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The Weekly top 10
July 6, 2009 - Steve Murch
Time again - is it Monday already? - for the weekly top 10. The speed at which Monday came this week (I know, it comes the same day every week, but …) I couldn't get the finishing touches on the one I wanted, so I'm falling back on an easy one.
Cool. Everyone thinks they know cool, but how many really are cool? It's an even trickier proposition when talking about movie stars who are cool. Brad Pitt? Not quite. Tom Cruise? Never, not even in Risky Business. Nicolas Cage? Early on possibly, but he's now a caricature of himself. Cary Grant? Not cool, but definitely suave.
And therein lies part of the problem, defining cool. It's all in the eyes of the beholder, I guess. On top of that, no actor will have a perfect career. All of my top 10 have flaws. The trick is still having that air even in lesser roles.
So who's cool in the history of film? Well, here are my Top 10 actors (No. 11 who just missed the cut would be James Coburn; James Dean's career wasn't long enough and Marlon Brando had too many loopy turns in his career).
10. Lee Marvin: He is one of the ultimate tough guy. Marvin was a hard-edged guy in most of his roles. He just had a presence on the screen. Oddly, he did a lot of television in the early days, which wasn't what movie people did much of back then.
9. Mel Gibson: Forget the racist rants and look at his roles, especially prior to Lethal Weapon 3 (sellout after 2) – Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon, Max in the Mad Max Thrillogy, Guy Hamilton in The Year of Living Dangerously, and William Wallace in Braveheart (how many people can pull off wearing a kilt like Mel did?
8.George Clooney: The thing with Clooney is he does more mainstream-type films so he can take his risks. Danny Ocean in Ocean's Eleven (forget 12 and 13, especially 13), Archie Gates in Three Kings, Michael Clayton in Michael Clayton, and Billy Tyne in The Perfect Storm.
7. Denzel Washington: He takes on a lot roles where his character couldn't be cool, but when he gets them he nails them. He even made a criminal kind of cool in American Gangster. Add in roles in Devil in a Blue Dress, Mo Better Blues, Man on Fire, Inside Man and he's built a nice “cool” career.
6. Paul Newman: He played a lot of roles that were more sensitive-guy territory, but he still pulled it off. Still, when you played Butch Cassidy, Luke (in Cool Hand Luke), Henry Gondorff in the Sting and Reg Dunlop in Slapshot, you've played plenty of classic characters.
5. Al Pacino: Forget S1m0ne (ugh), this guy played a Corleone, throw in Serpico and he might slide into the top 10. However, when you add in Scarface, ...And Justice for All, Donny Brasco, and Scent of a Woman, well then he's easily in the top 10.
4.Robert Redford: The Sundance Kid, Bill McKay in The Candidate, Jay Gatsby in the Great Gatsby, Roy Hobbs in The Natural, Jeremiah Johnson, and a slug of others, easily put him in the top 10.
However, the second seven are well behind the top 3.
3. Robert DeNiro: Now this might be the ultimate tough guy. He even makes gangster funny in Analyze This. However, Good Fellas, The Godfather, Raging Bull, Ronin, and others give this tough guy one big leg up.
2. Humphrey Bogart: Everyone rooted for him to get the girl in Casablanca, but Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe make Bogart No. 2. Add Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and his other tough guy roles, and he WAS early cool, only trailing ...
1. Steve McQueen: The ultimate pop cool icon. He'd be in the Top 10 if he only played in Bullitt and the Thomas Crown Affair. But LeMans, The Great Escape, The Getaway, The Cincinnati Kid, The Magnificent Seven … The list goes on. And who could forget an uncool role like Papillon, where he still had that cool persona. He is No. 1.
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