Friday, September 21, 2007

The best actor you've (probably) never heard of

Though you can probably only see it in Atlanta so far, Ray McKinnon has a new movie opening today. Who, you ask? I did too until I did a little investigating.

I first heard of McKinnon when he presented his Oscar-winning short film, "The Accountant," at the Middle Georgia Video and Film Festival two years ago. I tried to find out if you can still rent or buy it on DVD, but came up empty. If you can find it, however, it's a darkly comic little gem.

McKinnon, has 63 acting credits listed at the Internet Movie Database, starting, appropriately enough for a dude from the tiny burg of Adel, Ga., with the role of "Alabama trooper #1" in "Driving Miss Daisy." Sandwiched in that list I found two stellar performances in one of my favorite films and one of TV's best (and most missed) shows.

The first role I'm talking about was as Vernon T. Waldrip in what's still, for my money, the best Southern movie ever not made by Southerners, "O Brother Where Art Thou?" Though that name might not strike a chord with you right away, just remember that, as Holly Hunter's suitor, he was George Clooney's rival in being "bona fide."

McKinnon was even better in a much more prominent role on HBO's "Deadwood." Anyone who's seen season one of this David Milch Western on HBO will know him as the Rev. H.W. Smith. And if you've seen the season finale with his final encounter with Ian McShane's Al Swearingen, I think you'll agree with me that it's one of the best hours you'll ever see on TV anywhere.

Along with being an actor, McKinnon also has written and directed three films, starting with "The Accountant," then "Chrystal" (a Southern gothic flick starring Billy Bob Thornton that just got added to my Netflix queue) and now "Randy and the Mob."

The latter, which will slowly spread beyond Atlanta starting next week, sounds like a thoroughly goofy but hopefully very funny little flick. McKinnon stars as Randy, a small-time Southern businessman who makes the always wise move of borrowing money from some Italian-American gangsters. Along with McKinnon, it also stars Lisa Blount, Bill Nunn and, believe it or not, Burt Reynolds.

See this one if you get the chance. Given that this was executive produced by the late Phil Walden, the Maconite who played a key role in developing the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding and other musicians, I'm hoping it will come to Macon very soon.

Besides, when's the last time you watched a "Southern" movie that actually starred Southern people? ("Cold Mountain" is the one that really grates my cheese for not even bothering to look for any, but there are plenty of other truly egregious examples.) Well, directors, Ray McKinnon's out there, and he is indeed "bona fide."

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to wrap this up now so I can go see David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises." Sometimes, life really is good.


jeremy said...

Glad to hear that Eastern Promises opened there! Its sill on the back burner for me--Mala Noche is in town this week and there's a music festival all weekend.
I know I'll make time to see it, though, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on it.
I liked McKinnon on Deadwood--in fact, I think everyone on that show is pretty awesome. (Yes, especially Kristin Bell's singular ep.) And isn't it nice to see Jerry from Facts of Life getting work again? Have a great weekend!

Splotchy said...

Hey, over on my neck of the woods I have got this Adopt An Actor program.

If you'd like to adopt Mr. McKinnon, just let me know. Adoption basically boils down to declaring an intent to adopt on your blog, and occasionally promoting him or her, possibly making a little space for a picture.

You've essentially already provided a post celebrating him, so just say the word, and I'll you and he to the growing roster.

Bob said...

He was awesome on "O Brother"! Hopefully his movie will make its way up to Seattle.
Enjoy "Eastern Promises." I'm gonna see it this weekend.
Also, I finally saw "The Lives of Others" and it's incredible. WAY better than "Pan's Labyrinth."
And "Snow Cake" just recently came out on DVD and YOU HAVE TO SEE IT! An absolutely amazing movie that just fell through the cracks with no promotion and a practically unnoticed theatrical release last summer. Please rent it. One of the best films I've seen in several years.

Neel Mehta said...

Interesting picture. I had no idea that Matthew Modine and Luke Wilson had a child together.

Review of Eastern Promises here, in case you can't get started. I had to read a couple of them myself to help make my thoughts more coherent.

Marina said...

Thanks for the info on "Chrystal" - just added it to my list as well!

And enjoy Eastern Promises. It's excellent!

Reel Fanatic said...

I think I left you a comment about that, Splotchy, but it's hard to tell because my computer went haywire right after I did .. If you didn't get it let me know ... And though I can't say "Lives of Others" was better than "Pan's Labyrinth" for my tastes, Bob, it is a truly amazing movie and a worthy Oscar winner .. and though I went to see Eastern Promises today, I won't have time to post a review until tomorrow, but it was indeed pretty friggin awesome

Splotchy said...

I got your message.

I have added you to the adoption roster for both Mr. McKinnon and Ellen Page, as per your request.


Mercurie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mercurie said...

Ye gods, I thought I was the only one who knew who Ray McKinnon was! He was fantastic on Deadwood. And he was great in O Brother, Where Art Thou