I was remarking just a week ago after watching Five Came Back and the documentary on the Nazi Prison Camps (used at Nurenberg) how could anyone not believe the holocaust. Well, then there is this week’s review called Denial. This is a true story, about an American Professor, who was sued for libel by a UK character who has professed that the holocaust was a hoax and specifically that Auschwitz was never the site of a death camp. The US professor played by Rachel Weisz wrote in her book about the growth in naysayers and deniers of the holocaust that he was a guy who used misinformation and was a quack. He sued in the UK, where the presumption is that there is guilt, by a wrongsayer, until you can prove otherwise (this is opposite to the US and Canada) where you are presumed innocent. There is some compelling by-play between Weisz and her UK lawyers who explain their strategy, although their bedside manner is a little gruff and dismissive to the professor. She wants to trumpet the “truth” from the rooftop and bring in eyewitnesses to the killings but that is not what the strategy is. Her legal team is played by Tom Wilkinson (very effectively) and the guy who plays Moriarty in the Cumberbatch Sherlock TV series. Anyway, it all very satisfying especially for the lawyer in me. I thought the performances were very good (Timothy Spall plays Denier). Well worth a viewing if there is a slow night.
As an aside I caught the Director’s Cut of Das Boot. Yes, it is old school models in bath tubs and small sets, but it’s a well told tale of the life of a U Boat crew, and what all had to endure during WWII. 30,000 German soldiers were in U Boats over the course of the war, and 20,000 never came home. This tale shows the environment and feeling of these cramped quarters and the terror as destroyers circle above trying to blow them out of the water.
On to the Top Lists for living actors, as requested by girlfriend to me. And I put it to you both. For me, these are actors that I seek out and if they are in movies I want to see them. I said living because we can talk about the merits of Lawrence Olivier, or Vivien Leigh or Elizabeth Taylor but that doesn’t serve us for now.
Edward Norton: I wish he would work more. His recent efforts were less interesting than his earlier efforts. There is an impressive body of work here, even with the Hulk as a miss (and others).
Daniel Day Lewis: three-time Oscar winner, and seemingly nominated for almost everything that he does, he chooses his projects carefully and works sporadically. He should work more. He becomes the characters that he portrays and he is uniformly great.
Michael Fassbender: the third of a listing of impressive actors that I seek out, even though he can do some stinkers and make questionable choices (like Assassin’s Creed – has there ever been a decent video game movie?) he has tremendous range in roles like Steve Jobs, Prometheus, and 12 Years a Slave. I really enjoyed his Macbeth and sought it out last Christmas time, and I am glad that I did.
Other notables: Robert Deniro, Al Pacino – if this list was 30 years ago, YES! But as they age these greats are more acting as caricatures of themselves – more Deniro than Pacino as he does more comedies. Morgan Freeman (I am reminded of this as I re-watched Shawshank last weekend), Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.
Meryl Streep: the greatest living actor in my humble opinion. Her earlier work and body of work is just stunning. From Sophie’s Choice, to Out of Africa, to Deer Hunter and Bridges of Madison County this 20-time Oscar nominated actress (yes 20!!) can just do it all. Sing (Mamma Mia, and badly too in Florence Jenkins) and be a bitch (Devil Wears Prada and Doubt) and lead actress. Do I seek her out? Not really, but I do still manage to watch what she does.
Cate Blanchett: since she was robbed of the Oscar for Elizabeth where she stole that film, I think she quietly has become a force as an actress. An impressive body of work, she is doing more theatre work lately and she could work more in films. She has been nominated 7 times and won twice.
Dame Judi Dench: this third choice is the hardest because so many can be here for so many reasons. I will mention Jessica Chastain of course as I do seek her out, but as a great actress, it’s hard to put her above Dame Judi. Philomena from her most recent films was excellent. Add to this roles in Bond films, and Shakespeare in Love, she has longevity on her side.
Oher notables: Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Dame Maggie Smith and then Sally Field. Each of these has Oscar on their mantle, and each can play a range of roles. All rarely disappoint and deliver. I will note that acting ability is at the premium here, and not necessarily sex appeal which is a different list altogether.
Add Marion Cotillard – simply excellent, and I do seek her out. She came to my attention in Ridley Scott’s A Good Year. She and Fassbender in Macbeth were excellent.
So there it is for what it is worth. It required plenty of thought and reflection. Like Best Movies lists, I expect that other names will pop up that I would say “of course!!”. I stand to be corrected or supplemented.
I had asked girlfriend earlier about what other actors that we had talked about for this list. I have now remembered: Christoph Walz who has won 2 Supporting Acting Oscars is a tremendous villain. Bursting onto the scene with the movie stealing Inglorious Bastards, he follows up with Django Unchained. Although a disappointment with Tarzan as well as being typecast a bit – he still can steal a scene. I wish he would work more. This also can be said for another character actor who burst onto the scene in Rob Roy; Tim Roth is another excellent evil doer. As he seems to relish it. He plays similar roles (recently as Arkansas Governor Wallace in Selma) and acted in tv and film. He works plenty as over 100 roles according to IMDB yet he disappears into those roles. So two more actors that I would add as notable.