Paul Dano: Mr. Underrated

This post is inspired by my recent late night watch of Little Miss Sunshine.

You probably don't know who Paul Dano is. Well, that's what this post is dedicated to, to help you get to better know this fine actor. First of all, he's the kid pictured to to the left (go figure). Also, he was the kid in Little Miss Sunshine who didn't talk for most of the movie- the brother of the little chubby girl.

I'm a big fan of Little Miss Sunshine. In fact, I think it was the best movie of 2006. Now, I love The Departed and I would much rather watch The Departed over Little Miss Sunshine and it is the better movie (I totally forgot how annoying the movie got when the Volkswagen's horn broke so a quarter of movie there's this annoying and random "beep" sound) but Little Miss Sunshine is the better film. People forget how much Oscar buzz there was around LMS. It was predicted to win the Oscar for Best Picture leading up to the award. It was a surprise when The Departed's name was announced when it rode on the coattails of Martin Scorsese's well deserved lone Best Directing Oscar win.

If I was running the Oscars in 2006 I also would have given the golden statute to Scorsese as well but the best directed movie of 2006 was Little Miss Sunshine- directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris (Who also directed the amazing "Californication" Red Hot Chili Peppers music video, FYI). Every shot in LMS had a purpose. Which characters where in the foreground versus the background, which characters entered the bus first when they were pushing it to get started, how the characters were position when they were being filmed from the side. Every shot was fantastic.

The best shot in the entire movie is this scene right here:

It may seem like nothing to the naked eye but I think this scene was filmed brilliantly. The way the rest of the family is on top of the hill while the kids are at the foreground on the bottom... I love it.

But history has not been the greatest to Little Miss Sunshine. First, losing the majors Oscars hurt (mainly losing Best Picture) and second, a lot of people just are not entertained by the movie. Thirdly, the general public could care less about mise en scene nevertheless knows what it means. To me, Little Miss Sunshine is the second most underrated movie of the past decade.

The first? 2007's There Will Be Blood. Who starred in There Will Be Blood? Yes, Daniel Day-Lewis was in it and he was amazing. But you know who else? Paul Dano.

Day-Lewis gave such an amazing performance, delivered such an amazing line ("I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! I DRINK IT UP!"), and gave a well deserved Oscar-winning performance that people forgot about how good Paul Dano was in the movie. Or the fact that Dano was even in the movie. The main storyline is Day-Lewis's character (Daniel Plainview, what a great name for his character BTW) struggle to find oil and strike it rich but the whole under plot of the movie is Daniel Plainview's struggle for power with Eli Sunday* (played by Dano). Both actors give great, subtle performance that leads to an epic clash at the end of the movie between Plainview and Sunday. Both actors steal the screen every scene they're in and the scenes they're in together? Awesomeness.

*Paul Dano was originally cast to play a bit part in the movie, Eli's brother Paul Sunday. Director P.T. Anderson loved Dano so much that he fired the actor originally hired to play Eli and hired Dano to play Eli four days before shooting had started and just decided to make Paul and Eli Sunday identical twin brothers. Great decision by Anderson.

But like Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood gets extremely forgotten and lost by the way side. No Country For Old Men stole most of the Oscars that year and little ol' TWBB gets played once every two months on AMC to kill time until Mad Men returns.

The reason I call Paul Dano Mr. Underrated is because I think he gave two great underrated performances in two great underrated movies. When you think of actors in There Will Be Blood who do you think of? Daniel Day-Lewis of course. When you think of the actors in Little Miss Sunshine, I bet Paul Dano is the last guy you think of. I bet many of you would say Toni Collette (the actress who played the mother) over Dano. Yet Dano gave far and away the better performance (I'm saying that knowing full well Alan Arkin won the Academy Award for his performance in LMS).

Dano has showed up in movies here and there and he's full of even more underrated-ness. He plays the wiz kid in the underrated, It-is-what-it-is action/comedy Knight and Day and he was one of the best actors in Cowboys and Aliens (although it probably wasn't that hard considering his competition was Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde). Dano and Sam Rockwell (who probably is the true king of underrated actors) popped off the screen every scene they were in.

I'm a Paul Dano fan and I would love to see him get more work if Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood are any indicators.