Saturday, March 10, 2007

My Top Five: Character Actors

Really good character actors don't often get much love. Many times that's because the performance is so good we don't recognize the craftsmanship that goes into the role.

We simply don't realize the actor is acting!

There are some fine character actors working today. Actors--both male and female--who use their skills to make wonderful works of art.

Here's my Top 5 Character Actors:

Steve Buscemi: I first noticed Buscemi as Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs. It wasn't his quirky nature that caught my attention, but the way he debated with his co-conspirators-- as they sat in a diner-- about his strong-held beliefs on tipping waiters. Buscemi immediately improves any film he is in. He's a fine director as well, having directed several episodes of the HBO hit The Sopranos.

John C. Reilly: Reilly's character Reed Rothchild was the reason I loved Boogie Nights. His best-friend turn to lead Mark Whalberg was simply brilliant, and a turning point in the career of a guy who can do it all: musicals, drama, comedy.

Reilly is brilliant. The one movie in which he had a lead--Criminal--was watchable only because of Reilly's skill.

Chris Cooper: Matewan was the first movie about West Virginia of which I can recall feeling proud. Much of that feeling had to do with how Cooper portrayed Joe Kenehan, a union organizer. Cooper brings a subdued emotion to the characters he portrays, and consistently turns out terrific performances.

Eugene Levy: Look, don't dismiss this guy as an actor because of his SCTV days, and because some of his best work came in Chris Guest mockumentaries. Levy made the first American Pie flick a hit, and his role as Gerry Fleck in Best In Show should have earned him an Academy Award nod.

Although, I'd like to forget The Man...

Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Sure, you're gonna complain I jumped the shark with Hoffman as a character actor. Just because of Capote. I'm telling you that Capote was an anomaly. Not the brilliant performance, just the lead actor role. Hoffman's role in Capote was a character one, even though it was the lead. And it was--just as all his roles are--nothing short of incredible.

As good as it was, I liked Hoffman better in Magnolia.

Go figure.

OK, that's my list. What's yours look like?


Chris James said...

John Goodman, Peter Lorre, Alec Baldwin, Gary Cole, Kathy Bates

Stanton said...

Only Five?

John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Conchata Ferrell, Chris Cooper.

Don't forget that Chris Cooper was also Sonny Hickham's dad in "October Sky", another W.Va. movie.

There are others, like Tim Blake Nelson, that I loved in one or two parts but their body of work is either obscure or limited.

The Film Geek said...

Chris and Stanton: Good lists, both of you. i really like all of them. I stayed away from a couple (like Turturro) because I can't recall much they've been in recently.

I did forget October Sky.

And 5 took me an hour, Stanton! More would have been a killer.

Donutbuzz said...

I really love these posts!

I'll go with Steve Buscemi, William Macy, Kathy Bates, Chris Cooper and take Christopher Walken over John C. Reilly if it's limited to five.

The Film Geek said...

Hey Hoyt! I limited mine to five. Have at it if you have more.

Like you, Chris and Stanton I have several more folks I could have included. William Macy for one, Kathy Bates and the always great Walken were on my "maybe" list. I left off Bates because the others have worked more of late (or at elast worked in more obvious venues), and left Macy off because he has sort of moved into more lead roles (which I see possibly happening with Hoffman). He's found niche roles that lets him play the lead. Walken deserves a Top 5 mention.

I also like Chris's mention of Alec Baldwin. I never considered Baldwin a character actor, probably because he started out as a lead and has since moved into this other role. But, he deserves a nod too. His recent work is as solid as anyone.

And, Stanton mentioned Conchata Ferrell. She is my favorite female character actor. I just haven't seen her in movies of late. But she is always terrific.

Anonymous said...

I vote for Kathy Bates,Christopher Walken, Conchata Ferrell and I can't think of anyone else because I'm not a film geek. I'm lucky if I watch one movie a year. I thought you'd like to know who I would vote for anyway - you know, someone that is more like the average viewer.
When did Conchata attend MU?
Friend to Mr.& Mrs. FilmGeek

The Film Geek said...

Hiya Anonymous: That's a fine list, too. I don't know the exact years Ferrell attended MU although some readers of this blog would know that bit of trivia (and I'd love the time reference from them, if they would provide it). I'd guess the very early 70s, considering her show biz start.

Hope y'all come back, Anonymous.

JDB said...

On the "character actors going lead" thing, Chris Cooper was really good in (the underrated, IMHO) Lonestar, another John Sayles flick.

Stanton said...

My memory is a little fuzzy, but I think that Conchata graduated in 1968 or 1969. She spent two years at WVU before switching majors and finishing at Marshall. Her degree was in Social Studies Education and she student taught at George Washington High School in Charleston in '68 or '69.

Chris James said...

That is dead on, I did include Baldwin because of his recent work. He has found success as of late playing what is eseentially a hyped-up version of his public persona. He figured out at a much earlier age than Shatner that he can pull off such a move (plus, James T. Kirk just doesn't have Baldwin's acting chops).

Suzy said...

(still giggling about what Chris just said... oh how true!) Great list Film Geek! I'd like to include an oldie but a goodie (and I haven't seen him do anything in SO long) - Daniel Day Lewis. To steal a line from Kathy Bates, I'm "his biggest fan." Anybody know what he is up to?

The Film Geek said...

Hey Suzie: Haven't seen Day since his role in Gangs Of New York. But I am a fan of his, too!

The Film Geek said...

Oops...Suzy. (Sorry!) :)