A safe bet to scoop the Best Actor Oscar at this year's Academy Awards, for his blistering performance as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey continues his newly earned reputation as one of the finest and most exciting leading men working in film today. McConaughey has left his rom-com days as the delectable, though ultimately clichéd, Prince Charming behind him, having instead chosen to play more chilling, disturbing, gritty characters that would leave any member of his devoted fan base of adorning teenage girls positively squeamish. The square-jawed Texan was previously dubbed "Matthew Mahogany" by noted BBC film critic Mark Kermode in relation to what Kermode saw as McConaughey's wooden performances in any number of vacuous rom coms. Kermode, however, has since done a U-turn and dubbed now refers to McConaughey as "Matthew McConaissance".
Let's look at 5 actors who could do with a "McConaissance".
At 51 years of age, Tom Cruise is still the most instantly recognizable movie star on the planet, his status as the most bankable star in Hollywood still very much in tact. It's been a long time, though, since we've seen Cruise get his teeth stuck in to a meaty, three-dimensional character; his devotion to science-fiction flicks such as War of the Worlds, Oblivion and the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow, along with action thrillers such as the Mission Impossible series and Jack Reacher, have dominated his output over the last ten years.
There's no doubt about it: with the right role, the right script, the right director, Tom Cruise can be magnificent. Don't take my word for it: just look at his powerful performance as a wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran in Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July; his turn in Rain Man, in which he develops from being a brash, unsympathetic, ruthless businessman to a loving brother, all the while holding his own opposite the great Dustin Hoffmann.
All that said, Cruise has never been better than as Frank TJ Mackey, a misogynistic motivational speaker in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia.
After a series of vacuous, "run and shout" action flicks, Cruise has relaxed into being more a performer and less an actor.
It's almost ten years since Bill Murray made a comeback that even Lazarus would balk at. The Chicagoan and Saturday Night Live legend stunned us all with a beautifully nuanced and understated performance in Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation. Since then, Murray has alternated between voice work and being Wes Anderson's hand for hire in films like The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
While his performance as US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in last year's Hyde Park on Hudson drew plaudits from critics, there's a feeling that Murray hasn't climbed the heights of Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation and Jim Jarmusch's much-underrated Broken Flowers: three great performances in which Murray's inimitable dry humor and deadpan delivery give way to a style of acting that is effortless and full of heart.
How the mighty fall. Once described by no less an authority than Billy Connolly as "the funniest person alive", it's been some time since Robin Williams has jumped on our screens and blinded us with his manic comedy and intensely moving performances. As Vietnam DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam, Mr. Keating in Dead Poet's Society, psychotherapist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting, or his creepy, thrilling turn in One Hour Photo, Williams has always gravitated towards characters with a strong sense of the society that they inhabit.
So why, why, oh why is he attached to Night at the Museum 3? The sound of a cash register might give some idea why.
While Colin Firth found Oscar glory in The King's Speech and delivered a career best performance in A Single Man, his Bridget Jones co-star has been resigned to romantic comedy purgatory. Hugh Grant might not have the acting chops or career interest to mount a comeback, but the actor has been fiercely vocal as an activist, particularly during the phone hacking scandal that brought down the News of the World. So why has Hugh Grant not become the Robert Redford or Warren Beatty of his generation, as George Clooney has? Why has he not thrown his name behind projects that encapsulate his interests and get behind films with big ideas onto the big screen?
Once the golden boy of 80's drama comedies (Say Anything) and 90's cult flicks (Grosse Point Blank, Being John Malkovich), Cusack's career has dived in recent years, a series of bad horror films even worse comedies sullying the filmography of a once fine actor. Like Bill Murray, Cusack is a Chicagoan with a dry, sardonic humor that is hilarious without trying to be funny; like Hugh Grant, Cusack is a political animal, a card- carrying democrat attuned to current affairs like few in Hollywood.
Again, it begs the question: why have we not had a passion project from this man?
Words: Philip Cummins