Tag Archives: Mark Ruffalo

The Hollywood Reporter’s Actors Roundtable

Too much adorable for me to handle. Oh, and some insightful discussion and stuff.

The Hollywood Reporter’s “Roundtable” video series has been going for a few years now, but I must admit that this is the only segment that I’ve ever watched. It probably has something to do with the names involved in this roundtable – Ryan Gosling, James Franco, Colin Firth, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Duvall (who seems a bit like the odd man out, to be honest) – that got me to watch the entire hour’s discussion. And it was pretty interesting. You can click here to watch the whole thing.

It’s nice to see actors discussing the craft in a somewhat more natural way. Yes, it is still a contrived setting and there are “moderators” controlling the discussion. But the desperate need for talk show anecdotes is largely gone. At times, it veers into navel-gazing contemplation about the art of acting, but I’d say that the video is well worth watching, if not only for a few choice moments. Highlights (though I recommend watching the video for yourself):

  • Ryan Gosling’s discussion of Derek Cianfrance’s approach to making Blue Valentine. Coming from a history of documentary film, Cianfrance apparently never did more than one take of a scene (and the actors had no rehearsal time). And an entire night of filming was devoted to capturing whatever Gosling and Michelle Williams improvised while wandering the city. Because of the film’s tight budget, Cianfrance had to give up having lights for the entire film in order to have the resources to film from sunset to sunrise on this one night. As Gosling puts it, “He knew where to spend his money in the hopes of grabbing those moments.”
  • Gosling’s explanation of why he pulled out of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. Gosling gained sixty pounds for the role, but a lack of communication between actor and filmmaker made for an unpleasant surprise when he showed up on set weighing 210 pounds. But as Gosling says, the weight issue was only a small indicator of the vastly different visions that he and Jackson had for the film and the character. And having seen The Lovely Bones, I think I’d probably prefer Gosling’s version.
  • Jesse Eisenberg’s hyper-self-consciousness. Insecurities fly fast and furious here, and that’s why I find Eisenberg such an unrelentingly fascinating character. He talks about doing 50 takes for a scene on The Social Network, and feeling like 48 of those takes were “terrible and mortifying”. He also talks about the filming of Adventureland, and how he would keep track of which takes and specific lines he thought he delivered well, and request that only those takes be used in the movie (the other roundtable actors get a kick out of that one).
  • Robert Duvall’s incredulousness over David Fincher’s perfectionism and penchant for endless takes.
  • The discussion of doing “bad movies”. Franco talks about his early work, and how doing movies that he hated eventually led to him pursuing other interests and “viewing movies in a different way”. Eisenberg also talks about one instance where he struggled with deciding whether or not to take an early role that he had no interest in.
  • Is it just me, or does Mark Ruffalo seem like the friendliest dude ever? He definitely came across the warmest, adding little jokes and encouragement (and possibly patting Colin Firth’s knee at one point near the end?). He also seemed to take himself the least seriously of the group, which I respect.

As for the Oscar chances of this group (since awards season is the impetus for these videos), I think all of them have a decent shot. I still don’t think that Franco, Eisenberg, and Gosling can all squeeze into the Best Actor category. They’re just too young. But with Jesse Eisenberg’s Best Actor win from the National Board of Review earlier this afternoon, it looks like he could be a major contender. And with Franco as a virtual lock, I fear Gosling might be left out in the cold. Firth and Duvall will also both likely be nominated for Best Actor. The only supporting player involved here is Ruffalo, and I hope that he can still find a spot in his category.

10 Unsung Performances of the 00’s

A few months back, I wrapped up my Best Performances of the Decade series. But while that list included a lot of familiar names and acclaimed performances, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the performances that not everyone has seen. This list contains no Oscar or Golden Globe nominated roles, and I’ve limited myself to performances that received little or no awards attention and were relatively overlooked by audiences (as much as I think that Jim Carrey, Peter Sarsgaard, and Rebecca Hall should’ve been nominated for Oscars, they did receive a considerable awards attention elsewhere for the roles in question, which disqualified them from the list). Here are ten unfairly under-recognized performances from the past decade, in alphabetical order.

Daniel Bruhl – Good Bye Lenin!

Inglourious Basterds may have introduced German actor Daniel Bruhl to a wider North American audience, but it’s 2003’s Good
Bye Lenin! that really showcases his skills. Bruhl’s charismatic performance carries the film, and he nails the sense of whimsy that permeates every scene. Heartbreaking at times and hilarious at others, Bruhl’s performance shows enough genuine charm to cross all language barriers.

Clifton Collins Jr. – Capote

Clifton Collins Jr. is a solid character actor who has lately been favouring tiny roles in big studio films (Star Trek, Brothers). But if there’s one film that proves why he should get bigger roles, it’s Capote. Playing one of the two murderers that Truman Capote investigated for In Cold Blood, Collins makes his character Perry disarmingly and chillingly sympathetic. Collins is every bit as good as lead Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the scenes that they share together are breathtakingly intimate.

Abbie Cornish – Bright Star

Abbie Cornish’s performance as Fanny Brawne, the young love interest of poet John Keats, is just as beautiful as the cinematography in Bright Star. She revels in Fanny’s feisty modernity, but also reflects the melancholy of her restrained life. As Fanny’s relationship with Keats evolves, so does Cornish’s performance – ranging from star-struck to distraught over the course of the film. It truly is a breath of fresh air.

Robert Downey Jr. – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

A favourite performance among his fans, Robert Downey Jr.’s work in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang proves why so many people love him. He’s hilarious, bumbling, and sexy as our protagonist and snarky narrator. Always a scene-stealer, Downey is the epitome of charisma here.

Emile Hirsch – Into the Wild

Previously best known for his work in the teen sex romp The Girl Next Door, Emile Hirsch stunned audiences with his raw performance in Sean Penn’s directorial debut, Into the Wild. Playing a young man who gives up his material possessions and sets out for the Alaskan wilderness, Hirsch is often the only person on screen throughout the film’s 2.5 hour running time. Hirsch takes what could have been a purely preachy character and injects a sense of vulnerability that makes his optimism admirable. He’s entirely charismatic and compelling.

Jared Leto – Requiem for a Dream

Ellen Burstyn received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her work in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, but the unsung MVP of the film is Jared Leto. Leto’s strangely iconic turn as Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life coupled with his foray into emo music has made him something of a critical punching bag, but he proves what an amazing actor he can be here. Much like the film itself, Leto’s performance as Harry is dark and harrowing. It easily could have become caricature, but his performance as a drug-addled optimist cuts right to the bone.

Daniel Day-Lewis – The Ballad of Jack and Rose

As one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, it’s surprising to see how often Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in The Ballad and Jack and Rose is overlooked. It may not be as “big” as some of the other performances that he gave in the past decade, but Lewis’ work here is just as good as anything else he’s done. Playing a quietly desperate, confused man, Lewis’ performance is heartbreaking and unforgettable.

Guy Pearce – Factory Girl

Always a chameleon, Guy Pearce’s turn as the legendary Andy Warhol is uncanny. To me, the entire film is underrated, but Pearce’s performance is certainly the highlight of Factory Girl. The character is often downright unlikeable, and Pearce’s snarky screen presence is striking.

Sam Rockwell – Snow Angels

Sam Rockwell is an actor who is just starting to get the recognition that he deserves, and it’s easy to see why with a film like Snow Angels. David Gordon Green’s story of small-town tragedy is disturbingly beautiful, and Rockwell is stunning as a recovering-alcoholic-turned-evangelist. The film’s bombastic final moments are only amplified by the quiet, desperate journey that Rocwell’s performance takes us on.

Mark Ruffalo – You Can Count On Me

You Can Count on Me is a film that I recently caught up with, and while it provided my favourite Laura Linney performance to date, the real stand-out for me was Mark Ruffalo. His character is an insufferable screw-up, yet rather than making him a downbeat loser, Ruffalo revels in his messiness and makes him a purely charming, memorable guy. There are no big “cinematic” moments in the film, but this allows Ruffalo to give an all-around great performance, rather than relying on select scenes to stand out.

Honourable Mentions

Samantha Morton – Control

Michael Angarno – Snow Angels

Ryan Gosling –The United States of Leland

Keri Russell – Waitress

Jason Bateman – Juno

Benicio Del Toro – Thing We Lost in the Fire

Zodiac (2007)

Serial killer movies aren’t my bag. And despite the public’s general fascination with forensic shows like CSI, I have no interest in watching shows and movies about grizzly deaths. But the draw of leads Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in David Fincher’s Zodiac overpowered my weak stomach, and I gave it a try. And I’m glad I did, because I found it suspenseful without being squirmy, and it was an all-around great film.

Zodiac follows the lives of newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) and Inspector David Toschi (Ruffalo) as they each try to uncover the identity of the famous “Zodiac killer” of the 1970’s. San Francisco is rocked by the multiple murders committed by this media-hungry, boastful killer who sends coded messages to the local newspapers, demanding that they print them on the front page. Robert soon becomes obsessed with finding out who is behind the murders for his own peace of mind, while David just wants to close the case. Zodiac alternates between the storylines of the two men as they become more deeply involved in the investigation, and in turn find less leads and more roadblocks.

For a movie about a serial killer, Zodiac has surprisingly little gore. There is one pretty graphic murder scene (and it’s only intensified by the fact that it takes place in broad daylight), but Fincher certainly doesn’t go overboard with the violence. With the mysterious nature of the Zodiac killer and his identity, I think that the film is smart to limit the scenes involving the Zodiac. His actions seem random (though it becomes obvious that everything is actually quite calculated), so to punctuate the story with the occasional shocking death in the first third of the film is very effective. The film takes place over a number of years, and even though Robert continues his obsessive quest to crack the case, the Zodiac killer is no longer sending letters to the press, and seems to have gone into hiding. The film naturally evolves from a story about a serial killer terrorizing a city, into a story about one man’s obsession. I was really impressed by how easily Fincher transitioned between different storylines, and dealt with time lapses of years.

That being said, I did find that the film dragged a little bit in the middle, when a lot of the focus was on Inspector Toschi’s unfruitful attempts to crack the case. The opening hour of the film is undeniably exciting, with the flurry of the killings. To have the story told mostly through the information that the newspaper receives is interesting. When the story switches focus to Toschi, it becomes more conventional. How many movies have we seen about police officers trying to catch a murderer? I loved the last third of the film because, even though it takes place years after the Zodiac killings, it’s fraught with suspense, and personal drama with Gyllenhaal’s character. With a runtime of nearly three hours, I think that Zodiac could have been even stronger if they’d trimmed about ten minutes from the middle.

Although the storylines flip back and forth between Robert and David, I think Gyllenhaal is the star of this movie. He plays the bookish type well, and he handles Robert’s growing desperation perfectly. He doesn’t go over-the-top with his obsession, but he makes the development of his character clear. Robert Downey Jr. makes the best of his limited screen time as a reporter for the newspaper, and steals every scene that he’s in. His charisma is unstoppable, and he adds some welcome humour to the film.

For a movie about a serial killer, Zodiac is surprisingly low-key. But the lack of sensationalism doesn’t mean that it’s not fraught with tension and drama. With three very strong performances, a distinctive mood, and an interesting, thorough character study of Robert Graysmith, Zodiac feels like a fully realised film. It knows what it wants to be, and while it deals with many different facets of an infamous story, it never feels muddled.

9/10