Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Top Ten: Better Than The Movies They're In

Let's sing the praises of some actors that warranted better material or at least better decision making to frame their game performances...

10 Performances From 2007 That Deserved Better Films
(I figure the title is self explanatory)

10 Thomas Haden Church as "Sandman" in Spider-Man 3
First things first: He looked perfect in the part. Second and even better: that hangdog expression he was wearing like an anvil combined with Sam Raimi's careful tragic attention to his origin augured another super sequel. Sadly, the film lost its focus. They shoulda stuck to sticking with this Sandman. [my original reaction]

09 Lindsay Lohan & Jane Fonda as Rachel and Georgia in Georgia Rule
I know what you're thinking. What!? Yes, yes, the movie is a mess. But know this: it'd be unwatchable without LiLo's wildchild magnetism and Fonda's effortless force of presence. Ditch the poorly conceived and terribly executed middle generation character/performance/actress (sorry Felicity, I don't mean to bag on you constantly) and give these two stars a non repetitive throwdown of a movie. My guess is that that imaginary movie would've had a fighting chance.

08 Marion Cotillard as "Edith Piaf" in La Vie En Rose
Surprised? If you've read my review you know I'm no fan of the movie. But there were individual moments when I thought I might buy into the Cotillard hype, only to be dragged away with another off chronology tangent --seriously filmmakers, this gimmick is stale. And there's only a couple people who can do it well to begin with. Is her performance as great as the fans claim? I doubt it but I'd have to see her scenes with some logical throughline to know. As it is it feels like Saturday Night Live sketchwork (without the humor): a different wig here, a different body posture there; unrecognizable from one scene to the next. That's no way to sell a character's evolution.

07 Zöe Bell as herself in Death Proof
Like some swashbuckling Princess Charming, she rescued me! I was sleepily trapped in talky tedium and her fresh physical presence and confidence woke me up. I'm so glad this stuntwoman is getting more acting work.

06 Ben Foster as "The Stranger" in 30 Days of Night
His detractors will tell you that he's a total ham, shamelessly begging for "one to watch" media attention. I'm not here to argue with that assessment. So far I agree with it. I haven't yet seen his other 2007 entries (3:10 to Yuma and Alpha Dog) But if you're making a movie about vampires in an Alaskan town, try to entertain me. I'm begging you. He's the single element of the film that works beyond the concept stage. His performance is just weird enough... just self-consciously creepy enough to sell me on the proceedings and the characters own truth. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George aren't spinning their blandness into any interesting places as the lead marrieds. Danny Huston is terrible as the head vampire (how is it that he's cast in everything?). Only Ben Foster seems to know that there's an audience and that you have to really work for their thrills and chills.

05 Shia LaBeouf as "Sam Witwicky" in Transformers
Anybody who can make me deaf to terrible dialogue in --something nobody in those Star Wars prequels could do --earns respect. You don't win Oscars for this type of accomplishment but you do earn bank if you can make action films better for your mere presence. He's a star. (my review)

04 Nicole Kidman as Margot at the Wedding
More on this star turn in previous posts

03 Sigourney Weaver as "Lenny" in The TV Set
It won't come as a surprise that Ms Weaver can do corporate soulessness with style and aplomb. She was Oscar nominated for the same 19 years back in Working Girl. She's working just as hard for this new film. Unfortunately this mild satire doesn't quite know how to capitalize on her wicked wit.

02 Michelle Pfeiffer as "Lamia" in Stardust
This fantasy adventure was thisclose to being a good movie despite its many annoying and easily remedied flaws (how did no one on this production realize the overkill happening in so many places: editing, CGI, Danes twitching, DeNiro mugging?). That it manages to almost be good is a tribute to this goddesses way with a foregrounded cartoon villainess. Practice makes perfect I guess, though I hope my personal goddess steps away from the evil bitches for her next couple of roles. Keep us guessing, Michelle. [my review]

01 Tabu as "Ashima Ganguli" in The Namesake
A text book case of a film adaptation trying too hard to be the novel. It's a different medium, Mira, let the book go! Two hours cannot contain three hundred and four pages. That said, the movie worked well whenever Tabu's lovely evocative face was onscreen as the mother... this movie was begging for trimming and focus so focus on what works. These parents (Irfan Khan, even better in A Mighty Heart was the dad) were always more interesting than the son.
*

35 comments:

Cibbuano said...

Great post... it almost makes me want to watch a few... almost.

Stardust was flawed, yes, but I still found it childishly endearing.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I agree about Marion. If I saw the gradual transformation then maybe I may have liked it more, but as it is I just saw someone pulling a face or hunching over or slapping on a wig or trying to look like Amelie. Also disagreed on Church.

Agreed about Lohan, Fonda and Pfeiffer. I really liked Transformers so I can't say LaBeouf needed a better movie (I hope he becomes a bigger star than he already is), same goes for Death Proof and I haven't seen The Namesake, Margot, TV or 30 Days.

That being said, Ben Foster gives my least favourite performance of this decade so far in Hostage, so...

Tejas said...

I can't agree with you more on Tabu. Such a fantastic performance in a rather mediocre film. If I may add another performance to your list, it would be Ashraf Bahrom in The Kingdom. He was easily the best thing about that movie, and his electrifying performance saved that movie from being outright awful.

Anonymous said...

"La Vie En Rose" was excellent, and so was Marion Cotillard. She shouldn't have been anywhere near a list like this one. Boooo.

Colin said...

I was half-expecting Amy Adams to pop up on this one. Ryan Gosling too.

JS said...

I expect Sigourney Weaver's:

"Fourteen share, motherfuckers!"

To be in the running for best line reading at the FB awards. =)

Anonymous said...

So I'm hoping this means we're seeing a Tabu FilmBitch nomination. Please!

adam k. said...

Amy Adams should be on this list. But I don't think Nat's seen her yet. I can't comment on Ryan Gosling, cause his film disappeared from my city to quickly.

But I don't quite get the Tabu thing. I thought Irfan Khan was much better. I didn't see much in Tabu. Oh well.

Dave said...

Sub-poll: Is "The TV Set" worth seeing? I'm interested but not sure if a strong cast alone is enough to sustain me.

NATHANIEL R said...

TV set is good enough to see, yeah. It's just so bland in comparison to what Sigourney is up to.

Dave said...

"It's just so bland in comparison to what Sigourney is up to."

That's generally true of most Sigourney movies, though, including "Working Girl". If she only waited around for movies as brilliant as she is, she wouldn't get out much. Consider it philanthropy.

J.D. said...

I was weirded out by how much I liked La Vie en Rose, and Cotillard for that matter.

But so far there are only two films that are B-/C+ (which is not that good territory) or lower: Year of the Dog and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Molly Shannon was great in the former, but the creepiness and unlikeability of everyone and everything else in the film actually made her better, so I can't complain.

BtDKY'rD on the other hand... for the love of God, Tomei was wasted. Not just because Gina did nothing, but because the film made me think something would happen with her! God! It just really pissed me off. It's really shameful.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I disagree about Zoe Bell in Death Proof - for me that was a case of the Best Half-Movie that Deserved a Better Performance. The fact that I really wanted Zoe Bell to die (and therefore permanently shut up) on top of that hood made the sequence a lot less tense for me.

jon s said...

Zoe Bell is not an actor. Her performance was a mess and all over the place. Not fluid at all. It sucked dick. I actually am so sad to see her name on this list. It's suspect. She actually sucked dick. Thanks.

JS said...

Sorry, correction, Sigourney Weaver said:

"Nineteen share, motherfucker!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzOj9qfmX5U

JS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neel Mehta said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ben Foster's 2007 output looks woefully incomplete if you leave out his hysterically tireless nutcase appearance on TV's My Name is Earl.

GayAsXmas said...

Call me crazy, but I thought Kiera Knightley was the only one of the original leads who looked like she gave a crap during Pirates 3. I thought she was actually pretty great in it, especially when you look at her performance over the three films.

Kamikaze Camel said...

gayasxman, I'd agree with you on that. Keira was trying to be something and comprehensively trumped Depp.

Jon S - "sucked dick"? Are you fifteen?

Colin said...

Sadly, the Pirate sequels revealed Depp's Jack Sparrow to be a one-trick pony. The character arc set up in the second and third movies allowed Sparrow the chance to evolve into a more steely anti-hero, but Depp never took that chance. Alas.

Kamikaze Camel: Castigate Jon S for his emotional immaturity or lack of inventiveness, if you will, but please don't resort to using age as an insult. Age means very little, especially on the internet (as hanging around David Poland's blog has taught me).

Anonymous said...

Come on. Don't try to convince me Jodie Foster is not the NUMBER ONE.

- cal roth

NATHANIEL R said...

#11

she was in the rough draft. i think i forgot her. or i blamed her for not knowing what that movie would be.

it's always jodie's fault ! ;)

Olli Sulopuisto said...

Okay: The next time an American film blogger plans to visit my blog and comment on a cat video in phonetic Finnish, please give me a heads-up.

I pretty much did the proverbial deed in my undies.

Other than that: I pretty much agree about the list, and I totally agree about Stardust ("HELLO. I AM A VERY VERY FANTASTIC MOVIE. NOW PLEASE LOOK AT ME RIDE ACROSS WALES FOR SOME TIMES.")

NATHANIEL R said...

olli, i'm sorry. send me the laundry bill ;)

and the quote of stardust talking is quite funny! that is so what it would say and maybe also "isn't green a pretty a CGI color -look at it some more!"

Anonymous said...

So "Tabu" is the woman talking to the woman lying in the bed? Is that her real name, and for someone her age? That's kinda awesome. I'd love to have been named "Tabu", just for the hell of it. "Hey, Tabu! Yeah, I'm talking to you!" Funny stuff.

NATHANIEL R said...

no the woman in bed is Tabu. The one talking to her is director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). I am fond of Nair but I don't think this particular movie is too good.

Anonymous said...

What about Sienna Miller and Guy Pierce in Factory Girl? Anyone see that? Their performances was incredible and riveting to watch. Too bad about the movie itself

Rose

DL said...

Oh, I am so glad Tabu topped this list. Hopefully this means she'll be getting a FilmBitch nomination??

Kamikaze Camel said...

Rose, Factory Girl was 2006 and I don't think Nat saw it. Miller and Pearce were good though. It's a shame they got destroyed by the Weinsteins.

Julia said...

I also LOVED Sienna Miller in "Factory Girl." Too bad the movie itself was poorly written - I felt like the film used the song, "Like a Rolling Stone" (and the theory that Ms. Segdwick inspired Dylan to write it) to drive the plot. But Sienna was charming, and had such an amazing presence during the film.

Nat, thanks for mentioning Tabu in this. She gave one of the best performances this year, and it's such a shame that she did not get more screen time.

I know many liked "A Mighty Heart" (I did not). But, Irfan Khan also gave an amazing performance in that film.

Anonymous said...

Oh right, thanx kamikaze but it didnt come out here until spring 2007 so i thought it qualifies for the year

Rose

Anonymous said...

Tabu is still an awesome as hell name to have.

So what do you guys think about "Interview"? Was Sienna Miller worth that Independent Spirit nod for the role, and what was she better in, that or "Factory Girl"?

Kamikaze Camel said...

I think even less people saw Interview than Factory Girl. Most reviews I've read at least are all glowing for Miller if nothing else.

amir_uk said...

Yep, Sienna way better in Interview than in Factory Girl. In fact, Interview is a way better film. Not sure about the indie spirit nom - i've preferred many other actresses to Miller this year. But still, nice little film with a strong performance.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that Zoe Bell's performance was very bad. It was hammy at best and showed an extreme lack of skill when it came to conversation, considering she's meant to be herself.

She just didn't fit in with the other characters aptitudes, beliefs and ways of going about things.

Good stunt woman though, she should stick to that.