Ten Actors I Love Right Now (and Five That I Don’t)

The title is fairly self-explanatory, right? In case it isn’t, here’s some background. This post was a completely random idea, but it’s those random ideas that I find usually end up being the most interesting posts on this blog, so I’m running with it. I still have to do my “Most Anticipated Movies of 2012” list, and another post that I’m working on that might be my most important one yet, but this particular idea came to me almost fully formed, and as I started to work on it, it basically wrote itself, which is always a good sign. 2011 was not a phenomenal year for movies, but several actors made the most of their opportunities, and several of these people have been exceedingly impressive for several years now, as I’ll remind you throughout.

Some of these will be obvious choices, but for good reason. Despite what I’ve said in the past about casting overexposure, some actors deserve to be in a lot of movies, and I’m at my happiest as a moviegoer these days when these actors are on the screen. This is not a list of my favorite actors overall, but because these people are all doing great work in interesting movies right now, they might be my favorite actors right this minute.

The list is in A-B-C order. I wasn’t intending to show preference, just to point out the people I think deserve the success they’re having, or people I think deserve to be bigger names that aren’t yet. I wish there were more minorities on the list, but let’s face it, in a town full of left-wing liberals, Hollywood’s greatest hypocrisy is the way it whitewashes its movies.

{click on any of the actors’ names to go to their IMDb page}

JESSICA CHASTAIN

I’d heard her name during all the hype for Tree of Life (which I still haven’t seen), but because I hadn’t seen her in anything prior, I just dismissed Tree of Life as that weird Terrence Malick/Brad Pitt movie. Then I saw The Help, and couldn’t figure out who the fuck that amazing actress was playing the severely f’d up, superhot housewife. Surely, this wasn’t the first time I was seeing her. Because The Help wasn’t a project I’d been following particularly closely until it came out, I was surprised to learn it was her once I got home and IMDb’d it up. Next to the sublime Octavia Spencer, Chastain is easily the second-biggest highlight in a film filled with amazing performances. I found the range she displayed in that movie remarkable. Then she shows up in The Debt, another very strong film, just a couple weeks later, with another awards consideration-worthy performance as an Israeli spy impersonating a German, and I was officially hooked. How does someone this beautiful and this talented not appear in a major studio release until she’s 30? In what prison for struggling actors were they keeping her all this time, and why hasn’t that prison been shut down? Good god. In her attempt to fit an entire career into one year, she also appeared in 4 other smaller films in 2011, three of which (Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, Corialanus) I really need to see. She’ll appear in 5 more movies in 2012, including Malick’s next and Kathryn Bigelow‘s hotly anticipated project about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, before showing up in her first Hollywood blockbuster in 2013, teaming with Tom Cruise in the next film from Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, an interesting sounding sci-fi project called Horizons. Needless to say, she could appear in every movie this year, and that wouldn’t be enough for me.

IDRIS ELBA

He was the best thing about Thor, and I’ve long hoped he’d get his shot at becoming a leading man. He’s been doing great work in film and television for years, including this supposedly-great BBC show Luther, which I still need to catch on Netflix. His time may finally be coming, but he still needs that definitive role to bring him into the mainstream. He may be one of these guys who needs an Oscar nomination for that bump in visibility, because it’s still very tough for a black man to win a leading role in a major Hollywood movie on merit alone. Until then, so long as he’s still working steadily, I’m a happy man.

Sidenote: I wanna see a movie where Elba plays Morgan Freeman‘s son. Let’s get on that, people. Maybe I’ll have to write that one.

MICHAEL FASSBENDER

Or, as Vince Mancini of Filmdrunk.com calls him, Michael F. Assbender. Most of us first saw him as one of the perfectly sculpted Spartans in Zack Snyder‘s 300, but it was his scene-stealing, bilingual performance as Lt. Hicox in that classic barroom scene in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds (“There’s a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch.“) that had Hollywood casting people furiously calling for his services. Fassbender accepted a bunch of those offers and had a huge 2011, starring or co-starring in 4 high-profile projects; Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class (brilliant as Magneto), David Cronenberg‘s A Dangerous Method, and he’s now a leading Best Actor contender for Shame, which I am desperately desperate to see. As such, he’s been labeled by critics and studio people alike as another “Next It Guy”. It’s the latest attempt by Hollywood’s marketing geniuses to declare someone a movie star (you’ll see them try it again in 2012 with TaylorJohn Carter/BattleshipKitsch), but like I’ve been saying for years, audiences make movie stars. They can’t be forced upon us just by putting someone in a bunch of movies in a short period of time. That’s trendy casting, not a display of star power. However, I believe Fassbender is worthy of movie star status, and I for one hope this attempt at movie star creation is successful. He’s got all the acting tools (I can see him doing any genre), and he’s in the age range (he’ll turn 35 this year) where movie stars should be entering their prime. He’ll appear in two new flicks in 2012; Steven Soderbergh‘s Haywire and more notably, as the male lead of Ridley Scott‘s sci-fi epic Prometheus, a project that has a lot of movie geeks salivating. Regardless of how he ranks in the Hollywood power rankings a year from now, I just hope he continues to make fantastic choices in choosing his material. I don’t ever wanna see this guy in some shittyass romantic comedy alongside Katherine Fucking Heigl.

In a clip from Shame, watch Fassbender OWN the screen without saying a word:

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT

Can anyone say anything bad about this guy? He’s just a likable motherfucker, and one who happens to be making some excellent choices of late in roles that have made him one of the most in-demand actors working today. His career has taken a strange path, after being a child star and TV actor, he sort of disappeared into obscurity, then re-emerged suddenly and magnificently in 2005’s Brick, one of the best, most unique indie films of the last decade. He then showed some serious chops in Scott Frank‘s underrated thriller The Lookout, but it was probably (500) Days of Summer that cemented his comeback story. Now people want him to marry Zooey Deschanel in real life. (OMG, they’re just friends!) Anyway, he made one serious misstep with the awful G.I. Joe movie, but quickly made up for it with a certain movie about dreams in 2010, and then was Best Actor-worthy in 2011’s cancer drama 50/50, which was also one of last year’s best films. He was even talented enough in that movie to make Seth Rogen cool again. 50/50 was a movie I strongly recommended that not enough of you fuckers saw. RAGE!!! Gordon-Levitt (or JGL as we’ll call him) comes across as a really down-to-earth, multi-talented dude, and you root for him to continue this success.

And continue it will. It doesn’t hurt that JGL is now one of Christopher Nolan‘s go-to actors, having first appeared for him in a pivotal role in Inception, we’ll see him in July in one of the most anticipated movies of all-time, The Dark Knight Rises, even though it’s not quite clear what role his character will play. Actually, JGL will appear in 3 of my 10 most anticipated movies of 2012, which is kinda ridiculous. He’ll be seen later in the year in Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (as Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son to Daniel Day-LewisAbraham Lincoln) and in Quentin Tarantino‘s sure-to-be-fucking-awesome Django Unchained. Life is good for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I for one hope his career continues this upwards climb. He’s still relatively young at 30, but I think his ceiling is Tom Hanks from 1993-2002 high. The only question is how big a star he wants to be, but I still can’t really tell what the answer to that question is. I suspect he doesn’t want “biggest star in the world” fame. If he does, he needs an Oscar nomination or two to elevate his leading man status, and should be in the running for 50/50, but he’ll probably miss out, cuz the Oscar voters are boobs.

RYAN GOSLING

I’d say no actor had a better 2011 than this man, with 3 superb lead performances in 3 of the year’s best movies. Crazy, Stupid, Love. was a gem of a movie, and though a lot of people liked it, I still feel like it’s underrated. It was one of the most genuine, funny and well-written films of the year, and brilliantly blended comedy and drama. Steve Carell gave one of the best performances of his career here, but was completely outshined by Gosling, who gave one of the most charismatic performances I’ve ever seen in this movie. In George Clooney‘s fantastic political drama The Ides of March, he was dazzlingly understated (which is hopefully not an oxymoron) as a talented political operative navigating the waters of dirty campaign politics working for Clooney’s presidential candidate. Fans of The West Wing will enjoy this film, and then pray for the day Gosling gets to play an Aaron Sorkin character (can you imagine?!). Also, anyone who can play a Democrat and not piss me off is doing a hell of a job. Then there’s Drive. My love. A movie that unassumingly sneaks up on you, then knocks you over the head with its awesomeness with the force of a thousand sledgehammers. Hyperbole? Maybe, but if this doesn’t end up as one of my 5 Best Picture nominees, I’ll be truly shocked. Gosling gives a Best Actor-worthy performance while speaking, I’d say, fewer than 50 lines in the entire film. It is astounding what he is able to display in this role without speaking, a true acting showcase. And in case he didn’t show you enough this year already with drama and comedy, he pulls off several very cool action sequences in Drive, proving he can, in fact, do anything. If I could force all of my friends to watch one movie from 2011, it would probably be Drive. And Lord knows I tried.

I love that he only makes good movies, or at least is only interested in making good movies. I love that he isn’t concerned with being a huge star, yet is becoming one all the same. He doesn’t seek personal attention. He isn’t a media whore. He seems to be a smart, genuinely cool, ego-free guy on top of having all that talent, which is really just unfair. Gosling has been a great actor for a long time, but 2011 may be the year we look back on and say was his coming out party as a true movie star. Shit, if I could’ve traded places with one man for all of 2011, it would probably have been Ryan Gosling.

P.S. Hey girl, if you haven’t yet, it’s time you discovered the Feminist Ryan Gosling meme.

TOBY JONES

He works primarily in supporting roles, but that can only be because he doesn’t have leading man looks. He’s almost always more talented than everybody ahead of him in the credits. Jones has been in a bunch of stuff in the past 4 or 5 years, and he’s been perfect every time out. I mean that literally. I watch this man act and I continually think there’s nothing I would change about this performance. I can’t emphasize enough just good he is, but for perspective I’d say pound-for-pound he’s probably one of the 10 best actors working today. We’ll see him in two big movies in 2012 (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games) and he’s probably the thing I’m looking forward to most in both films. Actually, that’s not true. I look forward to drooling over Jennifer Lawrence‘s hotness in Hunger Games. I’ll say this about quite a few people on this list, but Toby Jones can play anything. He’s a 5’5″ Englishman, but if he was cast as a 7-foot Chinese basketball player, my reaction would be, “Yeah, I can see that.”

ROONEY MARA

This is based on only two performances (both for David Fincher; The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but my god does this woman have the goods. She’s got classic natural beauty in combination with epic amounts of raw talent. I look forward to watching her for years to come, including bringing Lisbeth Salander back to the screen twice more. I think she can do anything she wants going forward. I just pray she doesn’t choose to continue her path to stardom by doing cheesy romantic comedies or romantic melodramas. It’s tough to find great female parts, but with her star making turn in Dragon Tattoo, she’ll at least be on everyone’s short list when those roles are available. And deservedly so.

CHLOË GRACE MORETZ

Most of us first saw her as Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s little sister in (500) Days of Summer, but it was her unbelievable (and Biggie-nominated!) performance as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass that made me stand up and cheer for this beautiful young lady. I never thought a 12-year old girl could be a credible action hero (why would I?), but now that I’ve been proven wrong on that front by Matthew Vaughn‘s awesome movie, it’s easier to believe that anything is indeed possible. Then she was equally great as a dangerous teenage vampire in the vastly underrated Let Me In. She’ll be 15 next month, and I see the potential and talent in her that we all saw from Dakota Fanning 5 or 6 years ago. It’s really tough for kids this young to continue their ascent without serious bumps in the road via outside distractions, but I truly believe Moretz has what it takes to make that transition from child star to adulthood when her time comes down the road. I believe that because although she’s supremely talented, she isn’t really a “star” per se. She’s still flying mostly under the radar to mainstream audiences, which is a good thing. I’m a little concerned with how sexed up I’ve seen her in some of her premiere outfits and photoshoots, but I guess that’s par for the course nowadays. Let’s just thank god she’s not a Disney TV star, or we know she’d be fucked (figuratively!). She’s going to continue to get offered good roles during her teens, and I just hope she continues making smart choices.

JOHN SLATTERY

I said on Facebook a while back that I had serious man love for this guy, and I still feel that way now. And this is without seeing Mad Men, which I still need to get to. I just think he’s one of the finest character actors in the industry, and despite appearing in mostly small roles in a bunch of movies lately, he’s superb time after time after time. He even makes car commercials cool (see those slick Lincoln ads). When I get my chance, Slattery is one of those guys I’ll try to find a role for in all of my movies. The fact that he’s from Boston is just icing on the cake. Bottom line: I want to be as cool as John Slattery when I’m 50.

MARK STRONG

I believe Mark Strong is the best character actor working today. By character actor I of course mean someone who isn’t (yet) a leading man, but who appears in a lot of movies as secondary characters. A character actor is “that guy” who you can’t name, but recognize and love all the same. Except people like me who have a special appreciation for character actors…we never forget their names. Strong has been active for some time, but first came to my attention in Guy Ritchie‘s RocknRolla, playing the gangster Archy. He was perhaps the best part of Ridley Scott’s good, but disappointing version of Robin Hood as the treacherous Godfrey. Most of you will know him best from his work as Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes. Then he was awesome again as the baddy in Kick-Ass. He tends to be cast as the villain (or at the very least the antagonist), but he is certainly capable of more than that. His greatest skill though, and a rare skill indeed among all actors, is his ability to elevate any material he’s given. He is great 100% of the time, even while playing an absurd character in a shitty movie like Green Lantern, as he did last year. He’s British, but was convincing as a Jordanian in Body of Lies. He’s got a unique international look and the skill to play any nationality. I’d believe him as an American, an Arab or a Somalian (the whitest Somalian ever!). This guy cannot appear in enough movies to satisfy me, so I hope he doesn’t have any real-life plans anytime soon. I fucking love Mark Strong.

25 other actors who currently give me a happy tingle (also in A-B-C order, not a complete list):

Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Brian Cranston (No, I still haven’t started watching Breaking Bad, but I’m loving him in all these small roles he’s been doing on the big screen lately), Benedict Cumberbatch (His work in the BBC Sherlock Holmes TV series is magnetism incarnate, and he was just cast as the yet-to-be-announced main villain in J.J. AbramsStar Trek sequel!), Alexandra Daddario (I don’t know how good she can be, but I fell in love with her in her tiny part in Hall Pass, and she may have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen), Kat Dennings, Tom Hardy (In case there was anyone left who didn’t know who he is, that will change this July when he steps onto the screen as Bane), Anne Hathaway (limitless talent, and we finally get to see her in a musical this year), Bryce Dallas Howard (the prettiest ginger in Hollywood had a very good 2011 between The Help and 50/50, and is proving that nepotism isn’t always a bad thing), Rosie Huntington-Whitely‘s lips (can someone please do a documentary about them?), William Hurt, Richard Jenkins, Mila Kunis, Rachel McAdams (she should be a much bigger star, but needs to choose her leading roles a bit more carefully), Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Renner, Saoirse Ronan (Umm, did you see Hanna? The sky’s the limit for this 17-year old, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pronounce her first name), Zoe Saldana (Love her, but don’t think she should be trying to be an action star just because of how well Avatar did. I don’t wanna see her typecast like Michelle Rodriguez has been), David Strathairn, Tilda Swinton, Emma Watson (Among the 3 main kids, I’m most interested in seeing what she does post-Potter, and she’s off to a good start with My Week with Marilyn), Hugo Weaving, Shea Whigham (kills it week in and week out on Boardwalk Empire as Nucky‘s brother, and is doing some damned good work on the big screen as well), Tom Wilkinson (duh)

After I look at this list, it’s pretty clear my years-old theory retains its truth; there are more great, versatile British actors than there are here in America.

And just for kicks…

FIVE ACTORS WHO NEED TO TAKE AN EXTENDED VACATION

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS

I realize most comedians essentially play the same character over and over again, but Mr. Galifianakis has taken that theory to a whole new level of truth. I loved him in The Hangover, when his shtick was relatively new to mass audiences, but it’s since become overkill. The semi-retarded, socially oblivious, immature fat guy with a huge beard act is now officially old. I don’t wanna see him again until he’s ready to try something different or stretch in any way just a little bit. I even found myself getting annoyed at his voice acting while watching Puss in Boots. I’m also not a fan of the “aloof/I’m too important for this/I’m not gonna give you a straight answer” way he comes across in most interviews, nor was I a fan of this power move he pulled on The Hangover Part II, where he reportedly led a group in the cast and crew that demanded Mel Gibson not be allowed to film a cameo (the tattoo artist part that then went to Liam Neeson but had to be reshot and eventually went to Nick Cassavetes). Look, I’m sure he’s a cool guy if you’re one of his buddies, but he just seems very off-putting. I know I’ve read he doesn’t like being really famous. Well, you like it enough to accept $5 million up front + 4% of the first-dollar gross to do a creatively bankrupt sequel to the most popular thing you’ve ever done (a formula that earned him $28.2 million total on Hangover II based on its worldwide gross), so apparently boatloads of money can assuage his hesitations with being recognized everywhere he goes for years to come. Funny how that works.

KATHERINE HEIGL

Enough with all these dreadful fucking romantic comedies. ENOUGH! Come back when you’ve found a new agent (you know, one who can recognize decent material), which you need to do soon while you’re still mildly attractive. It’s a damn shame, because after Knocked Up, I really wanted to like this girl. Since then, she’s made no fewer than 5 fuckass shitty romantic comedies (none of which I’ve seen, but I’m gonna feel safe in assuming based on the advertising and critical reaction). And she didn’t stop there. She’s got another one (seriously, watch this fucking trailer if you dare) coming out imminently, and ANOTHER in the can for 2013, after which her career will likely officially be over. Then you’ve got the persistent rumors that she’s quite the diva. Again, what a shame, because she still shows flashes of hotness. If she must keep this up, the least she can do is get nude every now and then. Amiright?

TAYLOR LAUTNER

I mean, do I really need to elaborate? The Twilight Saga might be the worst thing to happen to the movies in decades. It likely ruined the chance for one promising actor to be great (Robert Pattinson), gave us the most boring female character in cinematic history and an actress playing her (Kristen Stewart) who appears to now be completely miserable because of the fame, and it gave us this 19-year old “heart throb” who Hollywood now stupidly believes can be an action star. What a disaster. I haven’t seen it, but I’m glad Abduction bombed so spectacularly, proving that these rabid unstable Twilight fans have little to no interest in seeing these people outside of their 3-way vampire-werewolf melodrama. For that I guess I have to thank them, though to be honest it makes no sense whatsoever. If I were one of these so-called “Twihards”, I’d show up for everything Pattinson and Lautner made on opening day. (Pattinson’s Remember Me was damn good and deserved to be at least a modest hit.) But above all the false hype, there’s the minor, teeny tiny detail that Mr. Lautner and his a-sexual first name CAN’T ACT.

RYAN REYNOLDS

I don’t even dislike him, I just need a break from “The Ryan Reynolds Character” that he plays in every single movie he’s in. Hollywood tried to force him down our throats last year (Green Lantern, The Change-Up), and the results were crappy at best. It’s disappointing, because in 2010 he gave us his best performance yet in the hideously underseen Buried. He needs to take a step back and find a script that doesn’t require him to show his abs and doesn’t require him to be a fast-talking smartass for the entire film.

CHANNING TATUM

I just don’t understand this. It used to be leading men had to be somewhat attractive AND have a modicum of acting ability. Tatum is a male model who can’t act worth a damn. I’ve never seen this guy in anything and thought he was even decent. No personality, no charisma, and when he cries onscreen, it’s the fakest emoting I’ve ever seen. I’d sooner believe in the quality of McDonalds burger meat than in the authenticity of this guy’s onscreen emotions. Thankfully, talented filmmakers seem to agree with me, and he’s mostly relegated to shitty movies I have no desire to see, but it makes me wonder who isn’t getting a chance because people keep casting him. And this all happened because he was in that stupid dancing movie that was a modest hit. Go be a backup dancer, go be a full-time model, Mr. Tatum, but please, do us all a favor and retire from acting. I mean, your name is Channing Tatum. Go. Away. Other than that, I kinda like the guy.

I have no closing for this post. It is what it is. If you agree or disagree with any of my choices, let me know. I love discussing random shit like this. Otherwise, Happy New Year and toodaloo!

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5 Responses to “Ten Actors I Love Right Now (and Five That I Don’t)”


  1. 1 Chris M January 6, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    I think the “left-wing liberals” in Hollywood put a bunch of pretty white people in their movies because that’s what the average “right-wing middle america” movie goer wants.

    • 2 Biggie January 7, 2012 at 3:09 AM

      Oh I’m well aware of WHY they movies are whitewashed. It’s obviously business-related, so I didn’t mention it. Though I question whether or not if money were removed from the equation, these people would cast their movies the same way. I they would. I believe racial hypocrisy exists with many lefties, even outside of Hollywood. But that’s another argument for another day.

  2. 3 Chris M January 6, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    As for the bulk of your post, I mostly agree. I’m totally prepared to go gay for Fassbender and/or Gosling, so, there’s that.

    I don’t know that Toby Jones really deserves a big spot on the top 10 though – a fantastic actor, to be sure, but has he been that noticeable in any film THIS year? Hell, I think Emma Stone deserves a spot over him on the big list, let alone on your 25 others list, which she also did not make. For shame. Emma Stone is a goddamned Goddess.

    As far as people I’m ‘tired’ of, I would immediately replace Zach Galifinakis (who I think you’re being a bit hard on) with Adam Sandler, who for so long as been so spiritually bankrupt, it’s actually making me retroactively question my love of ‘Billy Madison’ and ‘Happy Gilmore’. If there’s any one who needs to take a year or two off, it’s that asshole.

    There’s also some amazing TV actors that I would include, but I know you’re more of a film fella, so I won’t press you too hard on those.

    • 4 Biggie January 7, 2012 at 3:27 AM

      *Jones was great in his very small part this year in My Week with Marilyn. He was also a high note of two mediocre-to-bad movies (Your Highness, Captain America). I haven’t seen “Tinker Tailor etc. etc.”, yet but I hear he’s superb there, also.

      *I’m not as big a fan of Emma Stone as a lot of people are. She’s talented, no doubt, but I think in her case, she has been cast a lot recently because it’s trendy, though in her case, she deserves a spotlight. I just wonder who isn’t getting a chance at all these roles she’s been getting. She’s given (or at least offered or considered for) every prime role for 22-25-year old actresses, which kinda bugs me. This is exactly how people become overexposed and then bypassed by the next trendy actor/actress. I’d rather her have longevity than be in 3 major movies a year for the next 3 years and then disappear afterward.

      The 25 alsos were just basically the first people who came to mind. I could easily have made that 40-50 deep.

      *I didn’t use many TV actors because I wanted to use people who have been great in more than one project recently. Also I just don’t watch enough TV.

      *Adam Sander would be way too obvious. Just like I didn’t list Morgan Freeman on actors I love (he’s my favorite actor PERIOD), I don’t need to tell anyone Mr. Sandler long ago outstayed his welcome.


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