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Who’s Your Brando?

September 13, 2012

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I spend obscene amounts of time on IMDB arguing with sniveling trolls and heartbroken wannabees over the merits of this or that actor. Whether they under- or over-emote, like if, and when, they use “don’t poke the bear” intensity over “vibrating rabid squirrel”-like mannerisms to convey the essence of the character they are playing, etc.

So you can imagine the range of emotions and opinions flying over there when an actor gets compared to the guy who set the bar for all of us: Marlon Brando.

Brando was a big guy, who lived even bigger. He’s everybody’s favorite king of large and excessive — he tore into everything they threw at him: acting, eating, existing.

Granted, his later decline into Tahitian Island madness and bizarre method acting shenanigans earned him a place in the “What the fuck happened to you? ” Hall of Fame (Just go watch The Island of Dr. Moreau okay?). But let’s not forget just who shaved his head and descended into the Heart of Darkness to make your Apocolypse Now viewing experience authenic.

Recently, a slew of impressive and intense young actors, both large and small, have pushed their way into the limelight and invited comparisions to the legendary behemoth and it’s causing a flurry of angry activity and explosive comments.

  1. Phillip Seymour Hoffman — This I understand. He’s got the physical and emotional range, the intensity, and he walks the walk. Every single thing I watch him in moves me, even if he’s screaming “Rain DANCE!” opposite a flimsy Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly. If he isolated himself in a dark cave with Jane Goodall for months to play a chimp in yet another reboot of the Planet of The Apes series, I wouldn’t laugh. The guy is a mountain of awesomeness. Also, he’s a big fella. Big fellas bring it to the yard. Just sayin’.
  2. Joaquin Phoenix — Swing away Merrill, swing away. You know what? I like Joaquin. I really do. His Johnny Cash was stellar and his turn as Commodus in Gladiator made my skin crawl (in a GOOD way). But when I look at him, sometimes I become concerned there is some dark secret that he’s hiding that might, in effect, destroy the whole world. Also, he’s always got this sneaky mongoose snarl on his face where he looks like he might eat you after he smacks you around for a little while. Physically, he’s nowhere near as imposing as Brando, but his chops might make up for it.
  3. Tom Hardy — Good god. Everyone knows I love Tom Hardy. It’s a little obscene, actually, but there is good reason for my adoration. That guy is like an emotional Everest with a shit-eating grin. He’s cheeky, he’s English, he changes himself physically for each role so drastically that it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint him in character. He’s got his fists up and his heart out. Guy has skills. Plus, if you were throwing a dinner party, he’d give the ghost of Brando a run for his money in the dancing on the table and using orange slices in the most inventive way categories.

The common view is that there IS no replacement for the big man, but that doesn’t stop others from using him as a bar to measure all others against. And, frankly, we all know he wasn’t without his faults. But time will tell who will take the gold statue this year and who is large enough to fill the void left when Brando checked out.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    September 13, 2012 12:08 pm

    I dunno, the only thing I ever saw Brando in besides Apocalypse Now was The Godfather, so I can’t really say that I compare other actors to him, or to each other, for that matter. I have actors that I like, and actors that I dislike, and actors that I could care less one way or the other about. I’ve never really thought about what one actor I consider the greatest – well, other than for horror films, and that has to be Vincent Price….lol

    • September 13, 2012 12:12 pm

      I LOVE Vincent Price! I’ve got to admit that I’ve got a REAL issue with staying up late on IMDB and discussing movies and acting until the break of dawn. This is time that could be used constructively doing things like eating and sleeping but I can’t seem to break my film buff habit. I think Brando is great but it goes without saying that he appeared in some real stinkers as well. The Godfather though? I can recite EVERY SINGLE LINE. Also, if you give me an orange slice I can put it in my mouth and run around my tomato garden until I die. JUST LIKE HIM. Okay, I’ll calm down now.

  2. September 13, 2012 12:46 pm

    When I read the title. Phoenix popped into my head. His performance in Gladiator was stellar. He truly commits to his roles and I think he might be a little insane, but honestly I think the best actors are a little off center. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of Brando. Anthony Hopkins has done some great work, but of late seems to just be playing himself. I am far more interested in the film makers than the actors. Christian Bale has done some good work. I think he takes his craft seriously.

  3. LittleBigGirl permalink
    September 13, 2012 12:49 pm

    My friend and I were debating what makes a good actor. We decided that what makes a great actor is there ability to transform and immerse themselves in a role: when you watch “The Godfather” you don’t think “there’s Brando playing Vito Corleone” you think “there’s Vito Corleone.” I second Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who I have seen play many diverse characters and he’s pulled off every one of them. I caught him on IFC in 1999’s “Flawless” with another powerhouse (with a penchant for playing characters with mental issues, and who did his own amazing version of a younger Vito Corleone that matched Brando’s perfectly) Robert De Niro, and they were both amazing. I also think Kevin Spacey really sinks his teeth into his roles – his Lex Luthor walked away with the Superman reboot.
    I think many actors are making there mark in television – especially as the miniseries has the epic scope (and budget) of a movie combined with the more drawn out, complex storytelling of a tv show. I have really enjoyed Steve Buscemi on “Boardwalk Empire.”
    I don’t really spend time thinking about great actors – I think about their characters.

  4. September 13, 2012 1:02 pm

    Here are some performances that stand out for me:
    Brad Pitt- Kalifornia
    Anthony Hopkins-Silence of the Lambs,Shadowlands, Remains of the Day,
    Johnny Depp-Ed Wood, Dead Man, Edward Scissorhands
    Ian Mcshane- DeadWood, Pillars of the Earth
    Christian Bale-American Psycho,The Prestige
    Ian Mckellan-The Apt Pupil, Lord of the Rings, Gods and Monsters, Cold Comfort Farm

    • September 13, 2012 9:25 pm

      Apt Pupil made my blood run cold.That was one of the most terrifying performances I have ever seen. Ian McKellan really does bring it, doesn’t he?

  5. September 13, 2012 1:07 pm

    ok last post…I have watched Cold Comfort Farm a number of times and had no idea that was Ian Mckellan playing Amos Starkadder. Also, his Gandalf was truly inspiring and his portrayal of the old nazi in apt Pupil was chilling. I think there are so many roles our there for actors that it’s easier for them to pick some real bombs and then people hold those against them.

  6. Duckie Graham permalink
    September 13, 2012 6:26 pm

    There’s a lot of really outstanding actors out there right now…but for specifically Brando-esque bravado, my husband and I agree, Edward Norton is the modern Brando.

    • September 13, 2012 9:27 pm

      I LOVE Edward Norton. The only thing that sometimes distracts me about him is his seemingly never aging, perpetually adolescent looking face. Still, he’s amazing.

  7. September 13, 2012 6:34 pm

    OMG…my brain is buzzing…..Russell Crowe (in everything he’s done), Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink), Michael Caine (in everything, even Austin Powers), Edward Norton Jr. (everything he’s done, especially Primal Fear and American History X), Christopher Heyerdahl (he give such nuanced performances), Callum Keith Rennie (Shattered – Canadian Mini series), Sean Astin (he may not have done much lately but he’s a serious actor), Heath Ledger (a genius gone too soon), Paul Bettany (he does more with one word than most actors would do with a dictionary), Morgan Freeman, Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin (If you have never seen Cat Ballou, watch it…best performance ever), John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone and so many others)….there are many many actors who can chew up scenery and spit it out whole again. These are a few of my favourite things *LOL*.

    • September 13, 2012 8:50 pm

      …Michael Caine (in everything, even Austin Powers)…

      If there was a movie titled “Michael Caine Reads the Phone Book,” I would be standing in line for tickets.

      That is all.

    • September 13, 2012 9:28 pm

      Did you see Paul Bettany in Margin Call? I thought he did a superb job in that. Michael Caine is fantastic but I’d also like to add Gary Oldman.

    • LittleBigGirl permalink
      September 13, 2012 10:19 pm

      I love Christopher Heyerdahl in “Hell on Wheels” right now! (First saw him on ‘Supernatural’) God bless the character actors…

    • September 14, 2012 9:03 am

      I agree to add Gary Oldman…oh…yeah….anyone seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead? The film was with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, very early in their careers…fantastic…and I have big crush on Christopher Heyerdahl *blush*….I prefer character actors to pretty boy leads any day!

  8. The Real Cie permalink
    September 14, 2012 11:20 am

    Johnny Depp is an excellent actor. He’s in a different class than Brando, but I very much respect the fact that he forewent taking the easy path of just being a pretty boy, and instead chose to become one of the most interesting character actors of any era.
    And I really don’t give a shit what anyone else says–I actually like Keanu Reeves. There’s a realness about him that I appreciate.

  9. sex2poetry4life permalink
    September 14, 2012 4:55 pm

    No one did as much as well as Brando did. He did Apocalypse Now, he did Julius Caesar, he did Guys and Dolls. Hell, he did a Michael Jackson video. The greatest American film actor of all time

  10. September 17, 2012 10:06 pm

    I would probably pick Pinchot.

    I’m sorry, didn’t you say, “Who’s your Bronson?” I was going to say Charles, but I love “Perfect Strangers.”


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