I guess it's a moderate spoiler to admit that tonight's Cinematical Seven was intended to correspond with today's home video release of the Sam Rockwell sci-fi drama, Moon, but even if I've tipped you off as to what the movie reveals within twenty minutes, I hope that not knowing the exact how's and why's of his situation intrigue you enough to still check it out. The reason I and others were so high on it was because Rockwell gave such a uniquely multi-layered performance as his lonely astronaut that I wanted to celebrate other notable dual performances by a single actor.
For the record, I've left off David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers because, well, I haven't seen it yet -- nor Multiplicity, while we're being honest here -- and I opted to exclude split-personality performances, similarly impressive though they may be (after some reluctance, I just had to take A History of Violence out of the running before all sorts of Jekyll/Hyde-esque condemnations came my way (Viggo's great in that all the same)).
As usual, your comments/suggestions are welcome, and as usual, we didn't snub anyone or anything on purpose. Except for the Eddie Murphy romps. They'll probably get their own Cine 7 someday. (Some spoilers may follow.)
1. Adaptation (2002) - In one of his last few distinctly sane performances, Nicolas Cage brought to life the torrent of neuroses that came about for real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as he attempted to adapt a non-fiction book about flower hunting into something resembling a movie. The end result of both Cage's performance and the movie itself is all the more fascinating because Kaufman invented for himself a blithely ignorant twin, Donald (also Cage), who indulges in all the worst hack tactics on his own screenplay and continually tempts Charlie into surrendering towards convention. It's incredibly nuanced work from Cage on both ends, made all the more impossibly convincing by Spike Jonze's sly visual tricks, and when one of them meets a grisly end, we find ourselves grieving more than usual for a man who wasn't even there.
2. Army of Darkness (1992) - After our heroic knucklehead, Ash (Bruce Campbell), is flung back to the Middle Ages, he's sent on a quest to retrieve that pesky Necronomicon. At one point, he ends up hiding in a windmill, shattering a mirror soon after, and inadvertently loosing several miniature versions of himself. One of them manages to get down his throat and emerge as a full-size doppleganger, and even after Ash buries his (own) ass, Evil Ash emerges from the grave and marshals the eponymous enemy against him. The interaction between the two is the epitome of Sam Raimi's knack for slapstick and Campbell's half-ass, full-temper charm.
3. Sisters (1973) - Margot Kidder plays Danielle and Dominique Blanchion, Siamese twins whose separation left one dead in body -- if not spirit -- and the other suspected of a wholly separate murder by snoopy journalist Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt). Grace, however, finds herself drawn in more and more, to the point where she comes to replace Dominique in Danielle's life. Okay, so maybe I'm blurring my own self-drawn split-personality line with the inclusion of this title, but it's staying here until the other me says otherwise.
4. There Will Be Blood (2007) - The running feud between oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) and up-and-coming preacher man Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) all starts because Eli's brother, Paul (Dano), gives up the location of his homestead, as it sits atop an ocean of black gold and Paul just wants the money to get away. He's every bit the capitalist that Plainview is, only out for his sake, and after showing up for one scene, he vanishes, unaware and uninterested in the wreckage he will leave behind.
5. The Prestige (2006) - In turn-of-the-century London, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are competing magicians whose professional rivalry soon reaches seemingly impossible heights and equally depraved depths. The twist, however, is two-fold: Borden has been employing and even injuring his hidden brother to make his teleportation trick seems convincing, while Angier has fallen back on an unwitting feat of cloning that requires him to dispose of himself night after night until no one knows which is which.
6. Beerfest (2006) - Whatever you thought of this Broken Lizard outing, it's difficult to dispute how astute the guys were with playing up genre expectations with a single scene. After the American team's greatest guzzler, "Landfill" (Kevin Heffernan), passes away under shady circumstances, and right when everyone's ready to throw in the towel, in walks Landfill's identical twin brother (Heffernan), who they knew nothing about but who happens to have been told everything about each of them. Better yet, he's more than willing to even adopt Landfill's name, in an effort to bypass that whole awkward 'getting to know everybody' stage. Funny how these things happen...
7. Hot Fuzz (2007) - Poor Sgt. Turner (Bill Bailey). As everyone else on the Sandford police force gets to solve some murders and see some action, he's relegated to the front desk, always reading and lamenting the fact that "nobody tells me nuffin'." Of course, the punchline turns out to be that weary Turner and wide-eyed Turner are two different people, identical twins left equally out of the loop.