Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10 Underrated Actors/Actresses

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about actors/actresses that don't get enough credit for their brilliant work. These are my thoughts on some actors/actresses that have given us several deserving performances and are yet have not been recognized by the Academy Awards...

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt - His recent performance in Stop-Loss should have been nominated this past year, although the film was less than mediocre. This isn't the first time he has been completely overlooked. The biggest oversight was his performance in Mysterious Skin in 2004. The same year that Brokeback Mountain broke barriers and its performances were hailed as groundbreaking, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was inconceivably ignored for his portrayal of a gay teen prostitute who was molested as a child. His performance was disturbing, raw, intense, brave - it took me weeks to stop thinking about it. I couldn't believe that this was the same kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun. You can't deny how cute he was as a child actor in Angels in the Outfield or even when he tried the teen genre in 10 Things I Hate About You. It seems like it was out of the blue, but he has turned into an extremely dynamic actor. He continues to choose weighty and relevant material. I now consider him to be the greatest actor of my generation (we are the same age). Other great performances by him can be seen in Manic, Brick and The Lookout.

2. Mary Louise Parker - MLP is finally getting recognition for her work on one of my favorite shows ever - Weeds. But she never got the recognition she deserved for her work on such great movies as Fried Green Tomatoes, The Client (along with the also under-rated late Brad Renfro) and Boys on the Side.

3. Ryan Phillippe - O.k, I might be a little biased because physically he is absolute perfection. I promise that once you look past that, he is actually a great actor....just maybe not in anything you have ever heard of. At the same time he was distinguishing himself as the next male hottie choice for teens in films like Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer, he was also in a few lesser known films. He was outstanding in Little Boy Blue (a heartbreaking film), memorable in White Squall and downright hysterical in Homegrown. He's extremely versatile and sincere, it's a shame his looks (and the tabloid gossip from his split with Reese) overshadow his talent. He is consistent in picking challenging roles and working on great projects (Gosford Park, Igby Goes Down). Recently he has been getting a little bit of credit where it's due (one of the many great actors in the ensemble drama Crash, and held his own in Flags of Our Fathers and Breach). I'm really excited by the IMDB Cast list for the upcoming The Stanford Prison Experiment which casts him along with Benjamin McKenzie, Kieran Culkin and Giovanni Ribisi. I hope this film happens.

4. James McAvoy - Utterly brilliant in the BBC comedy series Shameless along with the BBC Mini-series State of Play (speaking of - the U.S film version looks incredibly disappointing!). James McAvoy is extremely unique because he has universal appeal. He's adorable, sexy, funny, smart and non-threatening. During the 2008 Oscar Roundtable interview he surprised everyone by being more charming and dashing than George Clooney (even Clooney himself was impressed). Plus he can act. Wanted was one of my favorite films last year solely based on his performance (although the accent was a bit off- I'm sure he will perfect it soon). He made Atonement watchable and held his own against the Oscar-winning performance of Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. I know he has made some poor choices (Penelope, Really?), but he is a risk taker and that doesn't always work out, but is always greatly appreciated.

5. Sandra Bullock - This is not a joke. I have adored Sandra since her bus driving days. Her presence on-screen and off is always refreshing and uplifting. Sure she has perfected the Romantic Comedy genre, but she has also done a lot more than she gets credit for. She proved herself in Crash and even received Oscar-buzz for her portrayal of Harper Lee in Infamous. Besides, even if you classify her only as a comedic actress, she outshines most other leading ladies. I thoroughly enjoyed 2 Weeks Notice and Miss Congeniality. I can't say the same for the efforts of Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston.

6. Kelly Macdonald - I think the best word to describe Kelly Macdonald is delightful. I first noticed her in Gosford Park, but then started seeing her more and more in some amazing television performances - a short, but memorable performance in Alias and stand-out work in State of Play (along with Mcavoy). I think others finally started taking notice when she surprisingly won the Emmy for her performance in Girl in the Cafe (great film). However, she was completely overlooked for her work in No Country For Old Men as Carla Jean Moss. Her authentic Southern American accent alone should have garnered her an Oscar nod (she's from Glasgow!). I adore her and I hope she will continue to gain respect in the industry.

7. Gael Garcia Bernal - Some of my favorite films - Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Crimen Del Padre Almaro El, The Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education, The King, The Science of Sleep and Babel. Is it a coincidence that Bernal is in all of these films? Maybe. Honestly, I don't think it is - instead I think he has an impeccable taste in films and I trust that a film will be worth my time if he is in it and I can always expect to see a great performance.

8. Evan Rachel Wood - The queen of independent film. I have enjoyed so many of her performances (although I didn't really like her in the much praised Thirteen). She can be dark and portray angst without being contrived or stereotypical. She always chooses unique roles in interesting films such as Down in the Valley, Running With Scissors, King of California and my personal favorite of her films The Life Before Her Eyes. I didn't see The Wrestler yet (!), but from what I saw in the trailer her performance looks emotive...I'm prepared to cry.

9. Sarah Polley- Back in 1999 an amazing film came out called Go. Sarah Polley was the star and she shined, I really thought she was the next great hollywood star. Instead Sarah has been quietly working in lesser known films but still giving extraordinary performances. I can't really say any of the films are worth watching - My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words and The I Inside (also with Phillippe) were all pretty dull but she showed promise in the remake Dawn of the Dead. She also showed she has talent behind the screen by writing and directing Away From Her (which she did receive an Oscar nod for Adapted Screenplay). Hopefully, she will stick around and pick some better films to showcase her talent (or write them!).

10. Michael Pena - Out of all the outstanding performances in Crash his was the most memorable. That scene with his daughter just breaks my heart EVERY time. I was upset that Matt Dillon was the only actor that really got any credit for the film, when Michaels performance was clearly superior. He also stands-out in other films such as World Trade Center and The Lucky Ones. Plus he looks hilarious in the upcoming Observe and Report - I almost didn't recognize him.

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