Friday, 17 May 2013

Acting up

Today's blog is one of those non-work ones that I am inspired to write now and then. The inspiration for this one came at around 10pm last night as we sat watching a film Steve and I both love- The Damned United. As admirers of both Messrs Clough and Sheen, it's a house favourite.

Watching it, Steve asked "Is this one of the greatest screen performances ever?" It got us talking as to what we think really are the greatest performances committed to celluloid over the years.
Let's start with Michael Sheen as Old Big 'Ead. Why is it genius? For me, he captures the essence of Clough- the drive, the mannerisms, the ability, the hilarious but entirely earned arrogance, the refusal to capitulate to the money men that meant he was the best manager England never had. This scene is often quoted at home whenever anyone needs bringing down to Earth- "You can take all that and put it in the bin... 'cause you cheated."

 Next up is Kevin Spacey's astounding turn in The Usual Suspects, by turns fragile and vulnerable and sly and calculated - but always a compelling storyteller. If you don't know the payoff to this story, make time soon to revel in one of the most finely-crafted tales ever put on film.

One of the ladies next, with Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage. Cruel, disdainful and utterly riveting every time she appears, her creation is one of the most repulsive characters to grace the screen.

Another actress now, with Charlize Theron defying every expectation in 2003's Monster, the story of Aileen Wuornos, 'America's first female serial killer.'Charlize brings the vulnerability to the role that stops it becoming just another biopic and makes it something thought-provoking and hugely important.

How did you convey the nuances and detail of a character silently, in the days before sound? A masterclass from Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box. I recall the first time I saw this and I was hooked- both a schemer and a lost soul... Louise played it to perfection.

Alright, gents. Back to you. If I had to pick one performance from three incredible ones in Jaws (the rubber shark doesn't qualify) it has to be Roy Scheider, as Chief Brody. This is the second finest scene in the movie after the 'scar comparison' moment where Quint trumps them all with his story of the carnage of the USS Indianapolis.

Vincent Cassel is an actor who's come to our attention via his intense performances in La Haine, Black Swan and Trance, but here I choose his portrayal of French criminal mastermind Jaques Mesrine- two films, equally brilliant.

Shall we lighten things up with a story of familial murder and ambition? I think so. My all time favourite film is the masterpiece Kind Hearts and Coronets, ahead of its time and mercifully spared a remake, unlike its stablemate The Ladykillers. On the surface it's genteel. Underneath its comic heart is black as night. Dennis Price's performance is often overshadowed by the multiple roles played by the great Sir Alec Guinness, but Price more than holds his own and is a far more subtle actor than his colleague here.

Well, there's a few that spring to mind. I fully expect (and hope for) cries of "But what about.." and "How could you forget..."

Over to you, then.


  1. Not sure if I can embed a clip in comments, but how could you forget Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner?

    Doubly moving when you consider he is playing an android

  2. An excellent point, and I would add to that Michael Fassbender's android in Prometheus.

  3. Paul Newman looking impossibly cool in Cool Hand Luke , his relationship with George Kennedy and how their relationship changes is well written and superbly directed.

  4. You can't have a list like this without "Now That We're Men' sung by Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star in Spongebob the Movie, right?

    1. I'll let you have that one. It's very emotional.

    Javier Bardem , this is from No Country for Old Men, he does scary very well with just a sigh, a look and a calmness that is truly chilling.

  6. Jeff Bridges in everything but in particular Jack in the Fisher King, that film makes me swoon. And of course, there's that flibbertigibbit.......

  7. I'm not very good at describing a movie, but the first movie that comes to mind is Winter's Bone. It's about a seventeen year old girl, living in the Ozark back country, who acts as the primary caregiver to her mentally ill mother, and her two younger siblings, and is trying to keep her family together after her dad comes up missing.

    This is the first time I ever paid attention to Jennifer Lawrence. Her performance is so compelling and so real to life. I've been to the back country of the Ozarks, and I was so taken with not only the realism of this movie, but the performances of all the actors. What was once a bootlegging country, and probably still is with moonshiners, has turned into big business for do it yourself methamphetamine labs. I truly have to say this is probably my favorite movie.

  8. Everyone in True Romance is Great but the scene where Hopper and Walken perform is sublime. All roles in Glengarry Glenross are brilliant but Jack Lemon outshines all....