Cinemoose.com Subscribe to my feed

 

Online Marketing
Add blog to our blog directory.

Who Is The Best American Actor?

October 21st, 2008

I came across a poll on IMDB the other day asking which of the following actors would you pick as your favorite from the following: Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino. These actors are among the usual suspects in reference to the questions of who is the best American actor alive today. So who is the best American actor?

Well, for starters, you can’t really go wrong with the ones listed above. Also this question generally refers to actors that people have heard of or are stars. Some of the best acting in movies today are done by unknown character actors or bit players. Beg to differ? While many critics often argue about the believability of stars in certain roles (Harrison Ford as a Russian submarine captain?), how many arguments have you heard about whether or not the actor playing the garbage man is believable. Sure, the role may not be large enough or memorable enough, but if that actor was not believable in their performance you would notice. So for the sake of argument, let’s stick with actors or movie stars who are well known or famous.

Oscar

If you were to use the Academy Awards as a measuring stick, the winner would be Jack Nicholson who has 3 Oscars for acting. But, the Academy Awards are as much about politics and popularity as they are about quality so that should not be the lone factor in determining our answer. In fact, I think we shall only use the Academy Awards only as a starting point for discussions about who the best actor is. Our main criteria will be memorable roles and believability. So let’s start with the usual suspects

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Argument For:

Jack is so well known as an icon and bad boy that people sometimes forget what an amazing actor he is. A winner of three Academy Awards (Best Actor for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good As It Gets and a Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment), Jack has had more iconic movies and memorable performances than other actors have had roles on their entire resume. Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, The Shining, A Few Good Men… the list goes on.

Argument Against:

A tendency to overact and chew the scenery when allowed, Jack has oftentimes been blamed for just playing himself instead of creating a character. Also, his larger than life persona can sometimes overpower the story and hijack the movie.

Be Sure To Check Out:

The Crossing Guard, The Pledge, About Schmidt.

Al Pacino

Al Pacino

Argument For:

If anyone can match Nicholson in terms of iconic movies and roles, it’s Pacino. His resume reads like a critics Top movies list. The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Glengarry Glen Ross, Donnie Brasco, The Insider… . It’s hard to imagine another actor doing all these roles. And he does Shakespeare too! Is there another actor as good at delivering monologues?

Argument Against:

Hooya! His post-Scent of a Woman roles often come in two varieties: loud and louder.

Be Sure To Check Out:

Looking for Richard, The Merchant of Venice

Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman

Argument For:

A brilliant actor capable of tackling a diverse range of challenging roles and making you believe him. The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, All the President’s Men, Lenny, Marathon Man, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man.

Argument Against:

Has a reputation for being difficult to work with. Hasn’t really seemed interested in pushing himself since Rain Man.

Be Sure To Check Out:

Straw Dogs, Papillon.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro

Argument For:

An intense actor known for his extreme Method preparation for his roles. Gained over 60 pounds to play Jake La Motta in Raging Bull where he won an Oscar for Best Actor. Also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather Part II. His best roles include Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America, Heat. He can almost make a Martin Scorcese movie tolerable.

Argument Against:

Limited range. Doesn’t do comedy well. De Niro’s great at playing intense characters prone to violence and psychopathic behaviors. Anything else and he often resorts to mugging for the camera (best seen in the Analyze This and Meet the Parents movies). Now he’s only a paycheck actor. Don’t believe me? How else can you explain Hide and Seek and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle?

Be Sure To Check Out:

The Untouchables and Cop Land.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks

Argument For:

Good in both comedy and drama, Hanks has shown an increasing range over the years. Impressive in finding the human element in his characters and showing the audience what that character is thinking. He also has the ability to anchor an otherwise silly movie and make you believe in the story. Best roles include Splash, Big, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Toy Story and Saving Private Ryan.

Argument Against:

Range. Tom Hanks has nailed the Everyman role and regular Joe type parts but has yet to prove that he can go darker or tougher.

Be Sure To Check Out:

Cast Away

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey

Argument For:

He’s won two Oscars for acting starting with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Usual Suspects and followed up with a Best Actor win for American Beauty. Spacey’s at his best when he’s slinging bile and venting his anger. His memorable performances include Glengarry Glen Ross, Swimming With Sharks, L.A. Confidential and Seven.

Argument Against:

Pay It Forward, K-Pax and Beyond the Sea

Be Sure To Check Out:

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, The Negotiator

Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall

Argument For:

A naturalistic and versatile actor, Robert Duvall excels at creating memorable and quietly powerful characters. Capable of playing in almost any genre, Duvall often disappears into his role and makes you remember the character while forgetting who he is. Performances to check out include: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Network, Apocalypse Now, Lonesome Dove and Tender Mercies.

Argument Against:

Hasn’t had the challenging roles that many of his contemporaries have had. Doesn’t have as powerful a presence as some of his contemporaries.

Be Sure To Check Out:

The Apostle, Assassination Tango, Open Range

Denzel Racist

Denzel Washington

Argument For:

Strong presence. Good teeth. He’s won an Academy Award for both Best Actor (Training Day) and Best Supporting Actor (Glory).

Argument Against:

This racist actor has very little range. He takes himself too seriously and is only good at playing strong, proud black characters. Can’t play anything else and has a tendency to overact. With rare exception will he allow himself to look bad or weak on screen. Cries racism if his performances fail to win awards and garner critical support.

Be Sure To Check Out:

Man on Fire

Sean Penn

Sean Penn

Argument For:

Powerful and intense performer that is well respected by his peers. Often called the best actor of his generation. Isn’t afraid to look bad. Standout performances include: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, At Close Range, Carlito’s Way, Dead Men Walking, Mystic River and 21 Grams.

Argument Against:

Takes himself too seriously. Can’t play comedy (see We’re No Angels). Often lets his politics inform his roles. Has trouble playing non contemporary roles.

Be Sure To Check Out:

Bad Boys, The Thin Red Line

And the winner is…

Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman

Argument For:

An impressive resume with brilliant terms in both comedies and dramas. Won an Oscar for Best Actor for The French Connection and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Unforgiven. While Gene Hackman has been in his share of bad movies, he is never bad nor unbelievable. Even in tepid crap, his acting is simple and naturalistic and he often steals the movie from bigger stars without ever having to overact or chew the scenery. The Moose can’t think of a single bad Gene Hackman performance. Memorable performances include: Bonnie and Clyde, I Never Sang for My Father, The French Connection, The Conversation, Superman, Reds, Under Fire, Twice in a Lifetime, Hoosiers, Mississippi Burning, Unforgiven, Narrow Margin, Crimson Tide, Get Shorty, The Royal Tenenbaums

Argument Against:

None.

Be Sure To Check Out:

Scarecrow, Young Frankenstein, The Birdcage, Heist

Buy the Moose a cup of coffee.