It is late April and we remain Covid-19 restricted. Travel discouraged if not outright prohibited (for example, with few exceptions, travel off Vancouver Island is verboten), social interaction limited, social distancing encouraged, and masks mandatory (indoors). We may have asked ourselves: “What are we missing most?” Family visits, of course. Travel? Absolutely. A houseful of neighbours? You bet. But we have persevered.
As I have written before, we have plenty of planned distractions. At first I thought about providing 20 more movie favourites. But then it occurred to me that a different approach was warranted; to provide a list of actors/actresses; many of whom might not have appeared in Oscar-worthy flicks, but in flicks nonetheless that are worth viewing. And “10 More” might lead to many more than 20 movie suggestions. I will lead off with Steve McQueen.
It was more than 20 years ago that I was flying east from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, with a planned stop at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport. I boarded the plane, taking a window seat in first class, when the actress Ali MacGraw planted herself in the aisle seat next to me. Ms. MacGraw barely acknowledged me, not impolitely, and almost immediately immersed herself in a sort of Zen State, which I assumed to be what actors did. As our plane approached DFW, Ms. MacGraw came to life and we proceeded to talk. It was very pleasant. I complimented her on her acting abilities, and without hesitation, I asked her about Steve McQueen, to whom she was married for 5 years. She said he was a “dude.” Hard to dispute, considering his Hollywood moniker was “The King of Cool.” “The Thomas Crown Affair” was directed by the Canadian Norman Jewison, and released in 1968. The movie has a timeless quality (and much better than the 1999 re-make starring Pierce Brosnan). By now, most of you will know the story line about a wealthy man robbing a bank, somewhat ingeniously. And you will know that he robbed the bank (followed by a second robbery), because he was bored. Aren’t we all?
As for Ms. MacGraw, she departed my plane at DFW in order to catch a flight to Central America. As she left her seat, she passed along her copy of “People” magazine, which she graciously autographed. I passed along the magazine to my golf buddy, Walter, who professed to be a big fan of Ms. MacGraw.
This is a lot more lengthy than I intended, mainly because of Ms. MacGraw and my one brush with celebrity, but take the time to watch Steve McQueen in “Bullitt,” “The Great Escape,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” and “The Sand Pebbles.”
Probably the least likely to be cast as a leading man, but he often was. Walter Matthau had a face seemingly made of plasticine, with the emphasis on “plastic.” The image above is a little extreme, but makes my point.
Walter was at his best in comedies. To name several: “House Calls” with Glenda Jackson; “Hopscotch,” again with Glenda Jackson; “The Odd Couple” and “The Fortune Cookie,” both with Jack Lemmon. All worth viewing one more time. And there are so many more, including “A New Leaf,” with Elaine May, and on the more dramatic side, “Charley Varrick” and “Charade.”
Walter is one of a handful to win an Oscar (for “The Fortune Cookie”), a Tony award (for the play “A Shot in the Dark”), a BAFTA award (for “Charlie Varrick), and a Golden Globe (for “The Sunshine Boys.”)
Frances McDormand is not given to ego. Not a Hollywood beauty, but not one to really care. She invariably will show up at acting awards ceremonies with hair done by blow-dryer, make-up, if any, done without the benefit of a mirror, and gowns by JC Penney. Frances is one of a few to receive awards for the “Triple Crown of Acting,” (awards for an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy). That’s Frances, above, in a scene from the movie, “Fargo.” (subsequently winning the Oscar for best actress).
Perhaps even better than “best,” watch her in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” (won the Oscar), “Burn After Reading,” (a personal favourite), and “Nomadland,” (for which she just won another Oscar). Frances has done much more of course, and she is married to Joel Coen of the Coen Brothers, of “Fargo,” “Raising Arizona,” and “Burn After Reading,” fame, probably with a guarantee that she will not lack for additional acting opportunities.
Okay; not an actor, but surely one of the greatest movie directors. What I find fascinating about Mr. Wilder is how he adapted to American culture, and subsequently, how he adapted American film culture. He was equally comfortable directing dramas or comedies. Consider these classics: “Some Like It Hot,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Double Indemnity,” and “The Apartment.” Of the aforementioned, he also wrote (or co-wrote) the screenplays. All of these and so much more from Wilder, born in what is now Poland, and who came to America at the age of 27. His mother and other members of his family, were murdered during the Holocaust.
That’s Billy, pictured below, with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn on the set of “Sabrina.” And while worth viewing, not among my favourite Wilder films. It is difficult to accept Bogey as Audrey’s love interest.
But at least that brings me to Audrey Hepburn. Apart from “Sabrina,” there are “Roman Holiday,” (for which Audrey won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award), “Charade,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “How to Steal a Million,” “Wait Until Dark.” and “My Fair Lady.” Ms. Hepburn was the epitome of elegance and class, and if you are so inclined, catch the documentary, “Audrey” now available on Netflix. Ms. Hepburn, to her credit, leveraged her movie fame to become an ambassador for UNICEF.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
In a quote attributed to the producer/director Joel Schumacher, “The bad news is that Philip won’t be a $25-million star. The good news is that he’ll work for the rest of his life.” He could have worked forever, but sadly, that life ended after just 46 years, of an apparent drug overdose.
Not a leading man, as Mr. Schumacher made plain, but Philip chose wisely, invariably featured in good flicks and he always acquitted himself well, often with hilarity and sometimes with seriousness. Check out “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain,” “Along Came Polly,” and “Boogie Nights.” Philip above, pictured with his Oscar for best actor in “Capote.”
Robert Downey Jr.
I am not a big fan of the whole “Super Hero” genre. Simply put, if it is not believable, I don’t believe it. But there are a few exceptions, among them “Iron Man.” I loved and still love this movie. Gwyneth Paltrow was a bonus, as was Jeff Bridges. But I thought casting Downey as Iron Man was brilliant, as he seems to belong to that laid back “I don’t give a sh*t” school of acting. That being written, also view “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” (if you hadn’t read it here, you wouldn’t know about it, and it is good), “Restoration,” and “Sherlock Holmes,” (yes, another Sherlock Holmes movie, and quite entertaining).
Early success can be difficult for some; but not for Matt Damon. He and Ben Affleck shared an Oscar in 1998 (Matt was then 28) for the screenplay for “Good Will Hunting,” Both went on to much more, with Matt featured in the “Bourne” series, especially “The Bourne Identity,” “The Bourne Supremacy,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Occasionally he plays against type, as they say, as in “The Departed” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Then there are “Saving Private Ryan” and “Ocean’s 11,” in which Matt takes on a comedic role. Matt above, as Private Ryan.
He is a chameleon. Pictured in the following are Bale (on the left) as Dick Cheney in “Vice,” and Dick Cheney as Dick Cheney (on the right).
Some of you will remember Christian starring as a young English boy (he was 13 at the time) confined to a Japanese internment camp in China in the World War II drama, “Empire of the Sun.” He is known to do whatever it takes to assume his character’s identity, as he did in “Vice,” but also losing more than 60 pounds to play the title role in “The Machinist,” then gaining 100 pounds soon after to play Batman in “Batman Begins.” He reprised his Batman role in “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Night Rises,” with the second in the Batman series my pick of the three.
Christian won his best supporting actor Oscar for “The Fighter,” but I more enjoyed “3:10 to Yuma,” (an American Western starring Bale, a Wales-born Brit, and Russell Crowe, born a Kiwi), “American Hustle,” and “The Big Short,” with Bale at his quirky best in the latter two.
Christian below, and emaciated, as “The Machinist.” Not on my list of recommendations.
To show him in a better image perspective, this is the real Christian.
His stepmother, by the way, is Gloria Steinem.
Her movies include “Casablanca,” of course; also “Gaslight,” “Anastasia,” and “Notorious.” She won best actress Oscars for “Gaslight” and “Anastasia and a best supporting actress Oscar for “Murder on the Orient Express,” (the 1974 version with Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot). Remarkably, Ms. Bergman was not even nominated for her role as Ilsa Lund in “Casablanca,” in which she is pictured above. Apparently she preferred to be photographed with the left side of her face dominant. Obviously stunning from any angle.
Ms. Bergman passed away from breast cancer at only 67, and in her last acting role, for which she won an Emmy (awarded posthumously), she portrayed Golda Meir, in the television miniseries, “A Woman Called Golda.”
A final note. The term “gaslighting,” of which we often hear today, did not originate with the Bergman/Boyer film “Gaslight,” but rather with the play “Gas Light.” The play morphed into a 1940 British movie, “Gaslight,” with Ms. Bergman’s Oscar-winning role coming four years later in a remake.