#285. Jennifer Connelly

In the world of child actors, very few last long enough to continue working in the industry. Sure, there are exceptions; actors and actresses who eventually develop their craft into award-winning performances. Most people could count the number of these exceptions on one hand. This begs the question: what helps a child actor eventually arrive at success? It is my opinion that the earlier a child actor can work with an excellent director, the greater their chances are of achieving recognition later in life (should they not be hindered by alcohol or drug addiction before then). One of these anomalies is Jennifer Connelly. Her very first role in film was in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) when she was only 14. She’s only gone up from there. This week’s two films look at Jennifer Connelly’s best roles.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

While Sergio Leone’s crime drama was her first role, many consider Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) to be her breakout performance. That being said, there was plenty more to be desired for her acting. Fortunately, she has managed to stay out of the limelight partly because of her heavy involvement in independent films. Granted, this is often seen as the reason why she mostly appears in darker and more nudity-filled films (which may also be tied to shedding the “child actor” label), but it’s what eventually landed her in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). If audiences didn’t consider her a serious actress before this film, they certainly do now. A decade and a half later, she would team up with Aronofsky again for the Biblical epic, Noah (2014), but most claim their previous collaboration as one of their best.

Harry (Jared Leto) spends most of his time shooting heroin with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Because it is such an expensive addiction, they decide to turn to drug dealing in order to pay for the habit, as well as to realize their dreams of starting a business, becoming a clothing designer, and moving out of the slums, respectively. At the same time, Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), is convinced that she has been chosen to appear on TV and takes drastic measures to lose weight so she can wear a favorite dress again. Through this process, she becomes addicted to amphetamines while her son and his posse find their own unwholesome fates, including hospitalization, incarceration, and prostitution. In a hallucination, Sara imagines that the world is all right for her, her son, and his girlfriend. That dream is far from the truth.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

Another big-name director who cast Connelly in their films was none other than Ron Howard. We all have forgotten about the regrettable The Dilemma (2011), but Jennifer Connelly likely wouldn’t have appeared in that film had she not impressed Howard earlier in her career with her work in Inventing the Abbotts (1997). This inspiration is what led him to cast her, along with Russell Crowe and Ed Harris, in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001). Not only did this film win Best Picture and Best Director, but it garnered Jennifer Connelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She had already worked with Ed Harris on his directorial debut: Pollock (2000), portraying the mistress of Jackson Pollock (who himself was played by Ed Harris), but it took many years before she appeared in another film across from Russell Crowe: the aforementioned Noah.

John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a promising mathematics student at Princeton University in the late 1940’s. Because of the high hopes for his career, he is under large amounts of stress to publish, but he wants to publish something original, not just a derivative work. While at a bar with his mathematics friends, he develops a new idea that leads to his publication of the Nash equilibrium (a modified game theory). Meanwhile, he falls in love with, and eventually marries, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). At first, their life together is idyllic, but soon Alicia discovers that John’s roommate in college never existed, and John’s “boss” from the Pentagon also doesn’t exist. Despite John being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and his refusal to take his medication, Alicia stays with him and helps him to an eventual recovery.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 key Jennifer Connelly roles

Bacon #: 2 (A Beautiful Mind / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#283. Ewan McGregor

When does an actor become recognizable? Is it when they are cast in a series of films beloved by their respective fandoms? Is it when they have an award-winning performance? Is it when they have appeared in enough films that they just “become known”? It seems that the convergence of two or more of these factors are what usually thrust an actor across the threshold of being an “unknown” to being a recognizable name in Hollywood. Whatever the specific reason, Ewan McGregor is a recognizable actor today. Maybe it was from his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy? Maybe it was from being in an Oscar-nominated film or two? Maybe it was from the long list of acting credits to his name. This week’s two films highlight some of the roles that made Ewan McGregor a recognizable actor.

Moulin Rouge!Moulin Rouge!
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

In the world of film, sometimes acting isn’t enough. The most versatile actors can sing and dance, but these skills can likely be taught so that an actor can fill the role they were meant to play. For Ewan McGregor, he clearly has a recognizable voice, as shown by a few animated films that utilized his voice acting talent. Robots (2005) and Valiant (2005) put McGregor in the lead role for their respective films, but this was at least four years after he truly proved his vocal prowess. There have been quite a few films (and even films about these types of films) where an actor or actress has their singing voice dubbed over (West Side Story (1961) being a prime example of this). In Moulin Rouge! (2001), it is clear that the actors are using their own voices to sing. McGregor’s distinctive voice would definitely present a challenge to be dubbed over, that much is certain.

A cross between love at first sight and a case of mistaken identities, Christian (Ewan McGregor) finds himself smitten with Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star of the Moulin Rouge. The confusion came when Christian was at the dance hall to pitch an idea for his theatre friends and Satine thought that he was the mysterious Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh). Unfortunately, once the air was cleared, the damage was already done. Christian and Satine fall in love, but now the financial future of the Moulin Rouge is in jeopardy, seeing as the Duke wants Satine for himself if he is to provide his patronage to the dance hall. On the surface, Satine agrees to this, but only on the condition that Christian’s play is performed. But what Christian and the Duke don’t know is that Satine is dying from tuberculosis, a condition made worse by her singing in the play.

TrainspottingTrainspotting
Year: 1996
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

Years before Ewan McGregor did his best Alec Guinness impression in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace(1999), he showed that he had the physical dedication to his roles in Trainspotting (1996). Obviously the type of body training needed for action films like Star Wars and The Island (2005) is different than losing a lot of weight to play a heroin addict, but the commitment is still the same. And while Trainspotting definitely had its trippy moments, much like Big Fish (2003) would later in McGregor’s career; it was still delightfully dark with its comedy. We’ve seen McGregor come back to the dark comedy with I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) and The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), but I, for one, am curious if this year’s Trainspotting 2 (2017) will continue the unique look at drugs that its predecessor did twenty years ago.

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) is just one of a group of heroin addicts who have become friends. Of his own volition, he decides to go off of heroin, but does so via opium in an incident that takes place in “the worst toilet in Scotland”. Once the withdrawal ends, he hooks up with a girl who happened to be underage, thus pushing him back into heroin. In this daze, Renton and his friends end up killing the infant daughter of Allison (Susan Vidler) through sheer neglect. While the rest of the crew gets in trouble for shoplifting, Renton is pardoned with the caveat that he has to get clean. Unfortunately, this causes him to overdose and his family locks him in his childhood room to endure the withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations. Now that he’s on the road to recovery, the gang wants to get back together for one last drug deal that could net them a lot of money. Renton obliges, but ends up having the last laugh.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 excellent Ewan McGregor performances

Bacon #: 2 (Valiant / John Cleese -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)

#280. Brad Pitt

How does an actor become a household name? Most of the time, this occurs not because of their acting, but because of the things they do off-screen. This is a bit of a Catch-22 because, in order to be notable for their off-screen activities, they need to have some semblance of on-screen success. Perhaps it’s the schadenfreude in us all that attracts us to the personal lives of movie stars, because deep down we want them to fail. We want to see them come back down to our level. This would explain the almost constant attention that tabloids give to actors like Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt. That’s not to say they aren’t successful actors, it’s more that our society makes them household names because of the notoriety of their personal lives. An added benefit to this is increased attendance at their films. This week’s two films look at the work of a household name actor: Brad Pitt.

Se7enSe7en
Year: 1995
Rating: R
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

One of the draws that Brad Pitt utilized in his early career was that of his sex-appeal. The “pretty boy” used his looks in such films as Thelma & Louise (1991) and Interview with the Vampire (1994), both of which did not necessarily showcase his acting talent. Almost all at once, Pitt started to flex his acting muscle, showing the depth of his talent in such films as Se7en (1994) and 12 Monkeys (1995). While the latter of these two films earned him his first acting nomination (for Best Supporting Actor), the former was the first in a series of collaborations with director David Fincher. After Se7en, Pitt starred in Fight Club (1999), further proving his commitment to these grittier roles. By this point in his career, most people had heard of Brad Pitt, but he still had many more years to refine his craft from there.

Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) has just moved to a new town with his wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). As part of his transfer, he’s been assigned to work with aging detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). While the two detectives have drastically different methods for investigating cases, they’ve nevertheless been placed together to find a mysterious killer who is using the seven deadly sins as themes for his murders. Following this thread, they find a suspect in John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who runs away upon their first meeting. The two detectives arrive moments too late to stop two more murders, but now John has given himself up and offers to lead them to the final two murders. Along the way, Doe admits that he’s jealous of David’s wife, egging him on to become the penultimate “wrath” in his string of serial murders.

The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 166 minutes / 2.77 hours

Action and comedy worked well for Brad Pitt in the years after Fight Club. From the Ocean’s Eleven (2001) trilogy to Troy (2004) and from Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) to Inglorious Basterds (2009), Pitt proved that he could run the gamut in a variety of roles. Joining up with David Fincher again, he earned his first nomination for Best Actor with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). This was followed by his second nomination in 2011 for Moneyball. By this point in his career, he had turned to producing films, earning him three Best Picture nominations for Moneyball (2011), 12 Years a Slave (2013), and The Big Short (2016), all three of which gave him small acting roles (but only 12 Years a Slave earning him his first Oscar). If people don’t know who Brad Pitt is by now, they haven’t been paying attention.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born near the turn of the 20th century as an old man. As time passed normally for the rest of the world, Benjamin aged in reverse. Once he was young enough to walk again, Benjamin ran across a seven-year-old girl by the name of Daisy (Cate Blanchett). Becoming younger and stronger, Benjamin takes to sea and is involved in World War II on a tugboat that comes across a sunken military boat, as well as a German U-Boat. Returning home, Benjamin meets up with Daisy, who has a successful career as a dancer. After an accident ends Daisy’s career, she is frustrated with Benjamin’s decreasing age, as well as her own limitations. Years later, when they both arrive at close to the same age, they finally start a life together. Unfortunately, as Benjamin becomes younger, they end their relationship. Eventually, the elderly Daisy cares for Benjamin as he reaches the “start” of his life.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best Brad Pitt roles

Bacon #: 1 (Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

#278. Jesse Eisenberg

Some actors just seem to appear out of nowhere. There can be many reasons for this, including having a breakout role in their debut film, being paired to a successful filmmaker’s masterpiece, or even just appearing in a lot of films. Jesse Eisenberg seems to fall into the latter two categories of this list, having appeared in 2-4 films almost every year from 2005 until now. This seems to be a similar technique to Domhnall Gleeson, who has had some very recognizable roles in films as of late. As for Eisenberg, he seemed to hit his stride in 2009 by capitalizing on his ability to play vulnerable, smart, and often comically awkward main characters. While this may have typecast him somewhat, there always seems to be a need for these types of characters, as many “non-jocks” can relate to them. This week’s two films highlight some of the best of Jesse Eisenberg’s current career.

ZombielandZombieland
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours

Perhaps the reason that Eisenberg’s characters come off as awkward and neurotic stems from his personal life and his affliction with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Channeling this into his characters has certainly produced notable results, one of the most prominent being that of the Spix’s macaw, Blu in Rio (2011) and Rio 2 (2014). However, Eisenberg might not have gotten that role had he not given an excellent performance in Adventureland (2009). With his comedic talent clear, he eventually teamed up with his Adventureland co-star, Kristen Stewart, again in 2015’s American Ultra. While Adventureland made his name recognizable in the romantic comedy genre, his starring role in Zombieland (2009) cemented his name as one of the comedic actors to keep an eye on for years to come.

If “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg) has a piece of advice for you, it’s Rule #1: Cardio. If he has anything else to add to that, it’s Rule #2: Double Tap. These rules, along with others, have kept him alive during the zombie apocalypse. After teaming up with “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), the two men are conned out of their weapons and car by “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin). Despite this, Columbus and Tallahassee chase after the girls, but for different reasons. Tallahassee wants his stuff back, but Columbus has fallen for Wichita and longs to woo her, even though they’re just trying to survive the end of the world. When the group finally arrives at their destination, an amusement park in Los Angeles by the name of “Pacific Playland”, Columbus finds that his chance to get close to Wichita is also his chance to save her from attacking zombies.

The Social Networksocial_network_film_poster
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

While the neurotic stereotype works well for Jesse Eisenberg’s comedic characters, the remaining characters he has played certainly fall into the intelligently confident stereotype. In fact, these characters’ intelligence is almost seen as a character flaw, as they end up feeling superior to everyone else. A good example of this trait/flaw was his portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), who used his intelligence to combat one of the most powerful beings on Earth. On the flip side of the intelligence coin is that of the con-man. 2016 also saw Eisenberg reprise his role of J. Daniel Atlas in Now You See Me 2, the sequel to Now You See Me (2013). Despite many of these characters being fictional, the one, real-life intelligent character he has portrayed on film was none other than Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010).

During the fall semester of 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) created a website called Facemash in order to spite a former girlfriend. Due to the site’s exponential popularity, it gained the attention of Harvard’s disciplinary board, since Zuckerberg hacked into college databases to steal photographs of the female students. He also gained the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), who want him to code a dating website that’s exclusive to Harvard students. It is at this point when Mark gets an idea for a social media website and asks his friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) for a loan to get it off the ground. Thefacebook quickly takes off and soon expansion efforts are underway to bring the site to other colleges. In the process, new people are brought on board, old friends are turned away, and legal action is taken. All this just because a girl dumped Mark Zuckerberg.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 engaging Eisenberg roles

Bacon #: 1 (Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)

#268. Kevin Costner

There are very few Actor/Directors who are polarized by critics. Most have a range of success that they are usually associated with. Directors who consistently make great films are sometimes allowed to create a “rare miss” with a film that flopped. Actors who are nominated and win multiple Oscars for their craft might only occasionally be nominated for and win a Golden Raspberry Award. It stands to reason that the opposite would be true for less-than-exemplary Actors and Directors to sometimes rise up into the realm of success. And while there are plenty of these Actors and Directors who occupy the middle-ground of the film world, being neither critically panned or praised, very few can manage to occupy both spaces nearly simultaneously. Kevin Costner is just one example of an Actor/Director who has done this and this week’s two films focus on his success.

Dances with WolvesDances with Wolves
Year: 1990
Rating: PG-13
Length: 181 minutes / 3.02 hours

While Kevin Costner broke out as an actor in the 1980’s, he really hit his stride near the beginning of the 1990’s. His first foray into Directing was with Dances with Wolves (1990), a film that garnered him two Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture, as well as a nod for Best Actor. However, just a single year later, he won the Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor with his performance in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1992). He would be nominated again for this unwanted award for his role in Waterworld (1996) before achieving the trifecta of the antithesis of his Dances with Wolves success by winning Worst Director, Worst Picture, and Worst Actor for The Postman (1998). Fortunately and unfortunately, this would be the last time he would be nominated for any awards, be they bad or good.

After his suicidal run at the Confederate army failed to kill him but turned the tide of the battle for the Union, First Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) has his injuries treated and is allowed to choose his next assignment due to his “bravery”. Dunbar decides to head west to see the untamed lands of the United States before they become civilized. Consequently, he finds himself as the sole soldier in charge of Fort Sedgewick, a remote outpost surrounded by hostile Sioux Indians. Gradually, Dunbar and the tribe of natives come to an understanding which eventually leads to Dunbar joining the Sioux, earning the name “Dances With Wolves” in the process. When he returns to Fort Sedgewick, he finds that the Army has reclaimed it and now his new way of life is threatened. In order to protect his new family, he decides to desert the Army for good and live amongst the land.

Field of DreamsField of Dreams
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

If there are any films that fall into that middle ground of “not good and not bad” for Kevin Costner, they would have to be the ones that are tied to baseball. Along with his penchant for country music and an occasional western, there have been quite a few “American” films in Costner’s career, few coming close to the lovability of his baseball player roles. In the late 1980’s he started with Bull Durham (1988), quickly following up with Field of Dreams (1989), thus cementing his role in the American baseball classic. After his disappointing career slump in the mid-to-late 1990’s, he hit the field again in For the Love of the Game (1999). More recently, The Upside of Anger (2005) has rounded out his “baseball career”, leaving us to wonder if he will return to it any time in the future.

If you build it, he will come,” is the whispered voice that comes to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) as he saunters through his Iowa cornfield one night. The “it” the whisper references is revealed to Ray in a vision shortly afterward and soon he’s destroying part of his crop to build a baseball field. While this does not bode well for the financially strapped Kinsella family, the field soon becomes populated with famous baseball players from the disgraced 1919 White Sox. More whispers lead Ray to visit Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) and Archibald Graham (Frank Whaley), both of whom are tied to baseball and have unfulfilled wishes met. Of course, all of this is merely setting Ray up to meet his estranged father, the “he” in the original whisper. As Ray plays catch one last time with his dad, the financial troubles of his family appear to be over as a long line of cars forms filled with people who want to see the ghostly players.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Costner classics

Bacon #: 1 (JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#264. Geoffery Rush

One of the rarities in the film world is an actor who has their breakout role in middle age. Most actors start young, in their twenties, and work on their acting craft on the big screen until they eventually become the distinguished, middle-aged actor with plenty of critical accolades. Perhaps the reason we don’t see the breakout middle-aged stars is because it’s rare to have an actor refine and master his craft on the stage before making the jump to the big screen. Even actors who start on television have that ability to be seen by a wide audience before they transition to films. The limited audiences of the theatre limit the amount of exposure an actor will have, thus making his arrival in movies as fresh as if he’d never acted before at all. This week’s two films highlight the breakout and continued film success of Geoffery Rush.

ShineShine
Year: 1996
Rating: PG-13
Length: 105 minutes / 1.75 hours

While Geoffery Rush spent his early career on the stage, he did make a few appearances in films and television in the 1980’s. However, it wasn’t until 1996 when Rush garnered the attention of everyone with his leading role in Shine. Almost a decade after his last film performance, Geoffery Rush was able to win the Oscar for Best Actor with his portrayal of piano genius, David Helfgott. This was only the beginning of his success. His classical training in the theatre was quite clear with future roles that also garnered him two more nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor, respectively. Shakespeare in Love (1998) managed to win Best Picture for that year, but Quills (2000) featured Rush more prominently as the Marquis de Sade. It is quite impressive to be this recognized in only four years, especially since he was in his mid-40’s when Shine was released.

Ducking into a restaurant to escape the downpour outside, the employees sense that something is wrong with this bespectacled man. One of the employees takes him back to his hotel room, where he tries to energetically convince her that he is a musical genius. The man is none other than David Helfgott (Geoffery Rush), a talented pianist who gained his skills through an overbearing father who didn’t approve of any failure from his son. After a falling out between himself and his father, David builds upon his natural talent, eventually entering a competition with a difficult piece: Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto. During the performance, he has a mental breakdown and undergoes electric shock therapy in a psychiatric hospital as a result. While this leaves him in a muddled state, his piano skills remain intact, eventually convincing the restaurant owner to hire him as a nightly pianist.

The King’s SpeechThe King's Speech
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours

Upon arriving at the new millennium, Geoffery Rush’s roles began to change. With his Oscar nominations seemingly behind him, he took on the role of Captain Hector Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). This was the first time I recognized Rush as an actor, having never seen him in his earlier roles that garnered him so much critical attention. For the next few years, he would reprise this role, and continues to do so to this day, with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) arriving in theaters this year. Still, this didn’t mean the Academy forgot about him completely. A decade after his last nomination, he received a nod for Best Supporting Actor for his work in The King’s Speech (2010), losing to Christian Bale and his performance in The Fighter (2010).

After a somewhat disastrous speech to the closing of the British Empire Exhibition, the stuttering Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is finally convinced by his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) to seek help. This help comes in the form of speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush), who uses some unique methods to help the Prince fight his stuttering. While Albert doesn’t feel the methods are working, Lionel wagers him that the Duke of York can recite a Shakespearean soliloquy perfectly, which he does. After the death of his father, and his older brother abdicating the throne, Albert soon finds himself as the King of England, George VI. One of the important aspects of the monarchy is an annual radio address to the people. With this incredibly important speech coming up, King George VI relents and uses Lionel to help him through the address, executing it almost flawlessly.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Geoffery Rush performances

Bacon #: 2 (Green Lantern / Tim Robbins -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)

#262. Tom Cruise

Say what you will about his personal life, be it the tabloid headline-inducing relationships or his involvement with Scientology, but Tom Cruise has been in a lot of movies. But what seems to be the unique element to his prolific career is the fact that most of his movies were recognized as “Tom Cruise films”; that is, films that star Tom Cruise. While his early career has had a few minor roles, and his later career also includes the occasional bit part (via a cameo), most of Tom Cruise’s roles have been in the leading capacity for the majority of his career. Perhaps the genius of his unique personal life frequently making the headlines of grocery store checkout lines is that we are often reminded that he is starring in a new film sometime soon. This week’s two films highlight some of the varied work that Tom Cruise has done on the big screen.

                                         Mission Impossible: Ghost ProtocolMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours

Perhaps what has given Tom Cruise his success is two-fold: being cast by a lot of legendary directors and a knack for action films. Quite early in his career, he worked with Francis Ford Coppola on The Outsiders (1983), which no doubt opened the door for him working with Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money (1986)), Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men (1992)), Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut (1999)), Steven Spielberg (Minority Report (2002) & War of the Worlds (2005)), and J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III (2006)). While there are plenty of other directors who have tied Cruise into their movies, the theme that is often seen in a fair number of his roles is that he excels at action. One of his franchises that epitomizes this is that of the Mission: Impossible series. With five films under his belt as Ethan Hunt, this 20+ year franchise helped to get him where he is today.

Because of a semi-botched mission to extract some information from the Kremlin that resulted in the famous Russian building being destroyed, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team have been disavowed from the United States via the “Ghost Protocol”. Now it is up to them to find the perpetrator of the Kremlin bombing, a mysterious man who goes by the name of “Cobalt.” In their pursuit, the team finds that Cobalt is attempting to strike up an international war between the United States and Russia since his new target is to obtain Russian launch codes for their nuclear missiles. Intercepting the codes in Dubai, all of the members of the IMF team are prepared to do what it takes to stop Cobalt. Unfortunately, as their plans begin to fail, it’s down to the wire to stop an incoming nuclear missile from detonating on San Francisco.

Rain ManRain Man
Year: 1988
Rating: R
Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours

While Cruise has proven that he can go the distance for action films, he has also shown that he can excel in dramas as well. In fact, his three nominations for an acting Oscar have been from dramas. Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire (1996), and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) gave him the nominations from the Academy, but none of them earned him the coveted gold statue. That’s not to say that these (and other) films haven’t won big at the Oscars. For instance, Rain Man (1988) ended up being the Best Picture for that year. Of course, once again the mark of famous directors is at play here, as many of Tom Cruise’s more dramatic roles have been in the films guided by the experienced hands of a skilled director. It’s no wonder that Rain Man also won an Oscar for Director, Barry Levinson.

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is one of those fast-talking, deeply-in-debt scumbags who is always trying to break it big by dealing in less-than-exemplary deals. His recent deal quickly falling through places him many tens of thousands of dollars in debt, which is why he is pleased to hear that his rich and estranged father has died. Unfortunately, none of the money of the estate is bequeathed to him. Instead, this money is willed to a mental institution where Charlie finds he has a heretofore unknown older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Raymond is severely autistic, but also has the qualities of a savant that Charlie tries to exploit to make money in Las Vegas counting cards. While Raymond’s strict routines stresses the brothers’ relationship, they eventually grow close enough that Charlie no longer cares about the money and would rather have a brother than be rich.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 classic Cruise roles

Bacon #: 1 (A Few Good Men / Kevin Bacon)