Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Essentials: Part 3 (1991-Present)

This is the final in a three part series outlining my 30 favorite movie performances of all time (See parts one and two). This portion of the list the last two decades.

Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Just as he does in Quigley Down Under and the Harry Potter series, Rickman shows why he's better than anyone at playing a guy in a rotten mood. There's something so timeless about Prince of Thieves. I think it's the balance that is achieved by putting two great acters in Rickman and Morgan Freeman on screen with two of the worst actors of that decade in Kevin Costner and Christian Slater. It's as if Rickman knew this movie would be awful and decided to ham it up and have some fun. And boy does he ever. Watch it again and you'll see Costner's wandering English accent upstaged by Rickman's ornery facial expressions. Favorite Quote: "That's it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas."

Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Daniel Day-Lewis is considered one of the greatest actors of his generation largely because of how much of himself he throws into his roles. The Last of the Mohicans is no exception. Favorite Quote: Duncan: "There is a war on. How is it you are headed west?" Hawkeye: "Well, we kinda face to the north and real sudden-like turn left."

Kenneth Branaugh as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Kenneth Branaugh spent most of the 1990's becoming the next Laurence Olivier adapting the works of Shakespeare for the big screen. One such example was the star-studded Much Ado About Nothing, which if you can get past the ultra-happiness that abounds, is a decent movie. An amusing side story is the courting that goes on between Branaugh's Benedict and his then wife Emma Thompson's Beatrice. Favorite Quote: "Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No. The world must be peopled."

Tommy Lee Jones as Deputy US Marshal Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive (1993)

I confess that I had never heard of Tommy Lee Jones prior to the release of The Fugitive, even though he had appeared in more than 30 movies to that point. So when I went to see this movie it was for Harrison Ford. And while Mr. Ford was solid, it was Mr. Jones' take-no-crap attitude that stole the show. Favorite Quote: Gerard: "Newman, what are you doing?" Newman: "I'm thinking." Gerard: "Well, think me up a cup of coffee and a chocolate doughnut with some of those little sprinkles on top, just as long as you're thinking."

Dennis Quaid as Jeff Blue in Undercover Blues (1993)

They don't make movies like this one anymore. If Undercover Blues were to come out out today, Hollywood wouldn't know how to classify it. They would either add more children and market it towards kids or make it raunchier and market it toward more "mature" audiences. But since it came out in the early 1990's, we have a fun little husband and wife spy duo fighting crime if for no other reason than for their daughter to able to grow up in a better world. Kathleen Turner plays the "straight man" which leaves Dennis Quaid as the goof ball. Favorite Quote: Muerte: "My name... is Muerte!" Jeff: "Nice to meet you Morty, my name is Jeff."

Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show (1994)

The movie Quiz Show is full great performances (except for maybe Rob Morrow whose accent bugs me). Director Robert Redford took what would otherwise be a boring true story and crafts it into an interesting, character-driven drama. The character at the center of it all is Fiennes' Van Doren whose ethical dilemas drive the film. Favorite Quote: "I've been swarmed by stockbrokers lately; I feel like a girl with a bad reputation."

Christopher Guest as Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman (1996)

The funniest part about each of the Christopher Guest mocumentaries is Guest himself. The best example is drama queen (in more ways than one) Corky in Waiting for Guffman. Favorite Quote: "This is my life here we're talking about! We're not just talkin' about, you know, somethin' else, were talking about my life, you know? And it's forcing me to do somethin' I don't wanna do. To leave. To, to go out and just leave and go home and say, make a clean cut here and say 'no way, Corky, you're not puttin' up with these people!' And I'll tell you why I can't put up with you people: because you're bastard people! That's what you are! You're just bastard people! And I'm goin' home and I'm gonna... I'm gonna bite my pillow, is what I'm gonna do!"

Bill Murray as Wallace Ritchie in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

There are several Bill Murray comedic roles I could have chosen for this list. I was especially torn between this and What About Bob?, but there's something about The Man Who Knew Too Little that cracks me up every time I watch it. I also enjoy the scenes where Bill shows his versatility by playing a a character who is a bad actor. Favorite Quote: "The letters. She told me about them. I know all about the letters. How do you think I know? She told me. Thats how I found out."

George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

I don't much care for George Clooney. He's too much of a movie star and not enough of an actor. One notable exception is his work in the Coen brothers' O Brother Where Art Thou?, where he delivers their dialogue superbly. Favorite Quote: Take your pick from the video below (2:16).

Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland in Cast Away (2000)

How many other actors could appear solo on the screen for two hours without boring or annoying the audience? Can you picture Robin Williams or Jim Carrey in the lead role of Cast Away? How about Russell Crowe who won the Oscar that year? Tom Hanks shows he is the master of his craft in this movie (not to mention the master of his body by losing 50 pounds during production). Also, let's not forget his supporting actor is a volleyball. Favorite Quote: "So, let me get one thing straight here... We have a pro football team now, but they're in Nashville?"

Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain in Amelie (2001)

Before raising controversy in the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, Ms Tautou burst on to the international movie scene as the title character in the hit Amélie. She plays an imaginative young French girl who overcomes her isolated upbringing and finds love. It's a fun quirky movie and Tautou's expressions bring it to life. Favorite Quote: "At least you'll never be a vegetable. Even artichokes have hearts."

Paul Bettany as Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Russell Crowe gives a strong performance as Captain Jack Aubrey, but Bettany is right there ready to go toe to toe with him. In a movie with a rather simple overall plot, it's the collection of side stories, many of which involve Dr. Maturin, that drive this film. Favorite Quote: See the video below (1:32).

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