Five Million Years to Earth as it was known here in the States (OK, OK, the breakaway Colonies) has not one but two performances where the actors really occupied their roles. Andrew Keir, in my opinion, delivered the best interpretation of the Quatermass character, but James Donald smashed the role of Matthew Roney out of the ball park. That look on his face as he approaches the visualization of the Martian entity in the climactic scene is the manifestation of resolve.

Actually, the whole film is filled with great performances, check it out if you haven't scene it. I remember one reviewer calling it "2001, the Dark Side"!


Anonymous said...

Robert Mitchum in the original Cape Fear. Holy Moley, he pulled off evil-but-charismatic better than anyone I've ever seen. How can a man project such soulless eyes? What an amazing performance!

Another Robert (DeNiro) in Taxi Driver's hard to beat. It's an ugly, grimy movie and he just kills it as a man losing his grip on reality.

I'm another fan of Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, for the reasons HB listed in his post. It's tied with A Christmas Story as my favorite holiday movie.

- Mike Loughlin

Humanbelly said...

Can I toss out a quick piece of character-actor/supporting love? A guy who can put himself fully into just about any role? Consider Hank Azaria in: BIRDCAGE; the Matthew Broderick GODZILLA remake; MYSTERY MEN; and NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 (oy, but don't consider much else w/ that last one!). It's not the nailing of a single iconic role-- it's that he fully and entertainingly inhabits four WILDLY different characters, and you'd never consider that he wasn't "typed" into any one of them at first glance.

Along those lines, he's similar to Peter Sellers in DR STRANGELOVE. Nails each quirky role-- although there's an astonishingly subtle and endearing humanity to the proper officer Capt Mandrake that stays with me more than many other aspects of that film.


Humanbelly said...

PS-- thanks youse guys fer bein' such great sports and goin' right along with me on the WONDERFUL LIFE trail, eh? Yer the best!


Redartz said...

Add some more love for Jimmy Stewart and George Bailey. Ditto for Bogey (although my favorite Bogart film is "Key Largo"; what a cast- Lionel Barrymore, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, and a hurricane).

There seem to be more dramatic roles represented here,so here is a comedic tour-de-force:
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in "Some Like it Hot". They positively killed it in that film. They took the wacky premise of two luckless musicians running from the mob, and ran with it (no easy task in heels). They both seem to be having great fun with the roles, and the scene with Curtis struggling to resist Marilyn Monroe's advances is painfully hilarious. Not to be outdone, Lemmon is in classic form trying to fend off Joe E. Brown.

This film is invariably a joy to watch, and Jack and Tony are a huge reason why ( and then, there is Marilyn, too...).

Anonymous said...

Willaim Holden in the "The Wild Bunch."
A busted down tired old outlaw who has outlived his time, with a sense of sad nobility.
"One last job..."

Martinex1 said...

William Holden was a great actor and I liked him a lot in "Stalag 17" as well as "The Wild Bunch" and in "Network" later. Jimmy Stewart is such a great choice and I was thinking about him in "Rear Window" and "Rope". As HB expressed in his performance in Wonderful Life, the acting is superb in between the lines. The silences and pauses and expressions are so clear and meaningful.

I'm a big Hitchcock fan and perhaps one of my favorite performances in one of his movies was Joseph Cotton in "Shadow of a Doubt". The mix of sinister and charming is really great.

In more recent movies (25 or so years ago) I really enjoyed Jeff Daniels in "Something Wild". As a man who lies to himself and to others as he searches for an escape from a mundane life, his performance is really nicely drawn ( even as the world around him turns sinister). Ray Liotta also was great in that film and his very presence changed the mood of the film.

Anonymous said...

Hmm whenever Sean Connery's name is mentioned I always think of his role as 007 James Bond of course. Some of my favourites roles (and this reflects my taste in scifi/fantasy films) are Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Patrick Stewart as Professor X (FOX really needs to give back the X-men franchise to Marvel Studios)/Jean Luc Picard in the ST:TNG movies, Jack Nicholson as the Joker (apologies to Heath Ledger), Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky and Mel Gibson as Mad Max (before he turned into a nutcase later in life).

I'm sure there's tons more that I've missed out but these are what come to mind in my fuzzy addled brain.

- Mike 'you can't handle the truth' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

Another fan of Five Million Years to Earth! PF, I'm glad to see someone else bring up that terrific film. That scene with Roney swinging out on the crane is just killer. I briefly covered it in a post from many years ago -you can see it here: http://bronzeagebabies.blogspot.com/2011/03/battle-of-sci-fi-flicks-60s.html

david_b said...

Been watching a lot of Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck of late, just saw 'The Hunters' last night on AMC.

A relatively-dull Korean War flick, but the aerial sequences were extremely impressive, easily the star of the movie. Also a very young, cocky Robert Wagner.

Both that and Bill Holden in 'Bridges of Toko-ri' are two outstanding under-appreciated Korean War flicks, great for watching jet aircraft dogfighting, Korean War being the first use of that technology.

david_b said...

HB, I got to meet Shane Rimmer once at a Space:1999 con, he was in several Bond films, but he was also one of the cockpit crew in 'Strangelove'.

He didn't go into details, but I asked him what it was like to work with both Sellers and Kubrick. Pretty cool combination.

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