Ruth from FlixChatter has cooked up an ingenious blogathon titled Small Roles… Big Performances. The objective is simple: highlight the best performances by actors we don’t talk enough about.
Here are Ruth’s rules:
Here are Ruth’s rules:
- Highlight a supporting or cameo performance that did not garner awards attention
- Not well-known actors are preferred
- Highlight three performances max
So, essentially, Ruth wants us to call out great performances by character actors, which is one of my absolute favorite things to do on this blog. Currently, I’ve run 35 editions of In Character, so I saw Ruth’s blogathon as an opportunity to truly highlight the best of the best. Here are the rules I set for myself:
- Highlight three scenes from the careers of three different actors I have covered in my In Character series
- The scenes in question must be the ONLY scene that the actor has in the entire movie
Three actors, three scenes, three remarkable cameos. Of the actors I’ve covered, here are the best three cameo-specific performances I have witnessed.
Viola Davis – Antwone Fisher (2002)
Eva May is the most important character in Denzel Washington’s criminally overlooked Antwone Fisher. She’s the mother that the titular character spends his entire life longing for, and when confident Antwone finally finds himself standing before his birth mother, she reacts not unlike people we have romanticized visions of.
To explain. Eva is Antwone’s goddess. She gave birth to Antwone while she was in prison, so he was thereby declared a ward of the state. And after spending a cruel number of years with sadistic foster parents, Antwone found himself homeless before joining the Navy, his mother on his mind constantly. To him, his mother is a personification of perfection. A woman he so desperately wants (no… needs) to meet in order to fully understand himself. In short, he’s glorified her in his mind (and ours), to the point of certain letdown.
So when Viola Davis opens the shitty door to her shitty apartment, Antwone steps into a shitty kitchen and stares at a woman. A woman who looks like she’s never slept and hasn’t step foot in a shower in weeks. He introduces himself, and she flees down her hallway.
What soon follows is as heartbreaking a monologue as I’ve ever seen. Antwone and his mother sit on a couch, and he slowly tells her the man he’s become. He sits next to her, talking at her (she’s looking away, because how can she not?), and when the scene is finished, Antwone exits the living room just as a single tear falls from Davis’ eye.
That, my friends, is how you steal a movie.
Nine Lives: a brilliant anthology film in which nine separate stories are told, each taking place during one extended shot that lasts precisely nine minutes. The best of the bunch (and there are many) must be the one between hopeless deaf mute, Andrew (Fichtner) and his ex wife, Lorna (Amy Brenneman).
While attending Andrew’s current wife’s funeral, Lorna is shocked to find that not only is Andrew still in love with her, but that he’ll do damn near anything to win her back. When she says that isn’t possible, the scene goes where you possibly think it cannot.
It’s dangerous territory, quite frankly. Push too hard, and your hyperbole. Hold too much back, and your invisible. Fichtner (and, it must be noted, Brennenman) achieves a perfect balance of desperation and regret. A remarkably devastating nine minutes of film.
To end things on a light note, Shea Whigham’s brief performance in Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant is one of the most hilariously scene-stealing scenes from any film I can recall.
To be fair (because I’m always one to break my own rules) Whigham appears twice in the film, but his first moment on screen is pitch perfect. After roughing up Nicolas Cage’s prostitute girlfriend (Eva Mendes), Cage corners Whigham’s Justin and insults his heritage, which sends Justin into a nonsensical rant of intimidation consistently mostly of variations of the word “Whoa.”
Sound absurd? You bet. In the best possible way. This scene kills me every time.