This special edition of the Urchin Picture Show is dedicated to the craft of acting. More specifically, that beautiful instance where a traditionally comic actor leaves you speechless with a powerful dramatic performance. Here are three spotlights:
I grew up watching John Lithgow as the brilliantly bumbling Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun, and thus found his 2009 turn as a serial killer in Dexter both unsettling and incredibly impressive. Thanks to the Urchins’ old friend Library, I recently began rewatching old seasons of 3rd Rock. As a kid, I thought the show was hilarious, and that JGL was the cutest person to ever live. While both of those things are still true (dear god, please let Don Jon premiere in Australia soon), I now realise the absolute genius of John Lithgow performances. His ability to successfully translate classical stage comedy to the small screen was a rare and amazing gift, and accounts for 100% of that show’s success. You cannot watch John Lithgow as the innocent new human Dick Solomon without laughing. You just can’t.
Similarly you cannot watch John Lithgow as Arthur Mitchell without a chill running down your spine. Just a glimpse of him on the screen is enough to make your blood run cold. While one pull of his face as Dick can make you cry with laughter, just one glare as Arthur can illicit goosebumps. There are few actors in this world who can accomplish either of those feats, and John Lithgow does both with apparent ease. He is a true talent, an actor’s actor, a craftsman through and through. I can’t wait to see what he will do next.
My big secret is that I’ve always loved Jim Carrey. He made me laugh when I was younger and sometimes that’s all you can ever really ask of a performer. And Jim Carrey is a performer; no matter how ridiculous, sophomoric, or otherwise imbecilic some of his past characters were, Carrey put his entire body and every part of his face into it. He was a real-life cartoon, which is a talent in itself.
We had glimpses of Carrey’s dramatic acting ability in The Truman Show, the lesser-seen The Majestic, and the underrated Man on the Moon. In the cases of The Truman Show and Man on the Moon, he played comedic characters in dramatic situations, and both result in very moving performances.
It was Carrey’s turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that impressed me even more. While it is certainly arguable that his portrayal of Andy Kaufman is a better example of Carrey’s dedicated abilities, he was still in his element; this element (comedy, in this case) was just stretched to the extreme (sadness, in this case), and Carrey stretched with it. But he had to dial things back considerably in Eternal Sunshine. He had to exhibit emotions he was not usually accustomed to exhibiting through a face he used mostly to make us laugh. And who knew Jim Carrey had such a convincing sad puppy face anyway?
Yes, once upon a time, Tom Hanks did comedy. He’s actually brilliantly funny, which is probably why he’s brilliant in just about everything else he does. Though I haven’t seen Captain Phillips yet, let’s go over some of his past performances: Forrest in Forrest Gump, Captain John H. Miller in Saving Private Ryan, and Commander Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 among many, many others.
For all of the serious, thought-provoking work he’s done, Hanks has had a wonderful comedic career, hosting several episodes of Saturday Night Live and acting in films like Big, Splash, and A League of Their Own. In addition to his acting career, Hanks has long been a proponent of environmental causes, such as investing in electric cars and working with several documentaries on the subject.