Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race

So here’s the skinny on The Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race: a month and a half ago, Nostra from My Filmviews started a blogathon in which the 10 best actors of all time were listed at random, then passed to a new blogger. From there, the new blogger must remove one actor, before adding an actor to the list.

Having been passed the mantle by Chris from movies and songs 365, I’m the 10th blogger to get a crack at the list. Here is Nostra’s official breakdown of the blogathon:

"So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the best actors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one actor (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. The idea is to make this a long race, so that enough bloggers get a chance to remove and add an actor. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best actors.

It will also mean that those who follow this relay race will get to know new blogs as well!"

And here is the progression of the list since March 13:
     Flix Chatter
       Time Well Spent
        The Warning Sign
          And So it Begins...

Here are the actors who have been selected:

Robert De Niro

Daniel Day-Lewis

Charlie Chaplin

Gary Oldman

Marlon Brando

Christian Bale

Gregory Peck

Paul Newman

Anthony Hopkins

My Addition:
Max von Sydow
Choosing an actor to add could go any which way. There’s Denzel, Penn, Nicholson, Pacino, Hackman, Fonda, Lemmon, you name it.

But Chris made a very good point: where are the foreigners? The possibilities are endless, but I’d simply be remiss if I didn’t include the always-superb Max von Sydow to this list.

The man’s filmography reads like a call sheet of masterpieces. The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, Hour of the Wolf, The Passion of Anna – are all excellent films, and, more importantly for our purposes, all contain masterful von Sydow performances. But those are just a few of the movies he made with Ingmar Bergman. The Exorcist, Hannah and Her Sisters, Awakenings, Pelle the Conqueror, Minority Report, Judge Dredd (just kidding… maybe), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Shutter Island – he’s amazing in them all.

Most recently, von Sydow was nominated for an Oscar for his silent performance in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a film I hated, but thought he was wonderful in.

But now for the hard part.

Who I Removed: 
Leonardo DiCaprio
Jaina from Time Well Spent added Leonardo DiCaprio to this list a few weeks ago, and it is with great hesitation that I must replace him.

DiCaprio’s filmography can really be broken down into three distinct sections: there’s pre-Titanic, which I mostly enjoy (examples: This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and especially The Basketball Diaries), post-Titanic, which I mostly hate (examples: Man in the Iron Mask, The Beach) and his “please take me seriously” phase that he’s in now, most of which I love.

For me, the turning point was The Aviator. I enjoyed him in Catch Me if You Can, thought he was as bad in Gangs of New York as he was in Titanic, but with The Aviator, I became a believer. Since then, he’s been solid in Blood Diamond, Body of Lies, Shutter Island, and Inception, and been flawless in The Departed and Revolutionary Road. He was good in J. Edgar, but the movie itself failed his performance dramatically.

At any rate, I’m a fan, and I know he’ll kill in The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained.

So, again, no dissing Leo, but if I’m comparing the careers of von Sydow and DiCaprio, it’s really no choice at all. Hopefully von Sydow sticks around as the blogathon continues!

Speaking of which, now that’s it my turn to pass this thing off, and I think Sati at Cinematic Corner is the perfect blogger to take this thing over. Have at it!


  1. wow that was quick! Good call on Swedish actor Max Von Sydow, actually I also loved him as sinister Ming the merciless in the campy Flash Gordon (1980).

    "Hopefully von Sydow sticks around" Do you mean stay in the top 10, or stay above ground?! Both would be nice ( :

  2. @Chris Ha I did mean in the Top 10, but yes, please, let him live as long as he can. Ah, I just love his work.

    Thanks again for passing it on to me!

  3. Oh, hell, this is like Sophie's Choice! But I do love the one you made, off to think about my choice :)

  4. Wow, that was fast man, well done!

    Somehow I knew Leo won't last in this list long. I like the guy and he's excellent in a lot of his movies, but I don't know if he's reached that 'greatness' yet, y'know. I'm not enamored w/ his performance as Howard Hughes in The Aviator. I thought that Terry O'Quinn makes for a compelling Hughes in his brief scenes in The Rocketeer.

    In any case, great addition w/ Mr. von Sydow. He's quite underrated but seeing all his work you mentioned here, wow, he certainly deserves to be amongst these other thespians.

  5. @ruth Thanks! I'm honored to be included, and yeah, that was pretty much my thought when I saw Leo here. Great actor, but has yet to achieve greatness.

  6. Great list, and I agree with Sati, I knew DiCaprio wouldn't last that long- he is a great actor, but competing with Deniro, Pacino, Nicholson and so on? Not a chance! I also liked your addition, nice to see your choice of foreigners, although I mist say there are some amazing people missing from that list!

  7. Ooohhh....I can definitely see why you took Leo out, great as he is.
    Can't wait to see Sati's contribution!

  8. @Diana Oh there are some amazing people missing for sure. I think if I made the list from scratch, only 3 of those would be on it. But oh well, that's the fun of interactivity!

  9. @Ruth Me too! I think she'll make a spirited choice.

  10. Wow, didn't realise he was in so many great movies. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a personal favorite of mine. Shame to see Leonardo go, but he still needs some years to show his stuff!

  11. Great pick Alex! Haven't seen nearly enough of von Sydow's stuff. Love your summary of Leo's career. Very well put, though I hate to see him go. Looking forward to Sati taking the reins!

  12. @Nostra He's so good in his brief time on screen in The Diving Bell. I was sorry to see Leo go to, but that's the fun of this, I suppose. So glad to be included on this blogathon, thank you SO MUCH for starting it!

  13. @Pete Thanks, Pete! I tried to be kind to Leo, because I think he deserves it for sure. Oh man, you should definitely check out some of von Sydow's work with Bergman, it is (arguably) my favorite director/actor collaboration of all time.

  14. All this time I didn't realize Von Sydow is Swedish! Though I still have to catch up on his older films, I do think he's always great in limited roles, such as Minority Report and Robin Hood. Once again, great pick Alex, looking forward to Sati's turn :)

  15. Wow. I wasn't expecting to see Max on this list. Nor was I expecting to see Leo knocked off so quickly.

    A nice pick. I'm afraid I'm not so familiar with von Sydow's work to argue for or against him. But I understand and can see your reasoning!

    Looking forward to the next round, Sati!

  16. Aww, sad to see Leo go, but looks like the list is getting populated with the old school heavy hitters who still hit hard now!

  17. @ruth Thanks again Ruth! Based on the stuff I saw him in first (The Exorcist, Minority Report) I also had no idea he was Swedish, but is he ever!

  18. @TheFocusedFilmographer Thanks! I know it's a rather unconventional choice, but I had to let my love of old foreign flicks shine through!

  19. @Jaina Old school, for the win! Bale is still representing the (somewhat) young bloods, which is nice.

  20. @Alex Withrow I have a feeling Bale will be out soon!

  21. @Jaina Right you were!


  22. Awesome work. Since Sam @ Duke and the Movies just passed this on to me, I'm already getting to work on it. Can't wait to get mine posted.

  23. Wow, I am so far behind on this blogathon. Can't believe how fast it has taken off! Great pick, Alex -- it's awesome to see a foreign actor getting selected, and Max is an absolute legend. I dig Leo, but as Jaina said, we are starting to get into the classics now, and he isn't up to their status (yet).

  24. @Eric Thanks Eric! I LOVE von Sydow. Sad that he was recently taken off the list, but I understand, I was just glad to be a part of such an epic blogathon.

  25. As a Swede, I´m a bit perplexed at the admiration von Sydow enjoys in the US. Sure, he´s a capable actor, a Bergman actor - but one of the greatest? Hardly. His range is in fact quite limited. I´m not sure he´d be ranked all that high on a Swedish "best of" list (and Sweden is a pretty small place).

    When they do these kinds of lists in 20 or 30 years, I think the only survivors from this relay will be: Brando, Oldman and DiCaprio. Maybe DeNiro. Max von Sydow will, alas, be nearly as forgotten as George Clooney.

    1. You think? I foresee Father Merrin and Antonius Block being remembered for as long as movies are being made. There were definitely dozens of other (possibly more worthy) actors I could've gone with, but when I took the reigns on this thing, I just really wanted to see a foreign actor in the mix. Really surprised to hear that you don't think Von Sydow will endure. But fair enough, to each his own.

  26. All the big names in the list are just fair, but i like to see Leonardo in this list......

    1. It was definitely a hard call to make. But if The Wolf of Wall Street is any indication, he'll be killing it on screen for decades to come.