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And the best actor award goes to……

The post is a tribute to one of the greatest actors of our generation.  Obviously, he is very popular in the west, but somehow I find, here in India, he is not the HOT favorite or let’s say, ‘top of the mind’ . At one time it was ‘Al Pacino’ or ‘Robert De Niro’  and a generation back, it was a ‘Tom Cruise’ or a ‘Brad Pitt’ and now, maybe it is ‘Matt Damon’ or still better – Leonardo Di Caprio, but not the guy I am talking about – at least not that easily. He has been there since the Cruise-Pitt era and has also acted along with both Leo and Al Pacino.

I first saw him in ‘Edward scissor hands’ in 1993-94, maybe when I was in 6th standard on ‘STAR Movies’.  I liked the movie very much. I don’t remember much of the movie nor his acting to comment (nor is a 6th std guy qualified enough, I suppose, to comment).  By now, you must have understood, whom I am referring to – its none other than JOHNNY DEPP.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS started what is one of the most longstanding and fruitful partnerships of all time. i.e. between Johnny and Tim Burton. Tim Burton, known for his dark, stylized picturizations and some ‘out-of-the-world’ themes and who better than the man himself- Johnny Depp.

SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) was another great movie by the actor director duo. The movie, though a horror movie delves the fine line of scientific belief and the supernatural. And Depp’s performance as the New York constable with the just the right amount of fear and conviction on his face adds a lot of suspense to the story and the theme.

In 2005 came CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLAT FACTORY, an adaptation of the book by the same name. This time, Tim Burton uses his skills of visual imagination a bit too much and the result is quite boring to an adult viewer. Children might still like it. Depp’s performance as Willy Wonka saved the day, I must say. Overall, the film was received much positively as compared to the 1971 adaptation.

Then came, SWEENY TODD: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – one of the best movies I have ever seen. Through this, Tim Burton goes back to his dark and gory days and that too to such an extent that there is blood all over the place. The movie is a musical and Depp has even rendered his  voice to many of the songs. He took special vocal training for the same. The result is quite commendable. Depp’s acting has been stellar to say the least. The calm faced, yet evil barber goes about taking his revenge in a very strange way. The climax is also wonderful. Johnny Depp received his third Academy Award nomination for the film.

The last released movie of this combo was ALICE IN WONDERLAND in 2010. The movie was not that great. Neither were the 3D effects too good. But Depp as the Mad Hatter in the small role he has obtained still manages to steal the show.

ED WOOD (1994) and CORPSE BRIDE (2005) are their two films which I have not seen and plan to do so at the earliest.

Now some non Tim burton movies …..

NINTH GATE (1999) directed by Roman Polanski (of The Pianist fame) is one of the best mystery-thrillers of all time. The movie in more ways than one is similar to Da-Vinci code and explores the connect between books and the supernatural in an interesting manner and Depp, considering he was just 36 at that time, plays the part of an aging Book Dealer very well. The movie is a must watch, though somehow it didn’t get the kind of feedback which was expected.

CHOCOLAT (2000) directed by Lasse Hallström has Johnny Depp in what you may call an extended guest appearance. The movie truly belonged to Juliet Binoche (for which she won the academy award for the best actress). The chocolate symbolizes guilty pleasure and discusses how humans tend to associate certain feelings and emotions with sin. It also teaches a lesson or two about how a single lady’s conviction and determination is able to change the life of an entire village.

FROM HELL (2001) is another great film about Jack the ripper. Depp who plays the role of a troubled police officer who investigates this particular case has done a brilliant job. Heather Graham, whom I have generally seen in insignificant roles has also done a brilliant job in the film. The film, a bit gory in terms of murder (and of course, keeping in mind what Jack the ripper does) may not be suitable for the feeble hearted, but is really worth a watch.

2001 also saw Depp play the role of George Jung in the biopic BLOW. Depp has done a brilliant job and has tried to portray a real life character (unlike other films, this character is very much in the twentieth century).  The film being a biopic is quite monotonous and ends on a sad note. But I must say, the ways of George Jung were very interesting though. Penelope Cruz being relatively new to English films has not got a substantial role. The film also has Franka Potente (The German actress of Run Lola Run fame).

FINDING NEVERLAND in 2004 saw the coming together of two actors – both best in the business – Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp and incidentally Depp  and not Winslet (who was nominated for Eternal sunshine… the same year) got an academy award nomination for the film. The film is again a semi-biographical one about J M BARRIE, the dramatist who created Peter Pan. It has really inspiring performances from the whole cast including the boys playing Kate WInslet’s children.  The film has its fun parts and also the emotional ones and truly, it is one of the best films of all time. The film got a number of academy award nominations in categories like Best picture, Best adapted screenplay, art direction, film editing and costume design.

SECRET WINDOW was another 2004 movie from Depp. The thriller is based on the much tried and tested formula of dual personality and even a very inspired acting from Depp is not able to save the day. The film is adapted from a Stephen King Novel and there is not much you could do about the story line – and hence the benefit of the doubt.

Jumping to 2009, Johnny Depp once again acted in a sort of a biopic enacting the American gangster John Dillinger in PUBLIC ENEMIES. The film also starred CHRISTIAN BALE, as his archrival. Truly speaking, I found the film thoroughly boring and only the beautiful MARION COTILLARD was able to catch my attention a bit.

I kept the PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN towards the end because I know most of you must have already seen all the three movies, that too multiple times. Talking of the POTC franchise, the 1st one – THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL was the best of the lot and it earned an academy award nomination for our very own JACK SPARROW aka JOHNNY DEPP. The DEAD MAN’S CHEST and AT WORLD’s END depended way too much on special effects and chaotic story telling rather than good movie making skills. Nevertheless,  JACK SPARROW has become so symbolic of POTC franchise that the owners have now decided to do away with some of the dead weight – i.e. ELIZABETH SWANN (Kiera Knightley) and WILL TURNER (Orlando Bloom). The fourth one in the series – ON STRANGER’S TIDES is set for a 2011 series and will also feature my favorite PENELOPE CRUZ.

In short, Johnny Depp – the man with 3 academy award nominations but yet to win one is really the best of the generation. His acting skills are such that most of the characters whether real like George Jung or JM Barrie or the imaginary ones like Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka or The Mad Hatter simply can’t be imagined being played by other actors. He plays the role, gets into the character and takes away the character for himself. Period.

The entertainment weekly poll has resulted in Depp topping the Most Powerful Entertainers of 2010 category ahead of even Will Smith and Leonardo Di Caprio. Very deserving indeed.

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