Thursday, November 11, 2010

No Respect at All: 5 Actors Deserving More Love


When people generally do a list of the most unappreciated actors of our time their list usually involves a group of people everyone knows and loves but doesn't list as one of the best. I have no problem with that system, but that's not the direction I'm aiming for. Of course I know if I wrote top 5 most unappreciated actors I'd likely be raking in the google search views, but we all know that's not what I'm here for (as if anyone would read this anyways). No, the people I want to talk about today are five actors that I feel have been great for far too long but never get mentioned, ever. Now I know that's a hyperbole but in my opinion these are some of the finest talents of today but they're never 'rumored' to be apart of a project. There's no big budget studio saying 'get me X!!!!' When it comes down to it, they're great, and people need to love them more for it.

Samantha Morton
Even though her natural tendency leans towards independent films, Morton has been one of Hollywood's finest character actresses of the last fourteen years. With everything from In America and Control to Minority Report, Morton's covered the broad spectrum of cinema, but you don't often see her listed among the better actresses of her generation. That's with two Oscar nominations under her belt.

Perhaps it's because she ventures quite a far distance away from the girl next door persona most actresses get sucked into. Morton often pushes for dynamic, intelligent, female characters with varying backgrounds, and complex issues. There's nothing cookie cutter about Morton, and I love every moment of it.

Paddy Considine

If you were to ask me to subscribe to a fan club for just one actor. Just one, no more, that's it. I would throw it all into the Paddy Considine bin. I'll tell you why: Anyone who has ever seen the final five minutes of Dead Man's Shoes knows Considine is beyond the real deal. Considine carries with him a great display of charisma, self awareness, and humility. He's willing to take the bit parts - Bourne Ultimatum/Hot Fuzz, but knows what to do with the camera when he's a dominate character - Cinderella Man, In America, Dead Man's Shoes.

To be honest I didn't really register Paddy Considine until I saw the film Pu-239. Don't worry, I know you haven't heard of it. Was shown once on HBO about 3 years ago, and to be honest it wasn't great, but Considine was amazing. He carried the weight of that film so brilliantly he's received my universal seal of approval.

Andre Braugher

I first became aware of Andre Braugher during the eighth grade when my class watched Edward Zwick's 1989 film, Glory. Braugher played the physically weak, but intellectually strong, Thomas Searles.  Since then I've grown to greatly respect Braugher for doing what so many African American actors struggle to do: Build a career playing strong, confident, and intelligent, characters.

Braugher may not only get the best parts, but he always makes the most of them. With solid turns in City of Angels, Primal Fear, The Mist, and Frequency, perhaps the greatest shame of Braugher's career is that he's never really given a chance to expand. His short lived FX TV series Thief displayed Braugher as a true talent, but people seemed disinterested. More recently Braugher's gained some respect as the recurring psychiatrist on House, but his episodes are too few and far between. If only Braugher would do a bit less Rise of the Silver Surfer and Duets then I'm certain we'd all learn to love him for what he does.

John Hawkes

There's nothing up and coming about the talent in John Hawkes, he's been around for years, and great for most of it. Hawkes has done everything from tv shows like Lost, Deadwood, and Eastbound & Down to Hollywood films like The Perfect Storm, Identity, and American Gangster. Still, the John Hawkes bandwagon seems to be inexplicably short staffed. If I would venture a guess as to why it's because when Hawkes goes indie, he really goes independent. 

His 2010 film Winter's Bone is probably one of his very few independent films to reach out into the mainstream with any real success. Yet Hawkes has proven you don't need to be a big name to stick it out in Hollywood. Being a consistent deliverer of great character performances regardless of the film we always keep you in the mind of directors.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai

If you were to list the best actor only film buffs seem to know, Tony Leung Chiu Wai would have to feature every time. Since breaking through with 80's and 90's Chinese action films, such as John Woo's Hard Boiled, Tony Leung has captivated foreign film buffs with dynamic turns in Hero, Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love, 2046, Infernal Affairs, Red Cliff, and Lust Caution. 

Leung's long running relationship with director Kar wai Wong at the turn of the century led to some of the best cinema in Chinese history. The only reason Leung hasn't gained much international appeal is simply selection of films, and his amazing ability to blend in. Leung's performances always display without standing out. He doesn't dominate, but rather synchronizes with the characters he portrays. His performance in Lust, Caution is a highlight of his immense talent and range. If only we could get him some more mainstream love here in the US , all would be right with the world... well not all, but you get what I mean.

Well ladies and gents there you have it. My not so underappreciated, so much as not well loved as they should be internationally speaking, list of five actors (and one actress but when we reference multi-gender groups we usually use the masculine form so don't argue!). Be sure to list yours in the comment section.

25 better thoughts:

MovieNut14 said...

Is it ironic that I've only heard of one of them?

Clarissa Draper said...

I love your choices. I feel in love with Samantha Morton when she did Jane Eyre and have followed her ever since. I agree, she does not get the recognition she deserves.

Film Intel said...

Nice to see Considine on there. Great actor and I love DEAD MAN'S SHOES. Not liked a few of Morton's recent choices but there's no doubt she's a fine actor.

The Mad Hatter said...

It gives me a bit of a grin that your number first two choices on this list can be found in the same film!

Might I also suggest Michael Shannon, Clifton Collins Jr, and Olivia Williams

Duckers said...

Paddy Cosidine fans (who haven't already) should check out his scary/funny performance in "A Room For Romeo Brass".

Good list.

Univarn said...

@MovieNut No irony, just unfortunate. You need to get on that!

@Clarissa I've not heard of Jane Eyre, I'm guessing it was a TV movie?

@Film Lots of these actors have strings of bad choices, and lots of the time I put it up to them not getting premium offers. Definitely not in match with their talent.

@Mad Hey, if I had done this list the way I originally intended there would have been a great deal of overlap. Olivia Williams is so under appreciated even I forgot about her while doing my list! /fail. Still I think Michael Shannon's starting to get the respect he deserves but it's an uphill climb (and his character choices don't help). I think Clifton Collins Jr is definitely on the up.

@Duckers I'll do that, I've seen a great deal of his stuff but not all of it.

Dan said...

I loved In America with Considine and Morton. I definitely agree about Samantha Morton though, I've liked her since I saw her in the TV drama about Bradford city prostitutes - Band of Gold - where she played a teenage street hustler back in the early 1990s. Excellent series and she's excellent in it. It's a shame most people will know her as the girl that doesn't do very much in Minority Report but she's actually a very talented actress.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Afraid it would take me a while to come up with my list, but I recognize the five you've listed. Amazing how some have flown under the radar for years.

Film Intel said...

A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS is arguably even more scary/awkward than DEAD MAN'S SHOES but I don't think it's anywhere near as good. Quite predictable and the focus split between the kids and their families and Considine and the kids is a bit off. Still, as you say Duckers, it is worth a watch, especially for fans of his.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I've never really considered Morton a character actress in the strictest of senses. Her range seems strangely diverse for someone who's near the spotlight but never actually IN it and sometimes I wonder if it's because her performances are so different. You wouldn't that the girl opposite Sean Penn in Sweet & Lowdown is the same one opposite Cruise in Minority Report. It's as if the fact that she changes from role to role so easily makes it difficult for the general audiences to pinpoint her and say "Aha! That's Samantha Morton."

Whoa, that's a lot of rambling. Any sense there?

Castor said...

Glad to see Samantha Morton and Tony Leung on the list. Actually, we are giving Morton a lot of love on our Top 25 Actresses Under 35. Now if only, we would finish that then you would see that she is in our top 5 ;)

Tony Leung is absolutely awesome. It's too bad he is not more well-known outside of Asia but that's somewhat of a given if you don't appear in Hollywood movies.

Univarn said...

@Dan I think she does rather well with what she's given in Minority Report, but she definitely could have done a lot more.

@AlexJ For lots of them it's mainly a lack of recognition for having been good for so many years. They may earn the odd nomination for this or that but when people list the best they don't even make the honorable mentions.

@Film Thanks for that, I'll keep it under advisement.

@Andrew I always use character actor/actress wrong. I usually mean it to be an actor or actress who can play lots of characters but it doesn't mean that, and it annoys me since I don't know any simple phrase for them. So yes, I agree with you.

@Castor I blame a lot of the anti-Leung knowledge on people general disinterest with Foreign films. They may be harder to hunt down but that doesn't make them any less impactful/memorable.

snobbyfilmguy said...

I've been praising John Hawkes for his role in Winter's Bone...sad that it keeps getting overlooked. Chungking Express is a favorite of mine and so is In America...after those films I've followed those 3 actors...needless to say, I LOVE your list!

Alex said...

Great list! I'm a fan of all these guys. Samantha Morton is adorable and very talented- her turn as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator made Harmony Korine's mediocre MISTER LONELY more watchable.

And John Hawkes! I love John Hawkes! I was so happy when he got a bit role on Lost, because then I could finally make people recognize him when I was talking about him- "You know, the John Lennon guy on Lost!" I saw him for a showing of Winter's Bone at IFF Boston. He seems very nice and is shorter than I expected.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Emmanuelle Vaugier deserves is an actresses I think deserves some more love, she gets a lot of recurring TV roles but I'd be amiss to think of a film she was in that wasn't direct to DVD. She's hot and talented but in terms of film roles they're pretty awful... maybe she likes it that way, some just don't want to get caught up in the Hollywood mess which is understandable.

SugaryCynic said...

Tony Leung Chiu Wai is far and away one of my favorite actors. He is so skilled and barely anyone has ever heard of him.

Univarn said...

@snobby It's always easy to overlook foreign actors when it comes to best of lists, but I think doing so is always a crime. In America is such a beautiful film in its own right, and packed with talent. Wish it, in and of itself, could get more love.

@Alex I hated how underused he was in LOST. He needed more time in that role, but he was part of an unfortunate onslaught of throw away characters that final season.

@MVP I'm familiar with some of her stuff but she hasn't done enough to warrant me championing her as an actress people need to love more. Perhaps a few indie films would help boast her status? Looks like she's got stuck in a lot of meh TV shows and even more meh sequels.

@Sugary Perhaps we should do a Tony Leung Chiu Wai awareness day blog-a-thon?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

This is the type of post that makes me want to do a response. Be warned.

Anonymous said...

First let me say ... what a cute little bunny!! :) Great list, Univarn, I totally agree with most of them. I don't know who John Hawkes is but he does look familiar. Morton was great in Minority Report, among other things. Yes, Jane Eyre that she did was an A&E production, haven't seen that one but I can totally see her being great in that role.

@Hatter, it's crazy to see Clifton in Extract not too long ago and now in The Event. Hard to imagine it's the same actor!

Btw, I've been wanting to do a similar post like this but haven't got around to it. It's a good idea to limit it to five, makes it really doable. Thanks for the inspiration.

Nicholas Prigge said...

This is a really fantastic list. Every person on it is someone I never think about it until I see them in a movie and think, "Oh yeah, he or she is really great." I need to break myself of that habit.

Simon said...


Univarn said...

@Andrew Is that a warning or a threat? :(

@Flix Once you see Winter's Bone I'm sure you'll find Hawkes far more memorable. I used to do top 10's all the time but once I saw Mad Hatter doing top 5's I though to myself: GAH that's so much easier!

@Nicholas Thanks. I'm guilty of it just as much as anyone. Dylan from Blog Cabins does a great series, sporadically, on Recognizable Faces, not names. You should check that out if you get the chance.

@Simon Hell yeah!

Dave Becker said...

Really an excellent list. Samantha Morton is one of my favorite actresses, and Tony Leung has yet to be anything short of phenomenal (CHUNGKING EXPRESS is on my top 10 list).

Another great Paddy Considine performance (albeit in a small role) can be found in 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE.

Jake said...

Tony Leung is easily in my top 5 actors. I think his lack of Hollywoodization keeps him underground but America only has use for Asian actors for kung-fu roles it seems and he brings his thoughtful, graceful charm to those roles as well. Even when he's being a badass, he's too intelligent to light up American audiences. A shame, because he's got the looks (does he even age?) and enough talent to bury Hollywood's A-list. But at least someone hasn't brought him down like Jet Li or Jackie Chan.

Jamaica said...

Hey, don't knock Jet Li! He was fantastic in The Warlords! Wish more filmmakers would give him the chance to stretch out. He's far more capable than most people give him credit for.

Thrilled to see all five on this list, though I need to see more of John Hawke's work.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai is a god among actors. I'm embarrassed to say I only caught up to his career this year, and I'm supposed to be quite the film buff, but I've been making up for lost time. True, he's little-known in the West, but he is as big as Tom Cruise, in Asia, which is pretty cool, considering he's got the acting chops of Robert Duvall. Not all his films, unfortunately, are as good as the stuff that hits the film festivals. He's done his share of b-picture comedies and such, but that's part of what makes him fun as an actor. You have his classic arthouse films, and then you have the goofy comedies where he'll have an enormous booger hanging from his nose, or an "Anchorman"-like erection. Perfectly delightful, and frankly, REALLY hysterical when he is so touching and convincing as a wired undercover cop, or a dissipated, cynical writer, or an idealistic, reformed swordsman. The fact he seems to take equal delight in the absurd roles, as much as the great ones that have made his name on the film festival circuit, is really quite endearing, (although I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more art films.). Word has it, he has an American agent now, he's just looking for the right role. Hope it comes soon.

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