Tag Archives: Paul Schneider

10 Actors We Need to See More Of

I posted my top 10 up-and-coming actors list recently, and I wanted to compliment it with a list of underrated actors. These guys are all hugely talented and offer a more unique alternative to some of today’s Hollywood leading men, but don’t get the work that they deserve.

1. Adam Scott

To be fair, those who are looking in the right places probably see plenty of this guy. He was the star of the now-cancelled cable show Party Down, and he’s since parlayed that into network success, landing a recurring spot on NBC’s delightful Parks & Recreation. As for the big screen, he stole the show as the douchebag brother in Step Brothers but also showed a more dramatic side in The Vicious Kind and Lovely, Still, two smaller recent films. The guy is a huge talent, and I’d love to see some higher-profile work (well, there was Piranha 3D…) come along with it.

2. Sam Riley

Riley earned widespread acclaim for his performance as Ian Curtis in Control, so where are the prestigious roles that are supposed to follow? His follow-up Franklyn, barely made a blip on moivegoers’ radar, and he currently has two completed projects (13 and Brighton Rock) floating around in distribution hell. But the good news is that he’ll star in the anticipated On the Road, which is currently filming. It co-stars Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund (who is about to blow up with Tron: Legacy and Country Strong on the horizon), Kirsten Dunst, and Amy Adams, and will undoubtedly boost Riley’s notoriety.

3. Michael Pitt

This is a guy who isn’t afraid to make risky choices. He took the Kurt Cobain comparisons full-circle in Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, partook in onscreen incest in The Dreamers, and played a psychotic killer in Funny Games. I also thought that he was very charming alongside Steve Buscemi in the underrated Delirious. And while a starring role in the highly acclaimed HBO series Boardwalk Empire is nothing to scoff at, Pitt’s the kind of unconventional leading man who should be getting all sorts of major movie roles.

4. Patrick Wilson

Like Michael Pitt, Patrick Wilson makes for an interesting twist on the conventional leading man. He’s got the movie star looks, but a lot of his movie choices have been decidedly unglamorous. His breakthrough work in Angels in America earned him an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination, and he’s since played a child predator in Hard Candy and an adulterer in Little Children. But lately, he’s mostly done smaller, lighter roles in films like The A-Team and The Switch. If that’s what he prefers then all the power to him, but he could definitely handle riskier work. There is a glimmer of hope, though, since Wilson is slated to star in the next Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody (Juno) project, Young Adult.

5. Clifton Collins Jr.

Never mind lead roles. This guy can barely get a part bigger than a cameo, lately. He’s recently had blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performances in Star Trek, Brothers, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But when Collins is given more than two lines of dialogue, he’s fantastic. He charmed in Sunshine Cleaning, and his performance as killer/muse Perry Smith in Capote was tragic, frightening, and beautiful.

6. Martin Starr

The tragically short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks spawned a lot of big names. And while it’s lots of fun to see a young James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segal, Linda Cardellini, and Busy Phillips on the show, the real heart of the show is Martin Starr’s nebbish Bill Haverchuck. Obviously, he’s not a typical leading man type, but I thoroughly enjoyed Starr’s supporting performance in last year’s Adventureland. Aside from that and Party Down, he’s mainly been relegated to cameos in Judd Apatow movies, but this guy is too funny to not get bigger roles.

7. Paul Schneider

Paul Schneider has been around for a while, but it seems like he never got the break that he deserved. He first impressed me as the charming, exasperated brother in Lars and the Real Girl, but I’ve since enjoyed his work in All the Real Girls (one of his few leading roles) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford quite a bit, too. I didn’t think that he was as good of a fit in Bright Star (even though a lot of people loved him in it) or on Parks and Recreation, but in the right role, he can be great.

8. Billy Crudup

What happened to Billy Crudup’s career? It seemed as though he was poised for big things (and the studios seemed to agree, judging by his top billing in Almost Famous), yet things never really panned out. He’s mostly been relegated to supporting roles in big films (Public Enemies, Big Fish) and indie films that no one sees. At least his…revealing…performance in Watchmen got people talking about him again.

9. Joe Anderson

Remember the guy in Across the Universe who reminded everyone of Kurt Cobain? Well, that was Joe Anderson. The dude’s got the looks, voice, and acting skill. So why is his co-star Jim Sturgess, who has the personality of a door knob, getting all the work?

10. Nathan Fillion

Nerds like him because he was in Firefly and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. People with eyes like him because he’s attractive. Shouldn’t this equal more work? I suppose it’s to his credit that he hasn’t played the love interest in a Katherine Heigl movie yet, but surely he could step into the mainstream a little bit more? He was lovely and charming in Waitress and Trucker, and his TV show, Castle, seems to be doing well, which is more than enough proof that he could handle some bigger movie roles.


All the Real Girls (2003)

No one can spin a muted, heartbreaking indie yarn quite like David Gordon Green. His 2008 masterpiece (too strong of an adjective?), Snow Angels, tackles death, alcoholism, and domestic abuse all in one neat, disturbing little 107 minute package. Going back, the second entry to his catalogue, 2003’s All the Real Girls, may not be so mentally gruelling, but this tale of small-town love certainly still packs an emotional punch.

Paul Schneider (who co-wrote the screenplay with Green) and Zooey Deschanel star as Paul and Noel, two people trapped by the limits of their small southern community. Noel is the younger sister of Paul’s best friend, Tip (Shea Wigham), and when she returns from boarding school and starts a tentative relationship with womanizing Paul, Tip is none too pleased. But it turns out that Tip is just the first of many roadblocks for Paul and Noel, and All the Real Girls follows the ups and downs of their relationship in a very realistic, understated way.

Part of what makes the film feel so realistic is the halting, stream-of-consciousness dialogue. And none of the actors seemed to embrace these unintentionally hilarious conversations as much as Danny McBride, who plays one of Paul’s friends, the wonderfully named Bust-Ass. McBride has recently risen to prominence thanks to his role in a Green’s 2008 stoner comedy, Pineapple Express, but his comedic chops even shine through the dreary setting and longing gazes here. Whether he’s asking his love interest if she just farted or dismissing restaurants that serve waffles as too “fancy”, everything about McBride’s performance is surprisingly affectionate and charming.

Schneider also stands out, giving a soulful take on a character that could easily have come across as slimy. He’s a small-town version of a playboy, but Schneider’s vulnerability and the sparkle in his eye makes Paul a character that the audience roots for.

Deschanel bats her big doe eyes and says psedo-intellectual things like, “Sometimes I like to pretend that I only have ten seconds to live”, and is all-around complicated. I probably would’ve been more taken with the character if I hadn’t already seen Deschanel play the exact same role in (500) Days of Summer, The Go-Getter, and The Good Life (all of which came out after All the Real Girls, to be fair), but Deschanel is at the best that I’ve seen her in the high-drama moments here.

All the Real Girls is a film that takes its time in developing characters and atmosphere, and doesn’t concern itself much with plot or the tying up loose ends. However, its slow pace begins to drag slightly in the second half, oddly, as the drama is cranked up to an all-time high. Green’s strength is in the bonds between his characters more than in the events that happen to them over the course of the film. We get a few too many scenes of characters wallowing in their own pity, and the film begins to meander slightly in its own messiness. And perhaps the biggest flaw of the second half of the film is that nearly all of the fascinating, diverse supporting characters get pushed to the background, used only as outlets for Paul’s emotions.

Despite the arguable shortcomings of the film’s second half, Green has crafted an effective take on the small joys and pitfalls of love. Only 27 years old when the film was made, Green tackles the quiet subject matter with considerable finesse. His filmmaking style is unobtrusive, but evokes a wonderful atmosphere. Paul and his friends live in a lonely, dank town, and the downbeat backdrop suits the rest of the film incredibly well.

The film that All the Real Girls is most often compared to is Zach Braff’s 2004 directorial debut, Garden State. Though Garden State may be the more wholly successful film, All the Real Girls feels less self-conscious and flaunts its average-dude roots, rather than amping up the drama with a hip soundtrack. It’s a must-see for fans of Green or Deschanel, and those who are willing to take a meandering journey through every aspect of love will likely enjoy this modest little film.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

 With its overly thorough title, runtime of 160 minutes, and slow pace, it’s not surprising (though it is definitely infuriating) that 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford did not receive the studio backing or box office success that it deserved. Luckily, the film has gained a strong legion of fans, and many people have found the film through good old-fashioned word of mouth. Casey Affleck’s Oscar nomination for the film has probably also helped the film gain the notoriety that it deserves.

 In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James, the charismatic bandit who robs trains while also raising a family. Casey Affleck is Robert “Bob” Ford, a young man who idolized Jesse as a child, and forces his way into Jesse’s ragtag group of outlaws. Jesse is fascinated by Bob, but never seems to truly trust or accept him. Jesse’s group slowly begins to turn on each other, and as the paranoia sets in, Bob and his brother make a plot to bring Jesse down. (Spoiler: they succeed.) It’s a seemingly simple story drawn out, but without the long set up to the inevitable assassination, there would not be the same kind of tension, and the audience would not have as clear of an idea about why things played out like they did. I found that the film rarely dragged, and every scene in the movie worked to add layers to this slowly twisting story.

 One might expect a film about Jesse James to be action-packed and exciting, but this truly is a character study of two troubled, fascinating men squaring off in a mental battle. Both Bob and Jesse are always trying to think two steps ahead of the other at all times. That being said, the film is punctuated with a few violent outbursts, and they really work to underscore the desperation and volatility of James and Ford’s lives, rather that desensitize the audience with endless killings.

 The ensemble cast is great, and even the small roles are played by reliable actors, such as Sam Rockwell and Paul Schneider. As for the stars, Brad Pitt is also quite good as the infamous Jesse James. James’ natural charisma and proto-celebrity status doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch for Pitt, but it’s the other side of Jesse that Pitt is unexpectedly good at. More than once, Jesse lets out a twisted, malicious laugh at someone else’s expense (usually Bob’s). Pitt’s Jesse cackles so desperately that every other character on screen joins in out of sheer fear.

 But the real revelation here is Casey Affleck. Robert Ford is a sulky dweeb, yet thanks largely to Affleck’s performance, we sympathize with him throughout the entire movie. Affleck seems to embody the conflict that Robert Ford felt perfectly. Affleck is especially good in the last half hour of the film, where Ford has to come to terms with what he’s done. Even after killing a murderer, Ford is still shunned by the public. The act that he thought would bring him glory, and make him part of the Jesse James legacy, has only caused more trouble for him. Affleck’s biting performance exudes the dejection and weariness that Bob feels, unable to ever truly triumph.

 The Assassination of Jesse James has a strong, quiet sense of both artistry and entertainment. There are many breathtaking shots, and it’s clear that a lot of care and time went into making this film. I was especially impressed by the director Andrew Dominik’s ability to take a simple, static shot, like Bob and his brother sitting in a wheat field, and turn it into a dynamic scene. The cinematography here is top-notch, and that too is used effectively to move the film along. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford would be worth watching for Casey Affleck’s stirring performance alone, but the languid, stark beauty of the film elevates it beyond being merely “good”.