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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

Appreciating What Brendan Fraser Has Given Us

Unless you are living under a rock, I'm going to assume everyone is aware of the current renaissance Brendan Fraser is having in Hollywood. Although the actor has been steadily working for years now, it seems only recently he's made his way back into the public eye running the awards circuit for his performance in Darren Arronofsky's The Whale. What many likely don't know is that I have been knee deep in a Fraserthon for a little over a year now, and I thought in the wake of his well deserved Oscar nomination I would shed a little light on some of my favorite work done by one of my favorite actors and try to articulate why he is so beloved.

To begin, my Brendathon started in the summer of '21. I'm a pisces who constantly falls victim to the nostalgia bug and something in me was really itching to rewatch the Mummy movies. So I did. As I wrapped up the second movie I realized what a staple he was in my childhood----Journey to the Center of the Earth, Bedazzled, Looney Tunes: Back in Action--I knew I had to revisit these gems as well. Eventually I was at a thrift store with one of my friends and stumbled upon a dvd copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth that included a film commentary with Brendan and the director of the film, Eric Brevig. I rewatched the film with the commentary accompanying it and I think that's when I was fully sold on tackling the beast that was Brendan's filmography. Not only was he an incredibly charismatic and talented actor but he had a work ethic that I really admired. As an actor myself, there's something you innately feel when you know someone giving a performance has done The Work, and it was clear to me that whether it was for a tv movie or a major blockbuster film, Fraser never shortchanged the work required to build a solid foundation for a character to blossom.

So I began my Fraserthon (which is still ongoing) and watched about 30 movies from his filmography, these are my favorites of the bunch.

5.) The Mummy (1999)

Some of the best characterization I've personally ever seen. Who but Rick O'Connell is yelling back at mummies?

I don't think I could make this post without including the original Mummy movie even if I tried. It is such a classic film and Rick O'Connell is such a perfect action film protagonist, when that Twitter fancast of Marvel movies if they were set in the '90s was going around and they had Brendan as Starlord, I was fully onboard. If I'm being totally honest, the second film is actually my personal favorite because I love Rick and Evelyn together as an actual couple and I think it's more fun and silly than the first, but I recognize the narrative mess it devolves into so the first beats it out for my top five.

4.) School Ties (1992)

School Ties is a film I went into knowing nothing and I was pleasantly surprised. Fraser has done a handful of films dealing with social issues that are stigmatized in society (including The Whale). A lot of these movies are hit or miss for me (we won't even talk about Crash) usually because the writing bogs it down by failing to make a succinct point, or any point at all. School Ties however, does not succumb to this writing mistake. In the film Fraser plays David, a Jewish boy attending a private school in the '50s that faces anti-semitism from his peers and friends. My personal favorite part of the movie, and the reason I have such a fondness for it, is the ending. In the end of the film, David's "friend group" had gotten him in trouble by framing him for cheating in order to cover for their leader, Charlie. The boys finally do the right thing and tell the school's administration that David had done nothing wrong, and that it was their anti-semitic beliefs that allowed them to be okay with David taking the fall.

In a normal movie, and the way I expected this film to handle the resolution, David would've probably accepted the boys' apology, understanding they were being ignorant. He maybe even would engage in a newfound friendship with them that bridges the divide between them, or something corny like that. But School Ties is smarter than that. In fact, School Ties does what I wanted it to do, David doesn't forgive the boys who terrorized him for his Jewishness. He leaves without saying a word. He completely disengages from them, he's not grateful toward them for doing the bare minimum and he is not obligated to accept their apology. It's an ending that isn't necessarily revolutionary, but was still surprising to me, especially seeing as it's a movie that was released in the early '90s. It was powerful and so satisfying to watch, earning it a spot on this list.

3.) Gods and Monsters (1998)

This is another film I went into completely blind and I was so glad I did. It presents us with something we don't see particularly often, Fraser playing an asshole, and it is the pinnacle of being able to tell whether or not an actor did The Work before tackling a project. Because a lot of actors could've signed on to play Clay Boone and I would've walked out of the film seeing him as a homophobe and nothing more. But in Brendan's portrayal of the character, he became extremely complex and the relationship dynamic between him and Ian Mckellen's character was incredibly interesting to watch and explore throughout the film. I remember being extremely moved witnessing the internal battle Fraser's character struggled with, even if he was in the wrong for much of it, Fraser managed to bring a sense of humanity to the character that allowed me to feel something watching him.

2.) Airheads (1994)

Just guys bein' dudes :)

My number two favorite film and performance of Fraser's is hands down Airheads. A near perfect film, when I initially watched it I had never seen Dog Day Afternoon and I can say with 100% conviction that you're only able to appreciate it more after seeing what it's referencing. It is a hilarious movie with a cast I never would've expected (Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler in crop tops??? Insanity.) but it's also filled with the just the right amount of heart to make it endlessly rewatchable. One of those movies that is just a Good Time.

Honorable mentions:

Lo-res but I had to include one of my favorite first kisses in a film. Mrs. Winterbourne, I love you!

Before I reveal my favorite Brendan Fraser film and performance of all time I need to give some honorable mentions out, because the man's filmography is stellar. Looney Tunes: Back in Action is probably my most watched film from this list of all time, I was literally obsessed with it as a kid and still have large chunks of it memorized to the point where I quote it every time I watch it. The Air I Breathe was a movie I enjoyed a surprising amount that included Brendan and Sarah Michelle Gellar playing lovers. Fraser plays a gangster with a heart of gold, and in turn made me cry more than I expected to. Mrs. Winterbourne is another film that I watch once every few months, I went into it expecting nothing special and left with one of my all time favorite romcoms (but honestly I could write a whole other post just about it).

And he made it into my top 2 favorite characters, they both deserve the world <3

My last honorable mentions aren't movies but television shows. In my Fraserthon I had the opportunity to watch the limited series Trust as well as DC's Doom Patrol and both are phenomenal shows. Doom Patrol especially is a show I will definitely end up writing a separate piece about, it is a beautiful exploration of trauma, grief, and identity that utilizes one of my favorite things in the world, found families-----and it does it all sprinkling in elements of absurdism that I love (similar to the Daniels.) I cannot recommend it enough.

1.) Still Breathing (1997)

With a 2.9 Letterboxd score I am likely alone holding Still Breathing as my all time favorite Fraser film, I'm sure for a lot of people I've lost all my credibility at this point but I can't help but love this movie. It's another romcom (which I think Fraser is perfect for) made around the same time as Brendan's heaviest hitters and it has my heart. A lot of that is because Fraser and his love interest, played by Joanna Going, have incredible chemistry. It says a lot because the script of the film has one of the most convoluted premises I've ever heard, a framing device you seriously forget about halfway through the film, and some nonsense fake deep dialogue.

Look at this still! Immensely aesthetically pleasing!

But the connection between the two leads is unlike what we see in a lot of romance films today. The production design also does a lot of the heavy lifting, I wish I could live in some of the sets we see, and some of the shots used to convey intimacy (the projector scene comes to mind) are so creative and powerful that it makes me believe these two are in love. It's the right amount of fun, stupidity, and real heart and when he's operating under those circumstances I think Brendan Fraser is seriously allowed to do some of his best work.

Surprisingly enough, I knew I would write this piece not from watching any of these movies, or any of the honorable mentions I touched on, but from watching a movie of his I'm not so fond of, Furry Vengeance. When going to review the film on Letterboxd I stumbled upon a reviewer who had also embarked on a Fraserthon months prior and wrote one of the most thoughtful reviews I've ever read.

The reviewer explained that watching a movie even as silly as Furry Vengeance was enjoyable because of the innate earnestness Fraser brings to every role he commits to playing; an earnestness achievable because as an actor he is always fully committed to doing the work necessary to tell a compelling story. "I committed to the Brendan-a-thon, and what I quickly learned was that the thing I really committed to was having fun!"

My absolute favorite thing acting gives us is the ability to foster empathy between people and through my stint in Fraser's filmography I saw proof that it is more than possible, as long as you approach every new project with the understanding that there is a necessary amount of effort required to get to the heart of every character. I'll always carry that with me.

This was really fun! And as I said before, this is months in the making. I am definitely interested in doing more deep dives into the careers of other actors though, so keep an eye out and maybe I'll do your favorite actor next.

Check out my ranking of Brendan's films , and go follow the lovely reviewer I mentioned !

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1 Comment

Jan 26, 2023

Dang! This is so well-written; very thoughtful and wields a strong voice that exudes intelligence and depth.

As you might already know, my Brendan Fraser fandom ends at Bedazzled, but I feel like I understand his commitment to his craft —and, more importantly— your appreciation of it from this piece.

Thanks for taking the time to enlighten me. 💡

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