6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Great: Audrey Hepburn Terrible: Mickey Rooney
Some performances are so terrible that they become offensive to the term acting. They are so bad that you leave the theater in disgust. However, there are some performances that are actually offensive towards another group of people.
A classic example of this is Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the same film an iconic actress gave one of her most memorable performances. As Holly Golightly, the naïve, eccentric café society girl, Hepburn excels and it has become one of her most identifiable roles, for acting and fashionable reasons.
Hepburn regarded it as one of her most challenging roles, since she was an introvert required to play an extrovert. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the character. Her character, her little black dress, cigarette holder and sunglasses have become iconic images of 20th century American cinema.
Although Truman Capote, the writer of the novella of which the film is loosely based, hated her in the lead role, everyone else loves her. Mickey Rooney’s characterization of Mr. Yunioshi has caused quite the controversy over the years, for his exaggerated facial features and tone as the stereotypical American portrayal of Asian people.
The director Blake Edwards, producers of the movie and Rooney himself apologized in later interviews for people they had offended through the casting and performance itself. He was all over the place and so many people, myself included try to just get by his performance. There is not changing it now.
7. Les Miserables
Great: Anne Hathaway Terrible: Russell Crowe
The adaptation of this beloved musical succeeds in many ways, from its grandiose styling, special effects, and most of its performances, it also has its pitfalls, including way too many close-ups, director Tom Hooper’s shaking camera, and some of the actors not being the best for their role.
On the last comment, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t get people who could really perform the songs and are proven to in the past. It’s Les Miz, you’re going to get your money back.
An example of having proven theatrical talent in the cast was Samantha Barks, who played Eponine on the screen and on the stage. She was spectacular and almost steals the whole movie.
Other actors succeeded as well, from Amanda Seyfried hushed performance as Cosette, to Aaron Tveit as Enjolras commanding attention and delivering bravado. Of course, the crown jewel of these performances is Anne Hathaway as Fantine. She does quite an amazing job displaying a full range of emotions and completely stopped the show, literally and figuratively with “I Dreamed a Dream”.
For her efforts she was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and basically every other award for Supporting Actress they hand out. She was truly magnificent. On the other side of the coin, we have the not as successful performances.
Overall, I thought Hugh Jackman did a pretty good job as Jean Valjean, but as the legendary singer Marni Nixon said, we could have had a nobler voice. I don’t think I am the only one who thinks this, but going against most critics, I didn’t really like Eddie Redmayne’s performance. His voice sounded as if he was going to cry at every instance, a little froggy for my taste, but Marius is a tough role to cast.
We all know who had the worst performance, even he has call attention to it, Russell Crowe. He suffered from a poor vocal performance, and as many have noted, takes you out of the experience of watching. Apparently Tom Hooper wanted the performance real and raw, Crowe delivered that, but everyone else was on a different page.
One of my main problems with this adaptation is that it forgets it’s a musical, stop moving the camera everywhere and let people perform. Crowe has acknowledged his poor performance, but there is no getting rid of it now, until we get a new version in about 10-15 years, knowing Hollywood.
8. The Last Temptation of Christ
Great: Willem Dafoe and Barbara Hershey Terrible: Harvey Keitel
Martin Scorsese teamed with writer Paul Schrader to adapt the controversial 1953 novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. Like the novel, the film depicts the life of Jesus Christ and his struggle with various forms of temptation including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust. This results in the book and film depicting Christ being tempted by imagining himself engaged in sexual activities.
The film stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene and Harvey Keitel as Judas. Scorsese received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, and Hershey’s performance as Mary Magdalene earned her a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress nomination. I’m not so sure about Scorsese’s directing nomination, but Hershey’s Golden Globe nomination was deserved.
Keitel on the other hand, was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, he’s just lucky Caddyshack II came out that year. Of course there was plenty of controversy as the story departs from the gospel narrative, which had several Christian groups up in arms, especially over sex scenes in the film.
Overall, the film itself received positive reviews, with many praising the work of Dafoe and Hershey. With some saying they should have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively.
Keitel’s performance was hated by many and lacked any of the nuance and quietness the other leads brought to their performances. Keitel seemed like another character from another movie dropped into this one, a fail overall.
9. X-Men: First Class
Great: Michael Fassbender Terrible: January Jones
X-Men: First Class served as both a prequel and a soft-reboot of the X:Men franchise and was well received by both critics and fans. The film had a sequel in Days of Futures Past and was praised the fresh revival of the franchise as well as the acting, writing, directing and Henry Jackman’s score.
Michael Fassbender has been tearing up screens in so many successful roles. One of those successful roles was as a young Erik Lehnsherr /Magneto here. His unforgettable performance brings a new life to the villain and his portrayal really gave his character a presence that is missing in most comic book villain performances. He has continued to play that role in sequels, bringing the same intensity and skill to it.
Unfortunately, January Jones’ performance as Emma Frost was disappointing to say the least. We know she an act well as her award nominated work in Mad Men shows us, but whether it was a character defect, the writing and directing of the character, or truly just Jones, the character fell flat.
Jones fit the part physically, but the smart and witty characterization from the comics was missing in January Jones’ performance. She was not in the next film Days of Future Past because her character died in between films. I don’t think many fans complained about her absence.
10. Wall Street
Great: Michael Douglas Terrible: Daryl Hannah
Wall Street is the only film in history to win an Oscar for acting and a Razzie for acting. Others have received nominations in both categories for different performance, and others for technical categories when the overall film was bad, but Wall Street was the first and only film to do this.
Michael Douglas’ role as Gordon Gekko, the power and money hungry, wealthy, unscrupulous corporate raider, became an icon of 1980s excess and jump started thousands if not millions of jobs in the financial sector. Charlie Sheen plays Bud Fox, a young stockbroker who gets involved in Gekko’s business.
Daryl Hannah played Darien Taylor, Bud Fox’s materialistic girlfriend. Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor, with his character memorably declaring that “greed is good.” Hannah won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress for her role. Douglas was playing against type, an evil role, something dark and edgy.
Many thought he could never really play a role like that and questioned director Oliver Stone’s casting. Douglas delivered one of the most memorable performances of the decade and reprised his role in the unnecessary sequel released in 2010. He thanked Oliver Stone in her Oscar acceptance speak for believing he could give the performance.
Hannah was cast and immediately Oliver Stone, and the rest of the crew for that matter knew she was wrong for the part. She was not convincing because the message of her character stood in direct opposition to her own belief system.
She was really miscast and Stone’s pride got in the way and he wanted her to complete the performance. Her forced, not believable portrayal brings the whole film down, and I guess it’s not entirely her fault, but she could have been stronger to go outside her beliefs for a couple scenes.