Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Essentials: Part 2 (1966-1988)

This is second in a three part series outlining my 30 favorite movie performances of all time. See part one here. This portion of the list takes us from the mid-60's through the 1980's.

Peter O'Toole as Simon Dermott in How to Steal a Million (1966)

I love a good caper movie, even one with a story as unconventional as this one. O'Toole plays a would-be thief who, although we know nothing about him, we identify with immediately. His chemistry with Hepburn helps keep the tone of the movie light. Favorite Quote: "I want you to take a long look at the trees, the blue sky, and the river, all of which I personally loathe, which is why a juicy stretch in a French prison doesn't bother me at all."

Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966)

This is the story of the man who defied King Henry VIII in his quest for a divorce. Scofield is outstanding as he shows not only More's defiance, but also his doubts. Favorite Quote: Duke of Norfolk: "Oh confound all this. I'm not a scholar, I don't know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can't you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship?" Sir Thomas More: "And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?"

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

For a while after Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp came out, I had a difficult time comparing its merits to those of the original 1971 version. I essentially concluded that they were two very strange movies each influenced by different drugs. Now that a little time has passed, I can see that 1971 version is old and dated and that Charlie's haircut and inability to burp almost ruin the movie. The newer version is clearly a more polished adaptation. But having said that, Wilder is the better Wonka. His part-irritated, part-irritating attitude shows his inner child. His one liners when addressing the spoiled children and their parents are priceless. Favorite Quote: "We are the music makers; and we are the dreamers of dreams."

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

The characters Al Pacino plays these days are so over the top, you almost wouldn't recognize him in The Godfather, where he commands attention with his edgy silence. Michael Corleone's transformation from innocent fresh-out-of-the-army Mike to Godfather Michael Corleone is the best part of a famously well-crafted movie. Favorite Quote: Michael: "My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator." Kay: "Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed." Michael: "Oh. Who's being naive, Kay?"

Peter Ustinov as Prince John (voice) in Robin Hood (1973)

Back before every character in every animated movie was voiced by a distractingly famous actor, Disney used to employ a small band of regulars who would do multiple voices in multiple movies. Peter Ustinov was a notable exception. Disney's Robin Hood is little more than a stage for Ustinov to ham it up to the point where he makes the Robin Hood character seem downright bland. Favorite Quote: "This crown gives me a feeling of power! Power! Forgive me a cruel chuckle. Heh-heh-heh. Power..."

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I could have picked any number of Harrison Ford roles to be among my favorites: Dr. Richard Kimball, Jack Ryan, Indiana Jones. But I settled on Han Solo because of the dynamic he brings to trilogy's main trio. In the first movie, he's a scoundrel. In the third movie he's practically a family man. In The Empire Strikes Back he's in transition. He knows the cause he's involved in is right, but he's also not fully head over heals in love with Princess Leia yet. Favorite Quote: Princess Leia: "I love you." Han Solo: "I know."

Chevy Chase as Irwin Fletcher in Fletch (1985)

Back in the mid 1980's, Chevy Chase was at the top of his game. He could deliver sarcastic lines better than anyone. Fletch is just one of many characters he portrayed to do so. Favorite Quote: "Can I borrow your towel for a sec? My car just hit a water buffalo." Or any of the Utah jokes below (1:34).

Holly Hunter as Edwina "Ed" McDunnough in Raising Arizona (1987)

I'm of two minds when it comes to the work of Joel & Ethan Coen. Half of their movies I absolutely love and the other half I just can't wrap my mind around. My two favorites are Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, both of which feature Hunter in the role of career criminal's strong-willed wife. In Raising Arizona she brings the perfect balance of sass and vulnerability to a cast of characters tailor made for the Coens' quirky dialogue. Favorite Quote: Ed: "I love him so much!" HI: "I know you do, honey." Ed: "I love him so much!" HI: "I know you do."

Val Kilmer as Madmartigan in Willow (1988)

OK, so what if Willow is essentially a ripoff of Lord of the Rings with a princess baby instead of a ring? It's still a fun movie. The best performance comes from then unknown Val Kilmer as the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Favorite Quote: "'I love you Sorsha?' I don't love her, she kicked me in the face! I hate her... Don't I?"

Tomorrow: Part 3 (1991-Present)

No comments: