Tag Archives: Robert Downey Jr.

Favourite Working Actors

This list is clearly skewed young, but here are ten actors (plus a few honourable mentions and rising stars) that I love watching onscreen. Feel free to discuss my choices or share you own lists in the comments!

1. Robert Downey Jr.

Essential Filmography: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Tropic Thunder (2008), Chaplin (1992), Zodiac (2007)

Underappreciated Work: Wonderboys (2000)

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Essential Filmography: Capote (2005), Magnolia (1999), Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Underappreciated Work: Almost Famous (2000)

3. Daniel Day-Lewis

Essential Filmography: There Will Be Blood (2007), My Left Foot (1989), Gangs of New York (2002)

Underappreciated Work: The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005)

4. Ryan Gosling

Essential Filmography: Half Nelson (2006), Lars and the Real Girl (2007), The Believer (2001)

Underappreciated Work: The United States of Leland (2003)

5. Casey Affleck

Essential Filmography: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Underappreciated Work: Lonesome Jim (2006)

6. Leonardo DiCaprio

Essential Filmography: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1992), The Departed (2006), The Aviator (2002), Titanic (1997)

Underappreciated Work: Romeo + Juliet (1996)

7. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Essential Filmography: Mysterious Skin (2004), 500 Days of Summer (2009), Brick (2006)

Underappreciated Work: The Lookout (2007)

8. Ethan Hawke

Essential Filmography: Before Sunrise (1995), Dead Poets Society (1989), Training Day (2001)

Underappreciated Work: Reality Bites (1995)

9. Joaquin Phoenix

Essential Filmography: Walk the Line (2005), Gladiator (2000), Two Lovers (2009)

Underappreciated Work: Signs (2002)

10. Colin Firth

Essential Filmography: A Single Man (2009), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Underappreciated Work: Girl With a Pearl Earring(2003)

Honourable Mentions

Aaron Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking)
Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)
Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass)
Benicio Del Toro (Things We Lost in the Fire)
Edward Norton (The Score)
Guy Pearce (Memento)
Sam Rockwell (Snow Angels)

5 Promising Newcomers

Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk)
Ben Whishaw (Bright Star)
Sam Riley (Control)
Michael Angarano (Snow Angels)
Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma)

Best Working Actors: Robert Downey Jr.









Robert Downey Jr.

Essential Filmography: Chaplin (1992), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Tropic Thunder (2008), Zodiac (2007)

Underappreciated Work: Wonderboys (2000)

Despite his personal issues over the past twenty years, Robert Downey Jr.’s unlikely longevity has given him the chance to tackle just about every film genre over the course of his career. Period pieces (Restoration), romantic comedies (Only You), and superhero movies (Iron Man) all went down easy thanks to his quirkily suave style. He may have flubbed his early career and made more than his share of dud films since, but it feels like Downey’s done a lot of his best work yet in the last five years. He gave a fan-favourite performance in 2005’s hillarious Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, earned his second Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder. Having reinvented himself as a bankable box office star, it’s exciting to think that the peak of Downey’s diverse career might still be ahead of him.

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.


2010 Golden Globe Nominations


Often considered the precursor to the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes announced their nominees at the crack of dawn this morning. I made some predictions for the major film categories beforehand, and I was surprised to see that my predictions were 100% correct for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy, and Best Supporting Actress. I haven’t seen many of the big Oscar contenders yet (like, basically, I’ve only seen Julie & Julia), but I’ve been following this awards season fairly closely. I might post some predictions for Globe winners, or Oscar nominees later on.

Here are some quick reactions to the nominations.

  • I was thrilled to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt nominated for (500) Days of Summer, and for the film to be nominated in the Best Musical/Comedy category. It’s my favourite film of the year so far, and I’m glad that people haven’t forgotten about it in the deluge of big Oscar movies.
  • The biggest surprise, for me, in the film categories was probably Tobey Maguire’s nomination for Brothers. I’m sure he’s good in it, but I’ve heard very little talk of awards for his performance. The iffy critical reviews didn’t seem to help his chances, either. I would have expected to see Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker (who I had predicted), Viggo Mortensen for The Road, or Johnny Depp for Public Enemies in the fifth spot of the category (Clooney, Firth, Bridges, and Freeman were obvious nominees) long before Maguire. But I like when the awards shows keep things interesting with some surprise nominees.
  • Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon, and Meryl Streep got double nominations (and in Streep’s case, it was two nominations in the same category!) And even though I’d been expecting it, I’m really confused as to why Bullock got nominated for The Proposal (I haven’t seen The Blind Side, so I can’t judge the validity of that nomination). She was fine in it, but I thought that category had so many other stronger contenders. I would have rather seen Amy Adams (for Sunshine Cleaning, or even Julie & Julia), Zooey Deschanel (though she was the weaker of the duo in 500 Days of Summer, she was still good in it), or Maya Rudolph (Away We Go) nominated instead.
  • Though I haven’t seen their performances yet, I’m still glad to see these actors nominated, just because I like them J: Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Homes), Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria – wasn’t expecting that one!), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Julianne Moore (A Single Man)
  • I don’t follow the Television awards too closely, but I was really happy to see Glee nominated for Best Comedy, and to see Lea Michelle, Matthew Morrison, and Jane Lynch all nominated! Pretty good for a show in its first season.
  • When did it become a rule that Julia Roberts has to be nominated for a Globe for every film that she makes?
  • I think that the Best Picture – Musical or Comedy category is a lot of fun. I like Julie and Julia, really liked The Hangover, and loved (500) Days of Summer. I have no idea who’s going to win this category, since early reviews of It’s Complicated and Nine seem a bit mixed.
  • Could this be the year that a woman finally wins Best Director at the Oscars? I think Kathryn Bigelow has a good shot for The Hurt Locker. I’m sure she’ll get nominated, but she’ll have tough competition in Jason Reitman, James Cameron (who also happens to be her ex-husband), and even Clint Eastwood. It should be an interesting race.

To read the full list of Golden Globe nominees, click here.

Tuff Turf (1985)


For my “Introduction to Cinema Studies” course, we watched Fritz Kiersch’s Tuff Turf today. It seemed like an odd choice, to me. I didn’t know that the 80’s Teen Melodrama was such a respected genre in cinematic academia, but apparently it is. Anyways, it was probably one of the more ridiculous movies I’ve seen, but it was also one of the most purely enjoyable ones, too. People say that they watch shows like The O.C. and Gossip Girl because they’re so overdramatic that they’re funny, but this movie is a thousand times more entertaining than anything on those shows.

James Spader plays Morgan, a new kid in town who immediately finds himself at odds with the local tough guys (yes, similarities to Rebel Without a Cause run rampant). He does manage to make one new friend in Jimmy (played by “Robert Downey”!), and also conveniently wins over the heart of Frankie (Kim Richards), who is dating Nick, the leader of the local gang. Despite repeated threats and lashings from Nick and his gang, Morgan can’t leave well enough alone, and it all (of course) ends with a good ol’ fashioned showdown.

It’s pretty hilarious to see James Spader playing such a tough guy here, but he does a decent job. He swaggers around and looks attractive, but I couldn’t help but think of his current middle-aged persona and appearance while I was watching the movie. Meanwhile, Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t seem to have changed at all over the past 24 years, and his charm is already in full swing here, despite the fact that this is one of his first roles (Weird Science, which I still need to see, came out late that year.). Though it’s a somewhat small role, he’s given a few great one-liners that he delivers with his classic Downey wryness.

The dialogue is laughably bad at times, and Tuff Turf is quite dated. Other similar films of the time, such as Say Anything, hold up much better now, because there’s a timeless quality about them that this film lacks. There’s a reason why this movie is not nearly as well known as some of the other big 80’s teen flicks. But I really have no other way to describe this movie besides “fun”. The plot is supposedly serious, but I would not describe this as a “downer” in any way.

We were watching it in class under the guise of its “unique cinematography”. But I could tell that most people were just having a blast watching it, and I heard lots of laughter both at purposely and unintentionally hilarious parts. One of those unintentionally funny scenes comes when Morgan sits himself down at a piano at the local country club and earnestly serenades Frankie in front of a large audience (though I have no idea if Spader was actually singing or not). Obviously, not everything here works. But I found myself getting sucked into the film, and actually kind of caring what happened to these characters. The plot is very over-the-top, but if you’re looking for a cheesy, overdramatic teen movie, then you’re likely to have a good time watching Tuff Turf.