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Actors Actors of Greatness Film Humphrey Bogart photography

The Maltese Falcon {1941}.

This film noir from John Huston features Humphrey Bogart, in a truly iconic, star-making performance, and the great Sydney Greenstreet, in his debut on the big screen. Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, and Elisha Cook, Jr. are also all brilliant, with the latter portraying the “Gunsel” (a term author Dashiell Hammett snuck by the Powers That Be).

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Actors Actors of Greatness Crispin Glover Film photography

Willard {2003}.

This chilling remake of the 1971 film features Crispin Glover at the very height of his mighty powers. R. Lee Ermey also provides a top-notch performance as Willard’s less than sympathetic boss. Certain people get what’s coming to them. In the first vid, Willard (Glover), in total impotent outrage, shakes his metaphorical fist at the gods of futility and unfairness, with William S. Taylor as the messenger of said dreadful gods. A meltdown of ΓΌber proportions.

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Actors Actors of Greatness Brad Dourif Film

The Exorcist III {1990}.

This extremely undervalued film features a fascinating, rather offbeat and unsettling screenplay by author William Peter Blatty, and excellent performances by George C. Scott, Nancy Fish, and Scott Wilson. Brad Dourif’s mesmerizing tour de force as the Gemini Killer is iconic and unforgettable.

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Actors Actors of Greatness Crispin Glover Film

River’s Edge {1986}.

This quirky, moody, disturbing, occasionally hysterical crime drama boasts a fine ensemble cast, but Crispin Glover steals the show with a stunning, unforgettable performance as druggy ringleader-of-sorts Layne. Iconic, a tour de force. Keanu Reeves is very good as Matt, a relatively sane teenager. Dennis Hopper has a nice turn as dealer/murderer/weirdo Feck.

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Actors Actors of Greatness Film

Michael Clayton {2007}.

A legal thriller from 2007, brilliantly directed by Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton chiefly revolves around the relationship between the title character, a “fixer”, and Arthur Edens, a brilliant attorney who is suffering a breakdown but also grasps more of the truth than is perhaps good for him. George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson star, along with Tilda Swinton, who portrays a ruthless general counsel and chief antagonist. All provide memorable performances, with Wilkinson at the height of his powers as the bipolar Edens.

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Actors Directors Film Gary Oldman Jean Reno Natalie Portman photography Predators Psychopaths

LΓ©on, the Professional {1994}.

LΓ©on, the Professional, is a brilliantly twisted and complex film focusing on the relationship between a good-hearted yet ruthless hitman, the young girl who comes under his guidance after her family is massacred, and the sociopathic DEA agent Stansfield, who performed said massacring. A certain houseplant also plays a significant role. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman are both exceptional, and Gary Oldman renders forth a truly iconic performance as the depraved, mercurial, cunning, pill-popping Stansfield. Each character has their own internally consistent moral code. Luc Besson directed this fascinating, haunting, offbeat, darkly comical film.

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Actors Actors of Greatness Coen Brothers Directors existentialism Film Javier Bardem photography Producers

No Country for Old Men {2007}.

No Country for Old Men, a 2007 existential noir western thriller by Joel and Ethan Coen, examines the dilemma of Llewelyn Moss {Josh Brolin}, who somewhat inadvertently ends up in the crosshairs of, among others, sociopathic assassin/operative Anton Chigurh {Javier Bardem}, a most singular character with a ruthless code and nihilism to spare. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell {Tommy Lee Jones} wants to help Moss, but, though plenty smart and resourceful, he realizes with the likes of Chigurh, whom he wryly and despairingly describes as a ghost, he’s in over his head; he’s dealing with a new kind of human. New, yet as old and implacable as the unforgiving landscape.

It is the uncanny accomplishment of the Coens to have rendered an extraordinarily nuanced environment where everything means something, yet nothing means anything. The interface of chance and inevitability is front and center.

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Actors cult films Directors Film Horror/Cult Films photography Steven Spielberg

Jaws {1975}.

Directed by a 28 year old Steven Spielberg, Jaws is a gripping, multi-faceted masterwork. This thriller/cult classic features resonant, memorable work by Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, and a mesmerizing, iconic performance by Robert Shaw. Also involved is a 20+ (25!) foot-long shark. One of the most perfectly realized films of the 20th century.

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Fargo {1996}.

The 1996 film Fargo, a Coen Brothers masterwork, presents the story and precipitous moral/psychological decline of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), the misadventures of the bungling kidnappers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) whose “help” he enlists, and the dogged attempts of Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) to make sense of it all. Macy’s performance is mind-boggling, Buscemi and Stormare are brilliant, and McDormand carried away an Oscar for her finely-nuanced portrayal. Carter Burwell composed the memorable theme.

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Actors Actors of Greatness Film Marlon Brando photography Predators Psychopaths serial killers

The Missouri Breaks {1976}.

This offbeat, rather twisted Western presents the intertwined stories of Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson) and his good-hearted, somewhat hapless rustling gang, and Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando), a so-called “regulator” (hired killer) whose job it is to identify and curtail the activities of Logan, et al. As the film progresses, an ever-increasing sense of dread and disquiet permeate the proceedings, as it becomes clearer all the time that the eccentric Clayton is a ruthless, sadistic sociopath, who relishes his deadly machinations and depraved exploits. The bounty hunter’s bewildering array of accents and disguises also merits mentioning.

Arthur Penn directed this cult masterpiece, and allowed the actors, especially Brando, to find their own way with the characters, including improvising much of the dialogue. Idiosyncratically paced, this oddball absurdist comedy/western thriller deconstructs the genre to beautiful effect, and Marlon Brando’s incomprehensibly stunning performance ultimately defines and lifts the film to the very heights.