Even if I don’t always agree with their actual choices, I admire the ability of WatchMojo to churn out list topics like fortune cookies. Character deaths are tricky. On one hand, a great character death can be a defining moment not just for the story arc of the deceased character but also for every character around them. On the other, if you botch it, people get maaaaaad. WatchMojo hits a number of them in their Top 10: Movie Deaths That Pissed People Off. The list is too heavily weighted toward recent films, and has some duds (is anyone really super incensed over Mortal Komat: Annihilation, Pacific Rim: Uprising, or Godzilla?). It does also make the long-overdue argument that all Kate Winslet had to do to save us from one of the most annoying deaths of all time in Titanic was haul to Leonardo Dicaprio out of the water and spoon. No matter what side of the debate you are on, you have to admit that the deaths of Luke Skywalker and Captain Kirk deeply peeved people. What makes me maddest about character death is when characters die just to fill an unspoken death quota in bigger films. I love Joss Whedon, but he is the absolute worst at this. Whedon blood rage is the only explanation for why Quicksilver had to die in Age of Ultron or, even worse, why Wash & Shepherd Book were slaughtered in Serenity. Which character deaths made you throw things for weeks?
Leonardo DiCaprio in his mid-40s has already had a career spanning a quarter century. From a child star on Growing Pains, DiCaprio quickly became a young actor to watch in films like A Boy’s Life, Marvin’s Room, and then rocketed to one of the most famous people on the planet after the Titanic phenomenon. DiCaprio, very smartly, took a good break after Titanic to separate himself, and then started learning. He attached himself to directors, most notably Martin Scorcese, and started honing his craft. The thing about DiCaprio is: he gets better after every film. He takes something from it. He pushes himself. He’s always trying to add to his already formidable bag of tricks. While the projects he chooses don’t always pan out, it’s never because of a lack of effort from DiCaprio, and he’ll take things even from imperfect films and grow. Inception, The Revenant, Catch Me If You Can, Blood Diamond, The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street…..DiCaprio’s just getting warmed up, and I don’t think we’ve seen his best performance yet.
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Kathy Bates is one of the most versatile and hardest working actresses in Hollywood. As much a fixture on TV as she is in films (Bates has FOURTEEN Emmy nominations), Bates has enormous range. For someone who looks like a cuddly grandma, she can be absolutely terrifying (Misery & American Horror Story) and a bulldozing force of nature (The Late Shift, Primary Colors). She is always a joy to watch and brings any project she’s in up to another level.
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Kate Winslet is one of the most critically-acclaimed actresses of the last 25 years. Able, like her co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, to shed the “Titanic” label, Winslet has gone on to star in a series of challenging, diverse roles over her career that have earned her 7 Oscar nominations and a whopping 11 Golden Globe nominations. My personal favorite roles of Winslet, are not the ones for which she’s received the most praise. Her only Oscar win to date is for 2008’s The Reader, which was a fine performance but nowhere near her best and was one of those Oscar wins where someone has just become ridiculously DUE. My favorite work of her’s is in Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, her insanely (literary pun) good Ophelia in Kenneth Brannagh’s Hamlet, and her indomitable sidekick to Michael Fassbender’s Steve Jobs. I also loved her and the entire cast of the puzzling critically lambasted Collateral Beauty last winter. Another argument for Rotten Tomatoes as a useless metric. And, as if dominating movies wasn’t enough, Winslet has a well-earned Emmy for the powerful HBO mini-series, Mildred Pierce. She’s an actor with a quarter century of fine performances who commands attention whenever she enters a project.
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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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