Friday, July 12, 2013

31 Day Film Challenge, Day 12: A Film With Your Favorite Actor/Actress

So, I know I chose both a Jeff Bridges and a Coen brothers film just a couple of days ago, but I can't help it.  I'm doing it again today.

Jeff Bridges is an unlikely pick, I know, but he's definitely one of my favorite actors.  And if I'm forced (which I am today) to pick my favorite favorite, he's the first one that comes to mind.  Daniels is not just an actor, but also a musician and an artist, and he's really seen a resurgence in his career since he became the go-to actor and darling child of the Coen brothers more than decade ago.  That's well-deserved, as far as I'm concerned, because Daniels has a gift for portraying the down-and-out character like no once since... oh, I don't know, Buster Keaton?  There's something deeply sensitive and genuinely world-wise, even if also world-weary, about his demeanor and his voice that I find captivating.  His turn in The Big Lebowski established that character as a bona fide cinematic icon, and he's been around long enough to have similarly-iconic roles stretching back almost 40 years.  (Anyone remember his turn in the original King Kong?)

The performance that solidified his place among the greatest actors of all time, for me, was in the 2010 remake of True Grit by the Coen brothers. Daniels plays a drunk, brash and haphazard  U.S. Marshall whose appearance is so disheveled, whose diction is so garbled, and whose moral fiber is so frayed that he pushes right up against the edge of caricature.  But he is a character, not a caricature.  The genius with which Daniels toes the line between the hard-to-believe unbelievable and the over-the-top unbelievable is masterfully skilled and unquestionably committed.  This is what counts in my book as a genius performance.

On another day, I might've picked Al Pacino or Robert De Niro as my favorite actor.  Both Pacino and De Niro have (unfortunately) made too many poor film choices in the last 20 years, though, and have become caricatures of their former selves.  Robert Duvall is another top contender but, compared with Daniels, was too one-dimensional to make the cut.  There are plenty of younger actors that I think, given the time to complete the arc of their careers, would be excellent choices-- Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ryan Gosling are the best actors of my generation, I think--  but I wanted to pick someone with a longer career.  I suppose the actor with the closest approximate to Daniels' breadth and skill is probably Dustin Hoffman.  Still, in a head-to-head, I'd take Jeff Daniels. 

Also, for the record, if I were ever given one of those "who would you invite to a dinner party?" dream-questions, Daniels would definitely make my list.

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