Friday, March 28, 2014

Michael Peña, Good Actor

I keep my fingers crossed that I have the privilege to interview him one day.  Michael Peña is a very good, very versatile actor who deserves major attention at the box office.  He's paid his dues and practiced his craft in years of movie and television work.  His resumé boasts work in two movies that won the Oscar for Best Picture and two others that were Best Picture Oscar nominees.  Not bad for a young actor.
Michael Peña acted in the Best Picture Oscar winner directed by Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby starring Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. He played the Los Angeles locksmith family man in Crash, another Academy Award winner for Best Picture.

The international drama, Babel, featured Peña as a border policeman.  It too was a Best Picture Oscar contender.  He can do drama.  He can do deadpan humor, underplaying a funny moment in a way that steals a scene.  He played the Latino guy masquerading as a visiting wealthy Arab in the Best Picture Oscar nominee, American Hustle.

Some of the best scenes in American Hustle involved Peña as Paco Hernandez trying to pull off an operation as Sheikh Abdullah.

Lions for Lambs, may have received a lukewarm reception from critics and moviegoers but look at Peña in this 2007 movie as a U.S. soldier deployed to Afghanistan.
Box office hit or not, Michael Peña was in a movie starring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.  Lions for Lambs was directed by Robert Redford.

I noticed young Mr. Peña in episodes of network TV shows and in some other movies.  But, when I had to see Oliver Stone's World Trade Center (2006) so I could review it on national radio, Peña really popped out at me.  The movie starred Nicolas Cage.
I saw Peña and said to myself "There's that guy again and he's really good."  Two actors in that drama made me stay through the closing credits so I could see and remember their names.  Peña was one.  The other was an actress who did a bit part as "Mother in Hospital" in Stone's September 11th drama.  That memorable bit player was Viola Davis.

This weekend the Mexican-American actor opens in a biopic about someone who was very special to me when I was a high schooler in South Central Los Angeles during the 1960s.  I attended a Catholic high school in Watts with a predominantly black and Hispanic student body.

Chicano (as we called him then) leader Cesar Chavez was an important and inspirational civil rights leader, fighting for the rights of migrant farm workers.  Michael Peña stars in the biopic, Cesar Chavez.

I am so glad that my high school teachers made us realize the significance of Cesar Chavez and the importance of our interest in current events.  This story needed to be told and remembered.  I can't wait to pay to see it.  Cesar Chavez was directed by Diego Luna.  Also an actor, you may recognize Luna from Alfonso Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También as one of the slacker buddies who embarks on an unforgettable road trip.  He also played one of Harvey Milk's boyfriends opposite Sean Penn in Milk.
America Ferrera co-stars in Luna's film opposite Peña as Chavez's wife, a co-organizer in the farmworker movement.

Keep your eye on Michael Peña.  He's a mighty fine actor.


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