Friday, June 15, 2012

Ten Best Actors of All-Time Relay Race

Ain't No Monty High Enough

      "The Ten Best Actors of All-Time Relay Race" rivals the Summer Olympics, exceeds the popularity of the NBA Finals, and portends this year's Presidential Election results. Where else could man venture to achieve such prestige? What institution has a greater collection of talent? The answer is nowhere unless nowhere is code for My Film Views, the mastermind of said blog-a-thon. Or the lovely Melissa Bradley, whose willingness to enlist the tenuous wisdom of yours truly is responsible for my participation.
      Actual relay races look like pompous amateur assemblies in comparison. And this guy, who will never remind anyone of grace, speed or agility, is your primary competition.  Now that I've triggered "Mr. Righteous Mode," effectively eliminating any shroud of rational judgment, I'll quickly review the rules. Or better yet, let's get the rundown from the brainchild himself. Nostra's (curator of My Film Views) precise instructions: 

"So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors. It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!"

      The methodology is simple. Scan the list of ten actors, chosen by the previous sea of participants, and find one actor to replace. As the formation of the list has largely been constructed beyond my doing, my job is modest. While the rules are straightforward, the impending inquiry of which I exhausted many hours deliberating is no facile matter. As you all know, I am a relentless student of film. Selecting one actor to fulfill a void is a real mental doozy. There are far too many actors whose work I admire. But as rules and Highlander dictate, there can be only one.
      Listed below, in chronological order, are the terrific participants. Their modifications and extraordinary tastes are responsible for the current crop of Ten Best Actors:

My Film Views (created the original list: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall)
The Focused Filmographer (Removed Hopkins, added Christian Bale)
Front Room Cinema (Removed Pacino, added Paul Giammati)
I Love That Film (Removed Jackson, added Edward Norton)
Flixchatter (Removed Giammati, added Gregory Peck)
All Eyes on Screen (Removed Norton, added Tom Hanks)
Time Well Spent (Removed Hoffman, added Leonardo DiCaprio)
The Warning Sign (Removed Hanks, added Paul Newman)
Movies and Songs 365 (Removed Duvall, re-added Anthony Hopkins)
And So It Begins (Removed DiCaprio, added Max von Sydow)
Cinematic Corner (Removed Bale, added Ralph Fiennes)
The Film Emporium (Re-removed Hopkins, added Jack Nicholson)
Duke & the Movies (Removed Oldman, added Humphrey Bogart)
Southern Vision (Removed Fiennes, added Harry Dean Stanton)
Defiant Success (Removed Stanton, added Jack Lemmon)
Cinematic Paradox (Removed von Sydow, re-added Ralph Fiennes)
Encore’s World of TV & Film (Removed Peck, added Richard Burton)
Okinawa Assault (Removed Lemmon, added Bruce Greenwood)
Amiresque (Removed Greenwood, added Peter Sellers)
Flickers (Removed Chaplin, added Jeff Bridges)
Aziza’s Picks (Removed Sellers, re-added Gary Oldman)
…let’s be splendid about this… (Removed Burton, added James Stewart)
Being Norma Jeane (Removed Bridges, added Johnny Depp)
U, Me, and Films (Re-removed Fiennes, re-added Tom Hanks)
Eternity of Dream (Re-removed Hanks, re-added Leonardo DiCaprio)
Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions (Re-removed Oldman, added Amitabh Bachchan)
Surrender to the Void (Removed Bachchan, added Gene Hackman)
Taste of Cinema (Removed Depp, added Marcello Mastroianni)
1001 Plus (Removed Brando, added Cary Grant)
Public Transportation Snob (Removed DiCaprio, re-added Charlie Chaplin)
1:37 Exactly (Removed Peter O'Toole and added Kevin Spacey)
Melissa's Imaginarium (Removed Marcello Mastroianni and added John Cazale) 

      Here are the Ten Actors Chosen:

Humphrey Bogart

Daniel Day Lewis

Robert De Niro

Paul Newman

Jack Nicholson

James Stewart

Cary Grant

Charlie Chaplin

Kevin Spacey 

John Cazale

John Cazale

      So which immaculate slice of this legendary pie am I going to remove, perhaps impermanently? And who is the venerable replacement?

      Bye-bye, Kevin Spacey.

      Welcome, Montgomery Clift.

      I send my condolences to my comrade, Russel from 1:37 exactly. Generally the game of buzzkill is not my business. Your selection of Kevin Spacey, I can reasonably presume, was a product of considerable thought. The truth is I am an enormous Spacey fan. His versatility, not to mention his virtuous impersonationsmake him a brilliant choice. If righteous indignation is your pastime, you have my blessing to unleash a pre-divine-intervention, Jules Winnfield on my apologetic ass, square retribution for this sort of Internet crime. I'm prepared to enter the void, Russ, if you proceed with vengeance. 
      As every participant can faithfully attest, this decision was incredibly difficult. Culling from a list featuring some of the greatest actors and cinematic icons is virtually inconceivable. It's like trying to pick between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Aha, but I've already disastrously broached that sensitive subject. The one stipulation, removing and replacing one actor from the increasingly representative list, conjures up similar indecision. But this is not the Relay Race of Flimsy Convictions. It is the Mount Everest of Blog-A-Thons. I vow to ascend it. 
      A resolute choice has to be made. I feel like picking Pacino would be too easy. My readers would suspect it. I do not want to reward the presumptuous. So who do I choose to exalt if not Mr. Hoo-ah!? How 'bout Montgomery Clift!? 
      Monty earns my everlasting admiration because he is the embodiment of screen acting. His brooding, emotionally textured translation of the "Method" laid the foundation for modern performance. Clift's contemporary and chief rival, Marlon Brando, even lionized him. The mercurial Marlon conferred upon Clift the title of true acting genius. Such praise cannot be undervalued or diminished as mere flattery. The late 1940's, early1950's, their primordial playground for establishing the Method, was historically rich for actors, past and present. A real creative boon. Clift was the predominant enabler. The period ought to be demarcated with a "Before Clift" and "After Clift" designation. 
      Acting of course exploded in the 1960's. Emboldened by the experimental bravura of Monty, it became more synonymous with art. A talented performer could impose his or her will on their character, freeing the craft from convention and evolving into something beyond pure physicality. Mood, disposition, and attitude would become new talent markers. None, however, could mark their territory with greater sustained charisma than Clift. The Search, Red River, A Place in the Sun, and From Here to Eternity demonstrated his preternatural ability most favorably.
      The abolishment of the antiquated Production code and the emergence of America's New Wave, which took the baton from France and Italian Neorealism, led to auteurism, independent film,  and more broadly, daring cinema. Acting benefited immensely, too. But if not for Montgomery Clift's living, breathing, acting manual, antiheroes, disaffected youths, marginalized characters and other assorted fringe players would never have the prototype from which their sensibilities could evolve. 
      The only legitimate criticism one could levy against Monty is his limp longevity. Unfortunately, his personal life interfered with his professional life. After suffering a tragic car accident, while filming Raintree County, Clift's career devolved into a sad E! True Hollywood Story. Emotionally and physically he was taxed. His performances undoubtedly deteriorated (though to what extent is largely unknown as he still commanded important roles and delivered memorable performances). One of his great roles, Judgment At Nuremberg, in fact followed his downward spiral. He would receive his fourth and final Academy Award nomination. 
      Despite a fragile mental state, punctuated by extreme mental anguish and erratic behavior, Monty could still deliver an iconic performance. Transposing the torments of his life into later roles would become his final gift to audiences. Achievements within this troubling context, therefore, warrant even greater praise. What more impressive measure of praise can man bestow except to emblazon an immortal talent in the "Ten Best Actors of All-Time Relay Race?"

*Other actors I strongly considered: Immediate runner-up was Robert Mitchum followed by Toshiro Mifune, Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, Al Pacino, Gregory Peck, Buster Keaton, James Cagney, Elizabeth Taylor, Gary Cooper, Alain Delon, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Henry Fonda, Gary Oldman, Spencer Tracy, Gene Hackman, Orson Welles, Dustin Hoffman, and Ingrid Bergman. If pressed for a truly contemporary pick, I'd lean towards Edward Norton (though he needs to PICK IT UP!) or Philip Seymour Hoffman. I like the promising trajectory of that Ryan Gosling fella, too. JGL also electrifies the screen. And I think it's only fair I mention Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. 

      Who is the recipient of my sweat-soaked baton—sweat accrued from the mammoth mental anguish my mind endured trying to remove and replace an iconic actor? Sorry, Craig of Let's Get Out Of Here! fame, but misfortune of this class befits a man accustomed to gruesome affairs. I'm looking at you, Mr. "30 Years of Dead Teens" Marathon. Do you choose to accept my mission? If not, I'll text Usain Bolt. I hear he's quite fast on his feet. Oh, wait, that's the wrong kind of race...
      In all honesty, it is my humble pleasure to pass the baton onto you, Sir. And I'm anticipating an impressive selection borne from an expert mind of substantial monetary remuneration (Check your e-mail for my PayPal info).   
      Now go check him out, folks!


  1. Replies
    1. I know. I am still heartbroken. If I should befall the most horrific fate, I have Keyser Soze to blame.

  2. Replies
    1. Haha, no way. De Niro is one of my favorites and also one of the greatest. Their careers have unfolded along a similar plane and their achievements except for a few recent hamfests are without reproach. And either De Niro or Pacino had to be included. It's my first rule of any Best of Acting list.

  3. Excellent choice! I love Monty and he was a true genius thespian. I have never seen a bad performance from him and he was one of my grandmother's favorite actors. I started watching him when I was very small in one of Gram's beloved flicks, Raintree County. My favorite performance from him, however, is in Judgment at Nuremberg. That movie holds me enthralled every time I watch it like Inherit the Wind.

    Thank you for accepting my baton and running away with it to a whole 'nother level. And passing it on to Craig...Hell to the yeah!

    1. Well, thank you, Melissa! It seems your grandmother and I have much in common. She knows a good one when she sees one, right!?

      Judgment at Nuremberg certainly highlights Monty's dramatic flair. He really could inhabit a character more convincingly and compellingly than most actors dare dream.

      And you're welcome. I loved the concept. And I never could really tackle a Ten Best Actors of All-Time list myself and justify it internally. There's just too many actors that inspire me. Removing and replacing one while difficult was a much easier proposition.

      Thanks again :)

  4. Awwww, thanks guys! Fantastic post Matty - and I gladly take that dripping baton! I would comment more - but I'm saving it for the post - which should go up Sunday! Cheers!

    1. Excellent! I am so happy you have accepted my challenge. And it is really esteemed company.

      Your voice deserves to be heard. I can't wait to see what you've dreamed up!

      Best of luck, pal :)

  5. Could you please update the list? Melissa has removed Meryl Streep after my request, so please make sure to replace her here as well.

    Excellent choice with adding Swift, have seen him in tons of films and he was always good. Shame to see Spacey go though.

    1. How's it going, Nostra? Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes, I'm now aware of Mel's inadvertent regulation breach. She's such a rule breaker (haha!). I have no problem updating the list per your rules.

      Thanks again for hosting such a terrific blog-a-thon. It was a thrill.

      P.S. Dispatching of Spacey was no formality. I think the guy is one of the most talented chameleons working today. He is one of the foremost actors who thoroughly disappears into his characters, to the complete service of disbelief. I love the guy.

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