Alan Arkin is a weirdo. This is precisely why he is awesome. Falling into the same category as our other beloved eccentrics-- Walken, Hopper, Lynch-- Alan can sell a line, a scene, or a story simply because he is interesting to watch. What he does is consistently, disturbingly familiar and yet wholly unexpected. He's the oddball next door; the dirty uncle you invite to reunions, specifically because you want to see what he'll say next. Yet, underneath it all, is the obscene bravery that comes with such reckless abandon. It's not every performer who can so unashamedly manifest in every role, giving the impression that he or she doesn't give a rat's ass. It's almost inhuman. This aspect of his character, the notion that he is from another planet, or at the very least operating on a whole other level, is what makes every nuance of his work so goddamned fascinating.
Alan has been working in film and television for nearly 60 years, and the older he gets, the more frequent his appearances have become. As an unlikely hero, he found his happy home in supporting or character roles, which have become more plentiful with age. Hardly the Hollywood heartthrob, Arkin's early appearances and work were much more striking and even uncomfortable than that of the average leading man. Intermingled with his wonderfully bizarre yet dangerous articulation, there was always humor. He still carries the same aura, one akin to someone like Bill Murray, where the underlying message seems to be: this is some effed up, cockamamie bull sh*t, eh?. The world is hilarious, a horror worth laughing at, because in the end, it's all a ruse anyway. People take it-- life, celebrity, performance-- too seriously. In summation, Alan takes the high, low road: "Argo f*ck yourself."
Arkin's first break was in the fitting, darkly comic wartime satire The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), but it was Wait Until Dark (1967) that really earned him notice. A surprise hit, the unlikely pairing of the most elegant of actresses (Audrey Hepburn) with the new, maniacal maestro on the block created a psychologically tormenting and tension-fueled film as creepy as it was flawless. Naturally, much of this had to do with Alan's performance as the soulless aforementioned 'creep' whose eyes were eerily camouflaged by dark glasses-- almost like a premonition of a Satantic Morpheus. However, he was not always so diabolical. His unexpected and tender work in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) and his unhinged, broken rebel in Catch-22 (1970) further proved his versatility and kept him working steadily over the next 4 decades, (including a run on "Sesame Street").
Today, he is still making an impact on a new generation of movie goers who recognize him as the aging salesman in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), the inappropriate grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), and the entertainingly cantankerous producer in Argo (2012). Peppering his resume with cameos (So I Married an Axe Murderer), hits (Gattaca), and misses (The Santa Clause 3?), he keeps doing as he does the way only he can do it. Strangely. Very strangely. Hey, the world needs it.