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Monday, August 08, 2011

South Side Sox: The Five Sides of Hawk Harrelson

He Was Expendable.

The John Wayne Side: This is the most debatable side of Hawk Harrelson. I was in attendance for Hawk Harrelson Night during his 25th anniversary celebration and one thing became apparent to me; people love The Hawk. It’s hard to understand but it’s true. There is something endearing about him. Maybe it’s his folksy charm? Or his deep passion for the White Sox? Or perhaps the silver comb-over thing on his head? I don’t know. But he is the kind of guy you will tell your children about. No, he’s not your typical broadcaster. He’s far from it. But I guess I like that about him.

My friend’s Dad has a John Wayne action figure in his living room. One day I asked him why he had it. “Because it’s ####### John Wayne,” he replied. It makes no sense to me. I’ve seen John Wayne act. Compared to today’s standard he is a farce. But people of his time love him, and I’m guessing most can’t explain why. There is just that something about him. Whatever that something is, it’s strong enough to make a normal functioning adult put an action figure of him in his living room.

Hawk is not the best play-by-play guy in baseball. I know this. You know this. Yet if you were to ask me to trade Hawk for any other broadcaster, I don’t think I could do it. Why? Because he’s ####### Hawk Harrelson.

Repoz Posted: August 08, 2011 at 11:59 AM | 140 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: announcers, media, television, white sox

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   1. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 02:05 PM (#3895321)
The best thing and the worst thing about Hawk Harrelson is his true love for the White Sox. He broadcasts like a fan - he gets upset when the Sox play poorly, and he gets excited when the play well. That's great if you're a Sox fan - it's like you're watching with an uncle who has been watching the team forever. If you're not a Sox fan, it's grating and annoying. I get that.

The one thing that I don't like is how in recent years he's started complaining about the umpires. A lot. I don't like that when it happens here, and I especially don't like it when an announcer does it, especially when you only complain when the call is against your team.
   2. The Well-Tempered Javier Vasquez (loungehead) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:19 PM (#3895362)
A few years ago there was a 17-inning game against the Red Sox. It ended up being a relatively low-scoring affair (5-3 final?) and I kept hearing things like, "Jermain Dye is 0 for 4 today ... he's due!" versus "Trot Nixon is 0 for 5 today ... he's got nothing."

The worst part is that he seemed to be *right* that day, but man, I hate that sort of thing. I guess it does make it a bit more satisfying when he just loses interest in the game when the White Sox are losing.
   3. Spivey Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:28 PM (#3895370)
Hawk Harrelson is an annoying hack. Whenever the White Sox get a bad break, or have a close call go against them, he whines like a petulant child.
   4. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 08, 2011 at 03:44 PM (#3895387)
Hawk is bar none the worst announcer on the face of the earth. He makes Joe Buck sound like Ernie Harwell by comparison.
   5. Lassus Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:00 PM (#3895396)
Hawk is bar none the worst announcer on the face of the earth.

Hawk isn't even in Mark Grace's zip code of bad.
   6. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:16 PM (#3895407)
When the author took swipes at John Wayne he lost me
   7. shock Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3895423)
I actually am really disappointed by the fact htat White Sox fans like Hawk. That just seems ... I don't know, something. I would hope that people can see thr
   8. chemdoc Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:40 PM (#3895430)
I just hope the author of this piece gets the help that he needs. That Hawk love is some kind of irrational.
   9. Into the Void Posted: August 08, 2011 at 04:45 PM (#3895435)
When the author took swipes at John Wayne he lost me


Me too. "Compared to today's Standard he's a farce." Today's standard? So, Justin Timberlake? Matthew McConaughey?
   10. Accent Shallow Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:04 PM (#3895450)
Hawk is bar none the worst announcer on the face of the earth. He makes Joe Buck sound like Ernie Harwell by comparison.

Much like any right-thinking baseball fan, I prefer not to listen to the Hawk. However, I just can't cotton to anything that makes Joe Buck look good.
   11. Lassus Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:05 PM (#3895452)
I wouldn't necessarily take dismissive swipes at Wayne, but that doesn't mean I think he's not really more an icon than an accomplished craftsman, acting-wise. No one thinks Timberlake and McConaughey are today's standard for acting excellence, please, that's a ridiculous argument.
   12. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:09 PM (#3895454)
Much like any right-thinking baseball fan, I prefer not to listen to the Hawk. However, I just can't cotton to anything that makes Joe Buck look good.

Hawk is better than Joe Buck. Whatever you want to say about the Hawk, he clearly loves baseball, whereas Buck is openly contemptuous of the sport. That alone makes Hawk better.
   13. Into the Void Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#3895455)
No one thinks Timberlake and McConaughey are today's standard for acting excellence, please, that's a ridiculous argument.


Well, he didn't say "standard for excellence" though, he said standard, which I took to mean "the norm." Maybe I read it wrong.
   14. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:10 PM (#3895456)
Lassus:

The Searchers, Stagecoach and The Shootist hold up to just about any actor's resume.

And that's just covering movies that begin with the letter "S". (reads like a Jeopardy category)
   15. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:11 PM (#3895458)
Buck is much better than Harrelson. In my opinion, we only hate Buck because we are overly familiar with him. We know his flaws well. But if you had no idea who Buck was, and listened to him do a single game, you would think that he was perfectly average and forgettable. His flaws are not immediately and flagrantly apparent. As opposed to Hawk.

And I've only heard Mark Grace once, but he might be the worst tv personality in history.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:18 PM (#3895463)
The Searchers, Stagecoach and The Shootist hold up to just about any actor's resume.

And that's just covering movies that begin with the letter "S". (reads like a Jeopardy category)


No, his most lauded acting roles just happen to begin with the letter "S".

John Wayne is from the pre-Brando era in which acting emphasized the projection of star personality. Nowadays it emphasizes the subjugation of the actor's personality. Actors try to transform themselves into the character.

John Wayne would look absolutely ridiculous in some of the more methody roles that actors like Sean Penn or Russell Crowe go for. But that's ok, because John Wayne is fabulous in John Wayne movies.
   17. Lassus Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:25 PM (#3895467)
Well, he didn't say "standard for excellence" though, he said standard, which I took to mean "the norm." Maybe I read it wrong.

Fair enough.


My thing with Wayne is that I don't get how people can take issue with questions regarding his range as an actor. How many more cowboys would he have had to play before such questions are acceptable?
   18. The Kentucky Gentleman, Mark Edward Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:25 PM (#3895468)
I actually am really disappointed by the fact htat White Sox fans like Hawk. That just seems ... I don't know, something. I would hope that people can see thr


I wouldn't say I *love* Hawk. I am accepting of his faults and appreciate his positives. I wouldn't argue that he's the best announcer in baseball, but I'd take him over quite a few guys (Joe Buck, Thom Brennaman, Mark Grace, some others).

When he does finally leave the booth, I will be bummed. I'm 26, and he's been the only Sox TV play-by-play man in my lifetime. Not many other teams have had that longevity out of their announcers. Plus, I dunno, I sort of like his catchphrases.
   19. SoSH U at work Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:33 PM (#3895474)
When he does finally leave the booth, I will be bummed. I'm 26, and he's been the only Sox TV play-by-play man in my lifetime. Not many other teams have had that longevity out of their announcers. Plus, I dunno, I sort of like his catchphrases.


I'm not a Sox fan, but Hawk doesn't offend me. I do hate his complaints about umpires (and like Dewey, that extends to here as well). But the catch phrases, while often grating, are at least original.

Moreover, I give him credit for being much more enjoyable years ago (I can't imagine Buck was ever good). I really liked his pairing with Wimpy in the 90s, and he gets bonus points from me for being the sport's last great nicknamer (a skill that's sadly left him).
   20. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3895475)
In my opinion, we only hate Buck because we are overly familiar with him. We know his flaws well. But if you had no idea who Buck was, and listened to him do a single game, you would think that he was perfectly average and forgettable. His flaws are not immediately and flagrantly apparent. As opposed to Hawk.

In this way, Hawk is the antithesis of Buck - his flaws are immediately apparent, but his strengths become apparent after years of listening to him.


When he does finally leave the booth, I will be bummed. I'm 26, and he's been the only Sox TV play-by-play man in my lifetime.

Well, except for his time as GM. I forget who did the announcing that year.

That said, you raise a larger point, which is that he's become an institution at this point, like Harry Caray. Caray was an objectively bad announcer for at least the last 10-15 years he spent in the booth (some would say he was never really a good announcer, per se), but Cubs fans loved him anyway.

I think part of Hawk's appeal to White Sox fans is that he carries a chip on his shoulder. A lot of White Sox fans do, too - the Sox are the red-headed stepchild of Chicago baseball, in some ways of Chicago sports, and Hawk sort of personifies a lot of what it means to be a White Sox fan.

I've said it many times - I can see how he'd be intensely irritating to non-Sox fans. But non-Sox fans aren't his audience. He's speaking to them, and he does a good job of speaking to them.
   21. The Kentucky Gentleman, Mark Edward Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:37 PM (#3895476)
Buck is much better than Harrelson. In my opinion, we only hate Buck because we are overly familiar with him. We know his flaws well. But if you had no idea who Buck was, and listened to him do a single game, you would think that he was perfectly average and forgettable. His flaws are not immediately and flagrantly apparent. As opposed to Hawk.


I'm not sure Hawk has many *flagrant* flaws. His homeriffic style of announcing is an understandable roadblock for some, and as Dewey mentioned, his ump whining could be annoying; aside from this, I don't think he has very many significant negatives. He rarely veers from the subject matter at hand: the baseball game. He adds touches like describing defensive shifts that not very many TV announcers do anymore. He's definitely not an old fogey- he appreciates & loves watching today's baseball players.

Buck seems uninterested in the game of baseball. Maybe that's just his voice, but IMO it's annoying nevertheless. Hawk at least sounds like he wants to be there.
   22. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3895482)
He's definitely not an old fogey- he appreciates & loves watching today's baseball players.

That's another good point. He's said many times that the best players to ever play the game are playing right now. And he never sermonizes about PEDs or attitude or money or other things that a lot of announcers like to preach about. He does talk about fundamentals of the game, but keeps that on a team philosophy level, ("teams don't teach that any more") rather than as a criticism of individual players. He's not like the Brennamans, who like to bash on players they don't like - he continually talks up players on the opposition (sometimes to a fault, IMHO).

He has a lot of strengths as an announcer, but like I said, they're only evident if you listen to him a lot.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:51 PM (#3895486)
His homeriffic style of announcing is an understandable roadblock for some, and as Dewey mentioned, his ump whining could be annoying


How bout his catch phrases?

How many overt and ever-present flaws do you need?
   24. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:55 PM (#3895487)
John Wayne is from the pre-Brando era in which acting emphasized the projection of star personality. Nowadays it emphasizes the subjugation of the actor's personality. Actors try to transform themselves into the character.

Damn, I know I'm getting old. I would have sworn that Sylvester Stallone came on the scene well after Brando.

More seriously, that distinction between "star personality" and "subjugation of the actor's personality" often masks more than it reveals, because there are so many exceptions on both sides of the timeline. While it's obviously true that John Wayne made little more than "John Wayne movies", there are very few actors of whom it truthfully can't be said that they're playing some form of "themselves" in nearly every movie they're in, even Brando. And if you can say that Brando "threw himself" into the roles of a series of disparate characters, you could easily say the same thing about Paul Muni, whose film career began when Brando was five years old. Brando may have been less of a ham and was clearly a "better" actor than Muni, but they were still more or less working from the same side of the street.

And while it's true that many of the better stars of recent years (Nicholson, Pacino, Crowe, etc.) have patterned themselves more after Brando than Wayne, it's equally true that many big time money makers like Stallone are every bit as predictable and cartoonish as Wayne ever was, and probably even more so. And it's also true that there were plenty of actors and actresses before Brando (Tracy, Stanwyck, Bette Davis, etc.) who could adapt themselves to an enormous variety of roles without making fools of themselves. You still knew it was "Tracy" or "Bette Davis" underneath it all, but you also know that the "Brando" character isn't exactly hiding under a rock whenever he opens his mouth. When you get right down to it, the only real distinction is between good actors and bad actors, and there are more than enough of examples of both of those in any era you choose.
   25. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 05:59 PM (#3895492)
How bout his catch phrases?

He's already said that he likes the catch phrases.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3895503)
And while it's true that many of the better stars of recent years (Nicholson, Pacino, Crowe, etc.) have patterned themselves more after Brando than Wayne, it's equally true that many big time money makers like Stallone are every bit as predictable and cartoonish as Wayne ever was, and probably even more so.


I was making what we call a generalization.

And regarding Stallone, both Rocky and the first Rambo movie have an awful lot of Brando-style acting. The guy was gunning for Oscars with characters of inward torment.
   27. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:24 PM (#3895507)
He's already said that he likes the catch phrases.


I see. Even when he morosely mutters "he gone" as the Sox are facing defeat, as if he had a sacred duty to utter the phrase?
   28. robinred Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:37 PM (#3895516)
Harrelson really gets on my nerves, but I would choose him over Joe Buck every day of the season. Harrelson actually likes baseball.
   29. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:38 PM (#3895517)
I see. Even when he morosely mutters "he gone" as the Sox are facing defeat, as if he had a sacred duty to utter the phrase?

Yes. See, it works if you're a Sox fan, because you're as morose as he is.
   30. CWS Keith plans to boo your show at the Apollo Posted: August 08, 2011 at 06:55 PM (#3895526)
How bout his catch phrases?

How many overt and ever-present flaws do you need?


I like how you phrase this as if there's some objective standard by which all announcers can be judged.
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:18 PM (#3895549)
I was making what we call a generalization.

I realize that, and I was making what I think is a necessary qualification to that generalization. I'm not saying that there aren't probably more Brando imitators than there were Brando precursors, but trying to draw any firm timeline without recognizing the many exceptions raises as many questions as it answers.

And regarding Stallone, both Rocky and the first Rambo movie have an awful lot of Brando-style acting. The guy was gunning for Oscars with characters of inward torment.

Right, and Stallone did a fine job in Rocky, but if you've ever heard Stallone being interviewed, especially BITD, it's not exactly all that easy to tell where Rocky ends and Stallone begins.** I fail to see just how much he differs from John Wayne. In both cases, once the basic screen persona was established, each of those men essentially played "himself" after that, if for no other reason than the fact that a prospective producer doesn't usually want to mess with a guaranteed money making formula.

**In part due to a poorly handled birth passage, which gave him his distinctive look and speech pattern.
   32. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:32 PM (#3895561)
I dislike Hawk, but there is no one I'd rather have in the booth when the Sox are fielding underachieving teams.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 07:55 PM (#3895588)
I fail to see just how much he differs from John Wayne. In both cases, once the basic screen persona was established, each of those men essentially played "himself" after that, if for no other reason than the fact that a prospective producer doesn't usually want to mess with a guaranteed money making formula.


You are correct that there are many exceptions to my generalization.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:00 PM (#3895596)
Russell Crowe? People consider him a good actor? Really?

And frankly, has Pacino done anything good in the last 30 years (or whenever Godfather II was)? Isnomnia wasn't bad.

You could pretty much say the same for DeNiro since, what, Raging Bull ... does he do anything anymore other than play a caricature of himself? He is not one of the great comic actors.

But then I'm a bit of a grump when it comes to movies and actors and don't really have anybody to nominate in their place.
   35. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:03 PM (#3895600)
He's said many times that the best players to ever play the game are playing right now.


Well them and Yaz.

Regarding him veering from the topic of the baseball game, doesn't he do that any time the Sox are down big and he goes silent for innings at a time?
   36. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:03 PM (#3895601)
And I've only heard Mark Grace once, but he might be the worst tv personality in history.
   37. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:09 PM (#3895603)
Russell Crowe? People consider him a good actor? Really?


I just chose him as a high-profile guy that tries to do a lot of different things. I like some of his movies.
   38. Lassus Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:20 PM (#3895613)
He is not one of the great comic actors.

It was ages ago, but he was awesome in Midnight Run.
   39. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:28 PM (#3895618)
Russell Crowe? People consider him a good actor? Really?

Proving once again that movies are 99% a matter of personal preference, I think he's just about as good as anyone out there today, even if I'm basing it only on the half dozen or so films of his that I've seen.

And frankly, has Pacino done anything good in the last 30 years (or whenever Godfather II was)? Insomnia wasn't bad.

I used Pacino in part because I'm not as familiar with as many other current or recent actors (I should have probably said Daniel Day-Lewis instead) as I am with actors from earlier periods, but Glengarry Glen Ross and Donnie Brasco are a bit more current (smile) than The Godfather, and AFAIC he's damn good in both of them. Again, we're only talking opinions here, nothing more.
   40. The District Attorney Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#3895619)
I actually am really disappointed by the fact htat White Sox fans like Hawk. That just seems ... I don't know, something. I would hope that people can see thr
what is this i don't even
   41. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:31 PM (#3895623)
And on the "standard" question -- nobody was calling Wayne a standard of excellence even in his day.

Wayne had only two Oscar nominations. One was the "career" Oscar for True Grit; the other was a nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima which I mainly credit to it being 1949. Stewart, Tracy, Cooper, Peck, Bogart, and eventually Brando (and Sir Larry!) were racking up nominations throughout the 40s and 50s.

So, no, he wasn't Penn or Brando or Pacino in his prime but nobody ever said he was. If you're comparing Wayne to a "standard", not only are we talking Eastwood (a better actor IMHO), Stallone (a worse actor) or Arnold (let's not go there) but he's also in line with Harrison Ford or Matt Damon or Tom Hanks.

Wow, Alan Arkin has two best actor nominations, including one for The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! Who knew?

And, by the way, a Harris Poll in Jan 2011 still had Wayne as America's 3rd favorite actor and he's been in the top 10 every year since the poll started. Depp #1, Denzel #2.

For what it's worth, I tend to dislike John Wayne movies -- hard to take seriously in any role given his "icon" status when I was a kid -- so this isn't coming from a fanboy.
   42. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:36 PM (#3895626)
In this way, Hawk is the antithesis of Buck - his flaws are immediately apparent, but his strengths become apparent after years of listening to him.


Dear Dewey,

You are obviously suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.


Please, consider this an opportunity to seek psychiatric help,

FPH
   43. Into the Void Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:38 PM (#3895627)
Regarding him veering from the topic of the baseball game, doesn't he do that any time the Sox are down big and he goes silent for innings at a time?


I hadn't listened to Hawk in about five years (since moving away from Chicago) and the other night I thought it'd be fun to listen to him during the Yankees rout where the Sox were down 13-0 by the third. He was actually lighthearted about it and kind of entertaining/funny. Much more so than some of the robots I hear on MLB audio anyway. Give me an excited homer over a cold/boring broadcaster any day.
   44. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: August 08, 2011 at 08:41 PM (#3895629)
Dear Dewey,

You are obviously suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.


I've listened to other teams' local announcers. I don't see how Hawk Harrelson is appreciably worse than most other teams.

The exception is the Rangers crew. I don't know who they are, but those guys are really, really good.
   45. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: August 08, 2011 at 09:42 PM (#3895659)
I will add "Red River," "The Quiet Man," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" to the "John Wayne didn't stink" file.
   46. a bebop a rebop Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:17 PM (#3895679)
The exception is the Rangers crew. I don't know who they are, but those guys are really, really good.

The Rangers TV crew has actually been somewhat controversial this year. For the previous few years (since 2002), the team had been Tom Grieve and Josh Lewin, who made a great team. Grieve is a mostly stolid "baseball guy" and did the color. Lewin was the play-by-play guy, and was younger, chatty, goofy, full of pop culture references, and basically fun, though it should be noted that he was also very competent on the play-by-play. The two seemed to get along well in the booth, and the product was always entertaining.

During last year's playoffs, Lewin was let go, and the rampant speculation was that Nolan removed him because he just didn't like his style. No idea of the truth of this, but it definitely seemed like the kind of firing that needed a reason outside of the on-air product.

He was replaced this year by John Rhadigan, who was an abject failure (couldn't tell fair from foul, HR from infield pop-up, didn't quite understand the foul bunt strikeout, etc., and never got into a rhythm). He was moved back into his old post-game position in May and replaced by Dave Barnett, who is competent and uninteresting. On the bright side, now I can watch Rangers games without cringing.

The radio team for the last fifteen or so years has been Eric Nadel and a rotating cast of other guys. Mostly I just hope the other guys will shut up so Nadel can broadcast, because he's an absolute master in the booth.
   47. ray james Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:30 PM (#3895687)
I will add "Red River," "The Quiet Man," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" to the "John Wayne didn't stink" file.


And, of course, "True Grit", "The Searchers", and "Stagecoach".

I thought he was pretty good in "In Harms' Way" too. Of course, I might have been unduly enraptured by the Saul Bass intro on that one.

Harrison Ford is an excellent comp, though I think Ford himself is shooting more for Gary Cooper than the Duke.
   48. ray james Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:33 PM (#3895693)
What really hurt Wayne was his role in producing "The Green Berets", a naive and hokey propaganda film, the Reefer Madness of war movies. That movie made him poison to the baby boomers. It's almost like he won in 1969 despite himself.
   49. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:36 PM (#3895697)
Lewin was let go, and the rampant speculation was that Nolan removed him because he just didn't like his style.

I thought it was because Nolan didn't like Lewin's side job as the radio voice of the San Diego Chargers.
   50. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:48 PM (#3895710)
Gonfalon:

Correct. And how anyone could dislike "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" defies explanation.

I understand that BBTF is a catch basin for folks who are too cool to admit anything is entertaining or of quality. But sometimes the zealous need to find flaws wanders into the zone of the weird.

And I do not need some film school bullsh*t explanation of what Wayne was and was not. I appreciated what he brought to the table.

Just as I appreciate a Viggo Mortenson. Hildalgo was fun. The western with Ed Harris was right there.

The most underrated western of the last decade was "Open Range". Kevin Costner in a role where he was credible. Annette B wasn't wearing any makeup, hair askew so she appeared like she COULD be out on the prairie. Michael Gambon was the bad guy. Little humor. I enjoyed it.
   51. asinwreck Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:56 PM (#3895715)
I still can't believe Reinsdorf let him back into the park after 1986.
   52. NTNgod Posted: August 08, 2011 at 10:58 PM (#3895720)
No one's even pulled out RIO BRAVO yet, Hawks' last great movie.

(I always died a little inside when people gushed over Altman's overlapping dialogue without mentioning Hawks had been doing it for nearly forty years pre-Altman)
   53. ray james Posted: August 08, 2011 at 11:03 PM (#3895725)
No one's even pulled out RIO BRAVO yet


Gonna hang
my sombrero
From the limb
Of a tree...
   54. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 08, 2011 at 11:29 PM (#3895749)
No one's even pulled out RIO BRAVO yet, Hawks' last great movie.

(I always died a little inside when people gushed over Altman's overlapping dialogue without mentioning Hawks had been doing it for nearly forty years pre-Altman)


Wow, he made movies in addition to being a snappy dresser, an unparalleled broadcaster and a shrewd FO executive? Is there nothing he can't do?
   55. Frisco Cali Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:08 AM (#3895784)
The Russlans are Coming?
   56. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:42 AM (#3895823)
Wow, Alan Arkin has two best actor nominations, including one for The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

He's great in it. And the whole world will be blaming YOU, Whitaker Walt Davis!

No one's even pulled out RIO BRAVO yet

Even my dad, who normally loathes Wayne, loves that one.

Hatari is good. Nothing to serious, but it's good. In a way, it's the ultimate Howard Hawks movie: they went out there without any real script and let Wayne be Wayne and see what animals they caught along the way.
   57. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:47 AM (#3895828)
Rio Bravo is the best cast movie ever.

Walter Brennan as the toothless old man.

John Wayne as John ####### Wayne

Dean Martin as the drunk

Ricky Nelson? Sure why not Ricky Nelson - have him play a kid

Plus Ward Bond as the likable tertiary character.
   58. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 02:53 AM (#3896036)
Wayne is a great actor, and a tremendous iconic star of the very first magnitude. And that's all there is to it. I don't see how one can deny that, politics or no politics, if you've actually seen his best movies. If you dislike him, it ain't because he’s a bad actor; it’s because you disapprove of him personally in some way. It's something else--something you don't want to acknowledge or discuss. But both as a star and an actor, he's top-tier, inner circle--and, no, back in the late '60's, early '70's I thought his politics odious and ridiculous, at least at a certain level.

Trying to parse what's acting and what's personality or persona is unnecessary, futile, and irrelevant. It doesn't matter at all. Think sabermetrics--think value, not however you want to construe ability. Discussing ability, and how you do it, can be fun. even instructive, but what it comes down to is achievement on the field (and in the movie).

I think posterity so far has treated the great natural actors, such as Wayne, Stewart, Grant, Fonda, Tracy, Edw. G., March, Cooper, McCrea, Bogart, Cagney (to name just some males), a lot better than either those coming from the classic tradition (Olivier) or the method school (Brando). At least when it comes to film. Thus, incidentally, validating Cary Grant's trenchant response when someone once tried to pigeonhole him as someone who just played himself--well, he bluntly replied, you might consider that that might be harder than you might at first think. And, indeed, just like with Bonds or Ruth or Williams, it ain't just doing what's natural--it's using it to the best advantage. See Grant in two of his iconic performances: Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. He is just great in both--and he's great in a different way in each movie; characterizations are polar opposites, speech patterns/vocal inflections, body movements are all different. Same with Wayne--see Stagecoach, where he's the appealing ingénue and see his Ethan Edwards, where he's the magnetic son-of-a-#####; see his Tom Dunson in Red River and see his sensitive commander trying to win back his wife in Rio Grande. Most people, here as elsewhere, me and you, (like with politics, for instance) instinctively tilt at windmills and joust with strawmen conceptions when we want to deny someone something but don't want it to boomerang on us--we don't want to be held to our true reason for disapproving. So it becomes natural to just sliding into allowing our views on how to think and feel about stars and celebrities come from impressionists and parodies.
   59. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 03:22 AM (#3896049)
Hatari is good. Nothing to serious, but it's good. In a way, it's the ultimate Howard Hawks movie: they went out there without any real script and let Wayne be Wayne and see what animals they caught along the way.


Hatari is a good movie, loose structure and all. It's really a character-driven movie. Supposedly, it was to star both Wayne and Clark Gable (according to Hawks, who sometimes only had a nodding acquaintance with historical truth), just as Ride the High Country was originally to star Gary Cooper and John Wayne. Neither scenarios came to pass as intended, as both Gable and Cooper died before the projects could come to fruition. You really come to know and like the people in Hatari. If something like His Girl Friday is screwball comedy, Hatari is just a good old-fashion, slowed-down, domestic humor. It's Only Angels Have Wings without the angst or tension, just the fraternal affection. It doesn't take itself seriously at all, and it's expertly pace--the action sequences are seamless and marvelous. Highly recommended.
   60. Eric L Posted: August 09, 2011 at 05:04 AM (#3896075)
As a boomer myself, Wayne stood for everything I hated. (Vietnam etc.). It took a long time to see him simply as an actor ....and he was a good one. Far better than givn credit. "John Wayne " was a creation he worked hard at. I am glad I was able to put the 60's to rest. Ditto for Sinatra


Morty blows me away
   61. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 09, 2011 at 05:32 AM (#3896081)
See Grant in two of his iconic performances: Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. He is just great in both--and he's great in a different way in each movie; characterizations are polar opposites, speech patterns/vocal inflections, body movements are all different.


And then see him in Notorious, where his abundant charm is used in the service of a cynical and manipulative character. He's just a terrific actor.
   62. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:20 AM (#3896087)
60: I pretty much felt that way about Wayne's politics, however affable he could be about it on Rowan & Martin. I made allowances because in my youth I thought him in his dotage, career-wise. It wasn't until later, with Cable in general first, then special channels and Video-cassettes, and now DVDs, that I found how great Wayne and Stewart and Grant and others really were.

61: Yes, Grant risks not being very likable in Notorious. He has the confidence and audacity to really dare you not to like him. He was even willing to be the outright villain in Suspicion, but the studio balked. The roles Grant turn down could have made a great career for some hypothetical great star. It seems everyone wanted him. Billy Wilder once said he sent Grant all of his scripts first. Rex Harrison gave a legendary performance on Broadway for My Fair Lady, yet Jack Warner would have dumped him for Grant in a second. Judy Garland begged him to take the James Mason role in A Star is Born--indeed, as a favor, he even condescended to read for the part with director George Cukor. Cukor's assessment? Two things were readily apparent, Cukor said later: he would have been great in the part and there was no way in hell he was going to do it. He turned down Sabrina, Roman Holiday, Dr. No, Rope, Casablanca, Red River (yes. Hawks wanted him in a western with John Wayne and Clift), Lolita (I kid you not), and The Big Sleep. Good but lesser fare like Arabesque, Man's favorite Sport, too. Not a bad resume for somebody. Hitchcock even had ideas about casting him in a modern dress version of Hamlet .
   63. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:04 AM (#3896094)
60: I pretty much felt that way about Wayne's politics, however affable he could be about it on Rowan & Martin.

A poem, by John Wayne: "Roses are red, violets are green. Get off your butts and join the marines." (then he walks through the backdrop instead of around it).
   64. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:19 AM (#3896099)
Well, he generally had good sense of humor about it, but it should be pointed out that he didn't join up during WWII, and some, like his mentor John Ford, never fully forgave him and never quit making fun of him because of it.
   65. Eric L Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:33 AM (#3896102)
It seems that war guilt is a potent force. We treated Vietnam vets shabbily, leading now to the deification of anyone who wears a uniform for 5 minutes
   66. NTNgod Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:44 AM (#3896104)
like his mentor John Ford, never fully forgave him and never quit making fun of him

Heh... not that it took much for Ford to pick on someone. Ford could be kind of a jerk, to put it mildly.
   67. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:04 AM (#3896106)
Hildalgo was fun.

I have a weird love of Hidalgo. I don't know why. I think it's because I just love horse films.

Speaking as someone who moderately-obsessively watches Bollywood films, I'd point out that John Wayne wouldn't be out of place in an Indian action movie - last week I saw Singham, a fun film quite like a Western where the good guys are apparent immediately (Ajay Devgn's character is first seen carrying a kid who can't walk to win a race) and so are the bad guys (in clear contrast, the villain is seen choking a kid). Now, obviously, in a movie like The Searchers, John Wayne displays acting talent that Devgn doesn't show in a movie like Singham (though he does possess. Devgn is phenomenal in Vishal Bhardwaj's fantastic Omkara and is very good in Rajneeti, too, to name more recent films), but to say that films of this sort don't exist nowdays is just a fallacy (which I understand no one is saying, note. I just wanted to cite Bollywood as a type of cinema where John Wayne-esque films and actors still exist. Star power, after all, is what drives Bollywood films).

Re Hawk: Not sure what bothers me about him. Shouldn't be the homerism, considering I love Cubs homers. Maybe it's just that he's a White Sox homer <.<
   68. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:06 AM (#3896108)
Ford could be kind of a jerk, to put it mildly.


Yes, to put it mildly. Many people who worked with him remarked on how Ford could be so very cruel and vicious? I'm thinking it was Harry Carey, Jr., or somebody like that, who once said that he was sometimes so mean and hateful that he could make even John Wayne cry.
   69. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:08 AM (#3896109)
Harrelson really gets on my nerves, but I would choose him over Joe Buck every day of the season. Harrelson actually likes baseball.
I don't even consider Harrelson a baseball announcer. He's a White Sox announcer, and he calls White Sox games from a White Sox perspective. If you're watching the game from any other perspective, or if you just want to watch a baseball game, Harrelson will ruin it for you.
   70. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 11:48 AM (#3896120)
Wayne is a great actor, and a tremendous iconic star of the very first magnitude. And that's all there is to it. I don't see how one can deny that, politics or no politics, if you've actually seen his best movies.

Well, if you're not a fan of the whole westerns genre, which admittedly I'm not, you'll probably never be able fully to appreciate Wayne's talent. But there's one movie of his I've always liked, a 1953 potboiler called Trouble Along the Way, starring Wayne as football coach who's brought in by Charles Coburn in an attempt to convert a small Catholic college into a football behemoth, in order to prevent it from going out of existence. Donna Reed plays Wayne's social worker who hates the fact that his 11 year old daughter is a tomboy over whom Wayne has way too much bad influence.

It's got the usual early 50's Hollywood cliches of lovable priests, lovable tomboys, and stubborn women who don't appreciate their good but hardheaded men until the final scene, but what makes it an eye opener from a 2011 perspective is the completely casual---and approving---way that it treats corruption in college football. Wayne had been fired from all of his previous jobs for recruiting scandals, but Coburn hires him anyway, fully knowing all this. And though the whole thing is largely played for comic effect, there's scarcely a moment where Wayne's tactics are depicted in anything but the most forgiving light. It's as perfect a snapshot of the unspoken cultural mores of an era as a B movie will ever offer, and though sure, Wayne is just playing himself, he's perfect, and his Wayneness wins you over.

I think posterity so far has treated the great natural actors, such as Wayne, Stewart, Grant, Fonda, Tracy, Edw. G., March, Cooper, McCrea, Bogart, Cagney (to name just some males), a lot better than either those coming from the classic tradition (Olivier) or the method school (Brando). At least when it comes to film.

If by "posterity" you mean the average TCM or AFI buff, I'd agree completely. I can recognize Brando's greatness, while at the same time, with the sole exception of On The Waterfront, I could die happily without ever seeing his annoyingly tortured soul ever again. And AFAIC Olivier made exactly one movie---Carrie---that I would ever want to own or even record. Middlebrow personal preference strikes again.

But if by "posterity" you mean the critics, I'm not so sure. Unless I'm mistaken, the reputations of Brando, Olivier, and many of their imitators seem to get their share of placement on the critics' lists.
   71. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:05 PM (#3896126)
I can recognize Brando's greatness, while at the same time, with the sole exception of On The Waterfront, I could die happily without ever seeing his annoyingly tortured soul ever again.

I thought his was by far the weakest performance in what is a very fine film.

The only Brando performance I actually enjoy is The Godfather, since his role calls for exactly the sort of overwrought performance he specialized in.

John Wayne was awesome. He showed up to receive the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year award at Harvard in an armored personnel carrier he borrowed from the Mass. National Guard. You can't beat that.
   72. ray james Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:17 PM (#3896130)
And AFAIC Olivier made exactly one movie---Carrie---that I would ever want to own or even record. Middlebrow personal preference strikes again.


You didn't like Spartacus or Marathon Man?

Gee, tough crowd.

Agreed he was a much better stage than screen personna but he was in some pretty good films.
   73. Hack Wilson Posted: August 09, 2011 at 12:20 PM (#3896133)
The Five Sides of Hawk Harrelson


Like the Pentagon Hawk has five sides, a true patriot and supporter of the U.S. military, hence his nickname- Hawk. On the other hand John Wayne was a draft dodger.LINK To compare Hawk to John Wayne is unfair to Hawk.
   74. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 01:20 PM (#3896158)
I can recognize Brando's greatness, while at the same time, with the sole exception of On The Waterfront, I could die happily without ever seeing his annoyingly tortured soul ever again.

I thought his was by far the weakest performance in what is a very fine film.


Steiger and Cobb were my personal favorites, but I can't find any fault in Brando's acting. The final scene didn't quite add up, but along with The Godfather, it's one of two Brando movies I can even bear to watch.** I fully realize not everyone shares this opinion.

**Although I vaguely remember liking his performance in The Ugly American when I saw it at the time it came out.

------------------------------------

And AFAIC Olivier made exactly one movie---Carrie---that I would ever want to own or even record. Middlebrow personal preference strikes again.

You didn't like Spartacus or Marathon Man?

Gee, tough crowd.


Never seen either of them, but if there's any genre I wouldn't watch for less than a hundred bucks an hour, it's those wide screen spectaculars set in ancient or medieval times. I'd rather watch a whole season's worth of Rockies-Diamondbacks games.

EDIT: Make that five hundred bucks an hour.
   75. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 01:30 PM (#3896160)
Like the Pentagon Hawk has five sides, a true patriot and supporter of the U.S. military, hence his nickname- Hawk. On the other hand John Wayne was a draft dodger.LINK To compare Hawk to John Wayne is unfair to Hawk.

Ken Harrelson was 23 years old when we first went into a combat role in Vietnam in 1965, and the only time he ever stepped into a military uniform was when he attended a private military academy before beginning his baseball career. And of course his nickname comes from his beak, and has nothing to do with whatever his politics are or were.
   76. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 02:58 PM (#3896219)
John Wayne was awesome. He showed up to receive the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year award at Harvard in an armored personnel carrier he borrowed from the Mass. National Guard. You can't beat that.


He was at his best there. Never more appealing. But he it was the gagsters with the Lampoon that thought that up. He just went along with it.

A question and answer exchange was part of the program, and some coed from the audience asked him (as best as I remember) if he supported women's rights. He said: "I think a woman should have the right to do whatever she wants, as long as when you get home after a night out drinking with the guys, she has supper on the table." They loved it.
   77. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 03:12 PM (#3896235)
As for Olivier, I agree his good in Spartacus and The Marathon Man, and in the supporting but pivotal role in Khartoum (a very underrated film). I like spectacular. The Mann/Heston El Cid is truly powerful. Sophia is even tolerable. And it's a gorgeous film.

The problem with Olivier is so many of his best roles are not in movies that are greatly remembered, even by real fans of old movies. He pretty much steals The Devil's Disciple from Lancaster and Douglas, no mean feat. The Entertainer, The Beggar's Opera, Othello, Henry V, and Richard III. He's great in all of these. As for Shakespeare, there is no Hamlet like his Hamlet. Totally wrongheaded, totally unforgettable. Holden Caulfield putdown, he played Hamlet too much like a goddam prince and not enough like sad screwed-up guy is true enough, but no one ever spoke Shakespeare and strode the Shakespearean stage like that. But if you're going to exclude Shakespeare for him like you would westerns for John Wayne, I can see why you might not appreciate him. Still, give Wuthering Heights a chance, and especially:

The Divorce of Lady X This early British entry is almost a comedy that compares to the best of American screwball, and Olivier shows he could have stood toe to toe with the best of them.
   78. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 03:27 PM (#3896249)
Well, if you're not a fan of the whole westerns genre, which admittedly I'm not, you'll probably never be able fully to appreciate Wayne's talent.


Well, one misses a big part of late-forties to mid-sixties movies if one doesn't watch westerns. Trouble Along the Way is a good little domestic comedy, with winning performances by everybody, but especially by Wayne and the little girl. There relationship is funny and touching.

Part of my problem with Brando is that he's a saboteur of films--and I'm talking about his acting, not the production problems that came with having Brando on board. Too often, especially after he became a huge star, he acts like in a vacuum--he doesn't respond to other actors and doesn't give them much to feed on. Plus he insisted often on affect some dumb accent badly for his roles. The Teahouse of the August Moon is stupefyingly bad--the Ishtar of its time. I think Glenn Ford and others are embarrassed for him in their scenes with him. I think his performance in The Godfather is way way overrated. I like One-Eyed Jacks. And Guys and Dolls. And Viva Zapata (very much). Streetcar and Waterfront are his recognized heights, and that's a long and early decline there. That's a lot of good performances, though--most, though, are way overrated.
   79. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 03:36 PM (#3896259)
If by "posterity" you mean the average TCM or AFI buff, I'd agree completely.


I mean the people who decides what's classic--what's new that stays new. This includes scholars and critics, too, as well as hard-core fans.

Unless I'm mistaken, the reputations of Brando, Olivier, and many of their imitators seem to get their share of placement on the critics' lists.


We'll see how they thrive. And of course they are good. I don't mean they won't be remembered or appreciated. This is like arguing about who belongs on that all-time all-star team in a way, but my definite impression is that most people who really know movies, especially old movies, fans and professionals, are much more taken with the performances and movies of those I enumerated than with those of the method or classic school. For one thing, they're just much more fun. For the most part, they wear their greatness, movie and actor, lightly and gracefully, naturally and seemingly effortlessly with little pretension.
   80. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 09, 2011 at 04:01 PM (#3896287)
We'll see how they thrive. And of course they are good. I don't mean they won't be remembered or appreciated. This is like arguing about who belongs on that all-time all-star team in a way, but my definite impression is that most people who really know movies, especially old movies, fans and professionals, are much more taken with the performances and movies of those I enumerated than with those of the method or classic school. For one thing, they're just much more fun. For the most part, they wear their greatness, movie and actor, lightly and gracefully, naturally and seemingly effortlessly with little pretension.

One actor I think is hugely under-rated is William Holden.

Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, The Wild Bunch, Bridge on the River Kwai. Just a fantastic actor.
   81. OsunaSakata Posted: August 09, 2011 at 04:22 PM (#3896304)
I'm thinking it was Harry Carey, Jr., or somebody like that, who once said that he was sometimes so mean and hateful that he could make even John Wayne cry.


Is that why he became a baseball play-by-play announcer?
   82. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: August 09, 2011 at 04:25 PM (#3896310)
As for Shakespeare, there is no Hamlet like his Hamlet. Totally wrongheaded, totally unforgettable. Holden Caulfield putdown, he played Hamlet too much like a goddam prince and not enough like sad screwed-up guy is true enough, but no one ever spoke Shakespeare and strode the Shakespearean stage like that.


The thing is, Olivier wasn't the great natural speaker of Shakespearean lines. That was John Gielgud. Olivier had matchless stage physicality, and was extremely hard working and analytical and he trained himself to speak exceptionally well, but he wasn't a natural. He was at his best in the more declamatory parts, Hamlet's monologues or as Henry V. I can't imagine him in one of the comedies, which are all about quick interplay. I can't imagine him as Hal in the Henry IV plays, especially the first one, though he'd be a fine Hotspur, and I also can't see him doing much with the late romances.

All that said, Olivier's three great Shakespeare movies have held up exceptionally well (at least in the history of Shakespeare on film, which is somewhat different from straight film history). His Hamlet film might be the best one made, his Henry V is still the most interesting Shakespeare movie ever made, and his Richard III is better than either of them.

In 1935 Olivier and Gielgud did a production of Romeo and Juliet in which they alternated in the roles of Mercutio and Romeo. The famous line about the production was that it was Gielgud's Romeo who would have a better chance of talking his way up to Juliet's balcony, but Olivier's Romeo would know what to do when he got there.
   83. PreservedFish Posted: August 09, 2011 at 04:42 PM (#3896317)
This is like arguing about who belongs on that all-time all-star team in a way, but my definite impression is that most people who really know movies, especially old movies, fans and professionals, are much more taken with the performances and movies of those I enumerated than with those of the method or classic school.


You are tainting your sample by limiting it to people who already know and love old movies. It's not surprising that the dominant style of the era is preferred by people who already prefer that era.

What you really have to do is look at the 60s and 70s and decide which performances stand up best: the heirs of Brando/Olivier/etc or the heirs of Wayne/Fonda/Grant/etc.

Of course sometimes it's difficult to draw the line: which side is Jack Nicholson on? In fact it might be an impossible task.
   84. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:12 PM (#3896358)
One actor I think is hugely under-rated is William Holden.


Me, too. Very very underrated, but, then, most of those who make it seem easy and natural are. Still, Stalag 17, SB, they're really good. He reminds me of another young guy with tremendous talent and personal demons who some critics and historians of his profession view with regret, as a should have been, even though he accomplished much. Mickey Mantle, of course. It may not be coincidental that both were alcoholics--it's so demoralizing a thing that it ends up tainting your assessment of your abilities. It did for both of them. They constantly undervalued themselves and put themselves down.

McCrea is similar to Holden, I think. Not an alcoholic, but someone underrated who once was on the verge of being forgotten. I used to hang out a lot at movie blogs, and 15 years ago people (real fans and critics even) hardly knew him except as a "cowboy" star with one unforgettable role--Ride The High Country. When I'd mention his comedy performances, his romantic/dramatic roles, people weren't aware of them. If he had been a book, he'd have been on the verge of going out of print (except for the Peckinpah). Same, I feel, with people like Holden (and his youthful compadre, Glenn Ford, to name another). History is a terrible winnowing machine.

You are tainting your sample by limiting it to people who already know and love old movies. It's not surprising that the dominant style of the era is preferred by people who already prefer that era.


Well, those will be the ones who in the long run will decide who lives and who dies.
   85. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:23 PM (#3896367)
Is that why he became a baseball play-by-play announcer?


Flashing Spikes

Maybe so. Here's a forgotten item in the oeuvre of Ford, Stewart, and Carey. Note, Ford made two TV shows about baseball. I remember seeing Flashing Spikes when it came out and being impressed. I've not seen it since. I think it exists somewhere on some compilation of Ford's short films. Definitely worth, especially if you're a baseball fan. Here's the storyline as set out on IMDB:

"An old ballplayer, thrown out of baseball due to a bribery scandal, becomes friends with a young phenom. The younger player is at first tainted by his association with the oldtimer, but eventually the truth about the scandal is revealed."

What does that remind you of?
   86. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:50 PM (#3896384)
82:

I've not seen enough stage plays to be definitive about all that. That's why I restricted myself to movies. Having said that, from seeing Gielgud in other stuff, in movies and TV, and hearing him in recordings, I'm not overly impressed. He's no big deal in the movie Julius Caesar (but there, Brando's more natural performance actually upstages the Shakespeareans). He had what everyone thinks (or thought) was a truly wonderful voice, and I guess he did--but a voice is just an instrument, it's what you do with it, and Gielgud pretty much represents what I loathe about classical Shakespeare: this treatment of the words like your tongue is honing the facets of the Hope diamond. The overstressing of diction overwhelms feeling. I much much prefer Olivier's more realistic speaking style. It seems as if it's happening, not that everything has been blocked and storyboarded beforehand so as to suck out the animation. It's rough, but he works tremendous range and variation into his speaking voice. And there's passion. I realize what I say now has pretty much been the argument between the two since just about forever. Olivier took some chances, so you can find instances where he doesn't come out looking good, but it works, it's wonderful. He's reaped some big rewards. I've heard Gielgud's Hamlet, and I don't see that he's at all superior to Olivier in speaking, and since Gielgud didn't have Olivier's presence, I don't think he matches up. Actually, I prefer Redgrave to Gielgud.
   87. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:51 PM (#3896385)
You are tainting your sample by limiting it to people who already know and love old movies. It's not surprising that the dominant style of the era is preferred by people who already prefer that era.


Well, those will be the ones who in the long run will decide who lives and who dies.

Since the only dog in the fight I've got here is my opinion that one's taste in movies is almost completely subjective, I'll only say that we're truly in the golden age of movies today. Not because the movies are any better than they were 40 or 60 or 80 years ago---that's purely a matter of opinion---but because of the sheer availability of the entire history of movies today gives us a chance to put some actual knowledge behind our opinions.

Just to take one minor example, for the entire month of August TCM is running successive 24-hour surveys of 31 different stars, from the well known icons (Jimmy Stewart and Bette Davis) to the lesser known but critically acclaimed (Lon Chaney and Jean Gabin) to the semi-cult figures that only the hard core buffs really know (Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak, who's featured right now and being recorded in her glorious entirety from 6:00 am this morning to 6:00 am tomorrow). And all included in the price of a basic cable subscription. 20 years ago you wouldn't be able to duplicate that opportunity for any amount of money.

Imagine if we could somehow gain access to videos of many hundreds of games from the dead ball era, or of Jackie Robinson's debut, and imagine if it cost you about a dollar or two a month with no parking charge. This is the equivalent what movie buffs have at their disposal today. Whether we have the time or the inclination to take advantage of it is totally up to the individual, but I know that after about 10 more years whenever I comment about movies I might actually begin to believe that I know what I'm talking about. And who knows, I might even develop an appreciation for Brando.
   88. PreservedFish Posted: August 09, 2011 at 06:56 PM (#3896387)
Not because the movies are any better than they were 40 or 60 or 80 years ago---that's purely a matter of opinion


I don't think anyone would argue that.
   89. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:20 PM (#3896405)
Yeah, I know that sounds wishy washy, but whenever I hear someone say that Marilyn Monroe was "better" than Jean Harlow, or that Marlon Brando was "better" than Robert Ryan, or that Dustin Hoffman is "better" than Al Pacino, or that movies today are "better" than they were 80 years ago, or argue the opposite in any of those cases, how in the hell is that anything BUT a wholly subjective opinion?
   90. PreservedFish Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:27 PM (#3896410)
Of course, but I think some things are better than other things, and some opinions are better informed and argued than other opinions. If we concentrate too much on subjectivity we end up exploding any possibility for debate.

"This is all subjective" is a lot less fun than "Morty is a crazy old coot and his obsession with screwball comedies bewilders me."
   91. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 07:58 PM (#3896434)
Now that the sentiment has been stressed, I'll also have my say something on it: it's not just about subjective opinion. It is about it, to begin with, but that doesn't explain anything. Of course, if you're not into explaining, fine. But determining what of the cultural past the present retains is all about discerning and explaining values. Just saying it's all about opinions doesn't get us any further when it comes to explaining that. So, I agree more with PF.

Or does it? If anyone remembers the political discussions I've taken part in, he might conclude that for me that's what it comes down to: choosing, and having a mechanism by which choice becomes apparent and can be put into effect. Yes, that’s the process, or should be, what which we determine who wins and who loses. But there are still questions about meaning, about value. Of course, everyone has his tastes; that goes without saying. Maybe it's what tastes do adhere and prevail, for as long as they do. Yet, that seems to me to only accede to and acknowledge an effect without being interested in its cause.

What's the reason for that subjective taste? That's the conundrum that is to be solved. Saying it's just a matter of taste and subjective opinion doesn't get us any further than saying that which really goes without saying. That can be said about anything, and, true, it's undeniable, but that doesn't get us anywhere--it doesn't get us from here to there, or from there to here. It doesn't explain what needs explaining. It's like saying it's, well, magic. Real questions about cultural values remain; they still have to be answered. Aesthetic questions pertain. What lives, what doesn't? What are the elements of a work that make it live? What makes one thing better than another? Why do you think X is better than Y and why do I disagree? That’s the dynamic, and it’s that dynamic by which there be change in values and evaluations.

And by the way, just because something is better than something else, that doesn't make what which is viewed as lesser, terrible. What's comparatively inferior can be very good. Clark Gable no longer makes my cut as inner-circle; still, he's by no means some sort of bum ####. Saying that it's just subjective doesn't get us in closer to answering why or how some make the cut and some don't.

EDITED FOR Clarification:
   92. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:03 PM (#3896438)
Of course, but I think some things are better than other things, and some opinions are better informed and argued than other opinions. If we concentrate too much on subjectivity we end up exploding any possibility for debate.

"This is all subjective" is a lot less fun than "Morty is a crazy old coot and his obsession with screwball comedies bewilders me."


I'll agree that an informed opinion is better than an uninformed one, but it still comes down to what you're looking for in a movie. For the life of me I can't see what there is to today's hyper-juiced up special effects movies, but if someone's into superstar animation or 3-D car crashes, or fantasy movies with witches and fairies, instead of dramas that deal with the real world in a semi-realistic manner, I may think they've got the taste of a six year old, but I know that they'll never be argued out of it, any more than I can be argued out of my jones for silents, pre-codes and noir, or that Morty can be persuaded out of his love of the screwball genre. It's like trying to convince a vegan to try a nice bloody sirloin.
   93. PreservedFish Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:28 PM (#3896458)
It's like trying to convince a vegan to try a nice bloody sirloin.

But I'm right and the vegan's wrong. You can't convince me otherwise!

To be serious for a moment, I'm a chef, and in my job I need to use my only subjective opinions as a kind of guiding light. If one of my cooks doesn't put enough salt into a dish, I cannot just shrug and say, "I guess that he just likes it that way." I have to bend my team to understand and replicate my own opinions. Good chefs make a veritable fetish of their opinions, because those standards (even more than ambition or creativity) are the life of their restaurants.

I will, if pressed, agree with you that this is all subjective, but that academic observation has no practical use for me. On the contrary, it's harmful.
   94. Morty Causa Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:29 PM (#3896461)
Discussing it has the salutary effect of allowing us to know where we stand, and where others stand, in terms of what we value and why we value it. We can thus be held accountable.
   95. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:53 PM (#3896475)
What's the reason for that subjective taste?

In my case it's that I like movies that address and (hopefully) illuminate real life issues and drama. That's why I brush off nearly all sci-fi and fantasy movies**, and that's why nearly all of my favorite political movies are foreign, because American "political" movies are almost always aimed at a pre-selected demographic that needs to have its pre-tested opinions*** pandered to. There are some exceptions, but even with my limited knowledge of foreign political movies, I can rattle off 15 or 20 that are infinitely more interesting than anything Hollywood has offered.

And since I also like films that are set in the present, I'll almost never be able to develop a love for Bible epics, medieval costume dramas, or about 90% of westerns. I can't say for sure why I've developed this prejudice (for that's all it is), but I suspect it's because I see an essential phoniness behind nearly all of those above named genres.

**With exceptions for the campy ones like the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Them!, The Incredible Shrinking Man, etc. AFAIC those are all variants of Reefer Madness, and can be enjoyed on that level. And then there's the one in a million truly great horror movie like Night of the Living Dead, which actually does create a true suspension of belief.

***Usually wholesomely liberal, but that comes and goes with the overall political climate of the era.

-------------------------------

To be serious for a moment, I'm a chef, and in my job I need to use my only subjective opinions as a kind of guiding light. If one of my cooks doesn't put enough salt into a dish, I cannot just shrug and say, "I guess that he just likes it that way." I have to bend my team to understand and replicate my own opinions. Good chefs make a veritable fetish of their opinions, because those standards (even more than ambition or creativity) are the life of their restaurants.

Sure, and I agree, but I'd compare your totally legitimate concerns about your recipes to those of a director who wants a scene acted in a certain way, and an actor refuses to comply. In some cases the actor might actually be onto something, but that's kind of beside the point. But when it comes to the diner, if he doesn't like the seasoning in your meal, that's his business, and he's always free to change restaurants without being judged by anyone as to his taste in food or the lack of it. After all, it's his palate and no one else's.

-------------------------------

Discussing it has the salutary effect of allowing us to know where we stand, and where others stand, in terms of what we value and why we value it. We can thus be held accountable.

No problem with that, Morty, as long as we don't pretend that our subjective tastes are inherently superior.
   96. Srul Itza Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:55 PM (#3896479)
Russell Crowe? People consider him a good actor? Really?


Yes. See, particularly, The Insider, LA Confidential and A Beautiful Mind


But then I'm a bit of a grump when it comes to movies and actors and don't really have anybody to nominate in their place.


Edward Norton is a current favorite of mine, I just wish he would avoid caper films.
   97. Srul Itza Posted: August 09, 2011 at 08:58 PM (#3896482)
The most underrated western of the last decade was "Open Range". Kevin Costner in a role where he was credible. Annette B wasn't wearing any makeup, hair askew so she appeared like she COULD be out on the prairie. Michael Gambon was the bad guy. Little humor. I enjoyed it.


I liked it too, Harveys, but I am a sucker for Westerns, especially the Robert Duvall as old coot variety.
   98. Srul Itza Posted: August 09, 2011 at 09:01 PM (#3896487)
John Wayne as John ####### Wayne

Dean Martin as the drunk

Ricky Nelson? Sure why not Ricky Nelson - have him play a kid

Plus Ward Bond as the likable tertiary character.


And Claude Akins as the bully
   99. Srul Itza Posted: August 09, 2011 at 09:10 PM (#3896494)
Never seen either of them, but if there's any genre I wouldn't watch for less than a hundred bucks an hour, it's those wide screen spectaculars set in ancient or medieval times. I'd rather watch a whole season's worth of Rockies-Diamondbacks games.


Gee, you'd think an old lefty like you would at least pay homage to Kirk Gibson's decision to give a screen credit to Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted screen write.

Spartacus is a fantastic movie.

And you never saw Marathon Man, either? Gawd.
   100. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 09, 2011 at 10:27 PM (#3896523)
Russell Crowe? People consider him a good actor? Really?


Yes. See, particularly, The Insider, LA Confidential and A Beautiful Mind

I'd add Cinderella Man and American Gangster to that, even if neither of them were completely faithful to some of the historical details being depicted. But Crowe's just a damn good actor, period.

And you never saw Marathon Man, either? Gawd.

90% of the movies I saw in the 70's were at the AFI or other repertory houses. I'll catch up with that decade at some point down the road.
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