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2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent

2010’s Biggest Wastes of Acting Talent (photo)

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There may be nothing more frustrating to watch as a movie lover than good talent wasted. From our perspective, we felt that frustration way too many times in 2010, as we watched some of our favorite actors squandered in underwritten supporting roles and pointless cameos. Here, now, is our list of the 14 most egregious examples. The point of this list isn’t to bash these actors. On the contrary, we want to shame the filmmakers who had the good sense to hire these brilliant folks but the bad judgment not to use them properly.


Ellen Page in “Inception”

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Take a look at the “Inception” Memorable Quotes page on IMDb. Now search for quotes for Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne. They’re all questions. “Why is it so important to dream?” “Why wouldn’t I wake up?” “Why can’t you go home?” “Whose subconscious are we going through exactly?” And on and on. Page plays the film’s dream architect, the person responsible for designing the worlds the rest of the characters travel through in their sleep. But really, she is the audience surrogate who stands around looking confused and asking questions. So while Page has plenty of screentime in “Inception” it is all a big misuse of her talents. Page is a smart woman, and she’s good playing smart characters: Hayley in “Hard Candy;” Juno in “Juno.” But for all her architectural genius, Ariadne’s a bit of a dim bulb, and that makes her a bad case of miscasting for Page. You might as well hire Babe Ruth in his prime to be your team’s batboy. [MS]


01062010_KnightandDay.jpgPaul Dano in “Knight and Day”
Directed by James Mangold

It’s not unusual for actors known for indie films to take supporting turns in big blockbusters to help pay the bills, but Paul Dano and Peter Sarsgaard, not to mention recent Oscar nominee Viola Davis (who’s getting really good at playing parts that call for her only to crosses her arms and look disgruntled), were likely expecting more when they signed on to “Walk the Line” director James Mangold’s first action film. While Sarsgaard comes off as a standard issue baddie, the real question mark is Dano, who plays a nerdy inventor notable mainly for his oddly stringy goatee. By design, the character and his bottomless battery invention are a bit of a McGuffin, but what’s worse for Dano is having to confront the same dilemma Shia LaBeouf did in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:” having to play the one-dimensional comic relief for major stars (Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz) without upstaging them, even though audiences know he’s capable of more. Dano does the best he can in that department, which means he isn’t able to show the reasons why he was probably cast in the first place. [SS]

Lizzy Caplan in “127 Hours”
Directed by Danny Boyle

While it’s safe to say many of us at IFC.com are firm believers that everyone from the cast of “Party Down” should have their own starring vehicles (see: Adam Scott), Lizzy Caplan should have some genuine gripes about what went down in 2010. After the cancellation of “Party Down,” Caplan saw her unique wit and verve lavished on the thankless role of the rock journalist who captures John Cusack’s heart in “Hot Tub Time Machine” and then appeared in the wordless role of Aron Ralston’s sister in “127 Hours.” One can’t blame Caplan for wanting to work with Danny Boyle, no doubt saying to her agent at some point the old adage, “I’d sweep up in the background to appear in one of his movies.” But that’s basically what she does, appearing for mere seconds in one of Aron’s hallucinations when he’s trapped between boulders. For those that love her, Caplan’s brief appearance almost works because you instantly empathize with Aron for wanting to see more of her. Then again, that’s also the problem. [SS]


01072010_scheer1.jpgPaul Scheer in “Piranha 3D”
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Just how superfluous was Paul Scheer to the narrative of “Piranha 3D?” So superfluous that when the film ran out of money before they could animate his death, they just removed him from the film. That’s right: Scheer’s Andrew, the “Wild Wild Girls” cameraman trapped on a boat surrounded by bloodthirsty fish, doesn’t even get the honor of a cheaply animated piranha murder. He just vanishes into thin air. One minute he’s on the boat with the rest of the cast, the next minute he’s gone, never to be seen — or even mentioned! — again. Director Alexandre Aja just banked on people caring so little about this character they simply wouldn’t notice. Which is too bad, since Scheer, a legitimately funny guy as a member of the sketch show “Human Giant,” probably could have delivered a great comedic death scene. Maybe Andrew can return for this year’s sequel — “Piranha 3DD” — and explain just what the hell happened. [MS]


Rufus Sewell in “The Tourist”
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

In order to explain just how wasted Rufus Sewell was in “The Tourist” I need to SPOIL the end of the movie, so if you’re thinking of wasting your time and money on this film (something I would strongly advise against) you should skip ahead to the next entry on our list now. Sewell plays “The Englishman,” a mysterious character who pops up occasionally during the film. He looks like he’s following Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, but his motives are kept vague. But since he’s Rufus Sewell we figure he’s got to be somebody important. Nope. Turns out Sewell is a nobody who’s been paid to wander around Venice looking suspicious. The fact that The Englishman is a red herring isn’t a problem; plenty of good mysteries rely on red herrings. No, the problem is that the entire movie promises Rufus Sewell is going to do something interesting, and he never does. That’s like having a character talk about his super cool machine gun in scene after scene, then having him reach for a baseball bat when the zombies finally attack. It’s an utter disappointment. [MS]


01072011_dinnerforschmucks4.jpgJemaine Clement in “Dinner for Schmucks”
Directed by Jay Roach

Much like his performance in Jared Hess’ little-seen “Gentlemen Broncos” a year earlier, it looks like Jemaine Clement just decided at some point during the production of “Dinner For Schmucks” that he was going to be in a different movie than the one the rest of the characters were in. On the other hand, that could be considered a byproduct the rangy direction by Jay Roach, which allowed fellow cast members Zach Galifianakis and Lucy Punch to let their freak flags fly as the “schmucks” recruited by Paul Rudd’s corporate climber for his boss’ dinner of shame. Still, in a movie that was set up to be a circus, Clement’s wild, animal-loving conceptual artist Kieran Vollard feels like an elephant in the room, a fact the filmmakers seemed to concede by creating a series of Funny or Die viral videos around him to promote the film, despite the fact that he takes a backseat in “Schmucks” to the less interesting Rudd, Steve Carell and Galifianakis. [SS]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.