Celebrating the best of Peter Parker’s rogues gallery
Well, Spider-Man: No Way Home has made itself known to every man, woman and child with one of the biggest global openings of all time. Besides obliterating any chance other current films had to find their audience and turning screenings all over the country into potential Covid parties with help from the rapid emergence of the Omicron variant, the new Spider-Man movie is a lot of fun. The movie is undoubtedly the weakest of the MCU Spider-Man trilogy thanks to a sloppy plot which comes apart with one pull of the thread. As a fan boy experience however, no lover of Spider-Man could have asked for more.
As much of a healthy distance as I have towards most Marvel efforts, even I have to admit to the high levels of surreal joy I experienced at watching all of these characters encounter one other. This was especially true for the parade of Spidey villains, each of which were given introductions and moments befitting both the characters and the brilliant actors portraying them. In honor of this reunion of baddies, I thought I’d take a look at a highlight from each actor’s storied career and in honor of them and the fantastic work they continue to do.
Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy
Michael B. Jordan may be the star of this 2019 true life drama, but Foxx is without question its soul. This story of a young lawyer (Jordan) who travels to Alabama in order to help plead the case of a man (Foxx) sitting on death row for a crime he didn’t commit may not have been the awards darling many were expecting it to be, but it did give Foxx one of his richest roles to date. As Walter, the Oscar winner is so incredibly heartbreaking. His portrayal of a man who has spent years resigning himself to the fact that his fate is sealed is some of Foxx’s best work to date. The actor gives everything he has in showing his character’s fear and vulnerability when it comes to believing he may actually have a future outside of those walls. Politically, Just Mercy isn’t a film about the death penalty. Instead, it looks at the concept of justice from a variety of angles and asks its audience to become reacquainted with their own definition of it.
Rhys Ifans in She’s Funny That Way
It was a long wait for cinephiles between Peter Bogdanovich films, but the 2015 comedy She’s Funny That Way was worth it. The story of a Broadway director (Owen Wilson) who sleeps with a call girl (Imogen Poots) only to be found out by his leading man (Ifans) who threatens to tell the director’s wife (Kathryn Hahn) was one of the surprises of the year, for those who watched it at least. The movie blends farce, banter and the kind of old school Hollywood love that Bogdanovich has spent decades making a name for himself in. The cast (which also includes Jennifer Aniston as a prickly psychiatrist) is a collective hoot, but it’s Ifans who really has one of the most delectable roles as the troublemaking Broadway actor. As Seth, he’s the film’s slimiest character, a trait the actor proudly gives his all to and soars at, especially in the scene during a dress rehearsal when he shoots Wilson look to say: “I’ve got ya now!”
Thomas Haden-Church in Smart People
Admittedly, it’s hard to fully latch on this 2008 indie comedy at first glance. Dennis Quaid stars as a crotchety college professor raising a type A daughter (Elliott Page) and a directionless son (Ashton Holmes). Soon a medical emergency brings into hiss life a beautiful doctor (Sarah Jessica Parker) and his adopted misfit brother (Haden-Church). Even if the characters are hard to embrace immediately, the humorously-titled Smart People ends up being a witty and endearing comedy about the messes people can become when left to their own neurotic devices. By far the film’s most indispensable character remains Haden-Church’s, who seems more in touch with reality despite being the movie’s most seemingly degenerate figure. The role is right up the actor’s alley playing up his one-of-a-kind comedy skills while also offering some surprising depth. His scenes as Quaid’s driver make for some of the funniest moments of the actor’s career.
Alfred Molina in The Hoax
It really is too bad that 2006’s The Hoax, the true story of Clifford Irving (Richard Gere), the author who tried to convince everyone he had written the only authorized biography on Howard Hughes, didn’t take off like it should’ve given how great its leading man is in it. Based on one of the most elaborate schemes of the decade, The Hoax is a thrilling and somewhat breezy offering from director Lasse Hallstrom, who adopts a playfulness to the film, making it even more energetic than it already is. As Dick Suskind, Molina is the perfect sidekick to Clifford and matches all of the latter’s bravado with some deft comic timing and on point neuroses. Molina has always been one of the film’s world’s most dependable actors and here, he manages both comedy and a touching amount of pathos that really gives the film some soul. Had The Hoax been more widely seen, there’s little doubt it could have launched Molina towards greater things.
Willem Dafoe in Fireflies in the Garden
It took a long time for this indie drama to find a release date stateside, which was a shame since it offers an eclectic group of actors doing some outstanding work. When the sudden death of a family matriarch (Julia Roberts) hits a family with already compromised ties, it forces a son (Ryan Reynolds) to rethink his relationship with his domineering father (Willem Dafoe). This gorgeous film sits smack dab in the dysfunctional family realm, but offers a slightly different take thanks to its central premise; namely what happens when the person who has held everyone together is gone? It’s Dafoe’s performance which makes the quest for the answer a compelling one. His patriarch is seen as strict to the point of monstrous in flashbacks while is shown searching for any kind of peace or reconciliation he can find in the present. As the movie’s most formidable presence, the actor crafts a character who doesn’t beg for sympathy while making sure those watching Fireflies in the Garden understand him.