Cinematical Seven: Best Ensemble Casts of 2008 (Blog)
Category: RockNRolla News | Posted by: DaisyMay
Article Date: December 29, 2008 | Publication: Cinematical | Author: Elisabeth Rappe
2008 was a year of incredible casts -- just about every film released this year can elicit a "Holy crap, do you know who all is in that? It has to be good!" This was a year that saw Oscar-winning actresses in popcorn flicks like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Speed Racer, Edward Norton go green and hulking, and Tom Cruise nominated for a prosthetics-heavy cameo. That many of the films didn't live up to the cast's potential (The Women, Deception and Righteous Kill, to name three random examples) is disappointing, expected, and ultimately something to wonder "With a cast like that, how did they blow it?" in years to come.
However, many of the movies did get it right -- and it is really hard to narrow it down to seven. I tried to avoid the obvious picks such as The Dark Knight, decided the vocal talent of Kung Fu Panda didn't count, and tried to throw in some unexpected and overlooked casts. Hey, I have to leave you something to disagree with, right?
1. Tropic Thunder
Hands down, this is the best ensemble of the year. Not only is practically everyone in Hollywood in it (and whoever isn't, they're mocking), but they all managed to be funny. There's a million ways this cast could have gone wrong, but they managed to get it right. That's pretty rare for any ensemble, let alone a comedic one.
2. Iron Man
I have to hand it to Iron Man over The Dark Knight, although you could easily substitute one for the other. But whereas audiences will argue Christian Bale's Batman voice until hell freezes over, Robert Downey Jr.'s hero attracts no such controversy. But Downey Jr. aside, I think it's Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow who tip this cast into downright shiny -- Bridges because he tends to be rather anti-blockbuster in his film choices, and Paltrow because she rarely plays third fiddle to other actors. (Also, I rarely enjoy Paltrow's performances -- here she was really very likeable.)
3. Burn After Reading
It's not the greatest Coen Brothers film, but it's arguably one of their biggest line-ups since The Hudsucker Proxy. I include it because generally it annoys the hell out of me when A-Listers go manic in an attempt to "cut loose" and be "edgy," but the Coen Bros. always make it work. No name is wasted, no performance is crappy, and even if the film isn't groundbreaking ... hey, Brad Pitt was funny. He never gets to be funny.
For Westerns being all about the wide open spaces, there's rarely room for an ensemble cast. Even when the supporting cast is suitably good, bad, and ugly, audiences generally only have eyes for John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Modern Westerns have shaken that up, and Appaloosa was no exception, boasting Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons and Renee Zellweger. Even if you were disappointed in getting more buddy comedy than Unforgiven, when will you ever see Irons play cowboy again?
I'll be in the minority with RocknRolla on any list -- but if there's one thing Guy Ritchie can do, it's ensemble casts. It's a shame RocknRolla played second fiddle to Madonna and Ritchie divorcing, because I thought there were some fine performances in it, particularly from Tom Wilkinson, and The Wild Bunch of Idris Elba, Gerard Butler, and Tom Hardy.
Many of the performances in W. veered from SNL impersonations to "Who is he supposed to be again?", but you can't deny a cast like this a top 7 mention. There were so many actors in this that most of them never made it to the trailer, and it was easy to forget who all Josh Brolin was rubbing shoulders with. Every scene was a surprise. Look! There's Ioan Gruffudd as Tony Blair! Wait, was that Noah Wyle? Who isn't in this movie?
If this group of mighty thespians had actually gotten together to assassinate Hitler, they probably would have succeeded just by distracting him. ("Was that Kenneth Branagh who just walked by?") Like W., the numerous roles of the conspirators are slight, but well played, and you can't ever put Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, and Eddie Izzard together and not elicit a "Whoa, nice!" And oh yeah, that "Tom Cruise" guy is in it too