Saturday, February 20, 2016

Top 5 Movie Guide: Michael Fassbender

We wind down this year's Top 5 Movie Guide series with an actor who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 2015's "Steve Jobs", Michael Fassbender. Fassbender was born in 1977 in Germany, though mostly raised in Ireland. After appearing in plays in high school, he knew he wanted to be an actor. He continued pursuing that passion over the next few years, ultimately attending Drama Centre London for guidance. Once there, however, he did not feel it was for him and shortly after dropped out. While there, one of his classmates, Tom Hardy, said Fassbender was easily the best actor in the school. That assessment might have been pretty accurate.


Fassbender started his professional career splitting time between London and Los Angeles. He worked mostly on the stage in London while grabbing television roles in America. He continued with this pattern until 2006 when he landed his first film role in "300". Smaller film roles continued from there until 2011, when he broke out in a big way. In that year alone he appeared in "A Dangerous Method", 'Haywire", "X-Men: First Class", "Jane Eyre", and "Shame". And he hasn't stopped since. 2013 earned him his first Academy Award nomination for his role in "12 Years a Slave", which was also his third collaboration with good friend and director, Steve McQueen.

He hasn't yet appeared in 30 films for his career, but his upcoming slate looks ever-more promising and exciting. He's regarded as one of the strongest "new" (he's almost 40) actors working today, and probably one of the best we're seeing on film right now. In a few years I'm sure Fassbender's list will be one worth revisiting, but for now...

Alex Schopp
Looking through Fassbender’s filmography, it’s neat to see how many correct choices he’s made in his short career. His Rotten Tomatoes page is littered with high marks. He hasn’t yet had a performance/role that’s blown me away, but he’s had a lot of good ones. This is a guy who will be around for a long time. Side Note: I love “Inglourious Basterds”, but for the life of me I can’t remember Fassbender’s character in the film. I feel like that has to say something about the importance of his role; that’s why I omitted it.

     1. Prometheus (2012)
I just can’t pass up an entertaining sci-fi flick. There are a few aspects of this film that I dislike, but the overarching concept of “where did we come from/what else is out there?” is so intriguing to me. I want so badly for this film to be real and to be on the journey with them across the universe looking for more clues that lead to the origins of life.
     2. X-Men: First Class (2011)
My top choice on the Jennifer Lawrence list, it falls one spot here in favor of my love for the futuristic sci-fi genre. I already explained why this film is one of my favorites of the superhero genre, and Fassbender’s character is one of the best in the film (the best?).
     3. Steve Jobs (2015)
I often try to avoid including films on these lists that are the reason for the post to begin with, but I couldn’t pass up one of the better individual performances of 2015. Fassbender does a great job tackling some really lengthy scenes with emotion and depth. I’ve never been a big Apple/Mac fan, but I still appreciate Jobs’ artistic integrity. Even though I lean more towards the Google/Android open-source platform when it comes to technology, I understand his point of view and don’t completely disagree with it.
     4. Haywire (2012)
Now we get to a point on the list where it’s more about entertainment than anything else (not saying it makes for a lack of quality, but I passed up some other, more technically sound films and roles because they aren’t very fun to watch). “Haywire” was an entertaining action flick with a great cast, and Soderbergh adds enough artistic style to make it feel superior to other genre pieces.
     5. Frank (2014)
I could have went with a few different options in this spot, but ultimately went for a film that was creative and probably under-seen by many people. Fassbender plays Frank, a musician/artist who always wears a giant cartoon-looking, papier-mâché head. The story is very loosely based on a true story, which makes this character even more fascinating. Again, like “Steve Jobs”, Fassbender plays someone who was adamant about his artistic integrity and not willing to sell out, even if it meant less of a following. The tone of this movie is a little slow and some parts aren’t incredibly exciting, but nonetheless it’s an interesting story about individualism that features some pretty unique characters.

Derek Clem


     1. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Of the X-Men films Fassbender is featured, I feel he most shines in this one. He is a man of principle. I find it endearing that his quest for revenge is not broken due to the ideology he shares with his enemy.
     2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The prison break scene with his assumed son was the highlight of the film.
     3. Prometheus (2012)
I enjoy the de-saturated palette this film offers. That palette has caused this movie to grow on me as time passes. I have quite a few issues with this film, but none of them involve Fassbender. He provides a uniqueness to the film through a variety of ways, but what interests me most is how he stands out visually. I’m excited to see how the story of the Lawrence of Arabia-obsessed android continues in the sequel.
     4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
I think this is when I first noticed Fassbender. He took control of the screen when he was on it. It was clear this guy was going to be a star.
     5. A Dangerous Method (2011)
I really like when Freud (Viggo Mortonsen) shuts Jung (Fassbender) down when he tries to get all ESP supernatural. Freud’s just looking for that credibility.

Nathan Hinds
I consider Michael Fassbender one of the most talented actors working today. And to that point, it was to my surprisement that his filmography was so limited. Just as was the case with last week's Jennifer Lawrence list, this would be a list easier to put together a few more years down the road.

     1. 300 (2006)
This will be a tough film to not write a novel about. In fact, I'm surprised I never wrote about "300" before now. You won't find "300" on my All Time Favorites list anymore, but for a brief period this was my favorite film. And it still remains a highly significant film for me. I'm a person who will gladly see films multiple times in theaters - I couldn't begin to tell you the number of films I've seen more than once in theaters. And of all those movies, "300" is easily (and always be) the film I've seen the most. Now, before I say the number, it's important to note that when "300" was released, I worked at a movie theater so most of my viewings were free. I did pay to see it at several other locations though. In total, I saw it 57 times in theaters. And that's only the number of times I've seen it from start to finish - working at a theater, there were countless other partial viewings. I know it seems exaggerated, but I promise you it is not. That's an exact count. Clearly, it's safe to say I was obsessed with it. There were so many elements of the film that just worked perfectly - elements that haven't worked for other films (case in point: "Sucker Punch". That movie is so similar in style to "300" but is complete and total garbage. I take shots at that crappy film anytime I can).
     2. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Unlike "300", I've had plenty of chances to write about this film. Since it was prominently featured on last week's list, I'll just add that Michael Fassbender's portrayal of Magneto has been the best aspect of this rebooted franchise.
     3. Prometheus (2012)
This movie had such a big time feel to it. From the moment the first trailer dropped, it felt like it would be a special film (as far as the sci-fi genre goes). I thought the movie achieved that when I watched it but I feel like it has mostly been forgotten. It's magnificent in a lot of ways yet it's not the type of film you bring yourself to revisit often.
     4. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
This is the film that made me stop hating Quentin Tarantino, and man did I hate that guy before I saw this film. I hated the Kill Bill films and I hated how the people involved seemed to gush over Tarantino any time they were in front of the camera. It always felt disingenuous to me. It was similar to how I feel with Lee Daniels and "The Butler". Both are cases where the director seems to feel like they were more important than the film(s).
     5. Shame (2011)
This film makes the list because I didn't want to use two X-Men films. This isn't a film you need to see twice and it's based on subject matter that's definitely not for everyone. I personally love films that look at addiction and this is a great depiction of how addiction can take over someone's life.

Andy Schopp


     1. X-Men: First Class (2011)
I feel like this is an obvious choice. This movie continues to show up on multiple Slackers lists, which makes me remember every time how awesome it is.
     2. Prometheus (2012)
I know this movie is generally disliked but I enjoyed a lot of things about it. I know it "messes up canon" or whatever but that's fine with me. It gave a great story to something only vaguely connected to the alien universe and I enjoyed that.
     3. Shame (2011)
I thought Fassbender really nailed this role and made me feel some good feels for a character I really didn't have much in common with.
     4. Fish Tank (2009)
An oddity of a movie but I generally enjoyed disliking some of the characters and found myself rooting for the redemption of the protagonist as much as she maybe didn't want to redeem herself.
     5. 300 (2006)
This movie is really just a fight scene for a plot and an excuse for a bunch of neat-looking slow motion effects. I don't really find myself wanting to watch it that often anymore, but I have to admit that it's a unique film and will always stand out to me in that regard.

Elisabeth Clem

     1. Jane Eyre (2011)
Fassbender is such a perfect Mr. Rochester. Dark and mysterious and harsh and gentle and beautiful all at once. I tend to watch movies based on the weather or season and this movie’s spookiness and coziness are so perfect for a rainy autumn day. It’s one I’m sure I’ll always return to in the fall. And the composer, Dario Marianelli, is one of my favorites.
     2. Prometheus (2012)
I know a lot of people hate this movie, but I enjoy it quite a bit and can watch it often. Fassbender is such a weirdo in it. Who can watch "Lawrence of Arabia" that many times? I don’t care if you’re an android. Though his repetition of “The trick…is not minding that it hurts” (from Arabia) is a pretty useful thing to remember. It’s legitimately come in handy in my life at times.
     3. X-Men: First Class (2011)
I think I’ve actually only seen this movie twice, but I enjoyed it immensely both times and Eric Lehnsherr was my favorite part of it.
     4. Steve Jobs (2015)
I keep forgetting about this movie. But while I was watching it, I loved it. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to get it on DVD, so I could watch it while working. I think the pacing and dialogue-heaviness of it will lend themselves well to my productivity. I think I had an immediate fondness towards it too because I grew up on Apple computers. I don’t remember ever not having one in our house, and I’m writing this on one now.
     5. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Honestly, I don’t remember Fassbender in this movie at all. I’ve only seen it once, and it was a while ago. But I’m including it because I know I liked it a lot, and I still think about some of those famous scenes from time to time. I should probably pop it back in and refresh my memory.

So there we have it. The final grouping of films from a Top 5 Movie Guide for the year. It's always sad when we come to the end of our run, but at least we still have each of our Top 15 Films of 2015 lists to come (next week).

As for the films on this list, it was actually a pretty great grouping. Overall there were 12 different films listed - for a guy who's only been working in film for a decade, that's a pretty impressive collection. There were six films that appeared on multiple lists, and two, "X-Men: First Class" and "Prometheus", that appeared on all five. It's not surprising that either of those were so prominent amongst this group; two films that not only helped Fassbender break-out commercially, but also have thematic elements that generally appeal to The Slackers. Outside of those two, "Inglourious Basterds" was the only film to hit on three lists, while "Steve Jobs", "300", and "Shame" each made their way onto two different lists.

As always, thanks to all who read these posts - hopefully you're getting at least a little value out of them. We love composing them and, even if sporadically, will probably continue to do so throughout much of our lives.

Happy watching!