Viggo Mortensen and Tadanobu Asano

I’ve only had the opportunity to see a few of the films nominated for Academy Awards this year and besides David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, I haven’t been all that impressed with what I’ve seen. Since I don’t write about modern film that often I wasn’t going to mention the Oscars this year, but I will be watching the award show tonight and I hope to catch a glimpse of two of my favorite modern actors; Viggo Mortensen and Tadanobu Asano.

I’ve been following Viggo Mortensen’s acting career closely since I first saw him in the entertaining horror film Prison back in 1988. Viggo really stood out and it was clear to me back then that he had the good looks and acting abilities to become a major star so I’m not sure why it took so long for everyone else to notice him. Besides acting Mortensen is an accomplished poet and artist, and he’s also recorded multiple albums. He’s a truly talented individual and an American original who’s not afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in.

After enjoying Mortensen in somewhat lackluster films like Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) and Young Guns II (1990), he went on make some of his best films in the early 1990s such as The Reflecting Skin (1990), The Indian Runner (1991) and The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995). By the late 1990s, I had sort of lost track of him and stopped paying attention to the films he appeared in until his name was suddenly everywhere following the success of the Lord of the Rings movies. I naively assumed he would continue making blockbuster action films in Hollywood after that so I was completely caught off guard by his incredible performance in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005) and I’m really happy that the director and actor seem to have forged an interesting creative bond that I hope will continue to evolve over time. I’d like to see Viggo Mortensen take home the Oscar for Best Actor tonight, but the odds are not in his favor.

Top: Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
Bottom: Tadanobu Asano in Mongol

Much like Viggo Mortensen, Tadanobu Asano is a true “Renaissance Man” and besides being one of Japan’s most accomplished modern actors, he’s also a talented artist and musician.

I first discovered Asano’s talent back in 1998 (exactly 10 years after I came across Viggo Mortensen in Prison) when he starred in the excellent Japanese crime thriller and dark satire Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (Samehada otoko to momojiri onna) followed by his impressive role in the samurai drama Taboo (Gohatto, 1999). I lost track of Asano for a few years until I caught him starring in Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1, 2001), but he was hard to recognize at first. His hair was bleached bright blond and it took me awhile to figure out that he was the same handsome actor that I had been impressed with in earlier films. From that moment on I was determined to know more about Asano and I’ve made an effort to see many of his early films as well as his newest efforts whenever I can. Some of his best movies in recent years include Bright Future (Akarui mirai, 2003), Last Life in the Universe (Ruang rak noi nid mahasan, 2003), Zatoichi (2003), Vital (2004), Survive Style 5+ (2004) and Rampo Noir (2005).

Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to see Tadanobu Asano’s new Oscar nominated film Mongol (Sergei Bodrov; 2007) yet, but it’s up for Best Picture in the much-contested Foreign Film category. I hope Asano will be able to attend the award show tonight on the off chance that the film he starred in might win.

Countless Oscars have been handed out as consolatory prizes for overlooked work and Viggo Mortensen and Tadanobu Asano’s ongoing and impressive acting careers have been overlooked by Hollywood and American film audiences for far too long. The odds might be stacked against them both tonight, but I’ll be rooting for them!

Related Links:
Offical Website for Eastern Promises
Official Site for Mongol
Tadanobu Asano’s Offical Website
Informative Viggo Mortensen Fan Site

Update (2.25.08)
– Unfortunately my guys didn’t win anything and I thought the Award show was dull as dishwater this year (my favorite moment was when the Coen brothers won best director and Joel’s wife Frances McDormand couldn’t contain her happiness!). Oh well, there’s always next year. In the meantime, here are some pics of the most interesting actors who attended last nights red carpet affair. For my money, Asano was the best looking and best dressed man there. Even Viggo looked terrific with his bushy beard.

Viggo Mortensen and Tadanobu Asano at the 80th Academy Awards

9 thoughts on “Rebels Artists Superstars

  1. I’m still undecided about Mortensen – I’d like to see him in a few more quality efforts, but he has screen presence, that’s for sure. Asano, however, has the real goods – Ichi the Killer and Zatoichi were cooler than cool in a lot of ways, and Asano was the big reason. I’ll have to see Mongol – from what I’ve seen and heard, it’s an old-fashioned cast of thousands lookin’ thingie – I have confidence Asano can rise above the effects and dust. 😉

  2. I do like Asano. Not had a chance to see Mongol, but I would like to. I did see Eastern Promises this weekend. I loved it. Viggo was amazing in it. I’m really enjoying the work he’s doing with Cronenberg. I had hoped that Viggo would win the Oscar, even though I was pretty sure he wouldn’t. I’m interested to see what he does next.

  3. Vanwell – Have you seen all the Mortensen films I mentioned above? I really think his films with Philip Ridley are some of the best English language movies made in the past 18 years. I wish they would work together again, but I hope he continues to work with Cronenberg as well. Asano is truly amazing and probably the best actor (for my money anyway) making movies today. He looked fantastic last night and seemed damn happy and excited about attending the awards!

    Keith – I’m happy to hear that someone else was rooting for Viggo as well! I’m also glad you enjoyed Eastern Promises as much as I did. He’s terrific in that and really did a fantastic job of capturing the mannerisms, accent and attitude of a Russian mobster. I think I mentioned it before, but my husbands family is from Latvia and even he was impressed.

  4. Yay for SHARK SKIN MAN AND PEACH HIP GIRL! It was the one that got me hooked on Japanese film, and I haven’t thought about it in years.

    You really liked EASTERN PROMISES that much, huh? Can’t say I was sold on it…

  5. I did like Eastern Promises a lot (obviously, Ed!) and I thought one of the best aspects of the film was Viggo Mortensen’s performance.

    I really do think Viggo was the best actor nominated for a “Best Actor” Oscar this year. Of course as I mentioned above I haven’t seen all the nominated films, but based on the previous films of the nominees and their abilities, I’ll stick with my vote for Viggo. He’s far and away the most interesting actor that was up for an award last night in my opinion. I just wish he was given better roles. He’s often wasted in crappy films.

  6. I too thought Mortensen’s perf in Eastern Promises was fabulous. I got caught up in the pre-Oscar debate (e.g., at Scanners) about big acting vs subtlety, though I’m not sure Mortensen’s performance was subtle, but it sure was intense, it positively thrummed with tension and life.

    In the end, I couldn’t decide which performance deserved the Oscar more, Mortensen’s or Day-Lewis’ (or Clooney’s?). It’s a tribute to this year’s acting riches, I guess.

  7. I love Asano’s work…Kimberly I’d add “The Taste Of Tea”, “Funky Forest” (where he did some great deadpan work as one of the Guitar Brothers) and “Sad Vacation” to his list of fine roles. I guess you have to cut it off somewhere though.

    “Survive Style 5+” was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had at a theatre in along time (our local Japanese Film society ran it at the NFB theatre recently). Since it’ll likely never come out on R1 (music rights), it’ll be the major reason for me to go region-free (I know, I know…why haven’t I done it yet…).

  8. Kimberly –
    I haven’t caught all of those above, some, yes, but not enough – that’s why I need to see some more of his work. He’s very good at using his intensity to reinforce his roles, that’s for sure – he’s prolly the most quietly menacing screen presence right now, but I’ll still dig into his oeuvre some more. Both he and Mr. Asano looked great, agreed, and Mr. Day-Lewis should’ve rented his tux from their sources – loved the bow-tie, btw.

  9. Rick – I haven’t seen There Will Be Blood, but I’m afraid that I’m not a huge fan of Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting, but I’m looking forward to seeing There Will Be Blood sooner or later. I thought Clooney was being Clooney in Michael Clayton and since I’m not a big fan of his, I guess I wasn’t that effected by his performance. Overall, I’m afraid the film didn’t really do a lot for me even though I liked the way the story was told and some of the photography was beautiful.

    Bob – Thanks for the additions! I haven’t had the chance to see those Asano films yet myself so that’s why they weren’t mentioned. How many films does he manage to make a year? 3 or 4? Amazing! And they’re usually all worth a look too. And yes, you need a region-free DVD player! Import DVDs cost a lot though so I don’t buy them often myself but occassionly have to splurge!

    Vanwell – I highly recommend the unusual films he made with Philip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon). I think you’d be surprised by them! I don’t know what was up with Daniel Day-Lewis. He looked like he hadn’t washed his hair in a few days and his suit was fugly. He usually seems better put together, but lately he’s going for that unkept look. I did like his earrings though!

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