Wednesday, September 7, 2011

They Aren't Movie Stars...They're Actors (And Movie Stars)

Contrary to what people may think I LOVE actors.  They have a remarkably difficult job: to convince us that they are not themselves but the character they are playing, and they have to do that on a consistent level.  There are a few who can do it so well and so often that they DO earn their pay.

Allow me to be generous.  Once, I mused on certain stars whom I felt were not actual actors.  I still hope that perhaps I can be proven wrong and that in time they will develop into people who can create magic on the screen (though I won't hold my breath). 

Now, I have selected five individuals (three men, two women) whom I believe are actors, who I believe WILL have long careers in film, and who have shown a consistent level of quality in their work that they, if I'm correct, will rank among the strong performers of their generation.



Anton Yelchin
I'll cop to being a bit of a nerd, but I was impressed by Yelchin's Chekov in Star Trek (although I am not a Trekker/Trekkie--more Whovian myself).    However, I have found he's more than just a Russian in space (although he IS Russian-born, he is American in every way).  Rather, I find that Yelchin is developing into one of our better younger actors, even though he hasn't broken through as much as he should.  I point to a few performances.

There was the a segment in New York, I Love You.  Like all anthology films, New York, I Love You has its hits and misses.  One of the hits was the Brett Ratner section, and one of the things that worked well was Yelchin's performance in it.  He brought a sweetness to this lovelorn youth, which made the whole section work so well.  He was also one of the few good things in Terminator: Salvation (a sorry experience for the audience at large) and I have heard good things about his performance in The Beaver (a film I cannot bring myself to watch because of Mel Gibson--sorry, but I'm not much into racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic violent-prone individuals).  I also thought he did a good job in Fright Night (though I fear this movie will be a bomb, but at least he can rest knowing he wasn't the cause). 

I hope he is able to continue beyond the future Star Trek films as well as playing teens (as I thought that at 22, he was looking a bit old to play them, but I digress).  If he is able to get past Chekov (actually, beyond franchises), he will find great success.

Mia Wasikowska


I make no secret that Mia Wasikowska is My Secret Love...no secret anymore.  Is it strange to say that my love for Wasikowska is total?  She has already proven herself a total actress (dare I say, Meryl Streep-like) for her ability with accents. 

In The Kids Are All Right, she is the prototype California teen (one who could easily play the Canadian Joni Mitchell in any biopic on her life).  In Jane Eyre (which I confess, swept me away--which does not happen and which I was not expecting), she is the strong British title character.  Beyond the fact that her performances in both films were excellent (especially in Jane Eyre) is the fact that Wasikowska is Australian.   Granted, I wasn't a fan of Alice In Wonderland (but it had nothing to do with her). 

Her career so far has been remarkably brief, but she's managed to hold her own against more seasoned actors from Annette Bening and Julianne Moore to Michael Fassbender and Dame Judi Dench (and, I'd argue, carried Jane Eyre--as the title character, she should).  I think she has proven herself already as an actress to watch--British, American, Australian accents...what CAN'T she do?


James McAvoy
I confess to not being able to come up with one bad McAvoy performance, and he's done a wide spectrum of them.  He's played the serious (The Last King of Scotland), the fantastical (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe), and hasn't shied away from action pictures.  Given his excessively romantic role in Atonement, who would have thought he could shift so easily into full-on badass in Wanted and then back to costume pictures in The Last Station (which I thought a mix of drama and comedy)?

I don't think McAvoy would be insulted if I said that in so many ways he reminds me of his fellow Scotsman Ewan McGregor (and not just because both share the same heritage).  Rather, it's in the ability of both McGregor and McAvoy to go from franchise films (Star Wars and X-Men) to smaller art-house fare (Trainspotting and Becoming Jane).  Both are also able to play both British and American characters (though McGregor at times struggles with an American accent and McAvoy has to my knowledge only tried it twice: Wanted and The Conspirator).   Still, I think McAvoy will prove himself as an actor to handle just about anything he's given.

Jennifer Lawrence

Oh God, her in that dress.  OH GOD, HER IN THAT DRESS.  Dear God...thank Heaven this woman's talented, otherwise I would think only of her in THAT DRESS...Now that I've freed myself from such sinful thoughts (but how one not when one sees her IN THAT DRESS) we can focus on her career. 
I'll be honest: I'm one of the few people who wasn't overwhelmed with Winter's Bone.  I also wasn't overwhelmed with X-Men: First Class.  However, I though she did a good job in both those films, and of course, she always has Katniss in The Hunger Games films.  I will go into them without knowing much about the story (having chosen not to read the books so as to go in unbiased).  Still, her career is just starting, and I expect that with time we will go past her beauty and concentrate on her acting ability.  Winter's Bone did that: she was hardly beautiful in that film, but her character was incredibly strong. 

How curious that she co-starred with Yelchin in two films (The Beaver and Like Crazy).  Perhaps they could become a team, I don't know.  What I know is that Lawrence is starting out so well, going for both intense small dramas, big budget tentpole films, and a franchise series all before she is twenty-five.  Certainly, she has a long career ahead of her. 


Joseph Gordon-Levitt
I never tire of being amazed at how I have turned around completely on Gordon-Levitt: going from hating him (or more precisely, his character) on 3rd Rock From the Sun to thinking him the best American actor of his generation.  Still, Gordon-Levitt has been a real revelation in what he is willing to do as an actor.

One of my favorite films is (500) Days of Summer, and while everything in the film worked so well, it was Gordon-Levitt's performance as Tom (the young man in love with Summer and with love itself) that was one of the best performances of 2009.  He's already had a series of great performances from (500) Days to Inception and while he appears more interested in art-house fare (judging from Latter Days to Hesher to 50/50, he isn't afraid to venture into more commercial material ranging from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to The Dark Knight Rises (I'd argue Inception is a mix of art and commerce, but I digress).   In short, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is something I'm finding rarer and rarer in Hollywood: an actor who keeps improving and who is fascinating to watch. 

I trust I'll find more actors and actresses who really are actors and actresses and not just pretty people who can say lines written for them.  I hope to do so since for those who love film, seeing the careers of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Mia Wasikowska, and Anton Yelchin gives us hope that acting, real acting, will continue to be seen in film. 

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