I like making top five lists. I guess you could say it all started when I watched High Fidelity for the first time. And then there was that Living Social Facebook app. And lately, we’ve hired a bunch of new kids at my Starbucks, so I’ve been busting out top five lists to try and get to know them better. There’s a lot you can tell about a person by asking them to list their Top Five Movies About or Involving Space Travel. That blog will be posted soon, don’t you worry.
Now, before you get all jumpy, this isn’t going to be a Top Five blog exclusively. But it might be for a few months. If you’ve been reading me long, you know I have the attention span of a gnat.A stupid gnat who is only interested in shiny baubles and senseless list making.
So, now for you friends, in honor of Our Friend, Sir Edward Norton, I have compiled a list of my favorite Edward Norton films of all time. Follow him on Twitter and support his fundraising efforts for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.
Before we begin, here are my honorable mentions. Some more great Edward Norton films that didn’t make the cut:
Keeping the Faith - A terrific romantic comedy, but not extraordinary enough.
The Italian Job – It’s a Jason Statham movie in my mind. I oft forget Norton’s even in it until the credits roll.
The 25th Hour – Would probably be on the list, except I still haven’t watched the entire thing. I rented it the year it came out, watched the first half, went to work, and then returned it before I finished it.
Rounders – Sadly can’t take this one seriously after seeing Poolhall Junkies, even if Norton’s characterization of the scheming scoundrel “Worm” is nothing short of genius.
The People VS. Larry Flynt - is a breathtaking Woody Harrelson performance featuring the brilliant Norton and surprising Courtney Love.
And now, the official countdown:
5) Red Dragon
Say what you will about this remake of an adaptation of a novel from a series that spawned a superior movie (in the eyes of the Academy anyhow, I was voting for Beauty and the Beast that year) however, I love this movie. I think it’s beautiful. The casting is brilliant and the story, while it can’t be credited to the filmmakers, is intriguing and appeals to me as a Law and Order die-hard. Norton’s quiet, simmering control is a perfect foil to Anthony Hopkins’ methodical and maniacal Hannibal Lector, however both are upstaged by Ralph Fiennes as the victimized killer, Francis Dolarhyde.
4) Primal Fear
I don’t love Richard Gere, but even he couldn’t fudge up this compelling mystery about a dual personality character. Norton, as the character(s) in question, exhibits range and expertise rarely seen even in veteran actors, making his performance even more impressive as it’s his first role in a major motion picture. Ever. Again, the Law and Order nut in me is appeased by the thrilling investigation and court-room drama.
3) Death to Smoochy
I don’t love Robin Williams, but I adore Catherine Keener (she’s me, 20 years from now) and this film is just dark and satirical enough to pique my interest and keep it up. Edward Norton, famous for playing characters plagued with darkness and despair, lights up the screen as Sheldon Mopes, a singer/songwriter who brings joy to all the people of the world by dressing up like Smoochy the Rhino. It’s terrific fun. A lesser actor would have turned this project into a cheesy spoof on Barney, but Norton manages to keep it away from broad humor (despite Williams’ best efforts) by expressing truth and naivete. Also, it’s directed by Danny DeVito. Awesome.
2) American History X
The imagery, offensive and horrific as it may be, can’t be ignored in this disturbing and tragic tale of a confused young man who finds fault in his Neo-Nazi beliefs after serving time for the brutal slaughter of a black man. Norton, as Derek Vinyard, scowls with rage in the first act, only to glow with the peace of an enlightened man in the last. His transformation is made wholly believable in Norton’s relentless committment to the role.
1) Fight Club
Fight Club will always be one of my favorite movies. The look, unique how it pairs flash with grunge, the creative story telling, unmatched in modern cinema, and of course, the characters. Tyler Durden is a hero of my generation. We all want to live on Paper Street reading back-issues of Reader’s Digest and learning how to make soap. We all want to create mayhem and leave a legacy. We all want to believe that we are not our fucking khakis.