When Your Hero is a Villain

Like many people born between the late-70s and the mid-90s, when I was a teenager I was in love with Johnny Depp. I had seen a few of his movies over the years, but it was when I watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean film at a sleepover that I was struck by Cupid’s arrow. In time-worn fangirl tradition, I plastered my walls with posters of Captain Jack Sparrow. I worked my way through the back catalogue of his filmography, from the famous films like Edward Scissorhands, to the strange and obscure movies such as Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, to the entire series of his breakout television role, 21 Jumpstreet, binge-watched in those pre-Netflix days on DVDs in my friend’s basement.

Years passed, and my obsession waned. After a while, I didn’t even find his presence in a film to be a draw; the last starring role of his I saw in the cinema was the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, a disappointment made even greater by the love I had (and still have) for the original. But still, if you had asked, I would probably—until recently—have called Depp one of my favourite actors.

Then he assaulted his wife.

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Actors and their Surprising Career Choices that Actually Worked

I haven’t been keeping up with the award show season too much this year, mainly because I’ve only seen eight Oscar-nominated films, three of which were in the Visual Effects category. But I have been paying enough attention to see that there was a lot of hype around Dallas Buyers Club, particularly for star Matthew McConaughey. I read that he lost 30 pounds for his role, a level of dedication usually seen by method actors like Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis. And his work is getting rave reviews, including nominations or wins from the SAG awards, the Golden Globes, and of course the Academy, where he is the frontrunner to win Best Actor at the Oscars tonight.

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To an extent, this surprised me. While I know he’s taken serious roles in the past (and is currently getting equally positive attention for True Detective), when I think of Matthew McConaughey, I think of a shirtless, bongo-playing, “I get older and they stay the same age,” How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, stoner-surfer-sort-of-actor, and I’d guess a lot of audiences thought the same. After the reviews I read prior to seeing Dallas Buyers Club, I wasn’t shocked by how good he was, but I still find it a bit hard to reconcile McConaughey’s portrayal of Woodruf with, say, his similarly-named character Wooderson.

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Then again, this certainly isn’t the first time an actor has broken out of their trademark style of role and done a remarkable job. Here are nine other actors who managed to surprise me with their roles:

Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Like McConaughey, Jim Carrey had done some serious roles before Eternal SunshineThe Truman Show is hardly slapstick, after all. But he was certainly more well known for movies like Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty. Then he played Joel to Kate Winslet’s Clementine in a film that never fails to make me feel joyful and depressed at the same time.

Steve Carell, Little Miss Sunshine

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As far as I know, Steve Carell was solely a comedic actor for the better part of his career. AnchormanThe 40-Year-Old VirginThe Daily Show, and of course The Office: he’s brilliant at all of them, but although he has some touching moments as Michael Scott, and although Little Miss Sunshine is probably, technically a comedy, his role as Olive’s gay, suicidal uncle still came out of left field and blew me away.

Maya Rudolph, Away We Go

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I don’t know if actresses are less typecast than actors or if it’s the opposite—that they are typecast but find it harder to break out of their original genre than male actors—but actresses who reinvent themselves are more of the child-star-who-didn’t-become-Lohan-esque variety. But Maya Rudolph (and John Krasinski) in Away We Go proved to be an example of a funny woman who can do serious—and wonderfully bittersweet.

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

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For a lot of actors, the role they played in a late-90s/early-00s television show is the role they’ll be known as for good. Sarah Michelle Gellar will always be Buffy, Zach Braff and Donald Faison will always be JD and Turk, and James Van Der Beek will always be crying Dawson Leery. So who would’ve thought that Malcolm (the role Frankie Muniz will always be known for)’s silly dad Hal would end up being known as one of the most intense, terrifying television characters ever.

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Let’s Go to the Movies

Roger Ebert died this week. And I’m glad to see that in the countless articles and blog posts eulogizing him, he is never referred to “only” as a film critic. As someone whose dream job used to be entertainment critic, I’ve sometimes felt like my ambitions were less serious than my peers who dreamed of parachuting into a war zone armed only with a notebook and a tape recorder, even of dedicating their lives to small-town papers to report on their city council meetings.

But entertainment journalism, although it has the potential to be “soft” when reporting on the comings and goings of D-list celebrities, has its place. As the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Ebert demonstrated not only the value of film itself in reflecting or subverting the values of society, but also in discussing and critiquing film and the way it reflects or subverts those values.

1365105444_roger-ebert-articleIn the thousands of reviews he wrote over four and a half decades at the Chicago Sun-Times and other media outlets, he was never afraid to digress into a commentary on social and political issues. Ebert was criticized over the summer for speaking out in favour of gun control in the wake of the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and many of his opponents said that he should stick to talking about movies. But as Ebert so often proved, there are so many times when you can’t talk about movies without talking about life.

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10 Films for 2013

Some years I see a ton of films. I think the record was in 2010, when I watched 31 films in theatres, but being in Spain for the first couple months of this year meant that my numbers were a lot lower. When there was only one theatre in Sevilla that showed original language films, and it mostly played almost-entirely-silent filmThe Artist while I was there, I didn’t have much motivation to go to the movies (not to mention I was in Spain; I had better things to do than watch The Vow dubbed into Spanish). So although I did see a few films in theatres this year, and several more excellent movies for the first time, I’m not going to make a list of my favourite films of 2012. Instead, here are 10 films I’m looking forward to in 2013.

Note: I’m not including 2012 films that I’m still hoping to see in theatres, like Les Mis and Django Unchained. Only films to be released in 2013.

Honourable mentions: Gangster Squad, Oz the Great and Powerful, Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby (trainwreck syndrome), Pacific Rim, Anchorman 2

Before Midnight

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I don’t think anyone even knew this film was happening until suddenly it had a release date, but hopefully this follow-up to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is the one in which Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s characters end up together for real.

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The Dark Knight Rises (2012): 4.5/5 stars*

*I am so, so tempted to give it a straight-up 5/5 stars, but I feel like I’m just being biased due to my undying love of Batman (my entire Facebook bio for the past five years has simply read “I’m Batman.”). I reserve the right to adjust up (or down, I suppose) upon subsequent viewings.

 

Last week the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was released. Obviously, the main topic of conversation since then has been the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, which is understandable and appropriate. However, upon seeing the film again this morning I still have a lot of feelings, so without further ado here is my entirely biased opinion on the amazing finale to an amazing group of films about my favourite superhero.

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The Artist (2011): 5/5 stars

So far on this blog, I’ve written reviews for two excellent works. One day I’ll write a scathing review of some mediocre piece of media, but today is not that day. I could look for something negative to say about The Artist, but given that I’m having trouble wiping the smile off my face from just thinking about it, I’m afraid I might find that difficult.

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