Several of my blog buddies have had posts recently about their favorite films or discussions of the best work of a certain actor. Along these lines, I have come up with the concept of The Highlight Reel™, a movie or TV show that is the best work of multiple actors in the cast. Of course, "best work" is very subjective, but in some cases it's hard to argue.
To be clear, just because a movie or TV show is a Highlight Reel™ does not mean it is a great piece of work. Likewise, some great movies are hard to define as Highlight Reels™. For a lot of movie stars and actors with very long careers, it may be hard to find that one best piece of work. At the very least, there may not be widespread agreement on that best work. For example, I was a nearly obsessive fan of Humphrey Bogart films when I was younger, and I don't have a favorite role, but instead several favorites. Casablanca is the most popular Bogart film, but I wouldn't rank it head and shoulders above his other work in movies like The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Caine Mutiny, The African Queen, To Have and Have Not or The Big Sleep. To show my bona fides as a previously obsessive Bogart fan, I would rank somewhat lesser known roles in The Petrified Forest, We're No Angels and The Harder They Fall in a list of my favorite Bogart roles.
In my opinion, Casablanca is not a Highlight Reel™ for Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, as good as they were, but would count as the Highlight Reel™ for Dooley Wilson, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall and Leonid Kinksey. Peter Lorre and Conrad Veidt, both great in this movie, had bigger and more interesting roles, especially when they worked in German films earlier in their careers. I would give the movie Semi-Highlight Reel™ status for Sydney Greenstreet, putting it on a par with his work in The Maltese Falcon.
A more recent movie that is a major Highlight Reel™ in my opinion is The Princess Bride, written by William Goldman and directed by Rob Reiner. It's not the Highlight Reel™ for either of them, because they have some excellent films in their C.V.s.
For my money, The Princess Bride is the best work for both the romantic leads, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright Penn. I've liked Elwes in other roles, most notably in Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow, but his role in The Princess Bride was more central. There hasn't been that much of Penn's later work I've enjoyed, or if I have, the roles are much less central to the story than Princess Buttercup was to The Princess Bride. (Don't get me started on Forrest Gump. Seriously. Don't!)
Other actors for whom I consider The Princess Bride their Highlight Reel™ include Chris Sarandon, Fred Savage, Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant. (Some of these selections are opinion. For Andre the Giant, it's more like a mathematically provable theorem.)
It's a Semi-Highlight Reel™ for Billy Cristal, tied with City Slickers in my book. Likewise, I consider it the Semi-Highlight Reel™ for Wallace Shawn, though it's not as big a role as he had in My Dinner With Andre. As good as they were in it, I do not consider it a Highlight Reel™ for Peter Falk, Peter Cook or Christopher Guest, who have all had larger and better roles in other films.
I'm going to do a week of Highlight Reel™ posts, taking time off for my regular features, Wednesday Math and Friday Random 10. Feel free to chime in with suggestions for Highlight Reels™ of your own, but remember, it has to be the best work of at least two people in the cast.
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