And so the film year ends and another one begins, with all the lessons we learn't thrown out the window, ready to anticipate every film as a possible classic - ok, we have learnt a little but there's no harm in a little hype and anticipation...
The Oscars, as is generally the case nowadays proceeded with few genuine surprises and you may argue, they are largely irrelevant and this is probably true but they remain the only mainstream awards show (film or otherwise), which consistently mixes the blend of tradition, art and populist output - sometimes to great affect and often to it's detriment. Either way, it's the biggest annual event depicting modern (Western) culture and there was one particular bright spark emitting from this year's winners.
I am not American but when I ponder what encompasses 'American' in regards to actors, I think of Jeff Bridges - a man who brings a subtle stoicism to each of his characters through his naturally lazy but charming vocal drawl, chiseled yet knowing face and a surprising amount of effortless energy. Indeed his 'effortlessness' has always been his strength, yet conversely has prevented him from being compared to his iconic Hollywood peers. However, one assumes that being slightly under-the-radar is a path Bridges is most content with and has consequently allowed him to have such a fruitful and respected career.
Like the Oscars, Jeff Bridges' film career has been a consistent blend of art and populist pictures, often merging the two. His supporting character roles have brought much required energy to his early 70's works, The Last Picture Show (1971) and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), the silly but fun thriller remake, The Vanishing (1993), through to providing a foil (if slightly underwritten) for Tony Stark's Iron Man (2008). He has successfully managed to add numerous layers to such cinematic cliches as an American president, the superhero nemesis, the psycho killer, a grieving parent, the hippie, an alien outsider and the weary musician (twice).
For the record, here are my five favourite Jeff Bridges performances, although clearly this could change on any given day or mood:
01 Jack Baker in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) - this is distinctly that Jeff Bridges effortless charm.
02 Jeffrey Lebowski AKA'The Dude' in The Big Lebowski (1998) - iconic and so revered, it has inspired a religion...
03 Ted Cole in The Door in the Floor (2004) - an opportunity to see him really push his dramatic acting chops in this harrowing but grounded feature.
04 Bad Blake in Crazy Heart (2009) - another chance to showcase his musical talent and a much deserved Best Actor Academy Award.
05 Barney Cousins in The Vanishing (1993) - I was going to go with his President role in The Contender (2000) but this film is fresher in my mind. A fun if deeply flawed thriller, Bridges adds a typically strange complexity to this kidnapper.
Coming up in 2010: blockbuster sequel Tron Legacy and he's back with the hardworking Coen brothers for a remake of the John Wayne western True Grit (although apparently this version will be much more faithful to the original novel so knowing the Coens and westerns, probably more violent!) - seems like another year of quintessential Jeff Bridges.
Anyone have a favourite Jeff Bridges performance or is he an actor who flies under-the-radar a little too much for your liking?