Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Weekly Top Ten Part II: The Ten Director/Actor Combos I Want to See

10. David Fincher/Robert DeNiro
As anyone who has been following my blog knows, I am currently making my way through all of Martin Scorsese’s movies, which means that I have seen Robert DeNiro at his best many times in the past few months. But, it has been more than a decade since DeNiro has delivered a truly great performance, and I really want to see him do something great again. I think that Fincher could be the director to give DeNiro a great role again. I envision something along the lines of Seven or Zodiac – a police procedural where DeNiro plays an old school detective frazzled by a case. Fincher is great at these, and he doesn’t except people sleepwalking through his movies like DeNiro has done in a number of films in the past 10 years. He’ll make him work – and may just draw a truly great performance out of my favorite actor again.

9. Alexander Payne/Seth Rogen
I dearly love Seth Rogen, and in the recent Observe and Report, he proved he could play a character outside of his normal comic persona. But what I would really like to see is Rogen playing a more realistic character – someone who isn’t an exaggeration of a type, as much as someone you may actually meet on the street. Alexander Payne is a master at character based comedies his four films, Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt and Sideways, all took established actor and made us look at them in a completely different way. The way I figure it, if Thomas Haden Church can get a deserved Oscar nomination by working with Payne, then so can Rogen.

8. Darren Aronofsky/Edward Norton
Both Norton and Aronofsky have a reputation for being slightly difficult to work for. Yet I think for Norton to truly get back on track – delivering the type of performances he did early in his career – he needs a director to challenge him, and push him. For his part, Aronofsky can sometimes go a little far over the top (as was the case in The Fountain, a film I admire more than I love), and someone like Norton arguing with him the entire time could certainly help. It’s a myth that all collaborations have to be harmonious to be good – and these two could seriously help each other.

7. David Cronenberg/Robert Downey Jr.
I’m not quite sure why I struck upon the idea of these two working together, but the more I think about it, the more better suited I think they are for each other. Cronenberg has reached a new place in his career, and although his work with Viggo Mortenson has been amazing, I would like to see him have a new leading man. I would also like to see Cronenberg venture back into more “mind fuck” territory than his last two films. Downey is an actor who isn’t afraid to go over the top, and will throw himself headlong into pretty much any role – and he’s always great. Also, his added star power in the last few years would make Cronenberg’s film reach more viewers than he normally gets.

6. Todd Field/Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore is one of the great actresses of her generation, and yet she is no longer getting the kinds of roles that show that. Last year, she was great in both Savage Grace and Blindness, but the movies themselves were far from her equal. If she’s going to win an Oscar, she’s going to need another great role. In just two films, In the Bedroom and Little Children, Todd Field has proven that is a great director, one capable of getting great performances from his actors, and in addition offer truly wonderful, different types of female roles. Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Phyllis Somerville have all been wonderful in his movies – Moore could be next.

5. Oliver Stone/ Christian Bale
I loved. W, but I still want Oliver Stone to return to his truly strange, crazy mind trip movies that completely and totally screw with you. And right now, no one does bat shit crazy and scary quite like Christian Bale does. Bale reminds me at times of an actor like Val Kilmer or Woody Harrelson, who have both worked well with Stone in the past. If Stone ever returns to Natural Born Killers terrain, and God do I ever hope he does, than he simply has to cast Bale. We already know they have similar taste in material, since Stone was originally slated to direct American Psycho (with DiCaprio in the lead, but whatever), and I would love to see what these two come up with.

4. Joel & Ethan Coen/Kate Winslet
Winslet mainly does dramas – and heavy dramas at that. Coming off of an impressive 2008 where she starred in Revolutionary Road and The Reader, Winslet needs to lighten up a little bit. When she does, in something like John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes, she is just as good as when she does drama. The Coens, I think, have the perfect sensibility for her. It would allow her to let loose and have some fun, while still being a part of a intelligent movie, and not having to resort to doing silly romcoms (like she did in The Holiday). It would also perhaps force the Coens to build a movie around a female character again – something they really haven’t done in a while.

3. Michael Mann/Daniel Day Lewis
Michael Mann’s movie are always about masculinity and violence. Having delivered two of the best performances of the decade, and ones that mixed those two elements terrifically well in Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood, Day-Lewis seems to me to be a natural fit for Mann’s world. Mann has, I believe, always worked best with rugged, masculine types – James Caan in Thief, William Peterson in Manhunter, DeNiro and Pacino in Heat, Crowe in The Insider – and I think that Day Lewis is perfect for him. Plus, I’d love to see Day Lewis in pretty much anything, and Mann can usually be counted on to deliver a great film.

2. Paul Thomas Anderson/Mickey Rourke
Anderson’s last two films, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood, both focuses on a single male character. I would love to see him take Mickey Rourke, now that he has resurrected his career, and build an entire movie around him. I also happen to think that Rourke’s new found sensitivity, and wounded machismo, would fit in perfectly to the world that Anderson has created in his films so far. I worry that Rourke, one of the most gifted actors around, is simply going to coast again this time around, taking parts solely for the money, but with a director like Anderson at the helm, he may actually win the Oscar he deserved this year.

1. Martin Scorsese/Johnny Depp
If you read my piece yesterday, then you know I am fully on board with the current Scorsese/DiCaprio relationship of recent years. Still though, I think that Scorsese would benefit, as he has in the past, from reaching out and throwing someone new into the mix. Think Griffin Dunne (and for that matter the entire cast) in After Hours, Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ, Nick Nolte in New York Stories, Daniel Day Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder in The Age of Innocence, Sharon Stone in Casino, Nicolas Cage in Bringing Out the Dead or Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg in The Departed. We all know that Scorsese has his pet favorites, and more often than not, they do terrific work. But when he casts someone he hasn’t used before, the effect can be just as, if not more, powerful. Depp is an actor who never does the same thing twice, who is capable of doing just about anything that Scorsese could possibly want him to do. I would love to see the twisted brilliance these two could come up with together.

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