Five new-to-me actors I’d love to see more of – based on 2012 viewings

One of the joys of watching movies is discovering new talents. The movies they appear in aren’t always great, but the actors’ screen charisma and/or performances are memorable and you see their potential. This is kind of a variation of favorite performances list, such as what Keith is doing with his Top 5 of various lead and supporting performances (like this one). But for this post, I’d like to focus on those I either wasn’t aware of prior to 2012, or that I haven’t seen them act until last year. Some of these actors have been working steadily and relatively well-known to some, but they were ‘obscure’ to me until recently. Thus I’m excluding actors like Richard Armitage, Michael Peña, Anthony Mackie and Jim Sturgess who all impressed me last year, but I have been familiar with them for some time.

In any case, based on my 2012 viewings (not exclusive to 2012 movies) , here are five new-to-me actors I’d like to see working more in Hollywood.


[In alphabetical order]

Jason Clarke

JasonClarkeThe first time I saw this 43-year-old Australian actor was in Public Enemies as ‘Red’ Hamilton, John Dillinger’s partner in crime. I wasn’t impressed with the film but I sort of remembered Clarke’s role. He apparently was in the lead role of the now-defunct police procedural show The Chicago Code on FOX. I haven’t seen Lawless yet, but he played one of the three Bondurant brothers with Shia La Beouf and Tom Hardy. But he surely made his mark in Zero Dark Thirty. It’s not a big role but he’s certainly memorable. It could’ve easily been a simple thug or bully type of roles, but there’s a certain sensitivity in Clarke’s performance that somehow made him a sympathetic character. His flawless American accent certainly proves his versatility, so I hope to see more of him getting more prominent roles. I’m excited to see him in the upcoming William Monaghan’s directorial debut Mojave.

Mark Duplass

MarkDuplassI finally caught Safety Not Guaranteed and loved it. It was a surprisingly heartfelt comedy filled with quirky but likable characters. One of those characters is Kenneth, a man who placed an classified ad for a time-travel partner. I can’t help but being drawn to Ken despite (or because of) his eccentricities, just like Aubrey Plaza’s character did. He’s currently working on a couple of TV shows, I should check out The League, a semi-scripted comedy about a fantasy football league that my pal Ted told me about.

Apparently Duplass (who often collaborates with his brother Jay) is sort of a triple-threat, he has been writing, directing and producing a few indie projects and shorts, so now that he’s acting, I guess he’s more of a quadruple-threat. He also has a small part in Zero Dark Thirty which unsurprisingly offers a bit of comic relief. I could see him doing serious roles, too. He has a naturally affable presence but there’s a certain unpredictable quality about him that makes me think he could effectively play an antagonist.

Chris O’Dowd

ChrisODowdAs you probably already know, I adore The Sapphires. It’s my favorite movie at last year’s TCFF and I had a bit of a crush on him. Not a full-blown crush, just a smidgen, but I think he’s just so lovable and sweet in that role… a sensitive rebel with a big heart. I have yet to see Bridesmaids and no way in heck am I watching HBO’s Girls just to see him, so I hope this tall Irish actor gets busier in Hollywood.

I’m excited to see his two upcoming comedy dramas, one is called Hippie Hippie Shake with Cillian Murphy and a bunch of British actors, and the other called Calvary with Brendan Gleeson, directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges‘ Martin McDonaugh).

Tomer Sisley

TomerSisleyThis is perhaps the most obscure of the bunch as I don’t think his movie The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch was released here in the US. I quite enjoyed the movie, it was a pretty enjoyable action thriller and this German-born actor is fun to watch. He’s actually of Russian and Yemenite origin, but has been living in France since he was 9 so he speaks four languages: French, English, German and Hebrew, wow! He’s certainly easy on the eyes and has the athleticism to could pull off all the action stunts. Then I found out he was a stand-up comic as well. He’s probably quite well-known in France and he’s got a few French movies in the works, hopefully some Hollywood casting agent would notice him soon enough.

Benjamin Walker

BenWalkerYes, I was one of those few people who was entertained by Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter. Walker is no Daniel Day Lewis but I thought he’s quite charismatic and has the talents and screen presence as a leading man. It’s not the first time he played a US president as he was cast in the Broadway musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Like Sisley, he’s also got a funny bone as he did his first performing experience at the Juilliard School in New York as a stand-up comedian. I could totally see him do comedy, he shows some of that in Vampire Hunter, I think he’d be awesome. I’m surprised he hasn’t been cast yet as Liam Neeson’s son in one of his action flicks, I mean this 6’3″ actor looks so much like him!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to his next film with one of my current crushes, Henry Cavill in The Great Wall.

Honorable Mention:

Oscar Isaac

OscarIsaacThough he only had a tiny role in Bourne Legacy, I quite like this Guatemala-born actor and I wish he had a bigger part. Heck, he’d even make a good leading man if the producers don’t mind a non-white actor in that role. I realized later on that he played Prince John in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. He’s not only talented, but like Mark Strong, he’s also got one of those faces which enables him to play roles of various ethnic groups. Looks like he’s getting a lot of roles already, yay! He’s got at least four movies out later this year, including the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis with Carey Mulligan and Mojave with Jason Clarke. Looking forward to both of those!

Thoughts on any of these actors? Are you a fan of their work?

TCFF Day 2: Reviews of The Sapphires and Eyes Of Thailand Doc

The 9-days-long film fest continues with more great films! Early this afternoon, I was able to see The Sapphires. I somehow left this out of my list of TCFF movies I’m excited about, but man am I glad I saw it! It’s one of those films that came out of left field but really made an impact for me.

I also got to go to the Educational Panel of Minnesota Filmmakers in between The Sapphires and It’s a Disaster, which was pretty insightful. I was especially impressed by the producer of The Eyes of Thailand doc, Jim Vandesteeg, who was moved to produce the film when he met director Windy Borman.

Here are our reviews of the day:

The Sapphires

Set in the late 60s, the film chronicles four young Australian Aboriginal girls who have big musical talents and even bigger dreams. Inspired by a true story, it definitely has all the ingredients to be an inspiring musical drama.

It opens with the three sisters living in a rural Australian town as sisters Gail and Cynthia are getting ready to go on a singing competition in a nearby city. The youngest, Julie, has the most beautiful voice of them all, but she’s too young to go and their mother forbids her to go, but of course that won’t stop such a headstrong girl. The scene of the beautiful family singing together with their mother is so stirring and it definitely makes you fall in love with these girls and want to root for them all the way through. What I love most about these girls is that despite being outcasts in their own native land, they aren’t wallowed in self pity and are rightly proud of who they are.

It’s no surprise they didn’t win the competition given such an overt racism that’s still prevalent in those days, but they ended up meeting Dave, an alcoholic talent scout with a penchant for soul music. Dave recognized the musical potential of these young girls, and he believes that soul music is what the girls should be singing. The scene of him convincing the girls to switch from country music to soul is quite fun to watch and Chris O’Dowd as Dave instantly charms you with his down-on-his luck personality but with a big, big heart. The addition of a fourth member of The Sapphires deal with the atrocious reality of how the Australian government practically kidnaps the fair-skinned kids from their family to be raised and schooled as white kids.

But through hardship and perseverance, sisters Gail, Cynthia, Julie and cousin Kay prevail and they got the gig they’ve dreamed of, that is to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam. They didn’t even have a name when they auditioned for that gig, but when it’s over, they come out as The Sapphires. It’s in the war-torn South East Asian country that the girls learn about love, friendship and war, and their journey is full of joyful, funny and touching moments that will stay with me for some time.

Deborah Mailman (Gail), Jessica Mauboy (Julie), Miranda Tapsell (Cynthia) and Shari Sebbens (Kay) all did a wonderful job in their roles. Even though the actresses playing the Sapphires aren’t well-known, the acting feels authentic to me. I LOVE Irish actor Chris O’Dowd (who’s hilarious in The IT Crowd) as Dave, he has such an earnest quality about him that makes you like him despite his flaws. He has a sweet chemistry with Mailman who plays Gail whom he shares the most screen time together.

The Sapphires was co-written by Tony Briggs, the son of one of the real-life singing group, which explains the personal feel of the way the story is told. The music is excellent and definitely makes you want to groove along and makes your heart soar. I don’t know if the actresses themselves know how to sing but their voices are absolutely phenomenal, I wouldn’t even mind buying the CD for this.

The Weinstein Co. acquired the US rights of this at Cannes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this movie being mentioned a lot come award season. I highly recommend this if it opens near you. This movie is a triumphant celebration of family, friendship, music and most of all, the human spirit.

4.5/5 stars

The Eyes of Thailand

The opening sequence is an animated retelling Buddha’s life as an elephant, which provides a nice anecdote to the main story. The focus is on an elephant hospital, called Friends of the Asian Elephant, that specializes in animals that are victims of land mine explosions. It is heart-wrenching to see the two main elephants – Mosha and Motala – move around on three legs, along with the early images from when they first arrived to the hospital.

In addition to the story of these elephants road to recovery, the hospitals founder, Soraida Salwala, retells her struggle with gaining backing, and where the idea for F.A.E. Elephant Hospital came from. Her efforts have not only helped the lives of the animals treated in her facility, but it has also spread awareness of the land mine problem in that region of the world.

Thailand’s borders are still littered with land mines from the 60s and 70s, and inhabitants in the surrounding countries use them as perimeters for their camps. Elephants and humans alike fall victim to these weapons. After the screening the producer relayed some statistics that went along the lines of “it takes $3 to create a mine, but it costs $1000 to remove one, and that 90% of people injured by land mines are civilians” (as opposed to troops – which is who they are intended for.)

The film has a website – of the same title – to go with it. The web page provides much more detailed information on the topic that is not presented in the film, and contact information if there are still unanswered questions.

I enjoyed it, it was eye-opening to see the images of what it really costs to have a war. The Eyes of Thailand had a good message, a just cause, and I liked that all of the people spoke English (sometimes subtitles detour an audience). The animation could have been more refined and there could have been smoother camera movement, but overall it was worth seeing. It’s a great heroic story of Soraida Salwala, a passionate woman who dedicated ten years of her life to help two elephant landmine survivors, Motala and Mosha, to walk again after losing their legs stepping on a landmine. Treating their wounds was only part of the journey; building elephant-sized prostheses was another. Narrated by Ashley Judd.

– review by Emery Thoresen

3/5 stars

Thoughts on either one of these films? Let us know in the comments.