Friday, April 10, 2009

Tabor's Top 10 roles for Actors

(Bill the Butcher demands to be ranked higher than #6)

I did my top ten best roles for actresses over a year ago. I’ve been putting off doing one for actors mainly out of laziness but partially out of the difficulty of ranking them. I asked myself the same questions I asked myself while doing an actress list.
1) What characters commanded the audience’s attention every time they are on the screen, regardless of the importance of their role?
2) Did they have the ability to move you emotionally?
3) Were they believable?
4) Were their mannerisms true to their dialogue?
I compiled a list of 20 of my favorite roles and grudgingly widdled it down to 10. I find the things I look for in my actresses is completely different than what I look for in an actor. The majority of the actress roles I selected were focused on women who were tragedy laden. Usually roles involving terminal illness, drug/alcohol abuse, inferiority complexes, etc.
However, when it comes to roles that I enjoy from actors they are much more abrasive, much more in control. Most of these characters are people that you’d never want to meet in real life. They are fun to observe, but quite frankly they are assholes in the purest sense. Here we go!

#10. Daniel Plainview- Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”

Starting right off with perhaps the biggest jerk on the list. Some of the other characters on this list may have some redeeming qualities but not Daniel. He hates everyone he has ever met and at the end of the film, nothing has changed.
Daniel Plainview begins the movie as a silver miner who accidentally strikes oil while blasting in his mineshaft. After becoming fairly wealthy he realizes people are very weary about helping him because he is such a cruel man. After he finds an abandoned baby in a basket he raises the child as his own, not out of love, but more because people will be more likely to do business with him if he takes this child around with him on business endeavors. He hates people in general and probably wouldn't have anything to do with them, but he needs them to make money. By the time the film is over Daniel has killed people, left towns in shambles, turned his back on his deaf “son”, and even made a minister renounce god to being a myth. He is infinitely mean but we can’t take our eyes off him for a second. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for this role in 2007.

#9. Lester Burman –played by Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty”

It’s a hard job to make the audience fall in love with a married character whom, in his mid- 40’s falls in “lust” with his daughter’s 18 year-old best friend. He also blackmails his boss, begins smoking pot, and regresses back to his teenage years quitting his real job and getting hired in at a fast food restaurant specifically asking for as little responsibility as possible.
I guess it’s easy for him to justify his actions to the audience when we see how fake and bitter his wife is. His daughter hates him. He doesn’t have any real friends. He is forced to drone on through life as a zombie incapable of happiness. His conscious is awakened when he sees Angela Hayes a fellow cheerleader on his daughters’ squad doing a halftime dance. Apparently this reminds him that there is more to life than going through the motions. He uses his newfound lust as a springboard to his own happiness. Shunning the stereotypes of the American dream that he has strived for only to find emptiness. He begins living the life that he wants rather than what his wife’s expectations are. There is a quote he has in this film that rings so true “You’re never too old to get it back.” It’s a great mantra for anyone who finds himself or herself in the rut of the daily grind.

#8. Tony Montana- Played by Al Pacino in “Scarface”

Such a great role in such a mediocre film. I’ve always wished that screenplay writer Oliver Stone would have opted to direct his awesome script rather than handing it off to the unworthy hands of the horrendous Brian DePalma. This film could have been a masterpiece. But as it is the film itself falls short due to the directing but it is saved by one the greatest actors of all-time, Al Pacino. I didn’t know Al had it in him to be so aggressive, to flow from cool-headed Italian Michael Corleone in the Godfather films to hot headed murdering Cuban drug king pin Tony Montana so seamlessly. The accent he uses in the film is still used by everyone. Even people that have never seen Scarface have heard “Say Hello to my little friend!!” considering that line is quoted in at least 5 films per year since 1983. It’s a basic story of an immigrant that comes to America to achieve whatever the American dream to them. In Tony’s case it’s being the richest, most ruthless, drug dealer who takes what he wants whenever he wants it.
There is depth to his character as well. He does have a soft spot for his sister and children in general. He expresses remorse over killing his best friend. He’s also a hardcore cocaine addict himself, which blurs his judgment on more than one occasion.

#7. Walt Kowalski- Played by Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino”

The thing about Walt Kowalski that viewers must understand is that he’s from another generation. A generation where being a racist was as natural as breathing oxygen. I’m sure many of the people who read this can attribute some of his qualities to their own grandparents. A tough hard-working S.O.B. that values toughness and strength of conviction more than love and compassion. A veteran of the Korean War who has seen more than his fair share of tragedy has caused his own personal relationships with his children and grandchildren to suffer. Clint Eastwood glares and snarls at anyone that makes eye contact with him. He has become a widower in the beginning of the movie and refuses help from priests, neighbors, and relatives choosing isolation as the better alternative.
Walt hates what his Detroit neighborhood has become. Once a healthy a prosperous white area in the 60’s, has now become a mostly Asian dominated ghetto. All of his former neighbors have either died off or taken off for the suburbs during the great white flight. He has no problems dropping racial insults on his neighbors any chance he gets. As the story progresses Walt starts to realize he has more in common with these foreigners than he does with his own spoiled-rotten family. This allows for a wonderfully layered relationship between him and his neighbors, most notably Tao, the young man that ends up looking to Walt as the father he never had, and the son Walt always wanted.

#6. Bill “The Butcher” Cutting- Played by Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gangs of New York”

Like “Scarface” the quality of this movie wasn’t up to my standards but a dominating character like Bill the Butcher can elevate a mediocre movie to Oscar worthy if the academy is enthralled when he is on the screen. Once again here is me rooting for the bad guy. Another racist, another murderer, and another determined individual willing to do whatever it takes for his cause.
Bill “The Butcher” Cutting is the leader of the most powerful gang that ruled the “Five-Points” in New York during the 1850’s-60’s. This was a violent era in American history and the Five Points were the worst of the worst. His gang was called “The Natives” it was made up of men that were born in America. They despised the boatloads of Irish, English, Scottish, etc. immigrants that unloaded in their city everyday. To show their distaste they would murder and pillage from them whenever they had the chance or face them in large-scale battles. Bill is a master with knives and stabbing weapons. He is unforgettable in his battle attire as he clenches a long straight knife in one hand and a thick meat cleaver in the other. His mustache curls up at the sides and his hair is always grimy and gross. His nonstop barrage of insults and hate mongering speeches, as well as a very macabre sense of humor make Bill Cutting one of the most memorable characters of all time.

#5. Gust Avrakotos- played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Those that know me, know that P.S. Hoffman is my favorite actor in the world. His consistency is amazing and his ability to pick scripts is second to none. He has become a leading man over the past few years so it’s surprising to see one of his supporting roles as my personal favorite from him.
Gust Avrakotos was a maverick CIA agent who paired up with Charlie Wilson to help the people from Afghanistan compile weaponry and training to defeat the Russians. He is a no nonsense personality that isn’t afraid to tell his superiors to shove it in more ways than one. He has no filter between what he is thinking and what he says. He spares nobodies feelings in the pursuit of making his point. He is the perfect compliment to Tom Hanks as the smooth talking laid back congressman from Texas. There is something that all working class people can identify with when a man openly calls his boss a douchebag in front of the entire office. To break the glass of a superiors’ office window with a monkey wrench and call him a “fucking child”. It’s not the kind of guy I want to hang out with, but it’s the kind of guy I could watch all day.

#4. Colonel Massoud Behrani- played by Sir Ben Kingsley in “House of Sand and Fog”

This is the quintessential role to show the price that can be paid if you have too much pride for your own good. Behrani is a former Colonel in the Iranian army that lost everything when he was forced to flee Europe with his family. As immigrants to America, Behrani uses all of his money to have his daughter married off to a good family. His family has no idea of the financial hardships that they are under because Behrani has too much pride to tell him that he doesn’t work on the board of Boeing Airlines. Instead he dresses in a suit and tie before he leaves his house then changes into construction gear in a hotel bathroom to work for minimum wage with other immigrants. On the way home he washes in the same bathroom and puts his business clothes back on to keep up the fa├žade for his family.
Upon seeing an auction for a house in the newspaper he finally sees his chance to get some money to put his kindhearted son through college. The house is being sold for a fraction of the value and he sees an opportunity to quickly flip the house for 4 times what he paid. The only problem is that the house was put on auction prematurely and it forced the former tenant a young divorcee played by Jennifer Connelly to move out unfairly. As Behrani hears her argument he refuses to give in and continues to treat her unfairly with his smug arrogance. This sets off a chain of tragic events that results in attempted suicides, murder, and a misguided cop in jail for murder. Upon seeing him and his wife’s only option is to be deported back to Iran and face execution, Behrani does what is the only the option in his view.

#3. Anton Chiggurgh- Played by Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”

Anton Chiggurgh isn’t so much a character as he is an idea. The idea is the wave of violence sweeping the land in the 1980’s. He’s reason why small town cops all carry guns these days. The view that the days of “Leave it to Beaver” and Andy Griffith and Mayberry are a thing of the past. Nobody that has ever come in contact with Chiggurgh are not tainted in one-way or another. They are either left dead, defeated, greedier, scared, or with a new sense of coldness toward their loved ones. He is pure evil disguised in a human metaphor.
Every time Chiggurgh is on the screen the audience tenses up. He kills without discrimination. He verbally bullies everyone that dares talk to him. He threatens to kill family members of people if they don’t give him what he wants. Some may even call him the angel of death. He dresses in all black, his goofy Sir Lancelot haircut just adds to his creepiness. He talks in a deep but sinister voice. He knows what his goal is and goes after it. No matter if he’s shot or hit with a car he refuses to relent on his desire for chaos. Kinda like the Terminator except with principals.

#2. Danny Archer-Played by Leonardo Dicaprio in “Blood Diamond”

I have no idea how Leo was able to take an accent like he used as Danny Archer and made it sound so believable. I’ve never heard anything like it in all my years. A Zimbabwe accent I suppose but the tone and slang were flawlessly realistic. He also dabbles in Rastafarian, and numerous African dialects.
A soldier of fortune forced to watch his family slaughtered at the hands of the African civil war when he was a child, has grown into a heartless yet resourceful diamond smuggler. He knows how to survive in war zones with cunning, brass balls, and enough know-how when it comes to weaponry that even generals give him a wide berth if they can help it. At the news that there is a pink diamond the size of a fist that has recently been found by a fisherman turned slave, Danny agrees to help the slave get his family back in payment for the location of the stone. Danny Archer’s resourcefulness and unflappable nature make us forgive him for being such an asshole in the first ¾ of the film. Great job Leo!! I finally forgive you for “Titanic”.

#1. Peter Evans- Played by Michael Shannon in “Bug”

A very hard role to describe, yet its complexity is probably why I like it so much. It’s even harder trying to describe without spoiling the film for people who haven’t seen it yet. So just in case: Spoiler Warning: Do not read unless you have already seen “Bug” or do not plan on seeing it.
Peter Evans is a drifter who is picked up at a bar by one of Agnes’ lesbian friends. She is worried that Agnes (Ashley Judd) hasn’t had any romantic relationships since her abusive ex-husband was locked up in jail over a year ago. Unfortunately Peter Evans is the very opposite of a healthy relationship. He is a paranoid schizophrenic with a drug problem. His paranoia only fuels Agnes’ own desperation and paranoia. He has her convinced that bugs are living inside his body and he has passed them to Agnes during intercourse. The bugs are a product of his meth abuse as well as military experiments that were done to him. His mannerisms and speech patterns give his character depth beyond what is expected in a horror film. It transcends roles from Brando, Bogart, and any other of the great actors in the history of film. To truly grasp his power one has to invest themselves in the film 100%. Then watch it again. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but nobody can discount the fervor that Michael Shannon invested into the role.

Honorable Mentions:
-John Goodman as Walter Sobchak in “The Big Lebowski”
-Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro in “Casino”
-Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina in “Hotel Rwanda”
-Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump
-Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris in “Training Day”
-Mark Wahlberg as Sgt. Dignam in "The Departed"
-Brad Pitt as Detective Mills in "Se7en"


Friday, February 13, 2009

Mike Tabor vs. The Oscars "Best Picture" Edition

Well another February is here and that means 2 things for this guy. Sadly, football season is over. (But I’m proud of my Ravens taking 3rd place in the NFL this year) Yet I’m always happy about Oscar season!! I know most people don’t usually get into the Oscars. Most of the movies don’t do great money wise because they aren’t usually films dedicated to a wide demographic. Most of the time the films are slow on action, heavy on dialogue.
Comedies, Horror films, and Comic book movies usually bring in the cash for Hollywood. The Oscars spit on those movies. (Because they usually suck, and they are geared towards retards with IQ’s less than 50). This year is no different. “The Dark Night” and “Ironman” both grossed more individually at the box office than the 5 nominees for best picture combined.
However, this year is different for me than other years at the Oscars. I usually agree with at least 3-4 of the Oscar nominated movies every year but I have to say this year I don’t agree with any of them, nor do I agree with much in regards to the Best actor/actress, and supporting actor/actress nominations. Last year I agreed with 4 out of the 5 (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, and Atonement) I feel the Academy got it wrong this year and in the next few paragraphs I’m going to first start with What the Academy picked, why they chose it, why I didn’t like it and what will win. After that I will rank my top 5 in that particular category and why. Hopefully some of you will enjoy. I’m basically just writing this because it’s really slow at work right now and I need something to keep my mind occupied so I don’t go nutty.

#1 (and likely the winner) “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE”- Out of the five pictures nominated for best picture I would have to say this is by far the best. After watching it 3 times I can appreciate its brilliance more than I could upon my first viewing. It’s just such a unique idea for a film. An uneducated teenager from the slums of India goes on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” in attempts to be seen by the girl he has loved since childhood. After answering all the questions correctly except for one because they run out of time on the show, he is kidnapped and interrogated by police to find out how he cheated. To prove his innocence he begins telling the tale of his life in the ghetto and the life experiences that gave him the answers to the questions he was asked. This film is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It’s directed perfectly by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him take home Best Picture and a long overdue best director trophy.

#2 “THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON”- This film was ok. I think its main drawback is that it’s a bit gimmicky for an Oscar winner. It also tries too hard to be emotionally heavy where as the characters don’t convey enough feeling for the audience to really care about them. Nothing happens in this film, it’s a story of love lost in a very untraditional way, but other than that, it’s really just pointless. Brad Pitt does a decent job with a script that was lacking substance. I hope director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) can get back to doing what he does best, and astound audiences rather than boring them to tears.

#3 “MILK”- Another year for the Oscars and another year to honor anything rainbow colored. It seems the Oscars have an affirmative action rule that must include at least one gay themed film every year, and at least one holocaust film. Well this one is going to be the token Gay Film. It’s the true story of Harvey Milk the first ever openly gay elected official in the history of the United States. I don’t mean to sound bitter because I’m not a homophobe, and this movie actually was pretty good. In fact I usually say that director Gus Van Zant is the most overrated director in Hollywood and this is the only time one of his movies lived up to my expectations. However, I have to give most of that credit to his cast rather than him. Emile Hersch, James Franco, and Josh Brolin provide some of the best supporting work of the year. Top all that off with the enigmatic Sean Penn playing the lead role and you have a recipe for success. It’s about time a movie was made about this guy. He was the Martin Luther King of the gay movement and when he is assassinated because of hatred you really feel for this man who just wanted to love.

#4 “THE READER”- As I said in the previous paragraph, affirmative action for a gay film and a holocaust film. This one is the Holocaust film. Even actress Kate Winslet joked when being interviewed for this film saying “Do a holocaust film, get nominated. It’s as simple as that” Not that she needs any help getting nominated. This fantastic actress is nominated every single year. In this film she is naked for I’d say a good 1/3 of the movie. She is having an affair with a high school boy that has no idea of her former work with the Nazi party. Unlike Ben Button, that felt too gimmicky for an Oscar. This film seems to have been deliberately created to win an Oscar. For that reason it comes off as desperate and pandering. The acting is marginal at best from everyone other than Winslet. Even when it comes to Winslet, she’s good but I’ve seen her much better in films like “Little Children” or “Revolutionary Road”. In my opinion this was the least enjoyable of the 5 nominated films. It’s worth a watch, but I recommend not watching it with parents. I’ve seen softcore porn on “Skinemax” with less full frontal nudity.

#5 “FROST/NIXON”- The Academy loves (director) Ron Howard for some reason. They glorify everything he does no matter how trite and tedious. I enjoyed “Beautiful Mind” but even that was so lacking on the true events that made up John Nash’s life I found it unbearable to watch a second time. I think in Frost/Nixon he was forced to be more factual than other films he has based on true stories because Nixon was such a huge public figure and more than half of the world’s population was alive during these interviews between the two men. This film was somewhat like “Milk” in that the movie itself isn’t astounding, but there are great performances from it’s actors, namely Frank Langella as Nixon, and supporting roles from Kevin Bacon and the always under-appreciated Sam Rockwell. Political junkies will sing the praises of this film, but if you’re not someone that turns on the news as soon as you get home, then you might want to forgo this movie.


#1 “GRAN TORINO”- I cannot believe how badly this movie got snubbed. As far as I know, it didn’t get a single nomination. Not only was it the best picture of the year, Clint Eastwood easily deserved at least a nomination, especially since this might be the last time we see this American Icon on the screen ever again. He plays a Korean War Veteran living in an Asian ghetto in Detroit. He’s as racist as they come and he seems to hate everything from his neighbors to his church, and even his own children. However, upon a chance encounter with the neighborhood whipping boy he becomes a kind of surrogate father and mentor to him and they develop one of the best on-screen friendships I’ve ever seen without having to reach too far into reality to find. Just about everyone I’ve talked to agreed that this film is far superior to anything they had seen from the Academy nominated films above. The Oscars just don’t have much of a sense of dark humor that Eastwood displays so effortlessly on screen.

#2 “IN BRUGES”- This is the one I will call easily the most under-seen, and under appreciated film of the year. Two Hit men played by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell flee to Bruges (pronounced “Brooje”) after a particularly messy assassination by Farrell. The older of the two played by Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody, for all you Pott-heads) Plays a gentle fatherly type to the hotheaded and pessimistic Farrell. This was easily the best acting I’ve ever seen by Colin Farrell. Maybe because this role he was finally able to play himself. A womanizing, drunken asshole that pokes fun of midgets right to their faces, he even berates some fat American tourists that are trying to climb the stairs to a tower for no reason other than to be a dick. Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort, for the Pott-Heads again) Is spectacular as the head mob boss. He swears like a sailor and threatens just about everyone he makes eye contact with, with a bullet to the head or a boot up the ass. A plot summary doesn’t do justice to a film such as this. When it’s funny, it’s better than any comedy of the year. When there is gunplay, it’s better than any action film of the year. It’s emotionally deep enough to keep on par with films such as “Gran Torino, Milk, and Revolutionary Road” In fact the more I write about this film, the more I’m realizing it’s the most well-rounded of any film this year.

#3 “REVOLUTIONARY ROAD” – This film had me drooling when I first heard about it. Leonardo Dicaprio (my 2nd favorite actor), Kate Winslet, and Michael Shannon (The most underrated actor in Hollywood) starring in the next Sam Mendes film (American Beauty). Are you serious??!! This was a dream come true. Imagine my shock when critics didn’t quite rave about it. In fact, they all seemed rather lukewarm about the whole package. Some critics that I respect downright hated it. It deterred me somewhat from watching it for a few days but then I just hunkered down and said “I have a job to do and that’s to watch every single movie on this list of the top 150 movies of 2008 so I did.” Not only did I enjoy this film after watching it, I absolutely loved it!! A 20 something couple living as drones during the 1950’s just watching as their lives pass by before their eyes begin getting restless. They grow to hate each other passionately but because of the era, things such as divorce and abortion, simply aren’t feasible. Maybe this film had such a profound affect on me because I know a couple exactly like this. The things they say and do to each other are nearly identical. I also am part of the reason for some of their marital issues so between my own personal guilt and my feelings for them there were at least 4 scenes that had me in tears. A very heavy drama.

#4 “DEFIANCE”- Yeah, I was surprised that it made this list too. Like Winslet says, “Make a holocaust movie, get a nomination”. Unfortunately, “The Reader” had already been given the slot for holocaust film so Defiance ends up being the child left behind. An extremely gritty, film starring Daniel Craig and Liev Scheiber as Jews livng in Poland during WWII. They have been forced from their homes by the Nazis and seen their family members killed by the barrel load. The story centers on 4 surviving brothers fending for themselves. However, day by day more and more survivors flee to the woods were they are hiding out until they form a woodland society of their own. Much internal conflict takes place as the 2 eldest brothers have different views as to their course of action. Daniel Craig wants to stay low key and keep people alive until the war ends, whereas Live Scheiber wants the group to join a Russian battalion fighting the nazi’s in the same forrest they are hiding in. Bonds of family are tested remarkably effectively. The suffrage faced by the survivors in extreme cold and hunger with no medicine and no reinforcements makes this true tale even more remarkable in retrospect.

#5 “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE- What can I say, that I didn’t say in the top paragraph. This movie is a great achievement in directing, storytelling, acting, and it’s emotionally charged by one of the best movie romances of the past decade. Jamal and Latika are the new Kate and Leo, especially after seeing what happened to Kate and Leo’s post “Titanic” lives in “Revolutionary Road” Haha.

So that would be my list for best picture if I were on the academy board. Rounding out my top 10 would be.

#6 “Doubt”- Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep? Awesome!! And an unlikely Amy Adams stealing the show? The actors make this story work about a Priest suspected of molestation by a domineering head nun.

#7 Body of Lies- What can I say about this Ridley Scott epic? Leonardo Dicaprio once again dominates the screen, this time as an agent working undercover in Saudi Arabia. Russell Crowe is the mastermind calling the shots from the safety of his own home back in America and playing his own agents against enemies, allies and sometimes each other. The action isn’t over-the-top. It feels real not forced. The dialogue is amazing which isn’t surprising considering who the two lead actors are. Filmmakers will continue to take shots at the American government for unjust wars, manipulation of the public, and inside scandals. Usually those films come off as whiny overly liberal BS, but this one actually gets the message across without trying too hard.

#8 “The Wrestler”- Finally Director Darren Aronofsky has given audiences something watch able again. This is easily his best film since the 2000 masterpiece “Requiem for a Dream” that was robbed at the Oscars by the godawful and predictable Russell Crowe cockfest “Gladiator”. Mickey Rourke deserves to win the Oscar for his portrayal of fictional over the hill pro wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s heartbreaking, redeeming, and feels so real it could pass as a documentary.

#9 Forgetting Sarah Marshall- Yeah I’m not usually huge into comedies but this one was hilarious. I could watch it everyday.

#10 “Ironman”- My stigma that I attach to superhero movies all being terrible was shattered this year. Between this film and Dark Knight I was forced to eat my words. I think the reason I enjoyed this film so such was Robert Downey Jr. as a loveable Tony Stark. Spiderman is lame as Peter Parker, Superman is lame as Clark Kent, Batman is an absolute tool as Bruce Wayne. All of the X-Men and Fantastic Four crew can rot in hell as far as I’m concerned. The thing about Ironman, he’s the only character more entertaining in his day-to-day life than he is saving the world. His sarcasm and playboy demeanor is something that all superheroes could learn from. Kudos to John Favraeu for finally giving me a superhero movie that wasn’t going straight into my trash can after watching it.

Honorable mentions to “Changeling”, “Wall-E”, and “The Dark Knight”


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