As many of my conversations devolve into one of lists, I figured a weekly feature of lists would be appropriate. Thus, I offer....the List of the Week. This week the subject is one that has been on my mind for a while now... namely...the top five consumate supporting actors. Now...this list could be ridiculously extensive...and is by no means exhaustive...yet, five is all I offer here. The criteria is as follows: 1. Can't really carry a movie on his or her own. 2. Has more than just one fantastic supporting role. 3. Generally, makes any movie he/she is in better. 4. Fairly underrated. Though...some are highly rated...as supporting role actors. O.k...so here is my list....without extensive thought going into it. Feel free to post your own list...as I am interested to see where this goes:
1. Peter Boyle. Movies of note: The Candidate, Young Frankenstein, Taxi Driver, Monster's Ball. Boyle is one of my favorite actors of all-time. Though...not for the movies listed above. Those give him 'industry cred'. The roles that endear him to me....Young Frankenstein(his tour de force), Johnny Dangerously, Yellowbeard...all are ridiculous roles...but he is perfect for them. For me....his major qualification for being on this list is that he makes awful movies...and very good movies...better.
2. Claude Raines. Movies of note: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, King's Row, Casablanca, Notorious, Lawrence of Arabia. Raines is one of the best actors that no one today has ever heard of. Hitchcock loved using the guy...and rightfully so. His ablilty to play sneaky and creepy was very subtle....but that was his genious. If you haven't seen Notorious...do so. Again...the guy couldn't/didn't carry a movie on his own...but he made the likes of Bogart, Grant, and Stewart that much better.
3. Richard Farnsworth. Movies of note: Papillon, Comes a Horseman, The Outlaw Josie Wales, Roots, Anne of Green Gables, The Natural, Misery. Farnsworth had a prolific career, but was always....and I mean always...in the background. Still, I can't think of a time when he did something poorly. His turn in The Natural is one of the best from the 80's, and let me say....I watched Anne of Green Gables while living in China....and was grateful to have 8 hours of uninterrupted english entertainment...but more than that....Farnsworth reminded me of why I love movies....and my grandfather. No one....except for the person next on the list...had a better grasp of being the 'old rustic sage'...combining that old-school southern gentility with an iron will.
4. Robert Duvall. Movies of note: If you don't know, you don't deserve to have an opinion. In short, Duvall is one of the best actors of his time. The characters, the movies, the general success.....all give testament to this. From holding his own in The Godfather movies to convincing audiences that he is a crew chief for Nascar...he's that good. There is much I could say here...but the jist is this....if you enjoy westerns...he makes the best out there today. Check out Open Range and Broken Trail, if you don't believe me.
5. Kevin Pollack. Movies of note: A Few Good Men, The Ususal Suspects, L.A. Story. I can hear the howling or laughter or ridicule...already, but I like this guy. His turn in A Few Good Men was perfect, and in one of my sentimental favorites from the 90's Indian Summer, he was really really good. Now...usually...any person in a movie like Juwanna Man would never be in any positive list of any kind. But that is kinda my point here....he has been in some absolutely awful films...but he does a decent job in them. I hate...loathe...disdain...Daryl Hannah in anything she has done....but in Grumpy Old Men...Pollack actually had me rooting for him to win her over....and I normally wouldn't wish that on anybody. That's acting, folks.
* I really wanted to put Paul Giamatti on this list, but his role in American Splendor disqualifies him. He carries that entire film by himself...and could've won an Oscar for it. If you haven't seen it.....
It's actually kind of strange because I was just thinking about this last night...I landed on AMC during their weekly showing of Godfathers I and II (for which I am incredibly grateful as there are few things more securing than knowing that when there are no sporting events of note on television one has a 78% chance that AMC is showing the Godfather at that very moment)...Anyway, I jumped into GF-II right after the attempt on Michael's life and it came to the scene where Tom comes in and Michael tells him that he's taking over temporarily and "I've always thought of you as a brother" and "...that's why you're the only one I can completely trust at this moment" and Duvall moves through the emotional implications in this scene so convincingly that I literally forgot that he's acting...And I've watched this movie, beginning to end, at least 15 times in my life. Seriously, I was sitting there having to remind myself that “this isn’t really happening, that’s Al Pacino and Robert Duvall and they’re acting right now…”
Which leads me to….
Freakin’ Pacino….I got sad watching this scene because it reminded me that there was a time when Pacino played the part he needed to for the movie instead of just yelling and trying inject “Scent of a Woman” feel into every single character he plays…Go back and watch that scene with he and Duvall…I say that I forgot he’s acting, I think HE forgot that he was acting….He’s imposing AND subtle, unlike the flamboyant-uncle-that-just-gets-more-absurd-every-time-you-see-him thing he now seems unable to escape.
Anyway, good post…I’ll definitely have to think about this list.
I almost forgot about Deniro...Once again, I had to remind myself that he wasn't a young Marlon Brando playing a young Vito Corleone....That he was a young Deniro playing and older Brando playing and old Vito Corleone...Think about that...And he leaves no doubt that he is V.C...Not that he looks like Brando did when he was young, but that he somehow ingests Brando's treatment of Corleone in I, asks himself "now what would that guy be like if he were 30-40 years younger", and then translates the whole thing...Absolutely incredibly...
Also...I've heard a lot of people talk about the table scene in "Heat" where Deniro and Pacino square off...I'd put the following scenes from the GF up against that scene
- the aforementioned scene with Pacino and Duvall
- the scene where Kay tells Michael she's leaving him after his exoneration which culminates with him slapping her...that's powerful, but what makes this scene is when he tells her that she'll never take his kids away...he says "don't you know me?...don't you know I would do everything in my power to stop you, to keep that from happening?" with that steely, empty, ever-determined look in his eye...I watch that scene and both detest and admire Michael Corleone...that's acting...
Sorry...don't mean to turn this into a Godfather post...
Zeius, great calls on the GF, but especially on post-GF Pacino. An undeniable presence on the screen even today, but unlike DeNiro, one about whom you snicker behind his back. "ATTICA!" No subtlety whatsoever. I personally love the movie Heat (partly because of my latent mysogyny---every female character in the film is absolutely CRAZY), but the scene with DeNiro and Pacino was filmed in the mid-90s. Imagine if we could have had that interchange in the mid-70s. By 1995, we had already lost Pacino.
herodotus, you get a free pass on including Duvall in your list, simply because his supporting roles are so incredible. However, he IS an actor who can carry, and has carried, great films by himself. I agree that Richard Farnsworth epitomized southern gentility. Southern...California. Whhaaaa?? Born, raised, and worked in Los Angeles. Gentle grandfatherliness is apparently free of geographical and subcultural constraints. As Principal Skinner might react: "NNOOOOOO!!"
dr.z- yeah...i saw the gf 2 today...so many good moments. the dialogue with frank pantangia(sp?) is especially good.
testud- take it easy. and...i'm not sure that duvall ever sucessfully carried a movie. the apostle...uh, no. also, i was hoping that someone would catch that duvall was in the natural with farnsworth. he was the newspaper guy...
I'm gonna give you an engine low to the ground... extra thick oil pan to cut the wind from underneath you. It'll give you thirty or forty more horsepower. I'm gonna give you a fuel line that'll hold an extra gallon of gas. I'm gonna shave half an inch off you and shape you like a bullet. I'll get you primed, painted and weighed, and you'll be ready to go out on that racetrack. Hear me? You're gonna be perfect.
I'm going to have to nominate Karl Malden for such a Top 5 list. A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Patton, and (in my imagination only) George Costanza's boss with the Yankees, Mr. Wilhelm.
Though I won't belabor the point, I would say "yes" to The Apostle, and probably throw in Tender Mercies as well. And despite his remarkable, twice-commented-upon turn as Tom Hagen (and his apparently fondly-remembered pitmaster in Days of Thunder), I would feel remiss if there were no mention of Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. Only Duvall could have made that character so appealing.
T- i am so very and incredibly embarassed. You are right....i am completely wrong...but not for the reason you state. simply...i disagree wholeheartedly about the apostle...awful film....and tender mercies had an ensemble that was stellar. but there is one film that duvall carried...and did so to the point of being academy worthy...the great santini. how i forgot this...i just don't know. one of the best virtuoso performances....hateful character, but still understandable...ever. here...i bow to posterity, and will have to choose a replacement nominee.
Never said you were wrong about Duvall in the Top 5, for any reason. Simply gave you a "free pass," because his supporting roles ARE undeniable. So let's figure this out...I'm not not right on account of a reason I never gave for you being not wrong. That's Clinton math, there's what that is.
t- without wanting to get in a 'tit-for-tat' situation(and i'll leave it for you to decide which role is yours here)...for one to 'give a pass'...there necessarily is some sort of transgression inferred. in this case, the grievance is against my own arbitrary rules. hence...the need for me to replace duvall. this said...i'm still waiting for your list.
t- also...i just went back and read all of the previous comments:
you are absolutely right about lt. kilgore...great character....steals every scene.
I'll be the tit.
I am struggling to compile this list, mostly because,admittedly, I am not nearly as versed in pre-80's movies as the rest of you. so my list would confined and surely fall short...
However, I will try and some good supporting guys and suggest them as I do...
Bruno Kirby - I know...some are laughing, but seriously...GFII, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepers, Hoffa, City Slickers, The Freshman, Tin Men, Donnie Brasco, The Super...
1. can't carry a movie himself - yes
2. more than just one fantastic supporting role - see above
3. generally makes any movie better - if you doubt this, watch the scene from WHMS where he and Billy Crystal are at the Giants gae...I don't think anyone and I mean anyone could have that conversation between those two characters better.
4. Fairly underrated - when's the last time you heard someone talk about how good he is.
Kirby definitely makes my list.
"at the law firm of that's mine, this is yours"...good pick, dr. z.
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