Monday, April 27, 2009
Two modern crime classics, only one Highlight Reel™
Classifying a movie or TV show as a Highlight Reel™ isn't a sign of quality, as it could just be a Milk Carton™, the best work done by a lot of people whose careers faded away. On the other side, there are movies I like very much that I don't consider Highlight Reels™, largely because the cast is so solid that nearly everyone has other work that is either better remembered or just as good.
I love L.A. Confidential. I own it on DVD and I watch it every once in a while, or just scenes to remember the cool dialog. But if we define a true Highlight Reel™ as the best work of at least two cast members, L.A. Confidential would not qualify in my book. It's the best thing in Kim Basinger's career by my count, but the rest of cast listed on the poster have work this good or better. Russell Crowe is a genuine movie star now, and Guy Pierce starred in Memento, much more of a star turn than his excellent ensemble work here. Danny DeVito made his name on Taxi, and was terrific in a bigger role in Ruthless People. Kevin Spacey made a string of quality films in the 1990s, though the quality has sadly faded somewhat this century.
Even farther down the cast list, this excellent film is not a Hightlight Reel™ for James Cromwell (Babe, Six Feet Under) or David Strathairn (Eight Men Out, Good Night And Good Luck). Even small roles like the gay actor/hustler and the D.A. he is supposed to seduce are played by Simon Baker, now starring in The Mentalist, and Rifkin, a regular on TV shows forever, including featured roles on Alias and Brothers And Sisters.
Speaking of quality roles by Kevin Spacey, some people might choose The Usual Suspects as his Highlight Reel™. (Not me. I'd put him in the Too Good For A Highlight Reel™ category.) If we go across the seven names at the top of the poster, I choose The Usual Suspects as the Highlight Reel™ for three of the seven actors, though I concede each one is open for debate.
Stephen Baldwin: The Highlight Reel™ for this Baldwin brother. He showed up in quality films before this, but after The Usual Suspects his career takes a quality nose dive, though not a quantity nose dive.
Gabriel Byrne: I loved him in Miller's Crossing, so not a Highlight Reel™ for me.
Benicio Del Toro: Traffic and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas are excellent roles for him.
Chazz Palmintieri: Bigger roles in both A Bronx Tale and Bullets Over Broadway.
Kevin Pollak: A close call, but I think this is his Highlight Reel™.
Pete Postlethwaite: Another close call, especially with his great work in The Name Of The Father, Brassed Off and The Constant Gardener, but he is great here and the movie is a better remembered than his other excellent work, so I'm going to put his role as Kobayashi as his Highlight Reel™.
Kevin Spacey: I'm already on the record as saying Kevin Spacey is definitely in the Too Good For A Highlight Reel™ category.
Here's a non-hypothetical question: What do you think?