Pop-Ed: The Best of Clooney

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It’s no secret that George Clooney is beloved on Pop-Break. We’ve extolled the virtues of this silver fox since the day we launched and with the release of his latest directorial effort, Monuments Men opening today, we thought we’d revisit one of our first columns — The Best of Clooney. In it we will look at some of Clooney’s most memorable and most under-appreciated roles and movies.

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The Best Movie Everyone Saw: Ocean’s 11 If you’re looking for the most mainstream, most easily digestible and enjoyable film Clooney’s ever made it’s the remake of the Rat Pack caper flick, Ocean’s 11. Clooney, is this generation’s Sinatra — he’s dashing, slick, charismatic, charming and just exudes cool. He’s the only actor that could fill Sinatra’s famed shoes, yet Clooney’s version of Danny Ocean eschews the boozy sarcasm of Sinatra’s version. Instead, we’re given a seemingly unflappable thief who is driven not just by the love of money, but by the quest to reclaim the love of his wife. Clooney portrays Ocean as a thief with a heart, not someone looking for the score. He’s a guy, who despite being a criminal is someone you want to hang with and sit under his learning tree. Combine Clooney’s wonderful performance with an A-List cast and the masterful direction of Steven Soderbergh and you’ve got the formula for one of the most highly rewatchable films in recent memory.

Best Movie You Didn’t See: Good Night, and Good Luck. If you’re a journalist and have not seen this film — shame on you. This all black and white homage to a bygone era of journalism is a must-see for all those who fancy themselves a writer, reporter, podcaster, blogger or what have you. Good Night, and Good Luck. is such reserved film but it packs a real subtle punch to those who are paying attention. It’s about fighting the good fight, it’s about ethics and it’s about truth. The performances are criminally underrated. David Strathairn’s performance as Edward R. Murrow is powerful and deserved an Oscar. Yet, we come back to Clooney as the best part of the film as he wears multiple hats here. First, he goes out of character and portrays Murrow’s stocky second banana producer/friend Fred Friendly. While Strathairn completely owns this film, Clooney’s turn as the always-worrying, yet always-supportive friend is brilliant. Also, Clooney wrote and directed this film — which is undoubtedly his best work to date.

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The Best Performance: Michael Clayton Prior to Michael Clayton, Clooney had never really sunk his teeth into such a dramatic leading role. In 2006 he was nominated for multiple Oscars and won for his supporting performance in Syriana yet, it was Michael Clayton where he truly made his statement performance. Here, he plays a legal fixer, whose comfortable job is challenged by a possible cover-up his friend (Tom Wilkinson) has discovered. Clooney portrays Clayton as a man wearing his moral conflicts on his sleeve, and we’re at the edge of our seat wondering which way he’ll go. His final scene with the always great Tilda Swinton is absolutely awesome.

Most Memorable Performance: Everett T. McGill, O, Brother Where Art Thou? While Clayton was his banner performance, it was not his most memorable one. One could write a book on just how beautiful Clooney’s character, Everett T. McGill is in this film is. As the Dapper Dan obsessed schemer/prison escapee, Clooney proved that he’s more than just a slow smile and a quick wit. He proved that he can go full hog in the comedy world. The classic lines he delivers throughout the film, “I’m a Dapper Dan man!” or “Ain’t this place a God damn geographic anomaly!” or “We’re in a tight spot” are some of his and even dare we say the Coen Brothers most memorable lines in their respective careers. This role is just so lovable that you can’t help but feel all warm on the inside after watching it. Clooney just embraces every aspect of the absurdity of Everett T. McGill from his perfect coif to his motor-mouthed Southern drawl to his bug-eyed look of surprise to his musical showmanship. Clooney is this character. If he never acted after this movie, it’d still be considered a role he could never top.

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The Hate Has Gone Too Far on: From Dusk Till Dawn Enough already. Yes, this movie is a bit trashy. Yes, it’s not rife with the crackling dialogue your used to from Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez. Yes, it’s gratuitous as hell. But let’s realize what this movie is — a tribute to the gory Z-movies that both seminal directors love. Clooney, who was still in the “TV guy gone to the movies” phase of his career was the perfect choice to play the cooler than cool killer, thief and ultimately the reluctant hero, Seth Gecko. His chemistry with Tarantino, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis makes the movie work and his presence prevents the film from wandering off into a sea of pure kitsch. At its heart, From Dusk Til Dawn is a pure adrenaline rock ‘n’ roll action/horror flick that’s perfect for the Halloween season. And of course there’s Salma Hayek’s striptease too.

The Early Clooney Film You Forgot About But Need to See: Three Kings Remember this one? Of course you don’t. This was Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze and David O. Russell all before they became bona fide box office gold. The film is actually two films in one — the first film is a high-energy war caper flick while the second is a serious commentary on the ’90s war in the Middle East. The chemistry between Clooney, Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Jonze is great and reminds me of the more “light-hearted” World War II flicks that came to the screens in the late ’60s and early ’70s like Kelly’s Heroes, where the war was more of a backdrop than the message. However, it’s the message part of the movie that really makes the film more than just a caper flick. It really hits you hard and the ending of the movie…wow. Super-intense doesn’t begin to accurately describe it. This is a definite Netflix stream that you need to be checking in on.

The New Clooney Film You Forgot About But Need to See: The Ides of March It was only a few years ago when this movie looked like it was destined for a slew of Oscar gold yet now, kinda forgotten. Clooney served double duty again, as the director and as the seemingly perfect presidential candidate Mike Morris. This film got overlooked by many, maybe because they feared a heavy-handed political allegory from the very political Clooney. Yet, they missed out. This is a non-biased (in my biased opinion) look at elections and the politics that surround them and how that environment can change people. Ryan Gosling is awesome as the idealistic staffer on Clooney’s campaign. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Paul Giamatti all kill it in supporting roles as various political movers and shakers. The Ides of March avoids being preachy and is not so over-the-top in its discussion of politics. It’s actually a modern day Shakespearean tale of corruption and is definitely a must-see.

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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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