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6 Good Actors Whose Careers Confound Me

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There are times when I’d like to take certain good actors aside and simply ask them, “What the hell is going on with you?” Clearly, something has happened to pull them into a lengthy rut of bad or mediocre projects. I’d just like to know what it is.

MATTHEW BRODERICK

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At some point, several years ago, Broderick’s film work downshifted from intelligent/neurotic to intelligent/low-key. Then he continued on to intelligent/wake-me-when-my-scene-starts. Perhaps the former star of such brilliant films as “Election” and the iconic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” decided to confine his charisma to his much-lauded stage work. Even so, I’d love to see him fully engage in a movie part that offers a wider range of emotions than self-loathing and ironic detachment.

ANDRE BRAUGHER

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I’ll start by acknowledging that Braugher, one of my favorite actors, continues to do fine work, primarily on TV. He was excellent in “Men of a Certain Age,” and some guest appearances on “House,” for instance. My quibble is that this guy has the gravitas to do Shakespeare, “Death of a Salesman” – or at least a big-time project on HBO. Anyone who saw even one of his scenes in the old “Homicide” series knows what I mean.

WINONA RYDER

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It pains me to think there are people who know Ryder more for her personal problems (shoplifting and the like) than for her excellent performances in such films as “Heathers,” “Reality Bites” and “Little Women.” Her talent back then was considerable, and presumably it still resides within her. Why, then, was she playing Spock’s MOM in the “Star Trek” reboot?

ADAM ARKIN

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I think Arkin is a brilliant actor, a rare combination of intelligence, sarcasm, physicality and soulfulness. Yet he seems to pop up only fleetingly, such as his wonderful character work in last year’s “The Sessions.” He tends to play smaller roles as bosses, husbands, lawyers and shrinks. Just once, I’d like to see a project that revolves entirely around him.

PAUL RUDD

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You know what I can’t figure out about Rudd’s career? It’s that he’s terrific in splashy, supporting roles (“Anchorman,” “Knocked Up”) but kind of bland in leading roles (“Admission,” “Dinner for Schmucks”). There has to be a way to take his supporting actor spark and expand it when he’s carrying a whole movie.

JOHN CUSACK

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I watched “The Grifters” not long ago and found myself wondering what happened to that John Cusack guy. The guy who was amazing in “High Fidelity” and “Being John Malkovich.” God knows I have a ton of respect for Cusack’s disdain for conventionality, but I humbly think it’s time for him to move beyond stuff like “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “The Raven.”

Fingers crossed that better films and TV projects are in the works for all of them.