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An Anton Ali Pop-Ed: A Meteoric Rise to Fame or a Big Sham?


It is very likely that Jonah Hill will be receiving his second career Oscar nomination this week for his portrayal as Donnie Azoff in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street. Not sure if anyone could have predicted such a track record from the guy who was in Superbad. How did Hill, who has most recently worked with the likes of Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, get to where he is today? Because it's weird to me that Hill seems to be finding himself on Oscar shortlists lately, I thought I'd take a crack at figuring out how he got there.

People spend years working in Hollywood (or attempting to work in Hollywood) just hoping to catch their big break. For someone who broke onto the scene in 2004, Hill's career development has certainly been rapid. It's a strange résumé for Hill, had previously played small roles for a good part of his short career. It perhaps started with a little bit of luck in 2004 when Hill became friends with Dustin Hoffman's kids, who in turn introduced him to their father, a central cast member in I Heart Huckabees. The movie was met with lackluster reviews, but not only was the movie helmed by future Oscar-nominated director David O. Russell, it attracted a lot of star power. It didn't seem to do much for Hill, though, who went on to play ...



... an eBay customer in, The 40-Year-Old Virgin ...



... "Ben at 17-years old" in Adam Sandler's Click, and don't forget "Clerk" in an episode of NYPD Blue.

Although some could argue he really started to gain attention in Grandma's Boy, it was really Judd Apatow who gave Hill a shot as co-star in Superbad.



As you probably remember, the movie was hilarious. After Knocked Up, the era of Apatow really took off. Hill found himself in some other favorites, including one of my favorites, Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

But then came the transition from comedy to more dramatic roles for Hill. In addition to Apatow's Funny People, which by no means was a comedy in my eyes, there was a little-known movie where Hill played the title character in, Cyrus. As Cyrus, Hill was an overprotective, overbearing son to Marisa Tomei's character. His ability to turn the pages of a script into a multidimensional character seemed to make Hollywood notice. As a matter of fact, it was Catherine Keener from Cyrus who recommended Hill to director Bennett Miller, who was looking to fill a cast for Moneyball.

Hill's first Oscar nomination came for playing "Peter Brennan" in Moneyball. As Brennan, Hill portrayed a man who stood behind the crowd. The evolution Hill displayed as Brennan, an introvert who eventually became a man confident in his ability to take the pressure off being in the spotlight, was impressive. While I did enjoy Hill's performance as Brennan in Moneyball, he was very well suited for Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street. The portrayal of a swift-talking, drug-addicted, booze-fueled, money-hungry executive topped Hill's performance in Moneyball, and I would be very surprised if he's left off the Supporting Actor category for the Oscars by the end of the week.

Equally impressive to earning a nomination is the the rather short career path Hill has had which has been fueled by a lot of low-level caliber movies that no one will ever remember. Hill has flown at a uniquel level thus far, however that will likely give way to much more memorable roles in the future.
An Anton Ali Pop-Ed: A Meteoric Rise to Fame or a Big Sham? Reviewed by Anton Ali on 1/15/2014 Rating: 5

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