Thursday, July 22, 2010

Christopher Nolan, You're Our Only Hope!

December 31st, 2010. In my lifetime, New Year's Eve has always had its "checklist". I know I'll be celebrating it with close friends. I'll text my mother at midnight. I'll be watching Dick Clark on the tube, and tomorrow will begin a whole new year of cinema. So as the countdown unwinds, 3 ... 2 ... 1... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well as it's turned out, there hasn't been too much to be happy about when it comes to movies in 2010. I've seen 17 films released this year and only 1 is worthy of high praise. I'll come back to that thought later though.

Summertime is always blockbuster season. Last year, in the dog days of June, July, and August the movie gods rewarded us with films like The Hangover, District 9, and Sherlock Holmes. I guess sometimes the sun just shines brightly on us. This Summer season though, we've spent our hard earned dollars going to theatres to see lackluster films like The Grown Ups, Get Him to the Greek, and what was a slight glimmer of hope in Iron Man 2. The only positive this year has been a kid's movie that I've waited 15 years for. And believe me, Toy Story 3, we are thankful and we salute you. But where are all the deeply rooted, thought provoking films I long for? How long would I have to wait for a mind blowing cinematic experience?

That all changed one week ago today. Christopher Nolan, the latest phenom in direction, has perhaps shown us a light at the end of the tunnel. Nolan has directed praiseworthy films such as Memento, The Prestige, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight. That filmography isn't too shabby. But his July 16th release, Inception, had so much buzz and hype surrounding it, I questioned whether or not it could live up to expectations. To my surprise, it seems like I shouldn't worry too much. Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has been the toast of the town receiving high praises from EVERYONE.

The movie theatre experience is sacred to me. Nothing bothers me more than chit chat or texting during a film. I know every showtime is going to be packed for some time, so I probably won't venture off to see it until it's nearing the end of it's run (hopefully nothing gets spoiled for me). When I do, I will let you know if Inception is the real deal. And if it is, once again, Thank You Christopher Nolan!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Generation Needs Some Answers

While on a weekend getaway to the illustrious Delaware Beaches (Rehoboth and Dewey to be exact), some interesting debate sparked between a few of my friends. The question was posed, and it was simple, "Who is the best actor of OUR generation"? Now to define "our" is the basis of the whole controversy. Seeing that I'm 27 (going on 22), I had to determine an acceptable age to cap what represents an actor of my generation. So I've decided to draw a line in the sand and mark such generational borders. I've restricted the argument to actors under the age of 42 (15 years older than me). My apologies to George Clooney, Johnny Depp and all other fogey's out there. No matter how young and hip you still TRY to appear, you've already had your shot. So move over and let the next crop of actors take over the reins.

To narrow down my search for this numero uno in hollywood, I began by mass texting friends of mine who have a deep rooted passion for cinema. I asked them to keep feeding me names of their favorite actors who were within the age limit. The responses poured in one after another, and I compiled a list of about 35 names. But then I decided the list wasn't long enough. After spending hours relentlessly scouring through IMDB, I had more names then I knew what to do with.

Next, I mulled through these numerous actors and cut it down to 25 of the best ones that I've had the pleasure of growing up watching. I chose four people whose movie knowledge I absolutely admire. I asked these four friends (along with myself) to be a panel of judges to help decide this important generational question.

Each judge was asked to compile their own personal list of 20 actors. They were to rate them 1 to 20, 1 being the best and so on down the line. I gave them the list of 25 I'd be referencing from, but allowed them to deviate from my suggested names. Then, I assigned to each of the 20 spots on the list a specific point value. From the 5 lists, I summed up each actor's total to generate the final tally. And now the moment you've all been waiting for, here are my generations top 10 actors:

#10) Ewan McGregor 

(Age 39: The new Star Wars franchise, Moulin Rouge and Black Hawk Down)

I will be posting my own top 20 list later, but you may be surprised to NOT see him on my list. I was the only one of the 5 judges to dismiss McGregor. I really enjoyed Moulin Rouge (and I don't care who knows it), but all in all, I find him somewhat mediocre. That being said, I was a minority.

#9) Emile Hirsch 

(Age 25: Into the Wild, Milk, and Alpha Dog)

Hirsch is really just a pup when it comes to his age. He's just started to get his feet wet, and he could quite possibly be one of the top names in the list 5 years from now. He was always a solid actor, but he reached a whole new level with his daring lead role for Into the Wild.

#8) Javier Bardem 

(Age 41: No Country For Old Men and Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

I was concerned that since he's spent most of his acting career making foreign films, it would hinder Bardem's accolades. I was wrong. All five judges justifiably rewarded Bardem for his Oscar winning performance as the villain Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men.

#7) Jude Law 

(Age 37: Road to Perdition, Talented Mr Ripley, and Gattaca)

I'll never forget my introduction to Jude Law. I saw it at such a young age, but I remember thinking how fantastic Law was as a paraplegic willing to donate his identity to aid a man in his quest to go to outer space, in the futuristic tale Gattaca.

#6) Will Smith 

(Age 41: Independence Day, I am Legend, and Hancock)

I will always envision Smith as that endearing comic he grew up playing in The Fresh Prince and then on to comedy's like Bad Boys. But his career has reached a point where you can't disregard his superb talent. I felt he was easily top 5 worthy, but a few judges felt differently about him. Nonetheless, his skills cannot be questioned.

#5) Christian Bale 

(Age 36: The Dark Knight franchise, The Prestige, and American Psycho)

Where do I begin? I was one of two judges to leave Bale out of their top 10. I see Bale as one of those actors who plays in fantastic films, but doesn't carry the picture himself. For instance, Jackman in The Prestige, Ledger in The Dark Knight, and Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma. Having a praiseworthy filmography will never hurt, but I always found him to be good, not great.

#4) Heath Ledger

(Deceased: The Dark Knight, The Patriot, and Monster's Ball)

Ledger's role in Brokeback Mountain sparked the rise of his career. However, he'd been doing quality acting much earlier than that. From a depressed, suicidal prison guard in Monster's Ball to a young man fighting for his country in The Patriot, Ledger dazzled audiences. The roles never too big, but the character's crafted so perfectly. Ledger gave us a look into what could have been the future, with his portrayal of the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Hollywood lost a huge talent, but the memory of his work will surely live on.

#3) Matt Damon 

(Age 39: Good Will Hunting, The Departed, The Bourne series, and Invictus)

Damon is clearly a superstar. He finished in the top 5 of four judges' lists. He was 2nd place on two of them. With 10 nominations (Oscars, Golden Globes, and Screen Actor's Guild) yet no wins, Damon is sure to bring home a trophy sometime soon. Talent like his cannot be overlooked. Even with his lesser known films like School Ties and The Informant, he finds a way to take control of the screen. He makes his presence known, and for that we recognize him.

#2) Edward Norton 

(Age 40: Primal Fear, American History X, and Fight Club)

Let me be perfectly honest. Norton was hands down my number one choice for best actor of my generation. However, I didn't want this to totally be about me. I valued the opinions of my close friends and allowed the panel to decide the rankings. That being said, I truly feel that Norton's shortcomings can be directly linked to the fact that he's fallen off of late. Most of his flawless portrayals came during the mid and late 90s. He's almost become forgotten. But I will never fall into that trap, because his performances in Primal Fear and American History X are far too transcending. They were so memorable that Norton was the ONLY actor to finish in each judge's top 5. Now I don't know if he's been led astray by bad advice, or if he's just lost the foresight of a great picture, but his resume has been bare lately. He still has many years left to return to the heights he reached over a decade ago. And if he does, there will countless movies to brighten our years to come.

#1) Leonardo DiCaprio 

(Age 36: Blood Diamond, Catch Me If You Can, and The Departed)

The heavy favorite coming into the competition, DiCaprio stood up to the challenge. Along with Norton, he was the only other actor to finish in the top 8 of all 5 judges' lists. But more impressive is the fact that he stood alone at the top of 3 lists. No one would dare dispute Leo's credentials. From his youthful unforgettable role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape up until his present day blockbuster Inception, DiCaprio has ruled hollywood. He was brilliant in The Departed, charming in Catch Me If You Can, and just plain extraordinary in Blood Diamond. Leo will undoubtedly continue to light up our televisions and movie screens. He's a true legend in the making. So congrats to Mr DiCaprio and his well deserved title: "Best Actor of this Generation"

My top 20 list was as follows:

1) Edward Norton 2) Leonardo DiCaprio 3) Will Smith 4) Matt Damon
5) Heath Ledger 6) Ryan Gosling 7) Josh Brolin 8) Ben Foster
9) Jamie Foxx 10) Javier Bardem 11) Emile Hirsch 12) Colin Farrell
13) Jude Law 14) Casey Affleck 15) Christian Bale 16) Daniel Craig
17) Mark Wahlberg 18) Jake Gyllenhaal 19) Sam Rockwell 20) Joseph Gordon Levitt