And The Award For (My) Best Actor Goes To…

I’m a nut, but not just a nut. ~Bill Murray

This is not HM Murdock's uncle, but it could be

Every year around this time, there are plenty of accolades for acting. The Oscars. The Golden Globes. The BAFTAs. The Swedish Goat Society Awards for Excellence in Film. I personally think there’s a few too many (how many times do actors need to be commended on live TV, after all, when people are still dying of typhoid fever and scabies somewhere in the world?) but that’s not really the point. I kind of care just because of my permanent status as a pop culture and film junkie. Even if I don’t sit through the whole interminable awards show, I guilty pleasure myself the next day looking over the lists of winners.
Which is why, the other day, I surprised myself by answering a friend’s simple question. “Who’s your favorite actor?” she asked.
Had I really sat down and given it some thought, I might have gone in any of several directions. The classic, all-American (Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart), the trendy (Simon Pegg), the exotic (Sharlto Copley, Henry Ian Cusick), the Voice (Alan Rickman, Patrick Stewart) or the Really Bloody Amazingly Versatile (Gary Oldman). But my immediate answer was none of these.
“Bill Murray,” I said casually.
Wait a sec. Bill Murray? Bill bloody Murray? Carl Spackler is My Favorite Actor?
Turns out, it wasn’t such a bad choice at all. Bill Murray is one of those actors who’s truly done it all and doesn’t give a damn when it comes to awards. He once said, “Awards are meaningless to me, and I have nothing but disdain for anyone who actively campaigns to get one.” Game, set, match.

Yeah, I'm comfortable playing myself in "Space Jam"

William James Murray, the middle child in a large, working-class Chicagoland family, has had a truly remarkable acting career. In addition to being an improvisational genius who got his breakout in the original Saturday Night Live (you know, back when it was still funny), he’s taken on a smorgasbord of different genres. Early on there were the gonzo comedies like Caddyshack and Stripes that got him on the A-list. Murray’s genius was in full cry by the time Ghostbusters and Scrooged hit the scene. It’s the 90s, to me, that are perhaps the greatest showcase for Murray’s versatility. What About Bob? in ’91 and Groundhog Day in ’93 are as great a tandem as I could pull from my comedic DVD collection. He took a wonderfully loopy turn in Ed Wood (a terrifically underrated gem). There were a few misfires, perhaps (anybody remember Larger Than Life?) before Murray regained a full head of steam in 1997’s The Man Who Knew Too Little, which I still think is brilliant no matter what anyone says.
As he’s aged, Murray’s roles have become, well, a little more serious. Personally I think he could have been awarded for any of his seriocomic roles of the last 15 years, among them the criminally underrated Rushmore, a weirdly effective Polonius in Hamlet, and the kooky Jacques Cousteau clone in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The Academy and the Globes ultimately did reward Murray for his work in the 2004 comedy-drama Lost in Translation (he won the Globe but lost the Oscar.)

Only one of these men has won an Oscar

I think I did, after some thought, realize why I’m such a Murray fan. This is a guy who, despite being a megastar who’s funnier than a human being should be allowed, has the rumpled familiarity of a favorite college sweatshirt. He’s not gorgeous or classically trained or elegant. His voice is slightly gravelly. He has corkscrewed hair that looks like Einstein’s or Beethoven’s. But he has that rare gift of really making his audience members feel his characters. We all know a guy like this, whether it’s our dad or our uncle or beloved professor. And he has never taken himself completely seriously…how else could you explain him voicing the title role in Garfield and its sequel, or his hilarious live TV publicity stunt in which he declared he was quitting acting and joining the NBA. I still giggle over that one. I’d like to see Brad Pitt or Daniel Craig try that with a straight face.
And you’ll note I haven’t even mentioned Murray’s memorable cameo in Zombieland , which is one of two times in the last few years when I’ve laughed until I literally pulled a muscle. Yeah…it’s that good.
The real reason I love Bill Murray? He gives me hope that regular, but insanely brilliant and funny, people can make it too. I’m no Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron. If I were a guy I’d probably be Bill Murray; I’m almost tall enough. So yeah, there’s a little selfishness wrapped up in my Murrayphilia. Why not?
Ride on, Mr. Murray. I can’t wait to see what you do next (if it’s Ghostbusters III and/or Zombieland II, I’ll be a very happy woman).
Who’s your favorite actor? Who’s always been underrated? Send me your feedback and you might appear in a future edition of P&Q!
As always, if you enjoyed this post, hit that “Like” button and subscribe so you’ll never miss another exciting episode!

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on January 26, 2012.

9 Responses to “And The Award For (My) Best Actor Goes To…”

  1. Ooh Bill Murray, I do enjoy some of his films. Ghostbusters and Scrooged are classics. I remember as a child I always used to confuse him and Billy Crystal and I’m unsure why lol!

    My favourite actors are pretty obvious choices. Dwight Schultz whom I believe to be remarkably underrated (and dismissed as merely a guy who can do “crazy” or “comic relief” which is simply not true!) and Johnny Depp whom I sadly believe is on the cusp of becoming overrated due to some recent film choices. I look forward to seeing him in “Dark Shadows” to see if he can bring me back into being an avid viewer (I don’t believe I’ve seen him in anything since “Alice in Wonderland”

    Another favourite is British actor Chris Simmons. He was mainly known for his role as DC Mickey Webb on “The Bill” before it was cancelled. He had a story line where he was raped by a male criminal he was pursuing and he portrayed it so realistically and heart breakingly. The scene where he tells his Superior officer (and also best friend) what’s happened to him still makes me cry.

    So yes, there’s my top three XD

  2. I also like Bill Murray. Ya gotta like a guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously.

  3. A few months ago, we went to see the rerelease of Ghostbusters. I found myself laughing as soon as I even *looked* at Murray. The guy’s awesome.

    (Shout out for his little glimpses at the camera during the psychic TV show scene in Ghostbusters 2.)

  4. Great post. I love it. I saw the picture at the top (before I started reading) and my first thought was: Oooh! I love Bill Murray!

    It’s funny that, if we’re given time to come up with a “favourite” anything, we seem to try to justify things to ourselves. We feel obligated to not just pick the first thing that comes to mind, but to carefully weigh up all the options, and go with the “smartest” choice. Who’s the most versatile? Who’s the most interesting? Who donates the most money to charity? Whatever. It’s sad. Spontaneous decisions can be the most interesting.

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