Friday, February 19, 2010


You know what I really miss? Johnny Depp as recognizably human characters.

I feel this pang every time I see a commercial for Alice in Wonderland with that orange fright wig. I fell for Johnny as Crybaby and Edward Scissorhands and I was thrilled when the whole planet fell hard for him (finally!) when Captain Jack Sparrow arrived on a sinking ship. But over the years Cartoon Johnny has become the brand. Seeing Johnny work his dramatic muscles? Fuhgeddaboudit. I thought we'd go there last year with Public Enemies but something didn't quite take.

It's not that I don't love the stylized cartoons. Nobody does that better... but I think some grounded stretching might be artistically rejuvenating. Lately my mind keeps drifting back to Donnie Brasco (1997) one of his best and least discussed performances. I'd love to see him do something like that soon.

It'd be especially thrilling if he was paired with an actress as fiercely individualistic as himself again. Anne Heche is absolutely special in that movie. The multitude of beats and backstory grudges and thorny specificity and sexual attraction she works into that performed relationship is quite a feat. She so deserved an Oscar nomination that year. And deserved more from Hollywood in general.

Where was I? Heche stole the movie from everyone and now she's stealing this post from Johnny! I would have nominated them both that year. My lists woulda looked like so...

1997 Best Actor
Russell Crowe, LA Confidential
Johnny Depp, Donnie Brasco
Christopher Guest, Waiting For Guffman*
Ian Holm, The Sweet Hereafter
and I'll leave one spot open since I somehow have still never seen Robert Duvall in The Apostle

1997 Best Supporting Actress
Kim Basinger, LA Confidential
Anne Heche, Donnie Brasco
Julianne Moore, Boogie Nights
Parker Posey, Waiting For Guffman
Christina Ricci, The Ice Storm

Are you looking forward to Mad Hatter Johnny or do you want something less Mad sometime real soon?

*Yes, that's a 1997 movie. IMDb confuses people. It was released in 1997


Sean said...

Slightly off topic, but I've never really understood what people find so revelatory about Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential. And I LOVE L.A. Confidential. I would fit Catherine O'Hara (Waiting for Guffman) onto that list as well, although Posey deserves a nomination before her I would say.

Wasn't Julianne Moore just amazing in Boogie Nights? Gawd, reading this post has flooded my mind with Amber Waves.

Jeff said...

Ahhh, Guffman. Best comedy EVER!


Sean... i'm not sure i would say "revelatory" with Basinger but definitely "very good". But then, I've always thought she was a much better actress than she'd ever gotten credit for (before that) so it couldn't really be 'revelatory' to me.

and yes, Julianne was amazing in Boogie Nights. Best Supporting Actress of the Decade amazing.

Burning Reels said...

I too would love to see Duvall's Apostle performance but it's not available on our DVD rental queue here in the UK

Out of interest, do you classify Duvall's The Road performance as a supporting role or a cameo Nathaniel?..not hinting at anything of course;)

And my favorite Depp performance is Edward Scissorhands but yes I agree, him and Burton are becoming a little samey but not in a good Wes Anderson or Wong Kar Wai way


Burning -- i'd call that a cameo since it's just one scene.

jbaker475 said...

"It's not that I don't love the stylized cartoons. Nobody does that better... but I think some grounded stretching might be artistically rejuvenating."


You absolutely nailed the current "Depp Dilemma". It's not that I don't love wacky Johnny, I absolutely do, but I'd like to see him do something that really stretches him as an actor again. I don't even mind his unbroken relationship with Tim Burton (although I think he could use a new, out-of-leftfield muse. Kidman for Maleficent, anyone? That would rock) but I wish they would make another Edward Scissorhands/Ed Wood-type film together. It's about friggin' time.

taintedmirror said...

Johnny Depp still plays human characters, I´m especially excited to see The Rum Diary this year and 2011 he will work again with Emir Kusturika on Pancho Villa.

ak said...

Sean, I also don't understand the undying love for Kim Basinger in LA Confidential, a movie I also love.

I get that it was iconography, but looking gorgeous and delivering lines in perfect noir fashion shouldn't win you an Oscar. I mean, she did her role well, but I have no idea how that Oscar train took off, especially when the three male leads of that movie were each way better than her and didn't get any nominations. If they had just given Juli the oscar that year, they wouldn't have to push her into Barbara Stanwyck territory.

par3182 said...

matt damon - good will hunting
johnny depp - donnie brasco
christopher guest – waiting for guffman
ian holm - the sweet hereafter
al pacino - donnie brasco*

kim basinger - L.A. Confidential
catherine o’hara – waiting for guffman
parker posey – waiting for guffman
christina ricci - the ice storm
sigourney weaver - the ice storm*

(although if parker posey's audition scene was included in the film instead of the dvd'd deleted scenes she'd maybe best sigourney)

tony d said...

I finally caught Duvall recently in The Apostle and his performance is magnetic and fantastic. Anyway Donnie Brasco was a great role and performance for Depp, its too bad hes sorta become a caricature. I really have no desire to see Alice in Wonderland but I'm sure the Depp/Burton lovers will eat it up. By the way what has happened to Tim Burton who seems to have lost his own artistic sense?

Derreck said...

I totally agree with most of the people here. I like Kim Basingeand loved L.A Confidential but i have no idea how she got that Oscar. There wasn't much to her character at all. Just the pretty hooker that falls in love.

I wish she got more attention for her work in The Door in the Floor. Now that should've been her Oscar. I thought she was perfectly cast as Marion. She's pretty much who i imagined when i read the book. (well, so was Jeff Bridges in his role)

brandz said...

you all would love Robert Duvall in The Apostle. fine film, great performance. Farrah Fawcett was in that too.

Lucas S. said...

I do love cartoonish Depp, especially with Tim Burton, but for some reason, I'm not finding myself too excited for Depp as Mad Hatter. I'm truthfully more excited for Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen.

Lucky said...

I guess that Kim Basinger win was very much like Jennifer Connely winning for A Beutiful Mind: it's a perfectly good performance in a movie they loved, that got unexpected attention, but nothing impressive. Plus, both actresses were hot and respected.

Kind of inexplicable. Not the kind of win that should have happened, but not one that upsets people either. Hm.

CanadianKen said...

Re Basinger in L.A. Confidential,ak said it perfectly,
"I have no idea how that Oscar train took off". I'd already written her off when she surprised me with good work in 9 1/2
Weeks. I'd characterize that performance as somewhat revelatory, at least in comparison to her previous anaemic output. What she delivered some years later in LA Confidential was okay but that's about it. A nomination was definitely uncalled for.
My Supporting Actress line-up for '97:
JOAN CUSACK "In and Out"
"Boogie Nights"
"Dil To Pagal Hai"
(a Bollywood musical that won
Kapoor numerous awards in India
but made zero impact beyond
the Indian diaspora)
and - of course - the winner,
no arguments here
"Boogie Nights"

Robert Hamer said...

So, have you ever seen Eve's Bayou? Debbi Morgan automatically takes a Supporting Actress slot that year for those who have seen the film (which almost no one has, it seems, leading to its eventual snub).

tony d said...

I would rank Connelly's performance a bit above Basinger, but I would say it also won in response as the suffering supportive spouse a favorite in the supporting category (how come that didnt help Tucci this year? too much scene chewing I suppose for that other performance

ak said...

@CanadianKen I haven't seen Dil to pagal hai even though I love Bollywood. I should check it out.

And Heather Graham for Boogie Nights is a truly inspired choice. Love it!

Chris Na Taraja said...

I found a video store on 8th and 25th selling movies for 5 to 9 bucks. I had FINDING NEVERLAND in my hand. I didn't get it this time, but I'll probably be back for it soon. That's the last time I can think of where Johnny was human.

JoFo said...

I literally re-read this post about 5 times. Do you seriously not nominate Sigourny Weaver for the Ice Storm? Come on Nathaniel wasn't she snubbed enough by the academy?!

But I forgive you for not being on the bash Basinger bandwagon, and appreciating how good she really was.

Anonymous said...

Jackie Brown . Samuel L. Jackson
Grosse Pointe Blank . John Cusack
Boogie Nights . Mark Wahlberg
L.A. Confidential . Russell Crowe
As Good as It Gets . Jack Nicholson

Boogie Nights . Julianne Moore
The Ice Storm . Christina Ricci
The Ice Storm . Sigourney Weaver
In & Out . Joan Cusack
My Best Friend's Wedding . Cameron Diaz

Marshall1 said...

Exactly what I was thinking everything I look at Johnny Depp in some kind of costume. *sigh*
It's always so stylized to the point that I don't know who Johnny is
But trust me, I thought Robert Duvall in the Apostle is amazing! Certainly deserves another Oscar.

stella said...

It's my opinion that Tim Burton is singlehandedly ruining Depp's career. With the exception of Edward Scissorhands, all of Depp's best roles have been non-Burton films (Finding Neverland, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Donnie Brascoe, Pirates)

MrW said...

Leaving Dustin Hoffman (Wag the Dog) and Peter Fonda (Ulee's Gold) and Leslie Cheung (Happy Together) off the Best Actor list is almost criminal. And you really should see 'The Apostle', because Duvall is a shoe-in for the one of the five spots, as well. My fifth spot would be a tight race between Javier Bardem (Live Flesh), Ian Holm and Christopher Guest (if you consider him 1997).

As for the Supporting Actress race - where's Sarah Polley (or do you consider her a lead in 'The Sweet Hereafter')?


@Mr W -- you can't include everyone.
1997 was a good year for actresses (as many are despite what people say) so the next five who didn't make my supporting actress list are still superb. which would be

o'hara -guffman
cusack - in & out
polley -sweet hereafter
weaver - ice storm
graham - boogie nights

@Robert H -- i'll admit that i didn't "get" Eve's Bayou or Morgan in it. I really wanted to love that one and I heard a few people just raving about it going bonkers for it but it just didn't click with me.

@Stella -- i dunno. I think ED WOOD is definitely one of Depp's best performances. I just want something a little less crazy for a palate cleanser. Kinda like the bites of Gari inbetween rounds of sushi.

Anonymous said...

Actually that year in the Supporting Actress race I would put Alison Elliot from Wings of the Dove in there I thought she deserved a nomination for that performance filled with suprising strength and sponteneity.

Matheus said...

What about Al Pacino in that film, huh? Perhaps one of the actor's finest performances and the best one of that year, IMO. Amazing.

kent said...

i also thought depp was good the following year in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. his early work was so great!

back to 1997:
what about the best actress category? i thought it was particularly weak that year outside of helena bonham carter. she was quite incredible.


Kent -- yeah, HBC totally deserved that Oscar. so sad that she didn't win. She was never as good before or since (though she was plenty good on some occasions)

my list woulda been

BONHAM-CARTER -wings of dove
CHRISTIE -afterglow
ROBERTS -my best friends wedding
THIVISOL -ponette (my youngest nominee ever)

and maybe FOSTER for Contact? I can't remember who i had in 5th. I should probably see Jackie Brown again though. At the time i really didn't get the fuss.

ak said...

Agree about Foster in Contact. The scene in the courtroom at the end was exhilirating. Her recent filmography hasn't been encouraging for a redux though.

Wayne B said...

Thank you for highlighting a personal favourite Johnny Depp performances. It's weird that it didn't receive more notice then. Have to agree with a previous poster that Debbi Morgan would've been on my personal ballot.

What would your Best Actress line-up of '97 look like though?

Owen said...

Is it pointless to post just to say that I agree with everything you said in this post? Well I'm doing it anyways.


owen. no, that's fine. agreement is not required but sometimes gratifying :)

we love comments of all shapes and sizes.

Alex said...

Just to put in my two cents, here's my Actress, Supporting Actress, and Actor lineups:

Helena Bonham Carter, THE WINGS OF THE DOVE
Julie Christie, AFTERGLOW

Supporting Actress:
Joan Cusack, IN & OUT
Anne Heche, WAG THE DOG
Julianne Moore, BOOGIE NIGHTS
Michelle Pfeiffer, A THOUSAND ACRES
(Sigourney is a VERY close 6th)

Michael Douglas, THE GAME
Dustin Hoffman, WAG THE DOG
Jack Nicholson, AS GOOD AS IT GETS

The Taxi Driver said...

Hey, another great post. It actually inspired my own post today. Check it out if you want:

sphinx said...

Robert Duvall in the Apostle is by far the most annoying performance I have ever seen in my life. At least the first 15 minutes of it, which was all I could tolerate.

Cluster Funk said...

Is it my imagination or were Ponette and Waiting for Guffman released in 1996? Could've sworn I saw them that year (both exceptional, by the way).

Still can't believe Libby Mae Brown's 'Flowers in the Attic' monologue was a deleted scene. Quite possibly the funniest moment in any Christopher Guest film (and there's plenty of competition there).

Apryl Lee said...

Less mad! Please! I couldn't agree more. It's at the point where he has become an amalgamation of The-Mad-Captain-Sweeny-Ichabod-Scissorhands-Wonka. (I wonder how many hats he has collected over the years!) At least that is what these wide appeal, blockbuster type movies have down to many people's perception of Depp. If you asked my mom, those are the types of roles she'd know him for. He does a lot of cool things that many won't know.

I love "Nick of Time," "Blow," and "Chocolat."

Anonymous said...

97 v strong here are mine * winner


damon - good will hunting*
crowe - la confidential
duvall - the apostle
kline - the ice storm
wahlberg - boogie nights


bonham carter - the wings of the dove*
dench - mrs brown
lange - a thousand acres
foster -contact
winslet -titanic


williams - good will hunting
greenwood - the sweet hereafter
reynolds - boogie nights*
kinnear -as good as it gets
connolly - mrs brown


elliott - the ings of the dove
weaver -the ice storm*
morgan - eves bayou
moore -boogie nights
basinger - la condiddential


mrripley said...

97 v strong here are mine * winner


damon - good will hunting*
crowe - la confidential
duvall - the apostle
kline - the ice storm
wahlberg - boogie nights


bonham carter - the wings of the dove*
dench - mrs brown
lange - a thousand acres
foster -contact
winslet -titanic


williams - good will hunting
greenwood - the sweet hereafter
reynolds - boogie nights*
kinnear -as good as it gets
connolly - mrs brown


elliott - the ings of the dove
weaver -the ice storm*
morgan - eves bayou
moore -boogie nights
basinger - la condiddential


Belle said...

Awww, I like weirdo Johnny Depp! Can't wait to see "Alice in Wonderland". It looks stunning from the trailers, though I do get why it's considered old hat to some at this point. "Donnie Brasco" is an underrated gem. "Blow" is too. He doesn't get enough credit for that role either.

notafilmstar said...

Johnny Deppp is a very overrated actor. The best thing he ever did was 21 Jump Street

Anonymous said...

Depp was incredible in Public Enemies which I maintain was one of the finest films of the year and a further example of the amazing direction Michael Mann's movies are taking artistically. For johnny's performance in the last 30 mins of that movie alone, he deserved another Oscar nomination. In general I think he is underappreciated for his more dramatic 'human' roles and I thoroughly agree that Blow and Donnie Brasco stand out amongst his earlier work as does "From Hell". I look fwd to seeing him alongside Angelina Jolie in "The Tourist".

Anonymous said...

@notafilmstar: He is not overrated. Overrated are actors like Sandra Bullock, who has done only crap her hole career and now possibly get an oscar for one performance that wasn´t even so incredible