The Unsung Ones

Once again we're back to being limited in our film options, so over the weekend I turned to the mid-run movie theater and saw Million Dollar Arm. It was an entertaining enough film, that in certain stretches was made even better with the presence of Alan Arkin. I just love this guy, he's the type of actor whose presence almost instantly lifts whatever movie he's in, yet he's not a performer you're constantly thinking about. So I decided to compile....big shocker... a list; this time celebrating the often times underrated and unsung heroes in the acting world that are currently working today. Let me know if I missed any in the comments below and be sure to tell me some of your all-time favorites.

ALAN ARKIN - We'll begin with the one I introduced the topic with, the always reliable Alan Arkin. Lately he's made somewhat of a living as playing the funny, crotchety old guy (thanks in part to Little Miss Sunshine,) but with timing like his it doesn't really matter to me if his characters are all cut from the same cloth. I think one of my favorite roles of his would have to be in Edward Scissorhands, as the clueless, yet well-meaning father of the family who takes in Edward. His delivery never fails to put a smile on my face. The guy can't save ANYTHING though (see The Incredible Burt Wonderstone or Grudge Match actually no....do not see either of those, stay far FAR away from them.)

RICHARD JENKINS - This guy is one of my favorite actors right now. There's just something about his voice and presence that makes you feel at ease....even if you're in the middle of viewing mediocrity (see, unfortunately, most of his filmography...) He's also one of those guys that you don't realize has been in A LOT of things, yet when you do realize it...you know that the guy gave solid performances all those things you'd seen. He fits so many small roles that you don't realize it until the more and more valued he became...kind of like quite a few of the others below.

JK SIMMONS - JK can almost be anyone. He can be a lovable dad to a quirky pregnant teenager (Juno,) the overbearing boss of Peter Parker (Spider-man trilogy) and the intelligent go-to psychologist in Law & Order. This guy has serious morphing skills. He blew me away like never before when I saw him in Sundance's best of fest pick: Whiplash. The verbally and emotionally abusive jazz instructor to young prodigies at a Julliard-esque school was a detestable character....yet undeniably fascinating.

ALLISON JANNEY - Speaking of Juno, here's the other half of the parent equation from that film. Janney is a talented actress with great comic timing. In the last few years she manages to steal scenes in every film she appears in (The Way, Way Back and Liberal Arts come to mind...) I never made it through an episode of the show Mom, however, so I can't speak with authority on her efforts on the small screen. I'm gonna guess though that since it's a CBS sitcom, her talents are being wasted.

GARY OLDMAN - I love this guy. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was nearly flawless, but what I would have changed would have been to have seen far more of Gary Oldman. Whether he's playing a villain or aiding a hero, he always compels you to watch him. The man was solid as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films and simply delightful as Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. But honestly, even in something like the Robocop remake he made all the difference.

JUDY GREER - Speaking of Apes, did you know that Judy Greer provided the motion capture acting for Caesar's wife? Usually, Judy seems to find herself in the thankless role as the wisecracking sidekick in a terrible rom-com...so being hidden behind a CGI monkey can't be too much worse right? I must say, Ms. Greer almost always winds up being the best thing of anything she's in. The big exception? I didn't really care for her much in Arrested Development, but otherwise the woman always takes her moments and makes the most of them.

STANLEY TUCCI - I don't know how long I've loved Stanley Tucci. Like many on this list, it's like he made the most of everything he did and the more you saw him, the more you remembered how much you liked him in the last thing you saw. He's a guy that really just seems to genuinely love what he does. So many people in Hollywood take themselves way too seriously, and you really get the sense from every movie you watch with Mr. Tucci that he's having fun.

PATRICIA CLARKSON - I mentioned the parents in Juno, now I'm adding both of the parents to Easy A to my list. There's something nice about Patricia Clarkson. She just comes across as some wise lady you'd like to know. She gives consistently great work, even if the material is beneath her. When does it match her? It's fantastic. I'm particularly fond of her work in Shutter Island and Lars and the Real Girl.

PAUL DANO - Paul Dano, like so many others on this list, is just so versatile! From emo-teen (Little Miss Sunshine,) a sniveling baptist minister (There Will Be Blood,) an introverted yet idealistic young novelist (Ruby Sparks) and finally to an abused and mentally handicapped young man (Prisoners,) he never ceases to amaze me that this is all the same guy. I think he's got great potential.

SALLY HAWKINS - Sally Hawkins hasn't quite broken through yet in the way that the others have, but everything I've seen of her I've thoroughly enjoyed. Her incredible work in Blue Jasmine is the strongest example showing how valuable she is as a supporting actress. As a lead, she nailed the character Anne Elliot I loved from Jane Austen's Persuasion. She did a great job too in the latest version of Great Expectations and if she had had a more fleshed out character in Godzilla I'm sure she would have been fab in that too.

So tell me, did I miss anyone? ETA: Yes I did! I'd totally add Kathryn Hahn to this list. She's great.


Johanna said...

We talked about this earlier, but my all time favorite is Thelma Ritter. I think if I were to be an actress, I would want to be a supporting actress.

Some others are: Joan Cusack and Jennifer Coolidge (although she plays a type).

Emily said...

Those are good ones. I haven't seen Joan Cusack in anything for a good while. Shame.

Mister Cinecal said...

Simmons showing up in a film is always a good sign.

Rockwell is a big one in recent times, David Strathairn is a another guy I wish got bigger roles.

Emily said...

I did think about Sam Rockwell, but I haven't seen him in enough. I need to watch more of his movies.

Sarah said...

Good choices. I love Alan Arkin. :) I am going down to look through my movies and see who else I would suggest. :)

Sarah said...

A few other (mostly old school) supporting actors and actresses that came to mind were: John Astin (The Addams Family), Paul Lynde (the dad in Bye Bye Birdie), Keenan Wynn (The Absent Minded Professor), Peter Falk (Murder by Death and The Princess Bride), Eve Arden (the principal from Grease), and Holland Taylor (the publicist in Romancing the Stone, the mom in George of the Jungle).

kelly wilson said...

I think someone like David Morse would have to make my list.

Very talented ... probably quite respected in the industry ... but, largely, unsung.

Emily said...

Great picks all!