The incomparable and very clever Nostra at My Filmviews came up with one of the best ideas for a blogathon more than a month ago, and after spotting it at a couple of sites I follow, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see it passed on to me by Sam at Duke and the Movies. The blogathon is called “The Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race,” and it is a fascinating way of deducing what many will agree to be ten of the best actors (if not the ten best) of all time.
So how exactly does it work. In Nostra’s words: “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!”
It’s really that simple. Before, I start, I have to throw a link to the twelve blogs that have participated in this before me:
The Focused Filmographer
Front Room Cinema
I Love That Film
All Eyes on Screen
Time Well Spent
The Warning Sign
And So it Begins…
Duke at the Movies
So, here are nine of the actors from Sam’s list plus one I picked to replace a certain choice.
Robert De Niro
Max von Sydow
All these are great actors. Those following the blogathon will notice one missing. Yes, I had to bid adieu to Ralph Fiennes, for as much as I loved him in Schindler’s List, I absolutely loathed The English Patient with a passion (that is, the parts of it I was awake for) and aside from Schindler’s List I can’t really remember a movie I’ve loved him in (well, maybe In Bruges), so the curtains must close for him, sadly. But I will love him, cos he is an awesome actor. Don’t forget that.
Now, choosing my actor was hard. I didn’t want to choose anyone really obscure because they wouldn’t last very long before someone would kick them out. I wanted to pick someone that perhaps you wouldn’t immediately think of, but that people could, once they think about it, agree almost unanimously that they’re worthy of a spot. All day I had loads of great actors in my head, but had to rule them out because many people probably haven’t seen them in much (like Gunnar Bjornstrand, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anna Karina, Marcello Mastroianni and many others). I decided I would pick a well-known actor, and sat in my chair at work scribbling notes and names, tons of them. At one point I had four female actresses and was certain I would pick one of them just to be different, but then another name popped up and the four females I’d selected moved back on my list (they were Anna Karina, Juliette Binoche, Emily Watson and Isabelle Huppert), sadly. But hopefully someone will in future give some love to a wonderful woman like one of those four.
I spent a good chunk (at least an hour) of my workday either writing notes and names or thinking about chocies, until finally I had two actors left: Harry Dean Stanton and Jack Lemmon. And as much as Lemmon made me laugh in The Apartment, Some Like It Hot and Grumpy Old Men, and as absolutely frickin’ perfect as he was in Glengarry Glen Ross, I had to go with Stanton, for a few very important reasons:
- He wouldn’t be picked by anyone else, most likely, whereas Lemmon had a fighting chance with many classic film lovers such as the person I’m going to pass this onto.
- Stanton has more than 180 credits as actor on IMDb with such an incredible variety of roles, in great films such as Alien, Repo Man and The Green Mile.
- He’s so goddamn likeable, and yet so very mysterious.
But the main reason is for his performance in two particular films. One was a starring role for him that would define his career, and the other is for a very brief supporting performance (in fact, only one scene). The supporting performance was as the character of Freddie in Inland Empire. He has one scene where he acts so gently, so passively, and speaks simple words that are so perfectly spoken that the entire scene (which lasts only about a minute) makes me feel like crying. The cinematography of the scene is utterly beautiful beyond words, and the subtle desperation and quiet sadness with which he says the words “Can I borrow a couple of bucks? I have this damn landlord…” makes a line based on a cliché turn into something remarkably powerful, even if only for a moment. Complete perfection.
The other film I mentioned, where he has a leading role, is Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. This, too, is a perfect film. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen it, but I remember it with vivid clarity, particularly the famous “I knew these people” speech which made many viewers tear up and weep silently back in its day. It’s so utterly powerful and moving that the role of Freddie in Inland Empire seems to me to be an extension of this role; the two characters are incredibly similar, and Stanton plays them both with incredible ease and beauty.
Though Stanton hasn’t had any major roles lately, I dearly hope that before he dies, he gets at least one more role in a great film which allows him to shine like he did in Paris, Texas and Inland Empire. Those two performances aren’t the sole reason he’s my pick for this blogathon, but they were damn vital in my selection of this incredible man.
So, in short, I pick Harry Dean Stanton, and I’m passing the blogathon torch on to Anna at Defiant Success, as I know she will have a lot of fun choosing her pick for this fantastic challenge.
What about you? What do you think of Stanton? Did I make the right choice in choosing him over Jack Lemmon, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Marcello Mastroianni, Juliette Binoche and all that lot? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.