Top 10 : Favorite Actors

Major Taylor was the first African-American world champion.

In an effort to get myself to write more often, I am attempting a theme for a couple days each week: Tuesdays will be “Top 10 Tuesday” and Fridays will be “Favorite Song Fridays”. Each day, I hope to also include small little tidbits from my mind. Hopefully this will help me to post more regularly.

Some weeks, I will select random topics for Top 10 lists; others, I will use inspiration from Piccadilly‘s My Top 10 — a journal published each year by the company.

What I Read Today: In preparation for a mini-unit in my Sports in lit & Society class on cyclist Major Taylor, the first African-American World Champion in any sport, I read the New England Historical Society’s piece entitled,“Major Taylor: Cycling’s Jackie Robinson … in 1892” and “Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor: The incredible story of the first African-American world champion” by Nicole Alvey on the Smithsonian website.

Taylor, who called Worcester home, is an amazing athlete and his story rivals any pioneer. It’s amazing to me that no one has documented his story in film form, though writer Andrew Ritchie does a great job in print in his book, Major Taylor: The Fastest Biciyle Rider in the World. Good luck finding a copy, though. I have one I might let you borrow if you ask nicely.

What I Watched: During this weekend’s snowstorm, Dayna and I watched one pretty bad movie (Bad Moms), one interesting independent film (Coming Through the Rye) and one excellent film (Snowden).

Don’t waste your time with Bad Moms, but do check out Coming Through the Rye. The movie, loosely based on writer/director James Steven Sadwith’s own experiences, chronicles the journey of Holden Caulfield-obsessed Jamie Schwartz (Alex Wolff). After writing a stage version of The Catcher in the Rye, Schwartz travels to New Hampshire with a girl to find the reclusive J.D. Salinger. A coming-of-age tale, it has some great moments and some so-so moments. Regardless it’s worth the 97-minute commitment.

Snowden  was a brilliant piece of storytelling, examining Edward Snowden’s rise from the CIA to the NSA, and just how he and some journalists broke the story of the US Government’s spying and record-keeping of law-abiding citizens’ phones and computers. Despite constant denials by President Obama, the truth showed the NSA and US Governemtn expanded powers whenever possible. Snowden, of course has been desecrated and attacked by the government, but he is a hero to those of us who still believe in civil liberties and the First Amendment.

What I Listened To: We attended a concert to benefit the Trenont School (an innovative 5-12 school in Lexington, MA). Boston-area folk legend Ellis Paul, one of Dayna’s favorite artists, headlined the show and demonstrated his guitar skills as well as his well-crafted lyrics. Definitely check out the videos below to watch Paul’s genius at work.

Openers The Western Den were also incredible, combining haunting vocals with mesmerizing instrumentation.

Top 10: This week’s comes courtesy of Piccadilly’s, with a minor twist. The journal asks for the Top 10 Best Actors, but I’ve switched to my Top 10 Favorite Actors. A small title change, but one that makes a big difference, as some of my favorites are not truly great actors (though some are).

Additionally, I have added the caveat that they need to have had a major role within the last decade. All of these actors have done that (although a couple were close).

Jack Nicholson (“You can’t handle the truth.”)–What’s not to like? Jack in The Shining? The Joker in Batman? Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men? Jimmy Hoffa?  Frank Costello in The Departed? Nicholson is one of the all-time greats.

Daniel Day-Lewis (“Because it is my name!”) — Day-Lewis is a brilliant actor. From In the Name of the Father’s Gerry Conlon to The Crucible’s John Proctor to Gangs of New York’s Bill “The Butcher” Cutting to Abraham Lincoln, you’d be hard=pressed to find a better character actor.

Matt Damon (“How do ya like them apples?”) — I’m a huge fan of the Jason Bourne films, but Damon has been great in other films as well, including We Bought a ZooThe Martian, Invictus, The Departed, Saving Private Ryan, and, of course, Good Will Hunting.

Morgan Freeman (“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'”) — Of course, he’s got the voice, but he’s also played some of the great roles: Nelson Mandela in Invictus, Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris in Million-Dollar Baby,  Ned Logan in Unforgiven, Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves , Joe Clark in Lean on Me… the even played God in Bruce Almighty. Still, my favorite Freeman role is Red in one of the greatest films of all time, The Shawshank Redemption.

Denzel.jpgDenzel Washington (“King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!”) — Denzel has played some of the best roles of the last twenty years, including Herman Boone in Remember the Titans, Malcolm X, Steve Biko in Cry Freedom, Ben Marco in The Manchurian Candidate, Rubin Carter in The Hurricane, and Jake Shuttelsworth in He Got Game. Though those were all great roles, my favorite will always be Det. Alonzo Harris in  Training Day.

Tom Hanks (There’s no crying in baseball.” — One of the more versatile actors of the last 30 years, Hanks was brilliant in A League of Their Own, Castaway, The Green Mile, Philadelphia, Big, and as the voice of Woody in the Toy Story series. My favorites will always be Saving Private Ryan and, of course, Forrest Gump.

Harrison Ford (“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”) — One of the best actors in generations. Ford has played Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Dr. Richard Kimble, Jack Ryan, and the President! Not to mention, he was also in American Graffiti  and Apocalypse Now.

Ben Stiller (“I haven’t really been anywhere noteworthy or mentionable.”) — If he had done nothing else other than The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Stiller would still be on my list. Though Mitty is my favorite, he was also hilarious in Dodgeball, Meet the Parents/Fockers, Zoolander, Night at the Museum, and There’s Something About Mary.

Bill Murray (“Who you gonna call?”) — He the major character in most of the great comedies of the last 30-plus years, including Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, What About Bob? and Meatballs, but also was great in more serious roles like Rushmore, Hamlet, Lost in Translation and St. Vincent. A comedy treasure, we will miss him when he’s gone.

Carell.jpgSteve Carell (“That’s what she said.”) — A great character on one of the best TV shows, Carell has been able to transition to movies, playing great roles in comedies such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, and Evan Almighty. Recently, he’s been branching out, showing brilliance in The Way, Way Back, Foxcatcher, The Big Short, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Dan in Real Life. 


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