What a weird year for movies. I'm pretty sure I saw more films in 2011 than I have in any other 12-month period of my life, and yet it seems like I saw fewer truly good films than ever. Maybe the sheer volume made it just *seem* like there was less quality out there, but as I look over the list of the year's releases, very little stands out as material I would be excited to watch again. That's really the ultimate test. There were plenty of just 'good' movies in 2011 --- your J. Edgars, your Carnages, your Harry Potter 7.5s, etc. But, if any of these show up in a Netflix queue, I won't be rushing to load them up.
As such, the Markademy Awards are going to be a bit different this year, as I'm doing to expand a bit of category expansion to include some of the worst movies of the year. But, unlike Terrence Malick, I won't put the lousy stuff up first, I'll start with the quality. With my initial reactions to the Oscar nominations in mind, here are my predictions, preferences and public floggings (not a Fassbender-in-Shame reference) about both Oscar night and my personal selections about the best of 2011.
BEST ACTOR Actual nominees: Demian Bichir/A Better Life, George Clooney/The Descendants/Jean Dujardin/The Artist, Gary Oldman/Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt/Moneyball
Snubbed: Leonardo DiCaprio/J. Edgar, Fellag/Monsieur Lazhar, Paul Giamatti/Win Win, Brendan Gleeson/The Guard, Michael Shannon/Take Shelter
My Ballot: DiCaprio, Dujardin, Giamatti, Pitt, Shannon
The Best Actor race looked like it would be a clash between three huge stars (Clooney, DiCaprio and Pitt) before Leo got cut out of a nomination since seemingly nobody like his movie, despite his fantastic, career-best performance. Then it seemed like Clooney had the edge on Pitt despite the fact that Pitt actually gave a performance, whereas ol' George just delivered little more than a variation on the standard Clooney persona. Heck, it wasn't even the most interesting "Clooney persona variation" of the year, as Clooney was much better in The Ides Of March.
But then, out of nowhere, emerged a consensus. Jean Dujardin has three major things working in his favour, all of which have made him the consensus choice on Oscar night. Firstly, he gave a great performance that not many actors could've pulled off, relying entirely on his face and body language throughout a silent movie. Secondly, everyone loves The Artist, so Dujardin can ride the wave. And, finally, don't underestimate the fact that Dujardin has been classing it up on the red carpet and awards circuit for months now, charming everything in his path.
Some notes on the other actors: Bichir's victory is just in getting nominated, as it puts him on the map in a big way and gives a boost to his little-seen but wide good picture. Oldman has FINALLY gotten a long overdue Oscar nomination, one that I wasn't sure he'd get given how understated and subtle his role in TTSS is (apart from one knockout scene) but needless to say, it's a long time coming. Pitt continues to add to his resume as a very underrated actor; as I put it in my review of Moneyball, he's charismatic enough that watching him not watch a ballgame was fascinating. And finally, let's all ask ourselves how in hell Michael Shannon didn't get nominated for Take Shelter. I was a hair away from giving him the win, and he didn't even make the five-man cut?!
My Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio Real Winner: Jean Dujardin
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Actual nominees: Berenice Bejo/The Artist, Jessica Chastain/The Help, Melissa McCarthy/Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer/Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer/The Help
Snubbed: Rose Byrne/Bridesmaids, Marion Cotillard/Midnight In Paris and Little White Lies, Elle Fanning/Super 8, Carey Mulligan/Shame, Vanessa Redgrave/Coriolanus, Amy Ryan/Win Win, J. Smith-Cameron/Margaret
My Ballot: Chastain (but for Take Shelter, not The Help), Cotillard, McCarthy, Redgrave, Ryan
Great year in the supporting actress category, as though my ballot is markedly different from the actual nominees, I can't really fault the Academy's choices. (I haven't seen Albert Nobbs yet but everyone seems to agree that McTeer was an obvious choice.) The only issue is that Octavia Spencer is going to win and, while I liked her performance, much like 'The Help' overall I just didn't think there was very much to it. Of all the actresses I named above, Spencer barely cracks a top 10, let alone a top five. My pick is the always-great Amy Ryan, who was just so damn good in the underrated 'Win Win,' a terrific little character study of a movie.
My Winner: Amy Ryan Real Winner: Octavia Spencer
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Actual nominees: Kenneth Branagh/My Week With Marilyn, Jonah Hill/Moneyball, Nick Nolte/Warrior, Christopher Plummer/Beginners, Max von Sydow/Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Snubbed: Paul Bettany/Margin Call, Albert Brooks/Drive, John Hawkes/Martha Marcy May Marlene, Ben Kingsley/Hugo, Jude Law/Contagion, Hunter McCracken/Tree Of Life, Viggo Mortensen/A Dangerous Method, Patton Oswalt/Young Adult, Brad Pitt/Tree Of Life, John C. Reilly/Cedar Rapids and Carnage, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Kevin Spacey/Margin Call
My Ballot: Bettany, Hawkes, Kingsley, Plummer, Reilly
Plummer has enjoyed a near-sweep of the critics' awards, is a beloved veteran, has never won an Oscar before, and he's probably the surest bet of the entire Academy Awards. While I can't say he'd be my first choice as the best supporting actor of the year, a win would make him the first Oscar winner I've seen perform live (as King Lear at Stratford in 2003) and also the first Oscar winner I've personally shook hands with (he was my convocation speaker when I graduated from UWO). Surely I can't pass up a chance to award these bits of personal trivia.
My pick, however, has made a bit of history. For the first time in Markademy Awards history, we have a back-to-back champion. John Hawkes won last year's trophy for his awesome role (and actual Academy-nominated) role in Winter's Bone, and this year, he may have even topped himself as the creepy-as-fuck cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene, which I'll just refer to as MMMM like it's the world's scariest Crash Test Dummies song. As I said last year, Hawkes is the new Harvey Keitel, except that Keitel looks tough and tightly-wound --- the beauty of Hawkes is that he turn his natural nebbishness vicious at the drop of a hat. Hawkes is quickly rising up my list of favourite actors and he got absolutely jobbed out of a real-life nomination. You're telling me Hawkes wasn't better than Branagh's half-assed Olivier impression, or Nolte just basically playing himself? Come on.
My Winner: John Hawkes Actual Winner: Christopher Plummer
BEST ACTRESS Actual nominees: Glenn Close/Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis/The Help, Rooney Mara/The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep/The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams/My Week With Marilyn
Snubbed: Olivia Colman/Tyrannosaur, Vera Farminga/Higher Ground, Elizabeth Olsen/Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tilda Swinton/We Need To Talk About Kevin, Charlize Theron/Young Adult, Mia Wasikowska/Jane Eyre, Kristen Wiig/Bridesmaids
My Ballot: Olsen, Streep, Swinton, Theron, Williams
Viola Davis is going to win the Oscar and I while have no issue with her excellent performance itself, I don't think it's really a lead role. It falls into that nebulous trap that catches so many performances in ensembles, not unlike Kevin Spacey's great role in Margin Call this year, where I guess you could consider the role the first among equals, but it just didn't really have the oomph that a lead role demands. It stands out amongst the other nominees especially, as all four other women (not to mention Theron, Swinton and Olsen) were all the singular force carrying their movies. This all being said, since there is no "best in an ensemble" Oscar, Davis winning is much more preferable than when clear leads sneak into the supporting category just for the sake of winning an easier category.
As I outlined in my review of My Week With Marilyn, Williams is my pick all the way, though Theron, Swinton and the always-amazing Streep made me think about it. Streep will get another losing nomination to her record, though if she really wants to win that third Oscar, Streep should stop taking on these scripts (Iron Lady, Julie/Julia, Devil Wears Prada, etc.) where she has to single-handedly carry everything. Pick a better movie, Meryl! Save yourself the heavy lifting.
I don't have my Academy record book in front of me, but I think this is the first time when someone (Rooney Mara) has been nominated for giving an inferior performance than someone else in the same role just the YEAR PRIOR. Swedish Dragon Tattoo and U.S. Dragon Tattoo are the same movie! Fincher's version was glossier, tighter and objectively about 15% better overall, but the Swedish version had Noomi Rapace killing it as Lisbeth Salander. Hard to believe Mara beat out two past Oscar winners in Theron and Swinton, both of whom gave really strong, unique performances in really interesting movies.
My Winner: Michelle Williams Actual Winner: Viola Davis
BEST DIRECTOR Actual nominees: Woody Allen/Midnight In Paris, Michel Hazanavicius/The Artist, Terrence Malick/The Tree Of Life, Alexander Payne/The Descendants, Martin Scorsese/Hugo
Snubbed: Philippe Falardeau/Monsieur Lazhar, Asghar Farhadi/A Separation, Michel Hazanavicius/The Artist, Bennett Miller/Moneyball, Lynne Ramsay/We Need To Talk About Kevin, Jason Reitman/Young Adult, Martin Scorsese/Hugo, Steven Spielberg/Adventures of Tintin
My Ballot: Allen, Farhadi, Hazanavicius, Ramsay, Scorsese
Hazanavicius won the Director's Guild award, thus making him the heavy favourite for the Oscar win the two trophies almost always match up. BUT, if there was ever a year for them to not match up, this could be a perfect storm of factors. You have Scorsese the legend, making a movie that's basically a love letter to filmmaking itself, squaring off against the unknown Frenchman making his first high-profile project. There's a lot of love for The Artist, of course, but Hugo's long list of nominations makes it clear that there is some strong Academy sentiment for that one too.
The DGA precursor is strong enough that anyone but Haznavicius winning would be a real surprise, but it's possible that there are a lot of voters who wants to give Scorsese a second Oscar, thus getting him closer to the 3-4 he's probably deserved. This isn't to say that it would be a pity vote, as Hugo is a great movie and legitimately one of Scorsese's best.
My Winner: Martin Scorsese Actual Winner: Michel Hazanavicius
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Actual nominees: Jeff Cronenweth/The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Janusz Kaminski/War Horse, Emmanuel Lubezki/The Tree Of Life, Robert Richardson/Hugo, Guillaume Schiffman/The Artist
Needless to say, I have my issues with 'The Tree Of Life' being anywhere near the Best Picture category, but I can't deny the movie was beautifully, creatively shot. Lubezki is 0-for-4 in past Oscar nominations (he should've absolutely hands-down won in 2006 for Children Of Men) but he'll finally get off the schnide this year. What is the accepted spelling of 'schneide,' by the way?
My Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki Actual Winner: Emmanuel Lubezki
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Actual nominees: Woody Allen/Midnight In Paris, J.C. Chandor/Margin Call, Asghar Farhadi/A Separation, Michel Hazanavicius/The Artist, Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig/Bridesmaids
The general consensus seems to be that Hazanavicius will take this one down, given that he's won a number of other screenplay awards already, we're probably looking at an Artist sweep and, on the aforementioned off-chance that he loses Best Director, the pro-Scorsese voters will vote for Hazanavicius here as a make-up.
This being said, while Hazanavicius is the favourite, his lead here is far less certain than the directing category. For one, there are probably a number of stupid voters that will go, "A screenplay for a silent movie? Ha!" Good old Woody Allen has a solid shot at winning his fourth career Oscar given how generally beloved he is, plus Midnight In Paris was obviously an Academy favourite. Also, don't sleep on Farhadi for the really big upset -- A Separation was highly-regarded enough that Farhadi got a nom here in the first place, plus I suspect it came quite close to cracking the Best Picture field.
I can't believe I've spelled 'Hazanavicius' correctly this entire time
Man, "Kristen Wiig: Oscar nominee" just sounds so weird. She joins Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Joan Cusack, George Coe, Randy Quaid, Michael McKean and Robert Downey Jr. as the only SNL cast members to ever get an Oscar nod, though Wiig is the first to be nominated while still working on the show. It's also worth pointing out that none of these people actually, so Wiig will keep that streak going. And, holy shit, George Coe is the voice of Woodhouse on Archer?! That's amazing!
My Winner: Woody Allen or Asghar Farhadi Actual Winner: Michel Hazanavicius
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Actual nominees: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon/The Ides Of March…Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, Jim Rash/The Descendants…John Logan/Hugo….Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan/Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy…Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian/Moneyball
John Logan could hardly have done more varied work in 2011, as he wrote an original script for Rango, and also adapted Hugo and Coriolanus to the screen. He gets points for versatility alone, but he should also get an Oscar since Hugo had terrific on-the-page storytelling to go along with Scorsese's legendary visuals. Sorkin and Zaillian get a thumbs-up for actually putting a story to Moneyball, given that the book didn't actually have one. Ides Of March was nothing special, playing like a homeless man's edition of The West Wing. The TTSS duo clearly had a lot of work in adapting a dense novel into a single film but I'm not sure they quite pulled it off.
And finally, we have the Descendants, which is probably going to win. While I wasn't a fan of the movie, I would be admittedly tickled to see this screenwriting team win some Oscars. Jim Rash is, of course, the Dean on Community but I didn't actually know who Nat Faxon was until I randomly looked him up on IMDB. It's this guy! Co-star of Holiday Inn commercials! Garlan Greenbush from Party Down! Kip from Orange County!* I can't pass up the chance to see both Dean Pelton and a Beerfest alumni win Academy Awards, can I?
My Winner: John Logan Actual Winner: Faxon/Rash/Payne
* = "I'm a comparative literature major. Yeah, I want to be a writer. Fiction, poetry, screenplays, whatever, you know. Actually, I have an idea for a TV show. It's about vampires, ostensibly, you know. But underneath, it's actually about the reunification of Germany. But it's funny…"
BEST PICTURE Actual nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight In Paris, Moneyball, The Tree Of Life, War Horse
My Ballot: I guess putting 'snubbed' before the ballot would give it all away, so here are the between 5-10 films (thanks, weird Academy rules!) I would have voted for Best Picture.
1. Midnight In Paris 2. Hugo 3. Bridesmaids 4. The Artist 5. A Separation 6. Young Adult
When I see a movie, I generally go on spoiler lockdown. I try to avoid learning anything but the very basics about a film so I don't go in with any preconceived notions or with any moments already known to me. This is more difficult with some movies than others, but in the case of Midnight In Paris, all I knew was that a) it was Woody Allen's new movie, b) it was apparently his best film in years, c) the cast included Owen Wilson, imaginary girlfriend Rachel McAdams and my favourite actress. Sold.
By going in with no idea of the movie's premise, I found it endlessly delightful once it was revealed what exactly was happening to Owen Wilson's character. It probably also helped that I've actually seen surprisingly few Woody Allen movies, so I didn't feel MIP was derivative of, say, The Purple Rose Of Cairo (also, not seeing Crimes & Misdemeanors might have aided my enjoyment of Match Point a few years back). The point is, if Allen is starting to repeat himself in his old age, I'm too ignorant to notice. Huzzah! It's a very fun movie with the usual great ensemble work found in an Allen cast; Corey Stoll, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen and Cotillard are all great, and Wilson does a very strong job in the "Woody Allen's avatar" lead role. It's a tougher role than it seems --- to use a few recent examples, Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Kenneth Branagh and Larry David all couldn't do it. That's right, not even acting chameleon Larry David!
While I loved Midnight In Paris, I should add that I didn't capital-L Love it. Perhaps it's fitting that one of the least-memorable film years has delivered something of a lesser Markademy Award Best Picture. Honestly, watching the film back in May, I figured I'd remember it at year's end, but was somewhat surprised that not one movie could top MIP from the #1 position. I think my feelings were duplicated on a macro scale by this year's Oscar field, as The Artist (while a strong movie and a worthy winner) seems to be everyone's default vote though there isn't any true passion behind this sentiment. Artist has loads of admirers but few lovers, which would have left it falling short in almost any other year besides the scattershot 2011.
My Winner: Midnight In Paris Actual Winner: The Artist
HONOURABLE MENTION I'm going to take a page from Roger Ebert's book and expand my list to a top 25, simply to cite a few more honourable mentions. This is another side effect of the "weird year for movies" things, since while none of these films were quite all the way there, I still feel compelled to mention them since there was so much good about them.
7. Jane Eyre 8. Bill Cunningham New York 9. We Need To Talk About Kevin 10. The Muppets 11. Win Win 12. Attack The Block 13. Monsieur Lazhar 14. Captain America 15. Crazy Stupid Love 16. Hanna 17. The Adventures of Tintin 18. Margin Call 19. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes 20. Contagion 21. Moneyball 22. Martha Marcy May Marlene 23. The Skin I Live In 24. Into The Abyss 25. Margaret
Special note: The Trip was easily one of my favourite film-going experiences of the year and it would've easily been in the top 10…..buuuut, it's not really a "film." The Trip was a six-episode BBC television series that was edited into a 90-minute movie for North America. With this in mind, I have to hesitantly leave it out of my rankings but for god's sake people, go see The Trip.
CRAPTOWN! So after talking about the best, let's take a slight detour into the 10 worst movies I saw in 2011. I could go into specific reasons why each of these were garbage, but I'd rather not remember these films for any longer than necessary. Also, as a side note, yikes, rough year for Danny McBride and Olivia Wilde.
10. The Tree Of Life 9. Scream 4 8. The Future 7. Green Lantern 6. 30 Minutes Or Less 5. Your Highness 4. The Green Hornet 3. In Time 2. The Rum Diary 1. Cowboys & Aliens
FAVOURITE SCENES OF THE YEAR Perhaps this category is especially appropriate in a year that had so many flawed movies that contained little moments of brilliance. And yeah, I pretty much had to include The Trip in this category, no question about it.
20. The "Pictures In My Head" song and sequence (The Muppets) 19. Wolverine's cameo (X-Men: First Class) 18. Valentine and Peppy meet on the stairs (The Artist) 17. Holmes and Moriarty's "duelling figuring things out" scene at Reichenbach Falls (Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows) 16. Annie tries to get Rhodes' attention and get pulled over (Bridesmaids) 15. Thor tries to obtain a horse (Thor) 14. Gonzo is totally prepared to blow up his factory (The Muppets) 13. The scene after the house is broken into (Martha Marcy May Marlene) 12. How the virus was first transmitted (Contagion) 11. Colin's day with Marilyn (My Week With Marilyn) 10. Alice's monologue during shooting (Super 8) 9. The scene when everyone meets each other (Crazy Stupid Love) 8. Scaling the Dubai tower (Mission Impossible 4) 7. Curtis loses it at the community dinner (Take Shelter) 6. The chase scene through Bagghar (Adventures of Tintin) 5. The reveal of the big plot twist (The Skin I Live In)….no, I can't possibly be any more specific, but it's a real mind-fuck 4. "Gentlemen, to bed!" (The Trip) 3. Smiley's monologue about his old contact (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)….also known as "the scene that clinched Gary Oldman the Oscar nomination" 2. The duelling Michael Caine impressions (The Trip) 1. Georges Melies' flashback about his career and life (Hugo)
It's Markademy Awards week! (And, to lesser acclaim, Academy Awards week.) Let's start things off with two videos featuring a former Best Actor Oscar winner and a guy who will very likely be the next Best Actor Oscar winner come Sunday. The obvious punchline here is that Dujardin actually should play a villain in his next role. The other obvious punchline is, "Nick Cage won an Oscar?" It's true. It was totally deserved, too. And he arguably should've won another for Adaptation. Like a broken clock, Nicolas Cage is right twice a decade.
Oh Joe. Joe, Joe, Joe, Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo. I'm referring to Joe Flacco here but it nicely works out that I could also be referring to Flacco's agent Joe Linta, who recently said that he's looking for his client to be paid like a "top-five" quarterback in contract negotiations with the Ravens. This is a negotiating ploy. By god, it has to be a ploy, since no sane-thinking human (even an agent) would try to claim with a straight face that Joe frickin' Flacco is one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL. Linta is saying top-five but he's no doubt willing to settle for 'top 10' money….though even that is a stretch.
A quick list of NFL quarterbacks who are better than Joe Flacco:
1. Tom Brady 2. Drew Brees 3. Aaron Rodgers 4. Ben Roethlisberger 5. Eli Manning 6. Peyton Manning*
These six are unassailable. If you think Flacco is a better QB than any of these six, you're flat-out bonkers. You can slot the top three in whatever order you wish, then argue all day about who's better between Big Ben and Everage Eli, but I think these six are pretty universally considered to be the best six QBs in football. In Peyton's case, of course, it depends on his health, but if healthy, Peyton is obviously a top-tier guy. And, frankly, if someone made you play a football game for your life right now and you could only pick between Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco as your quarterback, I think most people would ignore the neck injury and pick Manning anyway. If the two were at full health….no contest. Not even Flacco's mom would pick her son under those circumstances.
Now we get into the next tier.
7. Cam Newton 8. Matt Stafford 9. Matt Schaub 10. Jay Cutler 11. Philip Rivers
Realistically you'd have to put the Peyton "if healthy" asterisk next to Stafford, Schaub and Cutler, but at 100 percent, all three of these guys have much higher ceilings than Flacco. In these three QBs' hands, their teams' passing games are actually threatening. In Baltimore, the passing game is occasionally threatening but is still considered as "that thing the Ravens do in between handing the ball to Ray Rice and having their kicker miss hilariously short field goals."
Seems crazy to put Newton on this list after just one season, and it seems crazy to consider Rivers any kind of elite-ish QB after struggling all year. But, consider this: Rivers threw for 27 TDs and an 88.7 QB rating in his 'bad' year. Flacco FOR HIS CAREER has a QB rating of 86.0 and has never thrown for more than 25 TDs in a season. The numbers seem to bear out that Rivers at his worst is borderline better than Flacco at his best. Ouch. As for Newton, sure it's just been one year, but man, what a year. Asking the question, "Which QB is better right now, Flacco or Newton?" will net you a 50-50 response at best for Flacco, and probably Newton wins that poll. If you ask "which QB would you rather have?" (a question that better encompasses the future) then Newton wins hands-down.
We've already hit 11 quarterbacks on this list, by the way, so any thought of Flacco even as a top-10 QB in the league is faulty. Now, however, is when Flacco could show up.
12. Michael Vick 13. Tony Romo 14. Matt Ryan 15. Joe Flacco 16. Andy Dalton
I'll give Flacco credit for one thing, he's consistent. He's never going to wow you and he's never going to completely crap the bed --- he'll just keep plugging in borderline above-average performances every time out. This fits into Baltimore's conservative offensive philosophy, though I'll argue that the Ravens limit themselves (and keep themselves from ever winning a Super Bowl) by continuing to settle for "rich man's Trent Dilfer" quarterback play in an increasingly pass-oriented league.
Vick, Romo and Ryan are the opposite of consistent. For three or four games a year, Vick plays like the most unstoppable force in football. For the other 15 games, Vick is either injured or making crappy decisions. If you're an Eagles fan, you live a frustrated life as it is, but it must be especially dicey to just roll the dice through the season and then hope that Vick saves one or two of his 'big' games for the postseason. As for Romo and Ryan, they're basically in the same boat as good quarterbacks in the regular season who turn comically inept in big-game scenarios. Romo has the most high-profile failures, but let's not overlook the fact that "Matty Ice" is 0-3 in playoff games, with the last two of those being blowouts (in fairness, against the last two Super Bowl champions). I also stuck Dalton on the list since he had a more-than-solid rookie year and still has room to improve, though I'd take Flacco over him right now.
Since I enjoy consistency, I'll slot Flacco as the 13th best quarterback in the NFL. It's at least conceivable to see a Vick-led team win the Super Bowl (if the Eagles catch lightning in a bottle), or even a Flacco-led team (if the Ravens' formula of defense and running isn't as outdated as it seems). I find it much harder to conceive Romo or Ryan suddenly leading their teams to championships, though in Ryan's case, maybe there's also some room for growth.
So there you have it. Top-five quarterback, my ass. If I'm the Ravens, I'm seriously wondering if I should even explore giving Flacco an extension, since why give Flacco a ton of money and continue playing the "well, let's hope Joe does just enough to win" game for five more seasons when you could try to find a QB who's actually a threat. Matt Flynn, for instance, is a free agent. If Peyton Manning is actually healthy and the Colts cut him…yikes, that would be something. Baltimore also just hired Jim Caldwell as the quarterbacks coach, which may be a hint.
"Mark, did you write this entire post as a response to your Ravens-loving brother, who thinks Flacco is a terrific QB because of his win-loss record?"
As always with a list like this, it's incredibly, incredibly subjective. Most of these songs have been part of my life since infancy, so it's almost hard in a way to judge them as 'songs.' It'd be like making a list of my favourite words or something. If I made up a new list at this time next year, it would likely be radically different --- except for the #1. I think that'll be my favourite for a long, long time.
If I've left your top Beatles track off the list, just pretend it was an 84-song listing and your favourite was stuck at the end. That's right, the end. So I'll acknowledge your choice, but judge it inferior to my own.
"Mark, if the love you take is indeed equal to the love you make, you're not making much love by sticking your readers' choice at 'The End.' "
Shut up, voice of reason. And stop making lyric-related puns.
83. Come Together
82. For You Blue
81. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
80. Love Me Do
79. I've Got A Feeling
78. Maxwell's Silver Hammer
77. Polythene Pam
76. I'm So Tired
75. You Never Give Me Your Money
74. No Reply
73. The One After 909
72. From Me To You
71. Fixing A Hole
70. I'm A Loser
69. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
68. Free As A Bird
67. Hello Goodbye
66. Lovely Rita
65. I Will
64. It Won't Be Long
63. Penny Lane
62. All You Need Is Love
61. If I Fell
60. Honey Pie
58. I Want To Hold Your Hand
57. A Hard Day's Night
56. Helter Skelter
55. Octopus' Garden
54. Paperback Writer
53. She's Leaving Home
51. Another Girl
49. You're Gonna Lose That Girl
48. Hey Jude
47. Can't Buy Me Love
46. Nowhere Man
45. Day Tripper
44. Baby You're A Rich Man
43. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
42. Tell Me Why
41. Eight Days A Week
40. Please Please Me
39. Drive My Car
38. Rocky Raccoon
37. The Night Before
36. I'm Only Sleeping
35. Yes It Is
34. Got To Get You Into My Life
33. I Saw Her Standing There
32. You Won't See Me
31. Don't Pass Me By
30. I'm Looking Through You
29. A Day In The Life
28. Ticket To Ride
27. For No One
26. I Am The Walrus
25. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
24. Ballad of John and Yoko
23. The Fool On The Hill
22. Lady Madonna
20. Eleanor Rigby
19. Two Of Us
18. Get Back
17. And Your Bird Can Sing
16. All My Loving
15. Let It Be
14. Across The Universe
13. She Loves You
12. Cry Baby Cry
11. With A Little Help From My Friends
10. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
9. Here, There and Everywhere
8. We Can Work It Out
7. Here Comes The Sun
5. Back In The USSR
4. In My Life
3. When I'm Sixty-Four
1. I've Just Seen A Face
"The Death Of Superman" was a seminal event of my childhood. While I was a big comic book reader at that time, and was a fan of Superman via cartoons/comic strips/etc., I hadn't actually ever read a Superman comic book itself until, of course, he died. I was a Spider-Man guy through and through, with only a slight detour into Thor that spurred on by, of course, a Spidey guest appearance.
So, Superman's death was not just my entrance into Superman comics, but DC in general. (Knightfall was similarly my entrance into the Batman mythos.) It was an interesting look into what was, and still somewhat is, a different way of writing and producing comics than Marvel. I think what impressed me most was, of all things, the organization. At the time, Superman was featured in four different titles --- Superman, Adventures of Superman, Action Comics and Man Of Steel --- that each had their separate writing and art team that more or less acted independently, but every title was held together in a general continuity. The "four Supermen" gimmick was brilliant since it allowed all four titles to each have their own hero for a little bit, before bringing it all together for the storyline's finale. Looking back, this was clearly a sign I'd get into journalism as a career; what other kid reads Superman comics and is most impressed by a tight editorial hand? Would I have read an entire issue about Perry White proofing Clark Kent's column? Probably.
Anyway, as much as I enjoyed this storyline and still regard it as one of the all-time best and certainly most influential (moreso for Green Lantern, oddly enough, than for Superman) in comic book history....this goofy summary is not too far off.
Our first bit of visual trickery has two rules. Stare directly at the red dot for about 30 seconds. Then, look away at a blank surface and start blinking your eyes rapidly. A rather surprising image will appear as you blink. You guessed it, it's Frank Stallone.
Our second illusion is a man who appears to be losing his head. Not, losing his head in an INXS fashion, which is all the more ironic since Michael Hutchence lost his head via auto-erotic asphyxiation, but rather this fellow appears to literally have his skull vanish. Ooooh! That's incredible! *cymbal crash*
* = My friend Misha (maybe the biggest G&R diehard on the planet) no doubt saw this blog title, thought "All right, Mark is going to review these albums, this should be interesting!" and was then horribly disappointed. Sorry, Misha. Even worse, if I do ever review those records, I'll have to use a different title. Maybe I can just allude it, so 'Use Your Allusion' or something? Use Your Allusion 2? I dunno.
* Roy Nelson over Fabricio Werdum, decision Werdum returns to the UFC after an overall successful (yet bizarre) Strikeforce stint that saw him win three of four fights, become the first man to ever submit Fedor Emelianenko and yet also look like an absolute horse's ass in a decision loss to Alistair Overeem. If you missed that fight, Werdum spent most of it on the mat trying to engage Overeem on the ground, only to have Overeem refuse. That speaks to Werdum's main issue --- he is entirely one-dimensional, but the one dimension is fantastic. He is one of the better submission guys in the sport and if he gets anyone on the ground, the fight is probably over. BUT, Werdum's standup is, how you say, not good, and his takedowns aren't much better.
Against someone like Roy Nelson, that's a severe problem. Big Roy is a solid wrestler who can keep it standing, and he has a MAJOR striking edge over Werdum. If the fight does hit the ground, Nelson is certainly at a disadvantage, but his own BJJ black belt should allow him to at least survive against Werdum and avoid submissions. My guess is that Nelson is able to control where the fight goes and lands enough punches to earn himself the decision.
* Ed Herman over Clifford Starks, decision Geez, this is on the main card of a pay-per-view? Give me Poirier vs. Holloway any day….sure, it's Poirier beating up a kid barely out of his teens, but Poirier could be next in line for a shot at Jose Aldo's featherweight title. He could use a nice showcase fight to build him up, though I suppose the UFC's logic is that if Poirier has such a showcase on free TV on FX, more people will see it. Whatever, my main point is that Herman/Starks is not PPV-worthy. Seriously, Ed "Short Fuse" Herman? I don't care that he's won two fights in a row, this isn't 2007.
* Renan Barao over Scott Jorgensen, submission, R3 Awwww man, speaking of showcase fights, here we go. This could definitely be seen as a #1 contender's bout in the bantamweight division, were it not for the fact that the BW belt is held up until July thanks to Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber coaching the next Ultimate Fighter season. So, the winner here will have to face someone else in the interim with the winner of THAT getting the first shot at Cruz/Faber. The delay is a little unfortunate since you could argue that bantamweight has a couple of contenders ready to go in Barao and Michael McDonald.
I say Barao is ready to go and not Jorgensen since, while Jorgensen is a tough guy and a quality fighter, Barao might be the next big thing. After losing his first-ever fight back in 2005, Barao has reeled off 28 straight results without a loss. 28! That includes a 4-0 mark in the WEC and UFC, and I think Barao will hit five wins after Saturday. Jorgensen, hope you know where you find an extra kidney, since you're about to suffer renan failure!….okay, the trash talk needs work.
* Josh Koscheck over Mike Pierce, decision Pierce's only two UFC losses came to Johny Hendricks and Jon Fitch, which tells me that he's a guy who might very well be a gatekeeper. As much as I hate Koscheck, he's proven enough that he's one of the better welterweights in the UFC, if a clear cut below the upper echelon. I'm not just sure what Pierce brings to the table that would allow him to beat Kos, unless Koscheck fights like an idiot again and relies too much on his striking, leaving himself open to get clobbered. Koscheck wins here and then probably moves on to a bout against the loser of our main event….
* Nick Diaz over Carlos Condit, decision The one bright side of Georges St. Pierre's knee injury is that a division that had been under lockdown for years is suddenly wide-open. Between these two fighting for the interim championship, you also have welterweights like Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, Hendricks, Koscheck and others all in the mix to make their case for a shot at the interim gold before GSP returns. Now, St. Pierre has said that his rehab is going extremely well and he could be back in July or August, rather than his expected timetable of November or December. My guess is that GSP wants to hurry back for the big payday/grudge match against Diaz, but he'll go back to taking it slow if Condit wins the title. Condit is also a Greg Jackson-trained fighter, so it wouldn't surprise me if GSP is doing what he can (limited as though he may be in training) to help Condit prepare for this fight.
But anyway, let's forget GSP for a moment and focus on these two fighters since this matchup deserves it. It's a tough, tough fight to call. Condit is the better wrestler but wrestling isn't his bread and butter. Diaz has the edge in submissions but Condit is no slouch in that department and Diaz prefers to keep it standing anyway. When it comes to striking, Diaz is the better boxer and will rain punches nonstop for as long as it takes, while Condit throws bombs that can end fights quickly.
I think Diaz's constant pressure and iron chin will net him the win, and I can't believe I'm saying this given how just a few months ago I derided Diaz as maybe the most overrated fighter in the sport. You'd think a win over an out-of-shape BJ Penn wouldn't turn my opinion so quickly but it's more a case where I just see Diaz matching up particularly well against what Condit brings to the tables. I still think Diaz gets smoked by an above-average wrestler, but Condit isn't that kind of fighter. Hate to say it, but I see Diaz winning the belt and we have to see his ugly, Moe Szyslak face promoted as a top draw for the next several months. Hurry back, Georges.
Undercard…. * Henry Martinez over Matt Riddle, decision * Edwin Figueroa over Alex Caceres, submission, R1 * Dan Stittgen over Stephen Thompson, submission, R2 * Matt Brown over Chris Cope, decision * Dustin Poirier over Max Holloway, TKO, R1 * Michael Kuiper over Rafael Natal, decision, in a result that elates a confused Roger Federer
If you've seen me at any point in the last nine (!) years, you'll likely have seen me in my blue windbreaker, a jacket that was as practical as it was increasingly unstylish. What a great jacket. Just warm enough to sustain me on cold days (presuming I wore a reasonable sweater) and yet light enough to keep me from sweating my face off on those hot days when I drastically misread a weather report and overdressed. And the pockets, oh the deep pockets! The apex came in university, when I was once able to fit an entire 600-page history textbook inside a single pocket on a day when my backpack was overstuffed.
After nine (!) years of use, however, the jacket finally met its end. The zipper just, essentially, exploded the other day. My roommate suggested that we could possibly re-attach it with a clothes pin or something, but because I'm not a loveable street urchin, I declined. No, it was time to put the old boy out of his misery (the jacket, not my roommate) and get a new coat. This new jacket also has pretty deep pockets, I guess, but you see, the zippers on the pockets go in the opposite direction, so I'll have to completely rearrange my entire routine for when I'm carrying three things at once while also trying to wrangle my keys out of my pocket. #hardlife
I'm not going to throw out my old jacket, however. My plan for now is just to leave it in the front closet….forever. You see, my townhouse has had a number of different tenants over the years, so there's something of an accumulation of stuff left around that we all presume used to belong to someone that once lived here. We hope. Now, I figure my old jacket can be my little contribution to the house's history. It's sort of like the vengeful spirits in American Horror Story, except my windbreaker is a better actor than Dylan McDermott.
Two great human beings have waded through the mountain of contradictions within the Simpsons over the years and produced a full Map Of Springfield. Among the many amusing notes on this map, I think my favourite was how Springfield State Prison is apparently across the from a day care centre.
Just when you think Kristen Bell couldn't be more adorable, she reveals her obsession with sloths on the Ellen Show. Who would've thought that all this time, the villains on "Veronica Mars" just needed to release a few sloths onto the streets of Neptune to keep Veronica distracted?
Now, I realize this is poor form given her marriage to Dax Shepard and all, but really, this sloth obsession is rock-solid evidence that Bell and I are soulmates. If she's already this fired up about one hairy, lazy, slow-moving creature, wait'll she gets a load of me.
Shit Liz Lemon Says. Don't worry, this is the only 'Shit People Say' video I will ever post on this blog. (Editor's note: guarantees not valid.) I'm making the exception since Liz Lemon is a personal hero and, in my ways, I'm a male Liz Lemon. Laszlo Lemon?
If you're keeping track, in this post alone I've compared myself to both a sloth and to a notorious train wreck of a fictional female sitcom character. And waxed nostalgic about the fact that over nine years, I was too cheap to buy a new jacket. In an unrelated story, my Valentine's Day plans are pretty wide-open.
Stop everything, Jack White has a new solo album coming out. Here's the first single, "Love Interruption," which is thankfully really good since my expectations for this record could not be any higher. Between solo work, the Dead Weather and Racounteurs, hopefully White uses the next decade to put out a Ryan Adam-esque amount of music, except, y'know, much better than Ryan Adams' music. Nothing against Adams, but White is playing with a much higher ceiling.
Food for thought: would a Meg White solo record not be immediately one of the most fascinating projects in music? I'm not sure anything could top such a disc for sheer curiosity factor. Meg should do this for laughs if nothing else --- announce a release date of April 1 and then put out a Ringo Starr cover album.
And, just to find the exact sonic opposite of Jack White, here's London Is The City Of Opportunity. Yes, that's right, my hometown now has a theme song. And, apparently, a song taken from, like, an advertisement for a dentist office in the early 1990's.
Compounding the hilarity, it was written by Jim Chapman, a local conservative radio host/political thriller writer/vintage car collector/musician. I actually semi-worked with Chapman back in my student radio days, and he was a very pleasant fellow to chat with in person, but…man, my brief summary of his biography doesn't nearly get over the sheer cheesiness. Chapman is a renaissance man in the same way that Alan Partridge is a renaissance man.
If London has to have a theme song, I think we can all agree it should be the theme from the 1960's Batman TV show, except with "LONDON!" replacing "BATMAN!" in the lyrics. Or some kind of mashup of London's two most famous musical acts, Guy Lombardo and Kittie.
Well, not a REAL Breaking Bad game, but rather an amusing little mock-up from College Humor. Underrated highlight: the digitized version of "DLZ" by TV On The Radio playing during the Jesse dialogue scene. Awesome, perfectly-rated highlight: the joke about the game's sequel.
Twice on this blog, I've provided lists of actors who I feel should be more famous than they were at the time of the post's writing. One list was from 2008, the other from 2010. Since every producer in Hollywood doubtlessly reads this blog for advice, let's look at these lists with a bit of hindsight and see how these actors have fared.
First, the 2008 list. This also gives us the opportunity to laugh at both my blog's primitive layout structure (no header! Ha!) from back in the day, and also at my other rankings in this 'Listamania' post. For instance, I cannot fathom how I didn't have Tretiak at least in my top five goalies of all time. That's obscene. But, onto the actors' list.
10. Laura Dern --- Since 2008, Dern's biggest role is her current starring gig on "Enlightened," which I haven't seen due to poor reviews though I like both Dern and creator Mike White. This sounds like one of those HBO shows which I'll get around to watching in two years' times, only to find out that it's been canceled and I'll spend my viewing time elsewhere. While Dern seems likely to notch at least a couple of Best Actress In A Comedy Emmy nominations, those don't really count as adding to stardom as much as they add to the "I've never heard of that show" file. BIGGER STAR? No.
9. Judy Greer --- I've got a ton of residual Judy Greer love from 'Arrested Development,' and it's only grown due to her voice work on Archer. She has also done guest spots on virtually every show on TV over the last four years, and now seems to have a semi-regular role on (ugh) Two And A Half Men. I think it's gotten to the point where folks might not know her name off the top of their head, but you showed them a picture of her, they'd instantly recognize her as "That Girl From _____." BIGGER STAR? Yes.
8. Sam Rockwell --- Man, I would've thought Rockwell would've at least had a supporting actor Oscar nomination in the last four years, but if anything, his number of quality roles seems to have diminished since 2008. Other than starring in the underrated "Moon," Rockwell has been sticking to junk like Iron Man 2, G-Force, and Cowboys & Aliens. Come on, Sam! You're better than this! BIGGER STAR? Status unchanged
7. John Carroll Lynch --- Despite appearing in roughly a zillion things in his long career, he's still probably best known as Drew Carey's cross-dressing brother. (On Carey's show, not in real life…as far as we know.) He's settled into a groove as a middle-aged, friendly-or-menacing big dude character actor, but I always thought he was one supporting role on a quality series away from breaking out. BIGGER STAR? No.
6. Harriet Sansom Harris --- HSH (as all the tabloids and gossip websites call her) mostly sticks to stage work, as evidenced by the fact that since I wrote the original list, she has just four film/TV credits on her IMDB page. I notice that she's somehow reappeared on Desperate Housewives, which is odd since her character was killed off years ago, but I'm in the dark about that one since I gave up on that show a long time ago. In case you're wondering who HSH is, she played Frasier Crane's soulless agent. I can now hear you saying, "Oh yeahhhhh, her," even over the internet. Like Lynch, Harris also seemed like someone who was one supporting role away from making it big. Doesn't Harris seem destined for a couple of Supporting Actress Emmys? BIGGER STAR? No, and if anything, she's less famous.
5. Thandie Newton --- Just a few months after I wrote this list, Newton was in "Rocknrolla," sharing a memorably goofy dance scene with Gerard Butler that I felt was another nice building block in her career. But, she still hasn't quite made the leap, and at age 40, she's about to get shunted into mom roles for the rest of her career. Hollywood sucks. BIGGER STAR? Technically yes, thanks to L'Oreal ads. Admittedly, I didn't factor "having great skin" into what constituted being a bigger star.
4. Chyler Leigh --- Joined the cast of Grey's Anatomy basically just as soon as that show disappeared into the "that's still on the air?" void. To put it into perspective, my mother doesn't even watch Grey's anymore, and at the peak of her interest in the show, she half-considered retroactively changing my name to Patrick. You'd think the statute of limitations on naming a child would be two or three days, not two or three decades, but I know about as little about birth certificates as Donald Trump does. BIGGER STAR? Yes, since a regular gig on a network show at least beats the absolute nothing she did between Grey's and "Not Another Teen Movie."
3. Nathan Fillion --- Captain Hammer! Fillion had the biggest jump in fame of anyone on this list, going from being a cult favourite actor from Firefly to starring in a network drama about an eccentric guy who solves crimes alongside a skeptical female partner. No, I can't be more specific. You know what I'm talking about! Fillion has also cleverly kept up his nerd cred by voicing Hal Jordan in DC Universe cartoons. BIGGER STAR? Yes.
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor --- Another one I can't figure out. This guy is a terrific actor, but rarely gets quality roles. Since 2008, he's basically just been in "2012" (Thandie Newton was in that one too), Angelina Jolie's Commissioner Gordon figure in Salt and in a British TV series called "The Shadow Line" that I've never heard of but sounds quite cool. What are you waiting for, Ejiofor?!….my god, that was the worst rhyming pun of all time. I apologize. BIGGER STAR? No.
1. Jeffrey Wright --- To give you an idea about how underrated this guy is, you can type 'Jeffrey Wright' into the IMDB menu and his name doesn't even come up as an autofill option. Good lord. Wright is another actor who primarily focuses on theatre work, playing just key but supporting roles in various films. What Wright has going for him is that I'm hardly the only one who's wondering why this guy isn't a well-known star. Google returns 217,000 results for "Jeffrey Wright + Underrated" and often gets mentioned by his fellow actors as one of the best in the game today. Wright is basically the acting version of the band Spoon. BIGGER STAR? No.
So, not a lot of big breaks from my 2008 list. Now, onto the 2010 list, which had the slightly-different title of Top 10 Actors Who Should Be More Famous. Splitting hairs, somewhat, but I should point out that this title (unlike the 2008 list) doesn't specify these actors as being good at their job, it just argues that they should be more famous. For the record, these are all very good actors, and this is arguably a better pound-for-pound list acting-wise than the previous edition. Also, since this list was written just about a year and a half ago, these actors have had much less time to "get famous." Argue away!
10. John Hawkes --- I'm pretty sure he's here since, in August 2010, I was plowing through Deadwood's three seasons and had also just seen his incredible performance in "Winter's Bone." That ended up being Hawkes' big break, as he notched an Oscar nomination and is now popping up in all kinds of roles. If I had my way, Hawkes would be nominated again for his awesome, creepy-as-shit role in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," but the Academy has somehow yet to fully entrust me with the Oscar results. I don't understand it, don't they realize every producer in Hollywood reads my blog? BIGGER STAR? Yes
9. Andrea Savage --- A Groundlings alumni and one of those "I'm pretty sure I've seen her in something else" faces that's popped up on a hundred TV shows and movies. To give you an idea of Savage's chops, when "Party Down" was originally conceived in the early 2000's with Paul Rudd as the lead, Savage was tabbed to play what ended up as Lizzy Caplan's role and frankly, I think she would've been even better than Caplan in the part. Her Groundlings connections will always get her roles, but she still lacks that signature part (to wit, the fact that I had to describe her via a part she "would've gotten" if a show had been on the air five years earlier). BIGGER STAR? No.
8. Emily Mortimer --- She seemed pegged for one of those careers so common to British actors, i.e. appearing in various ensemble casts and BBC productions and period dramas and whatnot well into her old age. Even her name seemed destined to fit the part; if you had to guess what "Emily Mortimer" did for a living, "British character actress" is the obvious choice, right? However, while this may be Mortimer's future, she seems to be gaining a bit of heat at the moment. She's becoming a Martin Scorsese favourite (roles in Shutter Island and Hugo) and she's also in Aaron Sorkin's new drama about a TV cable news show. Only downside here is that her character's name on the show is 'Mackenzie MacHale' and…well, that she's a woman on an Aaron Sorkin show. It's for reasons like this that the phrase hit-or-miss was invented. BIGGER STAR? Slightly, yes.
* = surely her friends call her Morty but man, that's just a horrible nickname for a woman, even if said affectionately.
7. Anthony Stewart Head --- Giles! The Headster played a supporting role on that Hank Azaria/Kathryn Hahn sitcom that lasted for about five minutes on NBC last fall, but other than that, he's stuck to British TV and film roles. I attribute this to the fact that he's British. Huh. Man, do I ever wish Joss Whedon's proposed idea for a Giles-centric show, set in England on the BBC and titled "Ripper" wasn't just a pipe dream. I would download the crap out of that….uh, I mean, order BBC Canada on my cable box just to watch that show! Yes, that's the ticket. BIGGER STAR? No.
6. Michael "Fassbinder" --- Yeah, I misspelled his name. Yikes. You know this guy needed a boost of fame if I couldn't even get his name right, but never fear, Michael F. Assbender overcame my inability to proofread by appearing in roughly 45 movies in the last year. The most notable of these was 'Shame,' where he was both acclaimed for his performance (not a euphemism) and judged by most to be snubbed for an Oscar nomination. If it's a choice between an Oscar nomination and having your giant schlong become a running joke at the Golden Globes…well, that's not a bad consolation prize. Too bad Assbender may actually be a shitheel in real life, given his past domestic assault charges. Poor form, Assbender. Just for that, I'm going to keep up this running joke about your silly name. BIGGER STAR? Absolutely, yes.
5. Patrick Wilson --- He's been associated with some high-quality (Young Adult, Little Children…huh, didn't realize how those titles meshed) and big-ticket projects (Watchmen, A-Team) but it hasn't quite happened for Wilson yet. He is currently starring on a Friday night drama for CBS, so he'll probably have work for the next eight years though everyone under the age of 45 will forget he existed. BIGGER STAR? By the slimmest of margins, yes.
4. Rose Byrne --- For a while, Byrne was right up there with Eric Bana on the list of actors who I like despite appearing almost solely in awful movies. Byrne has righted the ship somewhat thanks to Get Him To The Greek (well, it wasn't AWFUL), the latest X-Men film and, of course, Bridesmaids. Here's the odd thing, however, Byrne was seemingly the only person involved with Bridesmaids that didn't get a boost from that movie's success. Kristen Wiig? The new face of women's comedy! Melissa McCarthy? Oscar nominee and the female Chris Farley! Wendi McLendon-Covey? A lot more famous than being known as the star of Reno 911! Chris O'Dowd? Now a known quantity in America! Rose Byrne? *crickets chirping* BIGGER STAR? Technically yes, but realistically, no.
3. Sally Hawkins --- To this day, I still cannot fathom how she wasn't Oscar-nominated for "Happy-Go-Lucky." Blargh. That may end up being the turning point that shuffles Hawkins down the British character acting path, and now she has a head start on Emily Mortimer. BIGGER STAR? No.
2. Samantha Morton --- The Academy Awards are admittedly a weakness of mine, which is why I may be off-base by so often using Oscar nominations as a factor in gauging the candidates on these lists. For instance, Samantha Morton has two Oscar nominations to her credit, but you probably haven't heard of her; Morton's best-known part is still probably as the chief pre-cog in 'Minority Report.' If I had to guess from her choice of roles, however, Morton isn't gunning for fame and fortune, just interesting parts. She looks to be well on her way to a Gary Oldman-esque career of disappearing into character parts and appearing on "why aren't these actors more famous?" lists well into her old age. BIGGER STAR? No.
1. Tom Hardy --- If the Hollywood Stock Exchange dealt in actual money, two things would be apparent. One, I would be a zillionaire. Two, while the best time to invest would've been around April 2010, now is still a great time to buy stock in Tom Hardy. He's being groomed as the British tough-guy star who can actually act --- sorry, Statham --- and is starring in both the Mad Max reboot and (more immediately) as Bane in the upcoming Batman sequel. Hardy is a good enough actor that he's completely convincing as a bad-ass even though he can't be taller than 5'6". Yeah, his bio allegedly says he's 5'10", but come off it now. BIGGER STAR? Yes.