I remember Beckett from high school when they showed it in history class. The excommunication scene was pretty fabulous.
I re-watched it a few years ago when I was trying to explain the whole “but honey, it’s Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton! Together!” thing. She wasn’t really impressed, and I’ll confess the movie didn’t hold up as well as I thought it would. Maybe it’s me, but I think movie evolution (and not just effects) have just moved past those films in pretty much every way now.
I don’t like some classics for the same reason, but others are still great. As an example, I watched a couple renowned Bogart films again fairly recently. Casablanca was just as good as I remembered–it really does deserve its status. The Maltese Falcon, on the other hand, didn’t work for me at all. There are some great scenes in there–the one where Sydney Greenstreet’s Fat Man drugs Spade is nicely played, for example–but some terrible ones as well. In particular, Mary Astor’s overwrought performance drove me crazy.
And that is why current actors are all interchangeable. They all act alike. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t take an O’Toole over a Di Caprio. And it doesn’t help when the pinnacle of screenwriting is now considered to be Charlie Freakin’ Kaufman, who, whatever the film is about, invariably makes it about himself (see the one about Chuck Barris if you need a good example). In turns it leads to the same kind of “edgy”, mainstream-indie crap getting made all the time as an answer to less serious festivals of pyrotechnics and masked men in spandex.
I agree in some cases that older movies are harder to watch. Usually I can get past stilted acting either because I was raised on it (Star Wars) or because I’m viewing it through that lens, but it can be distracting. Older war movies are typically the worst offenders. After Band of Brothers, I’m not sure I can watch an early WW2 movie & not find it borderline offensive in its naivety. It’s not just the quality of acting, I’m realizing as I write this, it’s also the tone that just seems wrong.
And then you have other genres where the problem goes in reverse. Swing Time will never, ever be surpassed as a dance movie because modern movies just can’t strike that same overly romanticized tone. There’d be an edge of irony in it somewhere.
Getting back on topic, I have yet to see a Peter O’Toole performance that didn’t hold up from a modern perspective, too.
I think O’Toole stood out so well is that he (and his group of peers like Hopkins and Burton) didn’t really fit into the common mold of the day. It made them stand out, just like their hard-living personal lives made for big news to keep them in the press. They gave great performances and people paid attention.
Miley Cyrus twerking isn’t the same as O’Toole boozily womanizing half of Hollywood, all the while with a clever quip ready to go.
Has anyone done a villain to top Hannibal Lechter since Hopkins did it?
Would anyone ever compare Enemy at the Gates in a favorable light against Lawrence of Arabia?
There are usually a few stand-outs in a generation for pretty much anything. Daniel Day Lewis gets a lot of attention as THE ACTOR, it seems. He’s probably one for this era. O’Toole, my winding thought process says, was one of them for his. The fact that Lewis and Streep are the only two immediately popping into my head, and neither of them young, makes me wonder what we have in the talent pipe right now.
I think you are asking for something that is largely unknowable at the moment - i.e. which young actors, roles, and films we will look back on as legendary 40 years down the road. O’Toole didn’t even win Best Actor for Lawrence; it went to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. An embarrasment of riches year, obviously, but it does show the degree to which it often takes time for a real consensus to form on what films really will endure.
That said, there have been a number of young actors in recent years that have garnered best actor/actress nominations at well under 30 years of age. Of that group, Jennifer Lawrence already has a win and a second nomination for two films (Winter’s Bone and Silver Linings Playbook) that have nothing to do with her massively popular role in the Hunger Games franchise. I don’t know that either film will be remembered like Lawrence, but then there aren’t films like Lawrence being made anymore anyway.
I think Gus had some good ones there. Also, it is true I’d like to see some really eye-catching young talent. O’Toole might not have won for Lawrence, but everyone knew he’d nailed it. And if you have to lose the Oscar, you gotta give it up that To Kill A Mockingbird is kind of the definition of an Oscar movie.
I’ve seen some young actors that have had good single roles. I think Natalie Portman in Black Swan, the guy who plays Jessie in Breaking Bad looks like there’s a lot of potential there, etc. I’d just like to see them get some reliable excellence going. I’m not sure if it is an acting thing or a Hollywood corporate model things these days, though. I’ve heard that big business taking over in the early 80’s hasn’t been great for the creative side.
A funny aside: I went with Dad to see Debbie Reynolds’s show at her old casino in Las Vegas about 10-15 years ago. Her husband Eddie Fisher had left her years earlier for Liz Taylor. Her quote, said with good humor, was “Hey, if I had to lose my husband to another woman at least I could say 'For God’s sake it was LIZ TAYLOR! How do you stand up to that?”
I thought about that when I read the thing about to Kill a Mockingbird beating Lawrence in an embarrassment of riches. Good stuff.
Edward Norton was 27 when he made Primal Fear, and he stood out then. It was his first role, and yet he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He didn’t win, that went to Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire, though personally I think Norton was much better.
People of that caliber are fairly sporadic. At any given time there may not be anyone quite on that level who is under 30, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be, ever. It just means you have to wait a bit. For that matter, there’s a fair bit of luck in landing roles. There may be several first rate actors under 30 out there who haven’t made it beyond the local repertory theater.
I think we are pretty well derailing this thread, but maybe Peter would have liked the debate?
One that pops to mind is Colin Whatshisname (Farrel?), who starred in Alexander, In Bruges, Fright Night, Dead Man Down, etc. I really couldn’t stand him in his Alexander time, but I’ve really liked him in a number of more modern roles. He seems to be growing nicely as an actor.