Star-Making Performances That Weren't But Should Have Been

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Michael Pare. What an enormous star and a long, robust career he's had. What's that? You don't remember the long, varied career of superstar Michael Pare? That's because Pare is the poster boy for the Next Big Thing in the acting business who never was.

Good reason in the case of Pare, since the performances that were supposed to make him a big star were only good at best. The fact that all the media pumping in the world could not turn Pare into a superstar is far less mysterious than why a few truly spectacular performances failed to catch fire and transform a heretofore unknown into a much more well-known quantity.

"Eagle vs. Shark"

Not one but two stars should have come from this offbeat comedy from New Zealand. Loren Horsley was most definitely robbed of an Oscar nomination, and a look at her resume since shows she was robbed of a superstar career. Horsley's performance reminds me of Tom Hiddleston in "Thor" in the fact that both actors are capable of doing more with a look in their eyes than some actors can do with 10 pages of dialogue.

By contrast, Jemaine Clement may yet achieve the fame he is deserved, mostly thanks to "Flight of the Conchords." If you saw him in a role that should have nabbed him an Oscar nod in "Gentlemen Broncos" and recognized him as the sad jerk from "Eagle vs. Shark," then kudos to you. I didn't even realize it was the same guy!

Both stars of this genuinely unusual comedy deserve stardom well beyond that achieved by, say, Scarlet Johansson and Matt Damon, two actors who cannot hold a candle to Horsley and Clement.

"Happy Birthday, Harris Malden"

Here is another case where two actors from the same movie should be enormous freaking stars by now. Juan Cardarelli is so astonishingly funny in "Happy Birthday, Harris Malden" that it is almost within the realm of possibility to think of his subplot ahead of the main driving thrust of Harris Malden and his mustache. You would have to search high and low for a movie that features such a memorable A-story yet also features an equally impressive B-story.

And yet, it must be remembered, this movie is about Harris Malden. Unfortunately, I have only seen Nick Gregorio in "Happy Birthday, Harris Malden," but based solely on the depth of this performance that is the very model of a star-making acting job, I don't think it is going out on too far of a limb to suggest that if the world were a fair place, Gregorio would today be at the top of the list for any director trying to put together a comedy project.

I've seen a lot of movies in my time, and I have to go all the way back to "Night Shift" and Michael Keaton to find a comedic performance that so immediately cried out SUPERSTAR! Of course, Keaton at some point decided he was a serious dramatic actor rather than a comedic actor, and that's why so many people are scratching their head right now and saying "Michael who?"

"Cry Vengeance"

We gotta hop in Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine to revisit this thriller made in the 1950s. Skip Homeier made quite a splash as little boy Nazi in his first film "Tomorrow the World," but even that memorable performance could not have prepared anyone for his role as Roxey in this film noir. You think Hannibal Lecter is a great film villain? Heck, without the direction of Jonathan Demme, Lecter is no more menacing than "Hannibal."

What Homeier does as Roxey in "Cry Vengeance" should be utilized in acting classes. Forget the lecture, forget the exercises, and just put this movie on the TV and show young actors how to create a multilevel character that is, certainly, a villain, but who isn't just a cartoon character like Lecter.

Timothy Sexton is not a star, but he can write better than Aldo Nova:

The Evolution of Hannibal Lecter

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