"Sincerely, actors, movies, your favorite fan"

Dear Ralph Fiennes,


If I ever have the pleasure to meet you, I promise to address you as “Rafe Fines”.


You’ve said, “The process of making a film is a mad lottery. Whenever you get the feeling that you’re making something special, you have to quickly squash it because you are so often proved wrong.”

You have been nominated over fifty times in your film career but have never won an Oscar or Golden Globe. Your biggest accolade thus far is a Tony Award for Hamlet in 1995. Your villains in film have reached iconic status; your voice is as smooth and delicious as aged Scotch; your eyes and intellect entrance; and you have the breadth and depth on the same plateau as Daniel Day-Lewis. Here’s one top-ten list showcasing your talent:

Other personal favorites would include: The Duchess, The Invisible Women, and Grand Budapest Hotel. You do have your trademark expressions frozen in my mind.

The Pained Lover

Relationships are difficult, aren’t they? Especially when outside forces interfere with your all-consuming love. Who better than you to lament, mourn, suffocate, or repress your devotion for a lady on the screen?

The Powerful Boss

You ooze power and your haughty confidence makes anyone jump. I love your energy.

The intelligent, psychotic monster

Here’s where you shine. You are the epitome of Lucifer from Milton’s, Paradise Lost who  sermonizes, rationalizes, and justifies his case for descent. Ralph Fiennes, you’re not scary; you’re petrifying. How do you shed that horrible character and go back to Ralph Fiennes? When you wake up at 3:00a.m., and look into the mirror, I wonder what you think and who you see?

Daring, unexpected roles 

You have the ability to play diverse characters when you aren’t portraying the above archetype. Ralph, even with flops like The Avengers or Maid in Manhattan, I find you one of the more horrifying and stimulating actors working today.  As a director, I enjoyed The Invisible Women. I thought it a marvelous period piece. Looking forward to seeing you in Bond 24.

I remain faithfully,

Your Biggest Fan


Mr. Bright Eyes Top Ten

Plato said that the eyes are mirrors to the soul. I’ll assert a movie star’s charisma is in part due to their eyes. Blue eyes? They seem to get the most attention. Here’s my top ten list of actors throughout the decades whose eyes played a large role in their star power.

1. For Natasha, Chris Pine


Chris Pine’s pretty face would be nothing without those gorgeous blue eyes. Captain Kirk, I’m more than happy to follow you through the galaxy.

2. For Ruth, Toby Stephens


Here’s to a perfect Edward Rochester. Toby Stephens has British rugged-handsome down to an art form. Smart, beautiful to listen to, expressive–if you have visited Ruth’s site at Flixchatter, you’ve heard all about it. It must be his eyes.

3. James McAvoy


I have been impressed with James McAvoy’s acting in Atonement, Last King of Scotland, X-Men; his expressive face in Filth was dynamite. He makes any film better. Those eyes do it.

4. Mike Ealy 


Mike Ealy’s eyes. Wow. Give this man some serious roles to play! In Almost Human, he was just fine as Dorian. He plays in mediocre films, but when he walks into the room, he has a commanding presence. I’d love to see him play more interesting characters. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a drama which starred Djimon Hounsou and Mike Ealy?

5. Leonardo DiCaprio


Like him as an actor or not, you have to admit his eyes have shouted or cried or looked perplexed for too many decades now to ignore. I think he’s marvelous. My favorite Leonardo DiCaprio roles? The Aviator, Shutter Island, Django Unchained, Gangs of New York, Romeo and Juliet, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?–still one of the finest acting jobs given by a male.

6. Brad Pitt


Brad Pitt is too iconic to leave off a list featuring beautiful blue eyes. He’s been trying to look hairy and scruffy, downplaying his Apollo good looks for years, but he can’t hide. Those blue eyes have made him the superstar men and women both adore. Fight Club, Seven  or Troy, he just stands there looking at you with those eyes, and it’s okay.

7. Jared Leto


How blue are Jared Leto’s eyes? He’s fascinating to watch on the screen no matter which role: Mr. Nobody, Requiem for a Dream, or Dallas Buyers Club. 

8. Mel Gibson


In the 1980s and 90s, Mel Gibson was the most beautiful actor out there. His eyes, deeply brilliant and blue are a major part of his appeal. Have you seen him in The Bounty, Hamlet, or Conspiracy Theory? The reviews were mixed, but I think it’s underrated. The man has bad press, but he can act.


9. Paul Newman


Paul Newman is my favorite actor of all time. His blue eyes are legendary. As a philanthropist and honorable family man, not to mention he was a power-hitting actor, no one comes close as a Hollywood Star who deserves all the hype and accolades. Have you seen him in The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke? Just two of many fine films he’s associated with.

10. Frank Sinatra


O’ Blue Eyes began it all. Who doesn’t love the crooner?  He could act, too. I love him in The Manchurian Candidate, Guys and Dolls, Oceans 11, From Here to Eternity, and The Man with the Golden Arm.

These are mine–too many I left off the list. Which are your favorite bright-eyed stars?

actors, movies, oscars

What Makes a Great Actor? Ladies First

There are two kinds of actors out there. A great one transforms into a new identity and the other plays one character great. In both categories,  audiences clap, colleagues praise, statues gather dust, and some are knighted as national treasures. I love both types, and both types draw admiration from me for different reasons.


The British put out the best actresses. Dame Judi Dench is one. Judi is an actor who plays one type of role better than anyone else on the planet, the royal snob. Maggie Smith is a close second and funnier. Not only does Judi Dench specialize in playing queens and the matriarch of whatever, she has bitchiness down to an art form. Her scowl is legendary. Still, did you notice a soft side in her role as “M” in Skyfall? Did you notice her eyes worry and her mouth twitch when affronted? If you look hard enough, her expressions reveal a vulnerable, human side. That hardness is a mask. She’s doing her job efficiently, and so you don’t mind the supercilious side because haven’t we all felt at times like we’re surrounded by fools?


Shakespeare in Love (1998). Scowl? Check. Ubiquitous eyes? Check. Powerful and manipulative? Check.


This is one of my favorite British films, Her Majesty Mrs. Brown (1997). Billy Connolly is charming and virile as the Scottish servant who dares to confront and befriend the grieving Queen Victoria. If you like the Downton Abbey series, you would appreciate the upstairs/downstairs element in the plot. Here’s other films where she plays the same haughty role: Pride and Prejudice (2005), Importance of Being Ernest (2002), Notes on a Scandal (2006), and she is my favorite Lady Macbeth from 1979….


“Out damn spot! out, I say!” (V.i)

There are only three movies I’ve seen Judi Dench play a role where she was soft and sweet. The first was an exquisite film called Ladies in Lavender (2005) with Maggie Smith. Set in WWII, two sisters on the Cornish coast rescue a handsome, young Polish violinist. It was a tender, beautiful film. Second, the recent The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012).  A relevant film for baby-boomers everywhere. With an outstanding cast and unusual plot, it was a satisfying movie experience. See it even if you aren’t a baby-boomer, for it’s an universal love story involving multiple generations.


The third time I’ve seen Judi soft and whimsical was in the most un-typical film I ever thought I’d see Judi Dench in. Did you see her as the spirit in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)?


What a surprise! Good for her.

So Judi Dench for me is that actress who only has to do one thing great, and that’s her legacy. What about the other kind, the great actor? When I think of transforming performances, of actresses who can become different people–the more different the better, well, there are only a few who can do that . . . .

1. Meryl Streep. You knew that was coming, yes?


Best acting performance EVER. Sophie’s Choice (1982).

2. Kate Winslet.


Not because of Titanic, but because of The Reader (2008), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Revolutionary Road (2008).

3. Hillary Swank.

million dollar baby

MDB is a perfect film. It’s because of Hillary Swank. She is fearlessly transforming. Didn’t you believe she was a man in Boys Don’t Cry (1999)?

4. The last great actress living is Natalie Portman. From The Closer (2004) to V is for Vandetta (2005) to The Black Swan (2010), she is phenomenal. It is for Star Wars where she gained my respect!


She’s the only one in a cast of reputable actors who actually acted. Who can act in front of green screen? She did. Her joys, cries, and pain were believable. The men standing next to her were cardboard props or melodramatically unconvincing. (I blame Lucas.)

There are many, many actresses out there not on this brief list (sorry Cate Blanchett and Jody Foster) who have my respect, but if I had to pick only four great actresses, this is my list.

What do you think?