Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Tribute to Anton Yelchin

In the past few weeks, a lot of things have happened. None bigger than the mass murder in Orlando. I want to express so much regarding it. But sometimes I feel like it would be too much, and in the words of Jane Fonda when she accepted her Academy Award in the midst of America's invasion of Cambodia during the War in Vietnam; 'There's a great deal to say, and I'm not going to say it tonight.' As if to say, this is not the right platform for this. And my blog is far too mediocre a platform for any of my thoughts, prayers, and outrage at the horrific tragedy. Though, I would like to take this time to pay tribute to a talent gone far too soon from our lives. 
Last year, I was a publicist for the regional film festival, Cinequest. It was a great experience, and I got to meet and converse with a lot of up and coming filmmakers. Our closing film was Mad Men producer Victor Levin's directorial debut 5 to 7 starring Anton Yelchin. Both were there, and both I met in brief at our closing night soirée. 
I had loved Yelchin's work, as understated as it was in the few films he had made in his short time on this earth. I particularly fell in love with him in the film co-starring Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence; the brilliant and again understated romantic drama; Like Crazy. He gained international acclaim as Pavel Chekhov, the brilliant Russian navigator on the USS Enterprise. He brought new brevity and heart to a rather minor role in a reboot of a classic, where every actor was nervous that they wouldn't live up to their 60's counterparts. 
Yelchin was a very smart kid. I would say man, but he was so young when he undertook the role. I don't know how he prepared for it, but for me, he stole every scene that he was in. But it was the smaller films, the sleeper hits that I first fell in love with him; Charlie Bartlett, House of D, and the aforementioned Like Crazy.

A still from Like Crazy costarring Felicity Jones (also pictured)
To me, it felt like when we lost Heath Ledger. In that, it is a tragic waste. Heath could have gone on to have a career that eclipsed his contemporaries and been eventually compared to the otherwise incomparable Brando. As is the case with Yelchin in my humble opinion. And not just because he's damn talented, but that he was amazingly bright, forthright, and dignified...qualities that are too much amiss in the current slate of Hollywood upstarts. 
Yes, the fact that we're both Jewish emigres from the Russian Federation was kinda cool in a superficial way, but to watch him perform was quite astounding. Whether in high-octane action-packed blockbusters like Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, or Terminator Salvation, but in everything he did. He was a unique talent and the potential lost on June 19th is a tragedy that is genuinely shattering. 

As Pavel Chekhov, a role which he nailed. Even the original Star Trek crew was proud of him.
Unlike Ledger, who had at least given us performances to cherish like Brokeback Mountain, or The Dark Knight, and my personal favorite; I'm Not There. What's very difficult to reconcile is that I truly believe we hadn't seen yet what Yelchin was capable of gifting to the art of cinema, and now we'll never know. Had this not happened, I could definitely see comparisons between himself and Ryan Gosling, Jeffrey Wright, and eventually perhaps the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom we also lost too soon. Too often we see a shooting star, and too often it moves too fast for us to fully appreciate its beauty. Perhaps this metaphor is tired, and Yelchin was more than that. He was a gift to the art of film, and the craft of acting, and we're all left wondering not 'why', but 'what could and would he have been had he had more time.' It's not only a waste, but it's a huge loss. The potential we'll never see, and that potential was enormous, much like his heart. 

Below trailer: 

Below: an interview he did for the Cinequest red carpet last year. 

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