Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sally Field and Movie Men

Before I talk about a couple of Oscar nominated actors, let me tell you about a new gig that 2-time Best Actress Oscar winner Sally Field has.  Come this March, she will be the new co-host of The Essentials on TCM Saturdays with Robert Osborne.  Although I would love to see some ethnic talent be added to the mix of Turner Classic Movies guest presenters, Sally Field is a terrific booking.  She's a strong actress who knows films and has appreciated classic films ever since she was a kid.  We both grew up in Southern California and watched many Hollywood classics on local KTTV/Ch. 11.  They were hosted in the afternoons by a friendly man named Ben Hunter.  Field mentioned Ben Hunter when she was a TCM Guest Programmer one weeknight.  The Oscar winner follows other actor co-hosts of The Essentials such as Alec Baldwin and Drew Barrymore.

Sally worked with top actors from Hollywood's Golden Age and has worked in some highly significant features.  After her ABC sitcom years as Gidget and The Flying Nun and before she wowed critics with her dramatic Oscar-winning chops in Norma Rae and Places in the Heart, she starred in ABC made-for-TV movies.  One starred Eleanor Parker and Jackie Cooper.  Sally played a runway teen and they played her parents in 1971's Maybe I'll Come Home In The Spring.  The other also starred Eleanor Parker along with Walter Brennan and Julie Harris.  (Harris and Field would both add the roles of Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, to their credits.)  Eleanor Parker and Sally Field were relatives again in 1972's Home For The Holidays, a most entertaining Christmastime murder mystery TV movie written by Joseph Stefano.  He should've received an Oscar nomination for writing one of Hollywood's best and most influential screenplays.  Stefano wrote 1960's Psycho, the Alfred Hitchcock classic.  Newcomer Sally held her own with Hollywood veterans like the floral-printed Eleanor Parker.

Sally's friend, Jane Fonda, turned down the script that brought Field her first Oscar.  Jill Clayburgh and Tuesday Weld also passed on the part.  Sally Field and I talked about this when she was a guest on my old VH1 celebrity talk show.  In Norma Rae, Sally Field was directed by Martin Ritt, the outstanding director who also gave us Hud, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Great White Hope and Sounder.

Sally Field, with her perseverance and fortitude in a most unorthodox career, has been a major inspiration to me in my career.  I'll be watching her on TCM.  And if Norma Rae is not one of The Essentials, it should be.  Field's three Oscar nominations came for 1979's Norma Rae (Best Actress win)....
....1984's Places In The Heart (Best Actress win)....

...and Steven Spielberg's 2012 biographical drama, Lincoln (Best Supporting Actress).
In my previous post, Still Life and Eastwood Action, I reviewed a tender new film about a British gent who gives dignity to the recently deceased and American Sniper, an Iraq war film directed by Clint Eastwood about a Marine who made over 100 people the recently deceased.  He had over 100 kills to his credit in his tours of duty.  The horrors of war were seen through the eyes of Bradley Cooper's character as he took deadly aim on foreign man, woman and child to protect his troops.  American Sniper is based on the real life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.  Under Eastwood's direction, the gun is a like a large phallic symbol relentlessly shooting the spunk of post-9/11 U.S.A. ammo in your face.

I like Bradley Cooper.  He's a serious, committed young actor.  He bulked up to play this military role.  He's a Best Actor Oscar nominee for American Sniper.  A film critic buddy of mine commented that Cooper got nominated for "putting on 40 pounds."  I responded, "Then I should have 10 Oscar nominations to my credit.  And I should have a special Lifetime Achievement Oscar for my ass."  Bless his heart that American Sniper got him an Oscar nomination.  I was surprised.  I'd have tapped David Oyelowo for Selma, Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Bupadest Hotel, Chadwick Boseman as singer James Brown in Get On Up, Tom Hardy for Locke or Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler.  But The Academy digs it when a handsome actor puts on a lot of weight for a role.  Robert De Niro won an Oscar for Raging Bull.  George Clooney got one for Syriana.  Bradley Cooper is a bear with a bullet in this box office hit.
As a feature film, I didn't think American Sniper was one of Eastwood's best directorial efforts.  I didn't find the screenplay as fully realized as those in other war-related films such as Coming Home with Jane Fonda, Jon Voight and Bruce Dern, Jarhead and The Hurt Locker.  It lacks the clarity and complexity of a classic such as 1966's The Battle of Algiers.  But it shows what an unpredictable organization The Academy is.  American Sniper got 6 nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor.  If it wins for Best Picture, Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper get Oscars because they were producers of the picture.  There can now be up to 10 nominees for Best Picture.  This month, we got 8.  Truly fine films like Wild with a wonderful performance from Reese Witherspoon and the British film, Pride, didn't make the cut to give us an even 10.  Why?!?!

Ed Norton, one of my favorite actors, is in the Best Supporting Actor Oscar category for Birdman.  He's the egotistical, annoying and talented young Broadway actor in Birdman.  (I think he's doing a slight riff on William Hurt in it.)  Norton was also excellent as the fast-talking police officer with the handlebar mustache in The Grand Bupadest Hotel.  

To see some of the other excellence and remarkable versatility of Ed Norton, watch him as the racist skinhead in American History X, see his musical comedy performance in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You, follow that with Fight Club and then watch his outstanding work as the British doctor punishing his wife for her marital infidelity in The Painted Veil. She must leave posh London -- and her lover -- to accompany him on a medical trip to disease-infested and poverty-stricken China.  Norton and Naomi Watts were at their peak in this fine movie, previously made in the 1930s as a star vehicle for Greta Garbo.  The new adaptation was one of my Top Ten favorite films of 2006.  Top film critics loved it.  The Painted Veil didn't get one single Oscar nomination.  I still can't believe the Oscars overlooked it.  The Painted Veil has qualities of classics that directors William Wyler, David Lean and Fred Zinnemann gave us.

Ed Norton and Naomi Watts reteamed as a couple in Birdman.

From Hollywood's Golden Age, actors such as Joel McCrea, Myrna Loy, Edward G. Robinson, Ward Bond and Jack Carson -- people who did great work in some true Hollywood classics -- never got a single Oscar nomination in their long film careers.  Talented modern era actors such as Mia Farrow, Donald Sutherland, Richard Gere and Dennis Quaid have never received an Oscar nomination.  Gifted black and Latino performers such as Rita Moreno, Ruby Dee, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, Rosie Perez and Halle Berry have only one Oscar nomination to their credits.  Jennifer Lawrence, still in her 20s, has three Oscar nominations on her resumé and one Best Actress victory for Silver Linings Playbook.  That's the Academy.

I mentioned Tom Hardy's performance in Locke.  He's brilliant in that movie.  He's the only actor you see in it.  Everyone else is heard on a phone in his car.  It's the story of a flawed guy, a businessman and a family man in England, who takes responsibility for his mistakes on his road of life while he's in the car driving.  He's so good.  When I saw American Sniper, Hardy was in the coming attractions before the feature film.  He'll be our new Mad Max.  Here is my current favorite new trailer.

Now go watch some of the current or classic films that I've mentioned in this post.  And thanks for reading it.

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