Best of 2006: Ensemble Cast

Ensembles to me mean a bunch of great parts cast with skilled actors. Bearing that in mind, I’d like to give Special Mention to the ensembles of BEERFEST and JACKASS 2. They’ll never be great actors, but they work well together and I enjoyed being in their company.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt clearly takes center stage, but he moves through a world full of interesting characters and performances.

Stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett blend into the large cast, spread across three continents. Interesting how Pitt isn’t generating as much buzz as Japanese Rinko Kikuchi and Mexican Adriana Barraza.

Natalie Portman leads, but Stephen Rea has more screen time. Stephen Fry provides moral sympathy while John Hurt is Hitleresque as the Chancellor. Hugo Weaving plays both victim and villain. And all the smaller parts, such as V’s victims and the woman Portman reads about in prison, contribute wonderful fabric to the story’s intricate weave.

Kudos to whoever cast this gem, a combination of TV stars (Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson), strong character actors (Casey Affleck, Michael Weston, Marley Shelton) and class acts (Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson.) Plus, Jacinda Barrett grabs you by the throat in her breakthrough role.

This film has what in Basketball is known as “a deep bench”. Many of the supporting players are used to headlining their own films. They all add special spice to Scorsese’s Boston stew that headlines the powerhouse trio of DiCaprio, Damon and Nicholson.

As with BRICK, Guy Pearce is the star entering a world of interesting characters. This time however, the support is more interesting than the lead. In particular, Emily Watson, Ray Winstone and Danny Huston all shine playing in morality’s dark corners.

Watch as our “chicks with picks” bond over a night of drinking, and then watch in terror as they face almost certain death. Add to the story a personal tragedy and some dark secrets and watch as some live-wire characters bounce off each other.

3. UNITED 93
On the ground, filmmaker Paul Greengrass uses many of the actual traffic controllers and military personal to recreate what happened on September 11th. His fictional ensemble onboard United 93 feel just as real.

Arguably, the best acting in a film this year. Interesting how Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly plays in only a few scenes while comeback kid Jackie Earle Haley is in almost a third of the movie. The script’s unique structure allows for minor characters, like Winslet’s husband or Haley’s mother, to become the leads for a moment. There’s not a weak link in the chain.

I think I know why LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is better than you expect, and better than it probably read on paper. It would have been easy to just make this a quirky family comedy. Sometimes you get ROYAL TANANBAUMS, but often you get RUNNING WITH SCISSORS.

The casting is so great, and they all work so great together, that everything feels real. This is our family, with all its faults and insecurities and conflicting ideas, struggling through life as we try to help each other.
I want to get into specific performances, but I’ll be doing that on upcoming lists. If you ask someone who their favorite performance was, you’ll get a wide range of answers. New comedy superstar Steve Carell is just as good as old pro Alan Arkin. People are reminded just how good Greg Kinnear can be. Toni Collette surprises again with an unshowy turn that you can’t help but notice. Even young Abigail Breslin has generated serious Oscar consideration, and it’s deserved.

Without this cast, all working at the top of their game here, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE might have been passable. As is, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is one of the year’s most satisfying film experiences. A delicate blend of huge laughs and well-played observations about success and insecurity.


Blogger Malone said...

You gotta check out the IMDB ratings for RUNNING SCARED.


12:46 AM  

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