Friday, February 03, 2006


Weekend Assignment #97: "Make up a movie award category and tell us who or what ought to win."

What an excellent suggestion. Since NZforMe left the parameters of this fairly wide open, let's keep it that way: Create any sort of category you want, and you can select your nominees (and winner) from the entire history of film. You don't have to go all out and list nominees (you can just go straight on to the winner), but it's fun to have fun with it.

Extra Credit: What was the first film you ever saw in a movie theater?

Okay, here's my category:

Best Quirky Actor with a Quirky Career. This award honors actors who have played a wide variety of roles, some of them decidedly strange. As long as the actor has had quirky film roles, his television work can also be considered in choosing the winner. Hey, my category, my rules! In order to keep the list manageable, I'll restrict it to actors with primarily leading roles, or at least second banana roles. That lets out Peter Boyle, Tracey Walter and William Sanderson, all of whom have made careers out of playing quirky character roles. I'm also leaving out dead actors. Sorry, Peter Sellers! In fact, let's call this the Sellers Award for Quirky Acting Career.

The nominees are:

Peter O'Toole: he's been Lawrence of Arabia, a scientist trying to recreate his dead wife, and a larger-than-life actor on the skids. O'Toole has played a lot of interesting characters, most of them grandiose, more than a few slightly crazed. He played Henry II at least twice, most notably in The Lion in Winter, and a mere earl with a Jesus complex in The Ruling Class. He even played Don Quixote, the ultimate reality-challenged hero, in Man of La Mancha. Too bad he couldn't really sing the role. My personal favorite O'Toole performance is as Alan Swann in My Favorite Year.

Tom Hanks: his big break on tv was as a cross-dressing advertising guy on Bosom Buddies. Then he got Big, playing a child in an adult body, a mermaid's boyfriend in Splash, a lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia, ill-mannered baseball has-been Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own ("There's no crying in baseball!"), the commander of Apollo 13, a slightly insane Cast Away, a collectible cowboy whose best friends are a real kid and a toy spaceman, the amazing Forrest Gump, and the conductor on The Polar Express. Okay, no aliens, but there are definitely some odd roles in there. And that's ignoring his romantic lead gigs, such as in You've Got Mail.

John Lithgow: from Roberta Muldoon, the transsexual ex-football player in The World According to Garp, to alien High Commander and professor Dick Solomon on 3rd Rock from the Sun, Lithgow has put his acting chops and slightly odd look to good use over the years. He's been a shy lover and a music-hating preacher, a frightened airline passenger in Twilight Zone: The Movie, and a family member to Bigfoot in Harry and the Hendersons. He's probably also played a number of more "normal" roles. But for me, he will always be the crazed Dr. Emilio Lizardo, inhabited by the evil Lord John Whorfin from Planet 10. Dick Solomon is almost normal by comparison. Well, no, he really isn't, but you can identify with Dick much better than with Lizardo/Whorfin. He also played Don Quixote, but not nearly as well as O'Toole did.

Christopher Lloyd: Chris Lloyd has played more than a few characters off the beaten track, including Reverend Jim Ignatowski on Taxi and the evil dip-dealing Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? He was the Klingon commander who ordered the death of Kirk's son, dead Uncle Fred in When Good Ghouls Go Bad, The Addams Family's Uncle Fester, Professor Plum in Clue, John Bigboote from Planet 10 in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and Uncle Martin the Martian in the remake of My Favorite Martian. He's also been the sports-loving angel Al in two Disney movies. My favorite role of his is, of course, Dr. Emmett L. Brown, the time-traveling scientist and blacksmith in the Back to the Future trilogy (and in the BTTF ride). The fact that Lloyd very seldom appears or gives interviews as himself just adds to his mystique.

Robin Williams: yet another guy on this list who played an alien, frenetic comic turned actor Williams has done a lot of interesting stuff since Mork went back to Ork. His relatively restrained role in The World According to Garp set the tone for quite a few roles less overtly comedic than the one that won him tv fame. He helped patients as maverick doctor Patch Adams, molded artistic and rebellious young minds in Dead Poets Society, muttered brilliantly in Popeye, rediscovered his inner Peter Pan in Hook, and went from Heaven to Hell to save his wife in What Dreams May Come. On the broader side, he was Mrs. Doubtfire, Armand in The Birdcage, Aladdin's irrepressible Genie, Jumanji's lost boy Alan Parrish, and disk jockey Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam. He also reinvented Flubber.

Johnny Depp: I hesitate to put his name on this list, because he's much more the big name and heartthrob of the moment than any of the others. But I can't in good conscience leave out an actor who fascinates as the extra-strange, Tim Burton edition of Willy Wonka, the eccentric, endlessly scheming pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a reluctant living groom to the Corpse Bride, and imaginative but slightly troubled Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland. And that's just the stuff I've actually seen him do. You folks can fill in the blanks: Eric Scissorhands and the guy in Secret Window, and all the way back to 21 Jump Street.

Bill Murray: I originally was going to leave him off the list, but that would be a mistake. Even if he wasn't doing important and quirky stuff in Lost in Translation and in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, his gopher-baiting Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, time-looped weatherman Phil Connors in Groundhog Day and irreverent scientist Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters cannot be ignored. And it's hard to choose between Murray and Depp for best portrayal of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.

My honorable mentions, because I have to cut the list off somewhere, are Gene Wilder and Rick Moranis. And if I were including actresses, I would nominate Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr and Sigourney Weaver, Mary Steenburgen and probably Julie Andrews. But somehow, there don't seem to be many actresses who get to play this kind of variety or this level of weirdness.

So who gets the Sellers Award for Quirky Acting Career? That's up to you. Vote in comments or email, or using the poll link blow, for the one you think has had the most truly varied and interesting careeer, who has played the oddest characters, and whose acting is good enough to be absolutely convincing as a dead time traveling pirate transvestite alien angel author (or whatever). I'll announce the winner on Monday. Just so you know, I'll give myself an extra vote if I feel I need it, but as it stands now I have no clear preference. How about you?

Vote Here!

On the extra credit question, I think I saw Bambi at a drive-in, which was unusual for Disney. My family really only did drive-ins, not movie theaters. But my mom took me to see a rerelease of Gone With the Wind at the old Kallett Shoppingtown Theater, and I liked it. So the first movie theater experience would probably be either that or The Incredible Journey at the Manlius Cinema. I think that cost $1.00, maybe $1.50. I saw it with a friend instead of family, so that was a big step for me.



Carly said...

If the adjective is "quirky" I would have to go with John Lithgow. He has always played quirky well, but then again, who could forget Christopher LLoyd as Uncle Fester and Jim Ignotowski?

Becky said...

Christopher Lloyd. For sure. :-)

Chris said...

My favorite Chris Lloyd role was when he played a mean professor on Amazing Stories and the stories main character is a student that puts a curse on him, cutting off is head. Lloyd is chasing the kid through the streets, holding his own head, shouting "Mr. you have your homework". Quite hilarious.

My Most Recent Entry 2/04/06

fdtate said...

A great idea for an award and a great list of worthy nominees. Maybe the Academy could make this a lifetime achievement award. I would have to add Malcolm McDowell to the list of nominees though. I'd give the award to Lithgow.

Sarah said...

I think I'm voting quite late - I may have missed the cutoff but I felt the need to chime in anyway.

Really, I can't not vote for Johnny Depp. Considerable breathtaking beauty aside, he is the very epitome of a great quirky actor with a great quirky career. Though I also like the Christopher Lloyd nomination and my vote would go to him if it weren't for Johnny. By the way, how is it that Ed Wood is not on your list of viewed Johnny Depp films? I urge you to rectify that posthaste!

I think it's sad that actresses don't get such phenomenal opportunities to impress the world with their weirdness. We girls can be plenty weird. I get weirder things than Bill Murray with my breakfast cereal. :)