Monday, May 22, 2017

Javier Bardem, So Brilliant

Oscar-winner Javier Bardem is one excruciatingly handsome character actor.  Someone with those looks could have just coasted on his looks in a film and TV career.  But this Spaniard didn't.  He challenges himself in his choice of roles and his commitment makes for great viewing.  He will put on weight, he will shave off his hair to play a character.  Javier Bardem is serious about his craft.
I've been a fan of his since the early 90s.  That's when I saw him in the 1992 Spanish film Jamón, Jamón. That's the Spanish word for "ham."  The film combines ham and sex and absurd comedy.  There's also a scene in which Bardem and a fellow actor sneak into a ring to do some nighttime bullfighting.  Naked.  It's a memorable scene with two gifted actors.  And a bull.  Bardem was a top Spanish film actor before a well-deserved Oscar nomination put him on Hollywood's radar.
Javier Bardem was marvelous in 2004's THE SEA INSIDE, based on the real-life story of a man who was left quadriplegic for nearly 30 years after a diving accident.

I love him in the 2002 Spanish film, MONDAYS IN THE SUN (Los Lunes al Sol) as a papa bear of a laborer.  This movie would've gotten attention here in the States six or seven years later -- when we were in the grips of the Great Recession.
MONDAYS IN THE SUN shows us the perseverance, humiliations and breakthroughs of a group of middle-aged friends laid off from dockyard work and all seeking new employment.

In 1999's SECOND SKIN (Segunda Piel), Bardem bares all with friend and fellow versatile actor, Jordi Mollá.  Mollá, not as known to American audiences as Bardem has become, is also a highly popular actor in Spain.
In SECOND SKIN, Bardem is very good as the openly gay and respected surgeon who is falling in love with another man.

However, the boyfriend has a secret.  He's married.  He has a wife and child.  You can find SECOND SKIN on Amazon Video.  The steamy man-on-man lovemaking scenes in 1999's SECOND SKIN make the ones in 2005's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN seem like a Hallmark Channel production.
Bardem won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the mysterious psychotic killer who's a plague on the land in the Coen Brothers 2007 film NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.  Here's a clip.
 Bardem's performance in the 2010 Spanish film, BIUTIFUL, knocked me out.  He plays a street hustler with a psychic gift.  He's also the loving father of two kids and he's divorced from their bipolar, abusive mother. We watch to see if he can regain a spiritual balance in his life.  I said in a podcast and wrote on Twitter that his performance in this subtitled film could get him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.  ABC News entertainment contributor Chris Connelly said on GOOD MORNING AMERICA minutes before the nominations were announced that Bardem didn't have a chance -- mainly because his performance was totally in Spanish in a foreign film.  I was right.  Bardem did get a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
This weekend, he'll be seen as a eerie supernatural pirate villain opposite Johnny Depp in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 5.

Depp had a brief role in the biographical drama that brought Bardem his first Oscar nomination.  BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, released in 2000, is my favorite Bardem film performance. He played Cuban author and exile Reinaldo Arenas.  A gay man and a writer, he would be persecuted and imprisoned in Castro's Cuba.  Bardem and Johnny Depp worked together in BEFORE NIGHT FALLS.  Depp played a prison drag queen.
In its theatrical release, I paid to see thise film about three times.  Bardem moved me so.  This is a visually lyrical, politically strong and brilliantly acted film.  I highly recommend it.  Click onto this link to see a short trailer:  https://youtu.be/qXSw4QZqqyE.

By the way, that prison drag queen did more to advance the work of a new author than Oprah Winfrey ever dreamed of doing within her daytime TV book club.  Trust me on this.

In the 1930s and into the 1940s, Universal became famous as the Hollywood studio of excellent monster movies, movies that made actor Boris Karloff famous.  It gave us FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE INVISIBLE MAN and others. The studio has tapped into the classic franchise again.  Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe will be seen in THE MUMMY come June.  Reportedly, Javier Bardem will play the monster husband in a new BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Johnny Depp will play The Invisible Man.

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