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Going Solo: Movies With (Mostly) Just One Actor

Going Solo: Movies With (Mostly) Just One Actor (photo)

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“127 Hours” is James Franco’s show — there are other people in the cast, like Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn as hikers his character, Aron Ralston, encounters while exploring the canyons near Moab, UT. There’s his family, his coworker and his former lover, all glimpsed in memories, but for the majority of the runtime of Danny Boyle’s film Franco is alone on screen, doing a remarkable job of holding our attention with no one to talk to but his camera and his own increasingly desperate self.

Movies may be a visual medium, but it’s through dialogue that we tend to get to know characters and grasp plots. So having an actor alone on screen is a tricky proposition, one that often requires gimmicks, games or just letting go of any traditional narrative. Here’s a look at a few films, recent and older, that have offered significant solo time for a character.


“Wrecked” (2010)
Directed by Michael Greenspan
Soloist: Adrien Brody

A man wakes up in a wrecked car in the middle of the woods. His leg is pinned under the dash and there’s a dead body in the back seat. Also, he’s Adrien Brody, so we know some serious emoting is going to be going on in this Canadian indie, the feature debut of director Michael Greenspan. Aside from a few flashbacks and the sporadic appearances of a woman (“Wonderfall”‘s Caroline Dhavernas) and a dog who may or may not be real, Brody spends most of this film alone, telegraphing his pain, frustration and confusion (he doesn’t remember anything about who he is or how he ended up in the car) through the kind of half-muttered interjections you make to keep yourself company when you’re sure you’re totally alone. “Wrecked” is intriguing when it keeps to the unprotected confines of the car and the mystery of who its passengers are, but eventually it has to open up to the larger woods and a somewhat silly threat to our hero.


“Buried” (2010)
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
Soloist: Ryan Reynolds

A man wakes up in a coffin buried in the sand. In Iraq! Like “Wrecked,” Rodrigo Cortés’ film is a high-concept one-man show about a character trapped in a claustrophobic space, though here there’s an attempt at topicality. The sense of time running out is also upped, with limited oxygen and an unstable space posing threats to Ryan Reynolds’ Paul Conroy, captured convoy driver. On the other hand, Paul has a cell phone, which means he actually has people to talk to. Reynolds is remarkably game, but is also given off-screen characters with which to interact, relieving some of the burden of having to be exciting on screen all by oneself.

“Symbol” (2010)
Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto
Soloist: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Comedian and filmmaker Hitoshi Matsumoto (of “Big Man Japan”) pits two seemingly unrelated storylines against each other in his second feature. In one, the patriarch of a Mexican family prepares for a lucha libre match against intimidating opponents. In the other, a man (played by Matsumoto) awakens by himself in a white room with no doors or windows, just switches that are actually the genitalia of snickering cherubim hiding in the walls. Alone, Matsumoto displays his gift for physical comedy — the unnamed man he plays, clad in bright pajamas and sporting a bowl cut, isn’t terribly bright but is amusing prone to burst of loud frustration. His exploration into what the switches do is a prolonged, and very funny, absurdist journey.


“Yaadein” (1964)
Directed by Sunil Dutt
Soloist: Sunil Dutt

You can’t fault Sunil Dutt for a lack of confidence — he directed himself in this black and white 1964 Hindi film, aside from a silhouette toward the end, the only actor on screen. “Yaadein” (Memories) consists of a monologue from Anil, played by Dutt, who reminisces about his marriage to Priya, the birth of their children, his straying and its effects on the family. He’s come home to an empty house, and believes his wife has finally left him, despairing at his mistakes and overcome with regret. This film is apparently one of three sharing a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Fewest actors in a narrative film.”

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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