Alan Arkin finally landed his Oscar in a well-deserved win for “Little Miss Sunshine.” While his performance as a foul-mouthed, drug-using, irascible grandparent in the hit 2006 indie dramedy could’ve easily descended into the realm of caricature, Arkin brought a lived-in quality to the role that made even the character’s more outlandish behavior ring true. Likewise, for as fun as it is to quote the more, shall we say, colorful life advice Arkin’s progenitor relays to his grandson (Paul Dano) in the film, it’s the earnestness with which the actor handles the character’s heart-to-heart exchanges with the many members of his family that really make you believe his Bad Grandpa could be an actual person.
That sentiment extends to the various other cantankerous old-timers Arkin portrayed in his third act, from a cynical Hollywood producer who’s seen it all yet is nonetheless moved by his conscience to do the right thing in “Argo” (which landed Arkin a supporting actor Oscar nod) to a father who’s still trying — and failing — to do right by his grown-up daughters with his eccentric schemes in “Sunshine Cleaning.”
That’s not to say Arkin didn’t have fun in-between dealing with heavy topics like mortality and regret during his later years, including his well-received turn opposite Michael Douglas on the Netflix dramedy series “The Kominsky Method.” Whether he was cameoing in “The Muppets,” lending his voice to “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” or portraying not-Mickey to Sylvester Stallone’s not-Rocky in “Grudge Match,” Arkin’s presence was always a pleasure, no matter the quality of the film or show around him.
Rest in peace, Alan Arkin, and thank you for a lifetime spent making us all laugh, think — and perhaps most importantly — feel.