Top Ten Movie Presidents

Since today is President’s Day, I wanted to be just as cliché and in vogue as the rest of the bloggers and film sites out on the internts! Enjoy, yet another list, from me.

10. Jack Nicholson, “Mars Attacks”


9. Bill Pullman, “Independence Day”


8. Harrison Ford, “Air Force One”


7. Michael Douglas, “The American President”


6. Jack Lemmon and James Garner, “My Fellow Americans”


5. John Travolta, “Primary Colors”


4. Peter Sellers, “Dr. Strangelove”


3. Anthony Hopkins, “Nixon”


2. Jeff Bridges, “The Contender”


1. Henry Fonda, “Fail/Safe”

The Actors: Jeff Bridges

Those of you who know me, know one thing at least – that I love Jeff Bridges.  He is an actor who has remained cloaked to most throughout the years, and didn’t really surface in the main stream until the indie hit “Crazy Heart” garnished Bridges his first actual Oscar.  Jeff Bridges is an actor with so much range it’s mind blowing, and to say the least – Jeff Bridges is a cinematic treasure.  Here are my top ten performances by Jeff Bridges.

  1. Ted Cole, “The Door in the Floor”
  2. Tom Friend, “Masked and Anonymous”
  3. Duane Jackson, “The Last Picture Show”/”Texasville”
  4. Rooster Cogburn, “True Grit”
  5. Bad Blake, “Crazy Heart”
  6. President Jackson Evans, “The Contender”
  7. The Dude, “The Big Lebowski”
  8. Lightfoot, “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”
  9. Obidiah Stane, “Iron Man”
  10. Jack, “The Fisher King”

Note:  My Mom came over one night during the holidays to watch a movie (my Mom doesn’t really watch that many movies) and she told me she hasn’t seen “Iron Man 2” yet.  She was shocked when I told her I didn’t have it.  I told her that I didn’t think it was very good.  She replied:  “It’s hard to outdo Jeff Bridges, dude.”

I love my Mother.

 

What are your Top Ten Jeff Bridges’ performances?

 

“True Grit” – 2010. Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

With Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin

“What do you plan to do?”

“I aim to kill you in a minute.”

I’ve been exposed to John Wayne more than most of my generation. My Dad is obsessed with John Wayne, and I grew up watching “The Searchers”, “Red River”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”, “Fort Apache”, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, “The Shootist”, “Rio Grand” and “True Grit”. “True Grit” was the film Wayne won his sole Best Actor Oscar, creating much fuss since Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman were both nominated for “Midnight Cowboy”.

Anyone who considers “True Grit” a classic Wayne film is an idiot. The original “True Grit” is a bad film. Wayne is solid in it (though he did not deserve his Oscar for that film – it was a “career” Oscar). The supporting players of Glen Campbell who plays La Boeuf (Matt Damon in the current film) and Kim Darby who plays Mattie (played by Hailee Steifeld in the new film) are fucking terrible. So terrible they ruin the movie. The original is just a terrible, terrible film.

The new version of “True Grit” by Joel and Ethan Coen is their new masterpiece. Jeff Bridges plays our U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn who is an alcoholic, shoot first and ask questions later bad ass. New comer Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, whose father is killed by ranch hand Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and Mattie enlists Cogburn to track Chaney down, and bring him to justice.

Matt Damon plays Texas Ranger LaBoeuf who has been on Chaney’s trail all the way from Texas (the film takes plays in Arkansas). Together Mattie, LaBoeuf and Cogburn trek into apache territory to bring back Chaney who they believe is running with a gang of bandits lead by “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper).

The Coen Brothers deliver us another instant classic. They’ve flirted with making a western before, with their western noir films like “Raising Arizona”, “No Country for Old Men” and “Blood Simple”. This is a western that would have made John Ford and John Huston proud. This film stacks up against “Tombstone” and “Unforgiven” and is better than both of them, this film is great.

Aside from this seeming like a generic western, the Coen Brothers create this almost haunting “backwoods” western. It feels rough, looks rough – and isn’t very settling. It’s not a Hollywood western – it feels authentic.

Hailee Steinfeld is astounding in the film. She dominates the screen, and when she’s toe to toe with Bridges, or Damon, or Brolin – she holds her own, and holds her own well. She gives a command performance that needs to be recognized. She seems to be picking up steam in the Best Supporting Actress category, but she is the clear lead in the film. All the other characters are supporting to her because the story of “True Grit” is about Mattie, not Cogburn. She should really win Best Actress, but I doubt it’ll happen.

The role of Mattie Ross requires a performance of the highest caliber. She’s a strong and very independent girl. She is the heart and soul of the film. I almost think that this is a role that Ellen Page would have lobbied for really, really hard (if she did play the part of Mattie, it would make me hate such a perfect film).

Matt Damon gives a quality performance, and while it’s not his “best” performance it might just be my favorite. I like the fact that Damon is an A list star, and can pick and choose his roles – but he decided to take a backseat to Steinfeld and Bridges, that shows a plethora of character of Damon.

Barry Pepper portrays “Lucky” Ned Pepper, who Robert Duvall played in the original film. I’ve never liked when actors do impressions. Even when they play the same character in a franchise – notably DeNiro/Brando in the Godfather films, I think DeNiro made the role his own while showing homage to Brando – but I felt that Pepper does the best Robert Duvall impression I’ve ever seen, and he rocked the role.

Josh Brolin gives a standout backseat performance in this film, he’s such a remarkable actor. He gives a reserved and very surreal performance. He seems like a bumbling fool, but he hisses and sneers his lines of dialogue, its fun to watch. I can’t even believe that this is the same actor who played the “bad guy” in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” which came out a couple of months ago. I don’t know if Brolin is a method actor, but whatever method he does use works, and works incredibly well.

As for Jeff Bridges…

Okay look, if you know me, or frequent my blog, you all know that I have a bias for Jeff Bridges. I think he’s an incredible actor and one of the finest actors ever. But, I don’t let my bias get in the way of my thought process. The Dude is not my favorite Bridges performance, and I don’t think he should have won for “Crazy Heart”, Colin Firth should have for “A Single Man”.

This year it seems like Firth is going to win for “The King’s Speech”. I think Firth gives another incredible performance, and he’s amazing in “The King’s Speech”. But if he wins this year, I think he and Bridges should exchange Oscars, because Jeff Bridges gives the performance of the year. He is truly awe inspiring.

This really was a risky role for Bridges to take. First of all, he was playing a part that was made iconic by John Wayne, and the second was that he just got done playing a bloated over the hill cowboy in “Crazy Heart”. Not for one second does Bad Blake bleed into Rooster Cogburn. We watch Cogburn go through drunken stupors, sober up and even save the day. Bridges makes this role his own, with no help from anyone. Bridges is the fucking MAN!

The climactic shoot out at the end of the film literally had me tense and on the edge of my seat. I knew what was going to happen, I’d seen the original film many times, I knew what the story was, where it went and how it went, but I can’t tell you this enough, this film had sunken into me from the opening narration.

Rating: 9.5/10

“TRON: Legacy” 3-D IMAX Experience – 2010. Dir. Joseph Konsinski

With Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde with Michael Sheen with Cilian Murphy and Bruce Boxleitner

Music by Daft Punk

“The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they traveled through the computer. Ships, motorcycles. With the circuits like freeways. I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day – I got in.” – Kevin Flynn

 

So you’ve probably seen all these mixed reviews of the film, you might have even read that “TRON: Legacy” made $3.5 million at its midnight premier (which is more than “Inception” made). So you also could be wondering if the fact that I (a really, really pompous film snob) went to the midnight showing, paid $16 for a 3-D IMAX ticket, and had to get up at 5:45am for work – was worth it.

Fuck yeah it was.

The plot is thin, yet I was drawn into it and really enjoyed the direction the film was taken. It starts out in 1989 with a young Kevin Flynn (an incredible reversed aged and voiced Jeff Bridges) talking to his young son Sam about TRON, about the future, about computers. It’s a nice little explanation for those who hadn’t seen the original “TRON” film.

Flynn now has his rightful place as the CEO of Encom and is building software that will be free of charge, so that anyone and everyone have access to the future. But on the night Flynn sits with his son, it’s the last night that anyone will ever see Flynn.

Flash-forward to current day, there is a meeting at Encom late at night; the board is sitting in a fancy conference table in the ultra fancy building. They are minutes away from unveiling their latest operating platform. The board is filled with a bunch of snobby elitist that would make Dick Cheney proud. This time we see an older Sam (Garret Hedlund) breaking into Encom with hopes to sabotage the announcement of the new operating platform.

The board is all ra ra with their plans to essentially rip the public off, everyone by Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) is happy. He pipes up and announces his unrest with the new “vision” of Encom, and chastises the board telling them that Kevin Flynn aspired to make all this software freeware – making it available to all of the public. The Chairman of the Board essentially ignores Bradley and applauds Edward Dillinger (in a cameo by Cilian Murphy) who was the lead designer on the new software. Of course Murphy looks like a slime ball – and don’t forget (or for those of you who haven’t seen the original film) Edward is the son of Ed Dillinger the villain of the first film.

Sam successfully sabotages Encom’s unveiling and get arrested and then returns to a cozy little garage he calls home. While he cracks open a Coors Beer (drinking in a Disney movie!?) Bradley is inside of Sam’s “home”, and they go through some banter about how Bradley is Sam’s surrogate father figure – yada yada yada. Bradley tells Sam that he got a page from his father’s office, and tosses Sam the keys.

Sam goes to investigate the rundown and barren Flynn’s Arcade. He turns the power on and Journey starts to blast from a juke box. He looks around, discovers the TRON video game, and then a secret door. Needless to say, Sam accidentally stumbles into Flynn’s office, and gets laser beamed into The Grid.

This is where the movie gets kicked into high fucking gear. The Grid is unlike the old version; it’s a cold, dark and electronic virtual reality. It looks fabulous. Sam gets scooped up, and forced to play games against other programs. Instead of the Master Computer and Dillinger being the villain, its Flynn’s program he made back in 1989, Clu (which is the reversed aged and voiced Jeff Bridges). And Clu is fucking nasty.

While Sam fights his way through the games, he eventually gets challenged to a light cycle race by Clu. Clu is whooping shit, and he’s cheating (because he can), and Sam gets saved in the nick of time by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) who is the protégé to Flynn who lives in exile just outside of The Grid.

Once we see Flynn, he’s old and grey and has a beard. He wears a robe and is meditating. He’s very much Zen-like, and he uses words like “radical” and calls his son “man” – so pretty much Flynn is still very much a beatnik. Sam and Flynn devise a plan to escape to the portal that Sam entered in that will be closing soon, while trying to elude Clu, who’s master plan is to build an army and enter the portal and transcend to reality.

This film does have somewhat of a skimpy plot, but once we listen to Flynn tell us how he created The Grid, and “life began to manifest” – it becomes this mythical story, a fable and Flynn assumes the Christ-like figure of creating a world and creating life, while Clu the program that was trusted to help him – turns on him and seizes control of The Grid (a reflection of Judas).

While the screenplay may not be all that great, the special effects and the dual performance by Bridges more than makes up for it. Bridges churns out another solid performance as the prophet Flynn, while taking a step back and playing an evil computer program that isn’t a far cry from a fascist leader. There is an excellent scene prior to the climax where Clu gives a speech to a mass number of programs that are in square formations, and he boasts and yells about how they are about to cross over, they are going to take over their programs because they (the programs) are more efficient.

The highlight of the film is the beginning of the second act, where Clu challenges Sam to a light cycle game. The special effects were the best I’ve ever seen (remember or not, I never saw “Avatar” – fuck you James Cameron). The 3-D was sharp and popped from the screen, the sound, the images, the engineering of this sequence are executed flawlessly.

Another highlight is Michael Sheen in a small role of Zeus, who is an ally to Quorra, who is a homoerotic flamboyant club owner who distracts the evil programs with beautiful women and music (Daft Punk makes a cameo as the DJ’s of his club). Sheen is excellent in his small and pivotal role.

This film isn’t without its problems. Aside from the screenplay, some of the acting is a little stiff and seems forced. Garrett Hedlund who plays Sam isn’t terrible – but he’s not that great either. Let’s just say he hits a homerun compared to Hayden Christensen in the new Star Wars trilogy. Olivia Wilde is good, but she’s mainly there because she looks GREAT.

Clu has a masked henchman, and without ruining the identity, when you figure out who is behind the mask, they kind of bitch out by not using the same technology that they used on Jeff Bridges for that character. I thought that was just a poor choice.

While watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Bruce Boxleitner. I was really glad he was in the film, and I he was good in his limited role, but don’t forget that his character Alan Bradley’s program is TRON. He’s TRON! Yet it’s Bridges who gets all the glory. But after all, he is Jeff Bridges. Duhh.

Yet another reason to see the film is for Daft Punk’s amazing score. It flows and hums, it sizzles and cracks – it’s the perfect sound for this film. It’s incredibly electronic and buzzing. I’m going to buy the original score to this film, it’s that good.

The last thing I would like to say about my theater experience was that there were these beat off kids sitting behind me and my party. And every time, I mean every single fucking time Jeff Bridges (Flynn, not Clu) opened his mouth they would utter out their best Keanu Reeves’ impression “yeahhhhh Duuuuude!” Hey I think it’s cool that you guys are seeing TRON at midnight, and I think it’s cool that you guys dig “The Big Lebowski” – but listen here motherfuckers, Jeff Bridges was the Dude before the Dude. Nough said.

Rating: 9/10