August MVPs: Steve Coogan and Danny McBride

Posted on August 20, 2008 at 8:00 am

This month’s Most Valuable Cinematic Player award has to be shared by Steve Coogan and Danny McBride, who each deliver not one but two different magnificently hilarious performances in two August releases.
steve coogan.jpgSteve Coogan, is often underrated as an actor because he is so good as a comedian. But in movies like “24 Hour Party People” and “Coffee and Cigarettes” he shows his extraordinary mastery of tone and precision in defining a character. His roles in the two movies he appears in this month are very similar — both are wild satires about show business and in both he plays inexperienced directors whose productions are out of control. But in “Hamlet 2” and “Tropic Thunder” Coogan brilliantly calibrates his performances to fit the character and the story. In “Hamlet 2,” his demented neediness and giddy sense of joy is comedy heaven. In “Tropic Thunder,” his character unravels in a symphony of panic and desperation. Coogan is an exceptionally gifted and appealing actor whose utter commitment, fearlessness, and insight are as important to his performances as his impeccable comedic timing.
mcbride.jpgDanny McBride plays an affable drug dealer in “Pineapple Express” and a wild-eyed special effects demolition expert on “Tropic Thunder.” Both films call on him to work through a range of situations and emotional temperatures, sometimes with split-second reversals, and he is flawless. Whether displaying demented excess as a man who can hardly believe his good fortune in being paid to blow stuff up or shifting loyalties from one minute to the next in an over-the-top shoot-out, McBride is fully invested in the character and very, very funny.
Special mention: Emma Stone of “Superbad,” who is terrific in two films opening on the same day “The House Bunny” (as a good-hearted girl with some social skills problems) and “The Rocker” (as a brooding bass player).

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Great Characters: Eve Arden

Posted on April 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

You know the character of the leading lady’s wisecracking best friend? No one ever filled that role better than Eve Arden (real name: Eunice Quedens), whose birthday we celebrate today. Seen-it-all but not cynical, she was the ideal sidekick for stars like Jimmy Stewart (“Anatomy of a Murder”), Katharine Hepburn (“Stage Door”), or Joan Crawford (she was Oscar-nominated for “Mildred Pierce”). On radio and then on television, she played “Our Miss Brooks,” the teacher who often battled with crusty principal Mr. Conklin and a crush on meek science teacher Mr. Boynton. It was this role that inspired her appearance as the principal in “Grease.” (more…)

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