There are several so called Hollywood Megastars whose career achievements don’t hold up to much scrutiny. Put this way, if the imdb ‘Best Known For…’ list that shows your four biggest ‘hits’ on your page contains the only decent films on your CV, then – regardless of what Jimmy Fallon says in his breathless and faux fawning introductions – perhaps you might need to reconsider your business card with ‘Hollywood Megastar’ on it in the first place.
Ever the innovator, OGR have devised a simply equation that validates claims to immortality. It’s this straightforward; if you have headlined or made major contributions to ten films that would be widely deemed ‘worthy’, then you can dub yourself whatever the hell you want.
The smallprint erases dubious entries, at the very mention of the film your name must immediately resonate to the average filmgoer – no-one thinks of Samuel L Jackson in Iron Man, BUT Sam Jax’ effort in Pulp Fiction is indelible and lasting. Therefore even though he is but a bit player in a vast ensemble, that film gets him in. Tom Cruise might get a nod for one of his major films, but anyone who felt he ‘made’ Tropic Thunder… is an idiot.
Sequels count – if they are good enough and not a cash in. Critical reception and box-office success is irrelevant.
I have set the ‘worthwhile’ bar at 7 / 10. A 6.5 might have a few moments, but I’m afraid I’m not paying it.
You get the idea… now even for the major Hollywood players with multi-decade careers ten solid films is a fair effort. If you are lucky enough to forge a career in movies then you will likely end up making a few. Some good, some bad. The challenge is to make a few good ones early, or you may never get that long career, at least not a well paid one. If you consider that there might only be twenty bona fide box-office Stars in any typical decade (and that a few failures can drum someone out of the industry) mere longevity isn’t going to get it done.
This list examines the guys n gals that beat the drum and carve out a career. The headliners. The ones that say “yes” to a script and in doing so justify getting it made. The ones that directors ask for. The ones on the poster.
To Recap; Ten OGR Approved Worthwhile films gets you the gong and entry into the just invented OGR Pop Culture Hall of Fame.
So I have scratched out a short list of likely candidates and painstakingly sifted the wheat from the chaff to come up with that individual’s Top 10 films. Then, in descending order, I will run down the films from Great (or thereabouts), through the decent and beyond. Those that hit mediocrity before double digits are relegated to ‘almost’… or less.
For those that make it, immortality awaits.
Check the list at the bottom of the article for the running totals. Today we examine whether the fact that an actor is one of my favourites guarantees that he will make the grade. Mr Steve Martin, you’re up.
Steve Martin was fashioned from clay at some point in the last century. Then he was brought to life and informed of his sole purpose for existence; to entertain others.
His emergence as an oddball alternative stand-up comedian in the 70s was followed by a pivotal role in one of the most successful and beloved eras of Saturday Night Live. Then came film, where he has gained comedic immortality and a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award – because they don’t grant Oscars for comedy films.
But films take a long time to make and Steve Martin is tasked with entertaining ‘the people’. So in between the many films Martin writes novels, screenplays and funny tweets. When he tires of that he plays banjo in his own acclaimed bluegrass group, releasing albums and performing on tour.
In fact there’s every chance that Steve Martin uses his leftover ideas to inspire the multitude of viral videos and memes… well at least the good ones… that end up in your inbox. He may also be responsible for the best Smarties flavours and for the rise in the popularity of yoga pants.
Yes as you might guess in my eyes there isn’t much he does wrong, so long as you pretend the awkward twee mismatched character romantic comedies that he cruised through on autopilot in the 90s don’t exist…
Steve Martin has been the funniest guy in any room for what seems like forever, and has been spinning cinematic straw into comedy gold for generations.
Like many Steve Martin films Bowfinger somehow manages to be both underrated and beloved in equal proportion. Notable for Eddie Murphy’s last performance of note, as twin brothers with markedly different skill sets. But Bowfinger is Martin’s baby. He wrote the script and keeps the entire project together as the ambitious but incompetent aspiring director determined to make a film featuring a ‘Big Star’, even while that Big Star is oblivious to the fact that he is in fact in it.
Effortlessly lampooning Hollywood’s flaws and indulgences, Bowfinger is great fun. It also pulls off the all too rare (especially these days) trick of having several minor roles contribute laughs without trying too hard – yes ‘also rans of This is the End’, I’m looking right at you!
Best Scene: The scene in which Bowfinger and co try to stage an intricate action scene around the genuine surprise and fear of Murphy’s Kit Ramsay will have you wishing Chubby Rain was real…
A fun and frequently hilarious comedy from the 80s that features Martin and Michael Caine as con-men competing for the same turf with a supposedly rich American woman as the primary target.
The ‘slow’ bits are funny. The highlights are many, with some being extremely memorable, and Caine and Martin are effortlessly likable. Unfairly lumped in with many ‘also rans’ when the comedies of the 80s are discussed.
Best Scene: The Ruprect scene is an All Time classic.
The Road Movie to end all Road Movies. In essence the film follows two men with very different personalities along an unnecessarily lengthy and complication filled journey. Whatever can go wrong, does, and the pair’s reactions contrast depending on the circumstances and the nature of the event. In fact much of the humour is in the expressions and reactions of the non-afflicted…
This time Martin plays the straight role and leaves most of the hamming to John Candy – a worthy foil and a brilliantly slobby counterpoint to Martin’s fussing and schedule oriented businessman. That it aside from one scene in which he drops the F-Bomb well over a dozen times in rapid succession.
Over the years Planes, Trains… has retrospectively gained more appreciation. You might not find it an uproarious laugh riot, but it’s nigh impossible not to like.
Best Scene: The 18 f-bombs is a cracker, but I can’t go past this as a put-down; “… when you tell these little stories, here’s a good idea. Have a POINT! It makes it sooo much easier for the listener.” Ouch.
Martin pokes fun at his adopted home city whilst simultaneously paying it homage, in a film that is essentially a group of weird skits and setpieces performed by a talented and diverse cast.
L.A. Story is ambitious, personal and often momentarily insane, but its heart is in the right place, and the few misfires are more than offset by some of the hilarious highpoints.
Mostly notable is the fact that this may well be the only moment in recorded history where Sarah Jessica Parker is likable and remotely alluring.
Best Scene: If Steve Martin was the local weatherman I would watch his forecasts daily. That’s saying something. How something? 99% of weatherpeople are hot busty women, and I haven’t watched a weather forecast in a decade; something.
Like Shopgirl (mentioned below), Martin occasionally likes a stretch out in a dramatic role. He plays enigmatic wealthy businessman Jimmy Dell straight all the way as the guy you’d love to have as your best friend, but could never trust 100%.
An exceptionally clever film that stretches plausibility at times – some events and coincidences are as likely as a blind person completing a 1,000 piece jigsaw unaided – which is nonetheless always compelling and well acted.
Best Scene: our first introduction to Jimmy comes on a beautiful sun kissed beach. While the scenery is pristine, the dialogue is crisper and even prettier.
An under-appreciated oldie. Martin plays Michael, a brain surgeon seduced and then ignored by a gold digger. In his grief he falls in love with a sassy brain in a jar.
As you might expect the film is full of slapstick and enough lunacy that Muppets could have appeared and they wouldn’t have seemed out of place.
Best Scene: Everything after Michael enters the evil laboratory is comedic gold.
I loved this as a responsibility free (and irresponsible) teenager, and now that I am a greying husband with a child of my own it resonates just as strongly in a different way.
Martin is but one of a vast – and vastly talented; Tom Hulce, Mary Steenburgen, Rick Moranis, Jason Robards, Dianne Weist… *um* Keanu Reeves – cast, but it is his Gil that is the ‘Sun’ around which this galaxy orbits, as four (maybe 5) generations endure the trials and tribulations of life and the flawed pursuit of ‘family togetherness’. Martin also lodges his entry into the Funniest Scenes of all time, with his hastily planned role as the ‘entertainment’ at his young fragile son’s birthday festivities.
Best Scene:If there was ever a Cowboy Gil film, I’d be first in line…
Another effort that highlights Martin’s ability to shine alongside a competent straight man. This time Martin is a smooth and charismatic mobster turned snitch under the promise of witness protection and no conviction. Only old habits die hard. It isn’t long before his antics in his (forcibly) adopted small and quiet town bring the attention of the FBI under the guise of the meek and straight edged Rick Moranis.
This film never veers far from its own lane and ends up exactly where you expect it to at the pre-determined time. It flourishes due to its lighthearted and pleasant nature, and in no small part thanks to Martin’s gleeful scenery chewing.
Best Scene: You haven’t lived until you have seen Steve Martin and Rick Moranis do the meringue…
Just to show a bit of range, Martin pops up in a cast featuring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, John Candy, Bill Murray and James Belushi – and steals the film in his ten minute cameo as the most gleefully sadistic all-singing, anaesthetic-ignoring dentist in any ‘giant singing killer plant from outer space’ musical on record. Granted the competition is scarce.
The film is more a delightfully absurd experimental piece with an ensemble cast of talented comedians – let’s just say you probably won’t buy the soundtrack for the tunes – but you can’t imagine it without Martin’s essential moments (or Bill Murray’s for that matter).
Best Scene:Well he only has a couple scenes, with the obvious being his ‘Just be a Dentist’ song. And you thought you hated dentists before…
A twist to the classic Cyrano De Bergerac tale, with Martin playing a terrific guy with the unfortunate quirk of having a nose you could hang washing from.
While the film doesn’t ever seem to decide whether it is a screwball comedy or an earnest romantic comedy, Martin’s performance carries the day. If his large proboscis’ed character fell flat so too would the film. It is testament to his likability and comedic sensibilities that this remains as watchable as it is. Unfortunately despite the fond memories the film hasn’t aged that well and is in all likelihood the least rewatchable on this list.
Best Scene: The ’20 nose jokes’ gets the plaudits, but for no known reason I liked the absurd beat down that Martin’s character delivers to the first guys in the film who dare poke fun at his schnozz.
Just missed the Cut;
Sgt Bilko – A great performance from Martin is stymied by a formulaic and limp wristed Disneyfied effort. As with many films Martin is the best thing in it, unfortunately on this occasion this can’t offset the kidliness and saccharine feeling that pervades the rest of the film.
Traitor – He’s not in it, but Martin wrote this one during a break in doing the 37 other things he excels at. An ‘is he or isn’t he?’ drama about a potential terrorist who is either conspiring to pull off the biggest act of terrorism in the continental United States – or is out to foil same. As you might expect it is perhaps a little confusing but ultimately a rewarding, taut drama with the ever excellent Don Cheadle in the lead.
Shopgirl – This one he wrote (based on his own novel) and starred in. AND managed to have Claire Danes both play his love interest and get her kit off. (Juvenile summary I know but I haven’t seen the film in a decade or so – that’s what I remember.)
Three Amigos – Oyyy. This one hurts. A ‘classic 80s comedy’ where the only accurate part of that descriptor is 80s. Fondly remembered by some, but reality is often a harsh and unforgiving mistress.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid – Just don’t get it. Comes across as a dodgy clip show interspersed with snippets from older ‘classic’ films. I hadn’t seen a single source film. I didn’t find any of the jokes funny. Just don’t get it.
Anything where he co-stars alongside anyone ‘sassy’ (Queen Latifah), ‘kooky’ (Cheaper by the Dozen) or ‘Goldie’ (Hawn).
Worthwhile Steve Martin Movies: 10
One of the funniest men on the planet for four some decades and counting, Martin deserves all the accolades thrown at him, including – for now – the lead in a pointless competition on an obscure website read by literally hundreds of people a year.
Unfortunately he’s probably more wrapped up in his Honorary Academy Award for services to comedy, or Grammy nominations for his banjo albums, or his critical plaudits for nose-picking, or the numerous glowing reviews for his books, or… whatever he does next.
Until next time, when we Get to tha Choppa!