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Was the Coolest Movie Ensemble of the 21st Century From a Movie Barely Anyone Saw?

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | November 26, 2012 | Comments ()


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Look: I know what you're thinking. What? That's a ridiculous title for this post because EVERYONE saw The Avengers: Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, ScarJo, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Greg, and Samuel Motherf**king Jackson. That is coo, bro. You can't beat that.

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Oh, but I think I can. And no, it's not Inception, although Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Marion Cottilard, Michael Caine, and Cillian Murphy is tough to beat. But then again, any one of the Dark Knight movies ranks right up there, too, because it's essentially the same people, give or take a Christian Bale or a Heath Ledger.

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Those are cool casts. So were the Oceans films: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Al Pacino, Casey Affleck? I mean, damn, right?

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Then there's the Wes Anderson cadre of regulars, be it Royal Tenenabaums (The Wilson Brothers, Bill Murray, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth) or Moonrise Kingdom (Willis, Murray, Norton, McDormand, SWINTON) or even Life Aquatic (give or take a Wilson brother, add a Blanchett and Dafoe).

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Cool? Absolutely. I'd put the Anderson movies on par with The Departed (Wahlberg, Damon, Nicholson, Martin Sheen, DiCaprio, Vera Farmiga), or of course, for those who appreciate pure actressin', there was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Firth, Oldman, Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt), but you know what? I'd probably put Anchorman (Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Kathryn Haghn) in the conversation as well.

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I also wouldn't want to forget about X-Men (Jackman, Page, Berry, Patrick Stewart, Anna Pacquin, Ray Park) or even X-Men: First Class (McAvoy, Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Rose Byrne), either.

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Most people wouldn't consider State of Play (McAdams, Crowe, Affleck, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright, Jeff Daniels, Viola Davis), but I'd have to at least consider it. Likewise, Lord of the Rings (Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Viggo, Ians Holm and McKellan, and Andy Serkis) deserves some consideration.

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In the end, though, for pure Pajiba awesomeness, I'd have to ultimately go with a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell, Mary Louise Parker, Casey Affleck, Paul Schneider, James Carville, Nick Cave, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Shepard, and Garret Dillahunt. It's subjective, of course, as all things are, but if you'd asked me if I'd rather have a film starring Hemsworth, Downey, Jr., and Ruffalo or one starring Rockwell, Renner, Dillahunt, and Brad Pitt at his best, I'd go with the latter before I ever saw the trailer, although I'm willing to concede it would be a close call. The Oscar-nominated cinematography, the Terrence Malick approach, and Jeremy Renner's frozen bare ass would probably put it over the top for me.

The movie came from Andrew Dominik who introduced Eric Bana to the wider world in Chopper, and who has another phenomenal ensemble out in a movie this weekend called Killing Them Softly (Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard). I speak, of course, of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a movie I just caught over the weekend, five years too late to include it among There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men as one of the best films of 2007. It made less than $4 million at the box office, but the film absolutely blew me away, and I co-sign everything Daniel Carlson wrote in his original review of the film.

The point of this post: It's great to revisit those under appreciated gems of years past, and I just want to put The Assassination of Jesse James in your ear for the next time you're looking for a sublimely acted, incredibly scored, gorgeously rendered film about a major historical figure that hews awfully damn close to the true story. Just make sure to put aside two-and-a-half hours for the film, and another hour for researching the fascinating veracity of the film's account.


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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Kaseyzee

    Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. And yes, It's an ensemble cast. But that article is for another day.

  • Allin

    No, you don´t have to watch the whole thing. It´s just over-rated now because it used to be under-rated.

  • Opie Curious

    I had dinner with a friend the other day and he was recommending Killing Them Softly to me in the strongest terms. He mentioned it was the same person who made The Assassination of Jesse James... and I was sold without another word. God, I love this movie.

  • Chris

    I agree with the conclusion and most of the middle of this article, but I'm sorry, how the h* is Avengers at the top of that list, as the first potential candidate? At least it's rejected. It has three names worth mentioning: "Robert Downey, Jr, ScarJo, and Samuel Motherf**king Jackson". The rest are just Marvel's own circlejerks and we wouldn't even know their names if the latest craze of superhero films hadn't been so unexplicably successful.

  • thebluestepside

    Agreed.

  • ceallaig

    I know I'm going to get 'that look' for even suggesting this, but ... the cast of Red -- Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich. C'mon, if you liked the movie or not, you have to love that lineup!

  • Idle Primate

    I watched The Towering Inferno the other night and it got me wondering about modern star studded ensembles. This list has been timely and more thorough than my own head scratching. BTW, Towering Inferno still stands up as a near perfect suspense/action/disaster film. A contender for best in class.

  • theotherkafka

    it was an awesome film to see in the theater. the sound design is riveting. Explosive gun shuts that nearly took you out of you seat and subtle ambiant nature sounds. It was one of the most immersive movie experiences of my life.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Roger Deakins has been nominated for 9 Oscars and has won exactly... zero. This is just another indication of how massively unjust Hollywood awards are. He should have a shelf full of them.

  • Kailan_Sunshine

    Am I the only one who hated this movie? I couldn't even finish it! I watched an hour and a half of drudgery (which took me several days to do, since I couldn't tolerate more than 5-10 minutes at a time), then just skipped to the end. Of my list of good movies, this one is definitely NOT on it.

  • ang

    I do apologize, but the most important thing from this post:
    Is Ian McKellan wearing Crocs???????

  • BierceAmbrose

    Didn't Pajiba used to have a regular "under appreciated gems" feature?

  • Natallica

    Don't forget one of the most awesome ensambles ever: Bridges, Goodman, Buscemi, Turturro, Moore, Seymour Hoffman and Elliot (Big Lebowski)

  • winged chorus

    But didn't Lebowski come out in 1998?

    'Ensambles' looks like a word for a kind of Spanish finger food. But yeah, Bridges and Goodman do make for great ensambles.

  • Purplejebus

    Avengers, ensemble!

  • Natallica

    My bad. It wasn't a 21st century movie. AND it is "ensemble".

  • You win ALL the upvotes.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'd rate it right up there with There Will Be Blood but then I thought that was an overblown and tedious movie as well.

  • Pawesl

    It only made 4 million because it had an extremely limited release only reaching about 300 theatres.

    I do agree that it is a wonderful movie. Affleck was amazing as Robert Ford and the movie was just beautiful to look at. I was highly upset that this was not nominated for best movie but that garbage Juno was.

  • In an alternate universe Ruffalo appeared in Assassination of Jesse James and it made over $1 billion at the box office and all past cinematography Oscars were retroactively awarded to Deakins.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'm aware and I've even seen parts of it, for some reason I have not seen the whole thing. I will make a point to do so.

  • I've been making cheap excuses to myself for years in order to avoid watching this film and I don't know why. Oh wait, I do - I'm a damn cross-eyed dog of a stupid fool! But this time! This time I promise! This coming weekend this film is gonna be my lazy hangover cinema viewing or else I will flay myself for 20 minutes the very next Monday with the nearest discarded condom I goddamn come across! And I will film that as evidence.

  • the_wakeful

    One of the best movies of the decade. It was robbed of the oscar for cinematography.

  • John W

    Now if we could get all those great casts to rumble Anchorman style....

  • Rochelle

    A hauntingly beautiful movie. It deserved to be a huge commercial success, and failing that, should become a long-lived cult classic.

  • milti_adis

    Liked this awesome name drop. But only 4 million? That was even worse than Seven Psychopaths, which I think has the most awesome and crazy-ass ensemble ...ever (Farell, Rockwell, Walken, Harrelson, Waits, Ivanjek, Stuhlbarg, Pitt, Dean Stanton, Kurylenko)

  • janellest

    Great movie, and one of the most incredible scores ever created.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    I whole-heartedly agree. An excellent film that far too few people have seen or even know about.

  • Adrienne Marie

    If Garret Dillahunt is in it, I will watch it, no questions asked.

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