Friday, December 17, 2010


One of my favorite modern Christmas movies if Elf from 2003, starring Will Ferrell (b. 1967) as Buddy.  I don't particularly like Will Ferrell, but he pulled this one off well.

I do like most of the rest of the cast.  Who doesn't like Bob NewhartZooey Deschanel (b. 1980) is always quirky, but she is endearing in Elf.  Plus, I like her as a blond!  Mary Steenbergen (b. 1953) is the perfect wife to James Caan (b. 1940), as she shows him that its OK to care about others.

In the smaller parts; Ed Asner (b. 1929) plays Santa.  I mentioned Faizon Love (b. 1968), who played the store manager, in one of my posts a few months ago.  His 45 roles will keep growing. 

Elf was the second movie for Daniel Tay (b. 1991) who played the son.  He was born in New York, so his accent was easy to come by.  He now has seven titles on IMDb, and today, Dec. 17, is his birthday.  Now he is 19, and I hope he uses his acting skills to create a long career. 

Peter Dinklage (b. 1969) stands 4' 5" and played a high-power writer, who is insulted by Buddy the Elf.  His size may limit the roles he is offered, but he has talent.  He can use that talent to create a character for himself.  He has 45 titles already on IMDb, so it must be working.

Let's not miss Ray Harryhausen (b. 1920) who was the voice of a polar bear cub in the animation.  Harryhausen is a well known name in classic fantasy film circles as the animator who made the stop-action sequences for the Sinbad movies in the 1960s.  One famous sword fight scene with skeletons was filmed at the rate of 13 frames (one half second of film) per DAY!

And finally, Leon Redbone (b. 1949) was the voice of Leon the Snowman.  Redbone has been popular for many years as a very stylish pop singer.  He has only worked in two movies, but in this one he is perfect.  Under the credits, he can be heard signing Baby its Cold Outside with co-star Zooey Deschanel.  Deschanel has a second career as a wonderful jazz singer.

See Elf again this year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I happened to catch what most classic movie fans would call a modern Christmas movie.  Prancer was released in 1989.  Modern is relative, this movie is 21 years old.  Perhaps some younger readers remember it as a classic.

Prancer has quite a good cast.  Sam Elliott (b. 1944) brings his deep voice and gruff character acting to bear as a down-on-his-luck apple farmer.  Cloris Leachman (b. 1926) is the mean old lady who hates kids and loves her plants.  And then there is Elliott's daughter who is about to be sent to live with her aunt because her mother died and her father has too much to worry about...

Well, I guess you can see how this story will end.  I didn't even get to the reindeer!  I didn't have to, it's a Christmas movie.

The daughter is played by newcomer Rebecca Harrell (b. 1980) in her first movie.  It's a big part for an eight year old, and her reviews were very complimentary.  Harrell has only made nine appearances in movies and TV, and is now a producer, mostly of environmental documentaries.

Harrell's friend in the movie is young Ariana Richards (b. 1979) who was already a veteran actress.  Prancer was her seventh role and third movie.  Richards' next movie was Tremors (1990) and then she went on to play Lex in Jurassic Park in 1993 and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) the first sequel, in a much smaller role.  Richards is now a talented painter.  Visit her web site, Gallery Ariana.

Two other actors in Prancer had smaller roles, but are quite well known.  Abe Vigoda (b. 1921) has 92 titles on IMDb.  At almost 90 years old, he is still working. 

We also see Michael Constantine (b. 1927).  Constantine is famous for My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), but he has 171 titles listed so far.  How many of you remember him as the principal on "Room 222" in the late 1960s?  Both of these guys are top notch Bit Actors.

Prancer may not be a blockbuster, but it is a well made, family movie that some call a classic.  The performance by Rebecca Harrell is excellent, and it is easy to see why she was cast.  Somehow I doubt that she did much acting in Prancer, it just came naturally.

Oh, by the way, the title role was played by a reindeer named Boo.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Letters to Juliet

So many movies, so little time!  I watched a few movies over the past week.  Some new, some old, and not all holiday themed.  Now we need to discuss some Bit Actors.

Letters to Juliet (2010) is a nice, light romance filmed in the Tuscany region of Italy.  Amanda Seyfried (b. 1985) stars, and she appears to be quite talented.  Her big movie break was in Mamma Mia! (2008).  I guess I like her because she is from Allentown, PA, not far from me. 

Vanessa Redgrave (b. 1937) plays her role perfectly, and her real life husband, Franco Nero (b. 1941) shows how sexy you can be at 69 years old.

Seyfried's fiance in this movie was played by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (b. 1971).  We don't see much of him, and I am glad she called the wedding off.  She opted instead for Christopher Egan (b. 1984), who only has 14 titles on his list, but should do well in his career.  I think we will see much more of him.  He is quite handsome and has a nice voice for film.

All of the above are vying to be (or actually are) stars.  The only true Bit Actor, other than the list of Italians who filled in the smaller roles, was the New Yorker editor played by Oliver Platt (b. 1960).  Platt is talented, and appears to be happy playing supporting roles.  In this movie, his 58th (or so) role he is uncredited.

Platt's career started in the late 1980s on TV and he quickly got into some movies.  He was in Married to the Mob (1988) with Alec Baldwin; Working Girl (1988) with Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith; Flatliners and Postcards from the Edge in 1990; Indecent Proposal and The Three Musketeers in 1993; Executive Decision and A Time to Kill in 1996; and he is also doing a few TV series.  That's a lot of work.

In the movies I have seen of his, he either blends into the background, or plays his part to the hilt.  A Time to Kill was an excellent courtroom drama with a perfect cast, including Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson.  All talented actors.  Platt plays an assistant lawyer to Matthew McConaughey, and with a southern drawl, pulls it off beautifully.  But he never detracts from the story or the other characters.

Lastly, Ashley Lilley (b. 1986 in Scotland) plays one of Juliet's secretaries.  Lilley only has five titles on IMDb, and she also appeared in Mamma Mia! with Seyfried.  Small world.

Letters to Juliet is worth the rental.