Hugh Jackman is done playing Wolverine. As Logan continues to do well at the box office, it seems so weird to think that we’ve seen Jackman as the X-Man for the last time. Perhaps only Sean Connery as James Bond has so indelibly taken a popular culture character and married it to his own identity. For 17 years, Jackman embodied the character from the first time we saw him cage fighting in a bar in X-Men to his farewell in Logan. Not too shabby for a song and dance man.
X-Men was most people’s first exposure to Jackman, but his talents are far from merely dicing people in super hero films. He’s a consummate Broadway actor; an old-fashioned song and dance man, as I said. He’s hosted the Tony Awards on four occasions; winning an Emmy for one of the shows. He most famously got to put his musical gifts to use on screen as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables; Jackman’s only Oscar nomination. He’s an outstanding dramatic actor, you need only watch The Prestige and Prisoners back-to-back to see the amount of range he has. His good nature also makes him a gifted comic actor, which I think has been best shown in the underrated Real Steel and Eddie the Eagle (where, yes, he is playing Wolverine as a ski jumping coach, but it WORKS!). It’s always possible that a payday or Ryan Reynolds stalking him to be in a Deadpool or X-Force film could give us another Jackman as Logan turn, but his career is far from over just because he’s said farewell to his most famous alter ego.
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Natalie Portman is the first millennial to win an Oscar. She’s the first profile we’ve done on a member of the Star Wars ensemble. She’s been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Jane Foster in the first two Thor films. She was born in Israel in 1981 and started her acting career at 11. Despite being around since the early 1990’s, the actress is still several years short of 40, and after going trough a slump for a few years (which spawned the famous “Star Wars ruined my career” rant), recent outstanding performances like last year’s Jackie indicate she’s back on track as one of the most talented actresses in Hollywood. I actually think there is a little something to the Star Wars rant in that her best films are generally before or during her time playing Padme Amidala during Star Wars Episodes I-III. I think it was only after she won her Oscar for the twisted ballet drama Black Swan that she transitioned into taking the kind of adult roles that suit her now the way things like Leon, Heat, and Garden State did at those times in her life. I’m excited about her next project for 2017, and I think Portman is heading into a new golden phase of her career.
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While the Oscars were embarrassing themselves yesterday, we lost one of the great character actors of the last 30 years. Bill Paxton passed away yesterday after complications from heart surgery at the all-too-young age of 61. I am so tired of writing obituaries, so my new policy is that unless it’s someone with whom I have a special connection (Robin Williams or Mary Tyler Moore, for example), obituaries go on the Facebook page and the deceased’s career will be celebrated in the next Their 10 Best.
From the mid-1980’s through the end of the 1990’s, Bill Paxton was in some of the most memorable films of the era: The Terminator, Aliens, Titanic, Apollo 13, and a host of others. Just recently, he turned in one of my favorite of his performances in Edge of Tomorrow, taking a role that literally does nothing but repeat a speech over and over and making it new each time. I have never watched Paxton’s successful HBO series, Big Love, but he was a brief part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as the “Big Bad” in season one of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Like the also recently lost John Hurt, Paxton was seldom the leading man (the exception being what I think is his best performance in A Simple Plan), but he made ensembles great, and he’ll be sorely missed.
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I think Emily Blunt is the most versatile actress in Hollywood. There is literally nothing she cannot do and do well. Drama, comedy, period pieces, she’s the best female action star since Sigourney Weaver, and on top of all of it she can sing and dance. I have never seen Blunt turn in a bad performance, even if the movie she was in didn’t entirely click. That skill set is going to allow her to break through that idiotic wall that exists for actresses between 40-60. Even the best actresses usually have an area of weakness. For example, as superb as she is, no one is going to buy Meryl Streep in an action film. I use Streep as an example, because it was Blunt’s role as her acerbic assistant in The Devil Wears Prada that first got her wide notice, and you CAN stick Blunt in action/science fiction films like Sicario, Looper, and the underrated Edge of Tomorrow and she will blow you away in either setting. Turning only 34 this week, Blunt has a long career ahead of her making what I can only imagine will be one of the most diverse filmographies in movie history.
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John Hurt may not be an instantly recognizable name to casual film fans, but everyone who has seen a fair number of movies has seen his work. He was Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter series. He was The Storyteller in Jim Henson’s wonderful and too-short-lived eponymous series. He was nominated twice for Academy Awards in 1977 for Midnight Express, and for what is probably his most indelible performance, that of the title character in 1980’s The Elephant Man. He was also the unfortunate victim in one of the most famous scenes in film history: the “chest burster” dinner scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien. He brought gravitas and dignity to every project he participated in, and I always was instantly more interested in a film when his name appeared in the credits. Hurt has an astounding 204 credits as an actor over the course of his career, rarely as the leading man. As a result, some of the best films he was in; he was barely onscreen for more than a handful of a moments. I would be lying if I said I’ve seen even a quarter of his filmography, but any movie he appeared in was better for his presence, and these are my ten best of those.
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