The 411 Top 5 01.11.08: Week 95
Second fiddles. What would the world be without them?
Alright, maybe that sounded a little harsh, but my point remains. We all know that even though the top billed actors in our favorite films and series get most of the glory, they would be lost without their supporting cast members holding them up (and sometimes even stealing the spotlight). So, I decided that this week would be a good time to pay tribute to 2007′s best second-bananas (and I mean that in a good way), with a look at:
THE TOP 5 SUPPORTING PERFORMANCES OF 2007
5. Rhys Darby, Flight of the Conchords
A lot of glowing praise has been written in the past year about HBO’s brilliant comedy series about New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk duo, and deservedly so. But from what I’ve seen, hardly any of it has touched on how much Rhys Darby adds to the show as Murray, the duo’s hapless, incompetent manager. Some of the show’s best moments come out of Murray’s pointless band meetings, and his desperate desire to be one of the cool guys. And when Murray finally got a chance to belt out his own song – the hilarious “Leggy Blonde” – he proved that he’s just as instrumental to the show as the band itself.
4. Jack Coleman, Heroes
You could argue that pretty much every role on Heroes is a supporting role, given that there isn’t really a “main character,” per se. Still, I think it’s safe to say that Noah Bennet, or H.R.G. (Horn Rimmed Glasses) to the fans, was never meant to become the central, beloved character that he has. But with an actor as intense as Coleman, it was bound to happen. Over the course of one and half seasons, Bennet has gone from scary villain to loving father to reluctant hero to bad-ass avenger. And Coleman has kept it believable every step of the way.
3. Robert Downey Jr., Zodiac
The Robert Downey Jr. comeback that began in the excellent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang continued this year with the even-more-excellent Zodiac. It’s easy to say that Downey Jr. had an easy time playing reporter Paul Avery, given the characters self-destroying problems with drugs and alcohol. But I would say this aspect of the character only made Downey Jr.’s decision to take the part that much more impressive. He’d not hiding from his past. If he wants to use it to bring something to roles like these, more power to him. Now let’s see what the guy can do with Tony Stark.
2. Ben Foster, (tie) 30 Days of Night/3:10 to Yuma
Was there a creepier guy all year than Ben Foster? Well, yeah, but we’ll get to that with my next pick. For now, let’s discuss Foster, who only a short time ago was known mostly for a Disney Channel show, a terrible Kirsten Dunst movie, and a few small but interesting roles in a handful of other films. Now, suddenly, Foster has emerged as one of Hollywood’s best young character actors. This year, he stole the show in not one but two fall films, both times by delivering performances that were almost mesmerising in their creepiness. As the human lackey of the vampires in 30 Days of Night, Foster somehow managed to be even scarier than the bloodsuckers themselves.But it was his role as Russell Crowe’s crazed sidekick in 3:10 to Yuma that really made me sit up and take notice. If you can be the most intimidating guy in a gang led by Russell f’n Crowe, you’re doing something right.
1. Michael Shannon, Bug
Oh, the injustices that befell Bug. It was bad enough that it was stuck with a misleasing ad campaign (which made it look like it really was about killer bugs, rather than the psychological horror it was), but then it was sent out to theaters the same day as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Hmm, how do you think that one ended up? It’s a shame too, as most moviegoers missed not only William Friedkin’s amazing return to horror, but what should have been one of the biggest star-making performances in recent history. As a paranoid schizophrenic veteran whose delusions are so strong they actually begin to “infest” the woman he’s staying with, Shannon was freaking incredible. Shannon had already perfected the role onstage (the film was an adaptation of a popular play), and Friedkin had to actually go to bat for him to get him cast in the film. Apparently some of the producers thought it might be better with a bigger-name actor. Having watched the film (which you should do, too…now), I’m very, very glad they lost that particular fight.
Chevy Chase, Brothers & Sisters: Much was made at the tail end of 2006, and rightfully so, for Chevy Chase’s guest star performance as a drunk anti-Semite Mel Gibson type character on Law & Order. It was a great performance, a dramatic turn, something surprising from the comedy legend. At the tail end of 2007, though, in another guest starring role, this time on the ABC show Brothers & Sisters, Chase went back into comedy with a hilarious performance as Sally Field’s ex-boyfriend. The old Chevy Chase was back. He was light, loose, mischievous, and always close to lighting up a doobie. I hope, when the show starts production again, they have him back. Unless, of course, the great Danny Glover ends up marrying Field’s character.
Kerry Washington, I Think I Love My Wife: Kerry Washington is one hot babe. There’s no debating that. Just on appearance you can see why Chris Rock picked her to co-star as an old friend and sexual temptation during a rough patch in his character’s marriage. Again, she’s hot. But she’s also a decent actor. She’s able to project a persuasiveness that moves beyond her physical attributes because during the course of the movie she has to convince Rock’s character that he needs her and she needs him. Basically, she doesn’t have a boring personality.
Armand Assante, NCIS: If you have a show with an international weapons dealer as a villain a good guy to call up is Armand Assante, as NCIS did this past year. Assante is one of the better character actors working, but I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything big in a long time (I think he’s doing that international B-movie direct-to-DVD thing now). When he was revealed as “Le Grenouille” I think I was both surprised and reassured. I was surprised because I thought he was supposed to have an on again off again role on ER, and then I felt reassured because, like I said above, when you need a bad guy Armand is your man. He can project worldliness and sophistication with a heavy dose of sleaze just by looking at the camera. And that’s exactly what he did on NCIS. Too bad his character is dead now.
THE TOP 5
5. Orlando Jones, Primeval
I know lots of people didn’t like this big killer croc monster movie with a social conscience (and a wholly misleading advertising campaign), and they especially didn’t like Orlando Jones in the role of Steve Johnson, Dominic Purrcell’s character’s camera man. They didn’t like his mugging and one liners and his riff on how much he didn’t want to be in Africa and how he was “thankful” for slavery. Was it over the top? Sure. But I thought it was funny, the kind of weird stuff someone would say if he or she were being hunted down by a monster lizard. I think the best scene, the most amazing scene with Jones, is the open field chase with the croc. On the big screen, Jones running for his life, the monster not that far behind. Even if you didn’t like him so much, you felt for him. He was going to die.
4. John Carroll Lynch, K-Ville
Lynch is one of the better character actors out there (I’d love to see him do a sitcom with Armand Assante. I bet it’d be hilarious), and I was happy to see him get a steady TV gig again after he was dumped from Close to Home for David James JAG Elliott. On K-Ville he’s the captain of the New Orleans Police Department squad that has Anthony Anderson and Cole Hauser on the job. Lynch isn’t a flashy actor, mostly because he doesn’t have to be. He can show authority, he can be funny, he can be sad, and he can do it all seemlessly. I hope K-Ville lasts a little longer and we get a few more episodes where his character is more prominent. He’s dang good.
3. Albert Brooks, The Simpsons Movie
I mean, yeah, I would have loved to see him voice Hank Scorpio again, but for whatever reason the Simpsons people decided against that. His President Schwarzeneger aide Russ Cargill was just the kind of heartless yet hilarious prick we’ve come to expect from Brooks when he does a Simpsons thing. Maybe for a sequel or for a “sweeps” stunt we’ll see Cargill and Scorpio together. That’d be funny.
2. Michael Shannon, Bug
Ashley Judd gave an amazing performance in this little scene horror flick from William Friedkin as a broken down woman who succumbs to the paranoia of Michael Shannon’s wacked out war vet who seems to think bugs are everywhere. Shannon was so dang intense, so riveting, so charismatic in a sicko kind of way it’s not all that surprising that Judd’s character falls for him. I mean, the man had to pull out his own teeth and then look at them under a microscope. It’s hard to make that look both nonchalant and convincing.
1. Julianne Moore, Next
Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel got all of the attention from this fairly decent if incomprehensible action thriller, and while they were both good, the best performance in that flick came from Moore’s FBI agent character Callie Ferris. I don’t know how she hasn’t been given her own action movie franchise, because her performance in this flick is proof enough that she should have one. She’s smart, resourceful, she can kick butt when she has to, and remember the big action sequence towards the end of the flick, where Cage’s future seeing character leads the agents through the shoot out? Moore was awesome there. Again, get this woman an action movie franchise!
5. Rainn Wilson, The Office
I honestly don’t feel the need to explain this one. The man was straight up hilarious in the season 3 finale and then took it to the next level in the beginning of season 4 when he showed his vulnerable side.
4. Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
I’ve been gushing over her all year. That has been no secret. Basically there is no need for me to repeat myself. However, I do need to commend the writers of 411 for helping name Chenoweth as the site’s Female TV Performer of 2008. Whenever this show comes back from hiatus, I suggest that you check it out if you haven’t already. Chenoweth is a breath of fresh air. She is vulnerable one minute and intense and determined the next. It is my guess that by the time Pushing Daisies finishes its run on ABC, Chenoweth’s character will be the one everyone roots for to be happy.
3. Nathan Fillion, Waitress
One of the most underrated movies of the year was the indy darling by the name of Waitress. It was a solid movie with no huge stars, but managed to have more heart and charm than any big budget film could have ever paid for. One reason for this was the solid performance by Nathan Fillion. He played the awkward doctor who engages in a torrid, yet sweet, affair with a married woman played by Keri Russell. I am sure that you have all become familiar with the plot of this one by now. Fillion stepped up to the plate in something that wasn’t a science fiction story and it is safe to say that he knocked this one out of the park. He played a likable guy who you just couldn’t help think was acting very stupid for a man who practices medicine. One pretty much was waiting for the bottom to fall out, but yet, we would feel horrible for Fillion’s character if it did. Trust me on this one folks. You will never see adultery any more acceptable than it is in this film.
2. Robert Downey Jr., Zodiac
Robert Downey Jr. was always a solid actor. However he was your stereotypical Hollywood fuck up who managed to clean up his act and suddenly hoped for a career boost. Well, the man wasn’t doing so well until he took a little part in a movie called Zodiac. Downey played a crime reporter by the name of Paul Avery, a real person who had written about the infamous crime way back in the day. Now, I don’t know the real Avery’s story, but the one in the movie was meant to be an utter mess of an alcoholic who couldn’t keep his shit together. Still, the man had a passion for his work. It is a safe bet that this character hit close to home for Downey Jr., who pours his heart into making us believe this character might help solve the case. Part funny and part depressing, this performance is one I felt deserved an Oscar nomination.
1. Michael Emerson, Lost
Fans of the hit ABC show know who Michael Emerson is. He plays the enigmatic Ben. The character is one of mystery, treachery, and a hint of deep seeded sympathy rolled into one, which is brilliantly brought to life by Emerson. I can honestly say that I have never wanted to personally beat the shit out of a television character before I became acquainted with Emerson’s Ben Linus. Honestly, he is a bug eyed little prick that needs his face rearranged for all of his dishonesty and manipulations. Maybe other people could have played the character, but none could have done so with such style. Emerson just seems natural in doing so and that may be really freaking scary when you think about it. But seriously, folks, this man rocked it this past year. Any man who acts well enough to be hated like that needs recognition for it.
Owain J. Brimfield
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avratkos in Charlie Wilson’s War, Cliff Curtis as Dr. Searle in Sunshine, Rose McGowan as Cherry in Planet Terror
THE TOP 5
5. Harry Shearer as various characters in The Simpsons / The Simpsons Movie
That’s Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, McBain, Principal Skinner, Dr. Hibbert, Lenny and Otto amongst others. A veritable cornucopia of comic gold all spewing forth from the talented vocal chords of one performer. Along with Hank Azaria, Shearer is arguably one of the most important and under-appreciated talents involved with The Simpsons, and I thought it’d be nice to recognize the sterling work the voice artists put into their performances. One of the abiding reasons for the show’s continuing success is its supporting cast, and when the majority of its most amusing characters are voiced by one human man, it’s hard to see how he could be overlooked. So kudos Harry Shearer, one of America’s most versatile and undervalued comedy actors.
4. Jack Coleman as Mr. Bennet in Heroes
By far the most compelling character in Heroes aside from Hiro and Sylar, Mr. Bennet kept the show rolling in its early days by presenting a mysterious character whose motivations were always unclear, giving us either a baddie whose overriding concern was for the wellbeing of his adopted daughter, or a goodie who worked for one of the shadiest corporations on the planet. Coleman treads a fine line in keeping the viewer guessing as to which particular shade of grey Bennet is embodying in a particular episode, and he carries off the role with aplomb and a set of natty horn-rimmed glasses. Plus, he’s got an unnerving resemblance to Bill ‘D-FENS’ Foster in Falling Down, which means you’re never quite sure when he’s going to whip out a shotgun and terrorize a Korean shop owner.
3. Casey Affleck as Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James
It’s been too long coming, but we can finally say that Casey is the more talented actor of the Affleck twins. While earlier performances in movies such as Gerry and the Danny Ocean films presented him in a satisfying light, it’s as second fiddle to Brad Pitt’s Jesse James that Affleck really begins to shine as the coward of the title. Enigmatic and progressively bitter, Ford goes from idolizing James to believing he’ll be hailed a folk hero for killing the man, only to discover that public opinion soon turns against him. It’s testament to Affleck’s developing talents that he goes toe-for-toe with Brad Pitt in full ‘actorly’ mode and emerges looking just as good as the leading man. If he can prove as good behind the scenes as he is in front of the cameras, Ben had better watch out.
2. Nick Frost as PC Danny Butterman in Hot Fuzz
It’s easy to overlook Nick Frost’s contributions to a project when he’s playing second fiddle to a performer of the caliber of Simon Pegg, but Hot Fuzz finally proved once and for all that Frost is an equally capable comedic talent, and possibly a greater dramatic actor, than his more lauded compatriot. Danny Butterman is the most loveable of loveable buffoons, and Frost’s assured and at times genuinely moving performance ensures that the audience’s sympathies are always with him, whether inadvertently crashing through fencework, mouthing the lines to action classic Point Break or blowing the shit out of a supermarket. Frost pretty much defines the role of ‘sidekick’ in this movie, and the viewing experience is made all the better for it.
1. Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men
While it’s debatable whether or not Bardem is in fact playing a supporting role in No Country (conventional storytelling would have Tommy Lee Jones or Josh Brolin as the lead, but the Coens are anything but conventional), what can’t be argued is that he’s given us one of the finest screen villains of the decade in Anton Chigurh. Even when you take away the props (the horrendous haircut, the pneumatic cattle gun), Bardem excels in a role that is essentially malevolence personified. Deciding life or death on the whim of a coin toss, Chigurh is a blank force of evil that permeates the film and always hovers in the back of your mind even when he’s not on screen. In one of the highest quality movies of the year, it takes an exceptional performance to stand out, and Bardem does just that.
Jon Voight as the Defense Secretary, Transformers: Why? I’ll tell you why. Jon Voight with a shotgun. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
THE TOP 5
5. Ray Wise as The Devil, Reaper
I fear for the future of this fun show, which wasn’t doing so hot in the ratings before it ran out of episodes thanks to the strike….. it deserves a few more seasons on the strength of Ray Wise alone! If you haven’t seen his performance as the hilarious, fake baking, chicken fried steak loving Prince of Darkness, you are seriously missing out. He has perfectly walked the line between making his character either too endearing (he is the Devil after all) and too evil (from time to time it seems like he actually does care about the titular Reaper, Sam).
4. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogel aka McLovin, Superbad
There is so much that’s awesome about this movie, but outside of the main two characters, nobody is as memorable as McLovin. His side splitting journey alongside the two most unprofessional cops you’ve ever seen completely steals the film.
3. Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribean: At World’s End
You know, I didn’t like this movie all that much when I saw it in the theatre. And as a big fan of the first two, that was pretty surprising. I’ve seen it a few times on DVD now and it’s growing on me, the main reason being the performance of Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa. It’s just such a fun character, and he’s clearly having a ball. In the first film he was the villain, and while there was some playful mischievousness on his part, he wasn’t allowed to become an endearing character. In this film he’s firmly planted on the side of good (even Will Turner switches sides more often!) and so the audience can really get behind him in great scenes like his telescope competition with Jack and his mid-battle marriage ceremony for Will and Elizabeth. But it’s a smaller moment, his short and sweet discussion with Jack about the state of their ever shrinking world when they discover the dead Kraken, that is the highlight of his performance and the film.
2. Jack Coleman as H.R.G. aka Noah Bennet, Heroes
When an actor’s performance is so compelling that it inspires the show’s creators to redirect his character (and make him a series regular) he’s probably deserving of a place on this list. HRG was meant to be a disposable villain, until the makers of the show saw the nuances Coleman was bringing to the character, primarily via his relationship with his daughter Claire. Here’s a guy who’s cold, lethal and willing to do whatever he has to do to get the job done, and yet he truly and deeply loves his family. Coleman’s incredible performance during the first season kept the fans guessing as to what side he was really on until the very end. And ‘Company Man’, the episode that explored his past, was one of the best hours of television the 06-07 season produced.
1. Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond David Hume, Lost
There are a lot of compelling characters on, arguably, the most compelling show on television. And though he didn’t have the screen time of Jack, Locke or even Ben, Henry Ian Cusick made the most of his first year as a series regular by delivering some fantastic performances as the prophetic Scotsman Desmond. Though he has only been on the show for a handful of episodes when compared to the original castaways, Cusick has quickly built Desmond into one of the most interesting characters on the show with performances like his extended flashback in “Flashes Before Your Eyes”.
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Next week, The Top 5 Most Improved Actors.