Now that is good acting

I was hanging out with some buddies this weekend when one of my boys posed an interesting question to me, “Who is the best actor?” Hmmm, that’s an interesting question I thought. This question at first seems relatively benign. How hard is it to come up with the best actor ever? This should be very obvious, but then when I started thinking about it, it turned out to be quite a daunting challenge. He didn’t ask me who is my favorite actor, but the best actor in my opinion. There are so many talented actors acting today, not to mention actors that have acted throughout the history of film. We discussed the ability to pick just one “best” actor and decided that it was going to be impossible. The idea of trying to pick just one actor who is the best doesn’t really have any true scope of answering a question like that. Like I said, there are so many talented actors and so many performances worthy of my vote that I can not pin point just one. So as is customary when I am presented with a question similar to this, I choose to make a list, a “Top 5 Best Actors in American Film List.” I have had time to think about who I think these actors are, but you have just had this sprung on you. I am sure that as you were reading this images and names have been coming in and out of your head. But now that I am asking you to lock it down, you are realizing that this is more difficult than it first appeared. I am going to give you a second to think about yours as I talk about what I used as my qualifications to add the actors I did to my list of Top 5 Actors in American Cinema.
In order to make a list of the top 5 actors, I first need to define what I think makes a good actor. one qualifications of a good actor is someone who holds your attention through out the course of the movie. An actor that through his or her performance you feel an emotion, similar to the performance that Joaquin Phoenix gives in Gladiator where you despise how vile and slimy his character is and are repulsed by him the entire movie. That was a great performance. A performance where you actually feel something whether it is joy, pain, or anger, a performance that can elicit an emotional response is what I am looking for and a qualification for what makes for a good actor.
I think believability is another qualification that must be present on the resume of a “best” actor candidate. I think we all had the misfortune of watching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner. Wow, what a joke. He was no more English than French Toast. His phantom accent that kept appearing and disappearing until he decided to just drop it all together made for interesting cinema. That was almost as believable as Denise Richards playing the nuclear physicist Christmas Jones in The James Bond movie The World is Not Enough. “What were they thinking?!?!” is an over statement here. I need to be able to watch a performance and think that that is probably how things were when and where the story had taken place. Val Kilmer gives an outstanding performance as man who becomes a junky in order to track down his wife’s murderers in the off the grid sleeper movie The Salton Sea. Not once are you ever doubting him in his role as the character he plays, even though it is a very complicated multi-layered role.   And he was snubbed by the academy in his portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone.
It is important to be an actor that is believable in a role, but then doesn’t get typecast in that role forever. It is one thing to be believable as an actor, it is another to always be that same character in every movie, Vince Vaugn. That would be my next qualification for being at the top of my best actor list, versatility.
In order to be a versatile actor you have to be able to conquer many roles that show your range as an actor. I love Djimon Hounsou, the main imprisoned African from Amistad. You know, the “Gimmie Free” guy. He has been in a dozen movies since then, including one of my favorites, Gladiator. But whenever I see him, he is the same character playing a different role, and I am just waiting for him to drop the line, “Gimmie Free.” Even though I consider him a good actor, he shows that he has no versatility and therefore has no chance of making it past a certain level of my rating system for being considered a great actor. Then we have an actor like Christian Bale who plays the deliciously wicked, delusional yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. What an amazing role, a black comedy where he pretty much carries the entire film on his back. And then turns around and plays the disgustingly emaciated tormented character Trevor Reznik in the Machinist. Both performance were riveting and enjoyable to watch, but I was watching two different people, and neither one of them an actor.
It is also important to me that an actor have an impressive body of work. That he isn’t a one hit wonder. My friend last night loved the movie No Country for Old Men. I am not really a fan of this movie. Is it good? Yes. Did it keep me entertained for the allotment of time I set aside to watch it? Absolutely. Was it deserving of all the hype and media attention it got, including the Best picture from the Academy? No, it really wasn’t. But the acting performance of Javier Bardem was amazing. He played the role of a scary psychotic sociopath so well, that I’m sure the Boogie man required a night light after watching his performance. But what else as he done? What other amazing performances has he given. Tom Hanks delivers a great performance in every movie he has been in starting with Bachelor Party. And how believable is he as the slow witted ping pong champion Forest Gump? And right before that he was the dying of AIDS lawyer from Philadelphia. And who can forget that he is the voice of the lovable doll Woody from Toy Story? “Reach for the sky.” And then from there becomes the malnourished, shipwrecked, volleyball-talking Fed-Ex employee Chuck Noland in Castaway, delivering yet another amazing performance. That is longevity and an impressive body of work, and I didn’t even mention his performance as Captain John Miller in the extremely graphic and poignant epic Saving Private Ryan.
And there are many many more performances and roles that Tom Hanks nails, but he falls one shy of my top 5 Best actor of all time list at number 6 (that was sneaky sneaky of me). Oh, since I’m doing that, Denzel Washington and Al Pacino are my numbers 7 and 8.  Now that you know my qualifications for what I believe makes an excellent actor, without further ado, here is my list of Top 5 Greatest Actors:
Number 5-Edward Norton
I first noticed Edward Norton in the movie Primal Fear. If you have not had a chance to see this movie, you must! He gives one of the all time best performances in a movie I had seen in a decade. His character is so complex and surprising and perfect that you are literally in awe at the performance he gives. Then when you don’t think he is going to top that, he delivers another gem in American History X as a reformed murdering skin head trying to right the wrongs he had committed upon himself, his family, and the world. And who can forget his performance opposite Brad Pitt as the antithesis of Tyler Durden’s character in Fight Club?
Number 4-Leonardo DiCaprio
When he came onto the scene with his break out role as the mildly autistic brother from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? you knew he was going to be an amazing actor. He cemented it for me when he stared in The Departed, and followed that up with a gritty performance in Body of Lies. He has made many enjoyable movies and has range to play all types of characters. At the rate he is going now, I do not doubt that he will be climbing up this list and has the possibility and talent to take over the number 1 spot by the end of his career.
Number 3-Johnny Depp
Does anything really need to be said about the range and courage of this actor. He helped make Pirates of the Caribbean the second most successful trilogy of all time pretty much by himself as the swashbuckling, often swarthy Captain Jack Sparrow. He is not afraid to take on roles where he has to be a drug addict, the main heartthrob, a murdering barber, or quirky detective from New England scared of his own shadow. He has the ability, talent, and fearlessness that is needed to take on any acting role and deliver an enjoyable character to watch. He always delivers a top notch performance.
Number 2-Daniel Day Lewis
If my number one wasn’t the most amazing actor ever, then Daniel Day Lewis would easily take that spot. Lewis treats acting like an art form and not a money making profession. He is not concerned with block busters and making the most amount of money possible. Acting is his craft and he is a master at his craft. We are all fortunate enough to watch his perform his craft well. He dives into roles and submerges himself into them so seamlessly that you are no longer watching an actor portray a character, but you are somehow getting a glimpse of the actual person doing whatever it is they did. He is Bill the Butcher, he is Hawkeye, he is Cristy Brown. He becomes all the roles he undertakes. Now, he does not make a lot of movies like the other actors on the list, because he takes months sometimes years in preparation for roles. But when he does make one, it is worth your time to see even if you are not a fan of the genre it is in. He only makes Oscar winners, and as much as I hate to agree with the Academy, but they are right as far as Lewis goes. I don’t think that is the end all of all awards, but it has to count for something when everything he does the Academy nominates him for it.
Number 1-Robert DeNiro
Robert DeNiro is the quintessential actors’ actor. Name a role and he has done, and i guarantee that he not only nailed it, but set the bar on how it should be done in the future. He is an icon. The characters he has portrayed are icons, and he has so much range that it boggles the mind that he can be so incredible and believable in so many different roles. He is the iconic psycho path in Taxi Driver. He is Don Corleone, the bad ass Italian immigrant who later becomes the Godfather. He is a catatonic patient who wakes up from his zombie like state only to slowly deteriorate back when the “wonder drug” wears off. He is the anxiety ridden mob boss who is unsuccessfully trying to leave the mob. And he is the greatest boxer ever Jake LeMotta in film history. There are so many roles I am leaving out that he is amazing in, but there is no mistaking his ability. He can be a bad ass, a psychotic, gay, disturbed, hilarious, you name it he can play it, and play it so that it becomes the new mark of excellence. Robert DeNiro is the best actor of all time!So, there you have it. The top 5 actors of acting today…who are yours?
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About thedailyheard

Just a guy with an opinion and some time on my hands trying to find out where the sidewalk really does end.

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