Tag Archives: Local Hero

10 People You Didn’t Know Have Oscars

1. Uncle Ben

Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker in Spider-Man

Cliff Robertson as Ben Parker in Spider-Man

No, not the rice mascot.

Cliff Robertson’s Ben Parker, beloved uncle to Peter Parker, was perhaps the best-judged performance in the entirety of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. The actor, who passed away in 2011 aged 88, was not familiar to younger audiences for anything other than this iconic role. So it will surprise some to learn that Robertson was the proud owner of an Academy Award for Best Actor, won in 1969 for his role in the film Charly.

Yep, that'll win you an Oscar: Cliff Robertson in Charly

Yep, that’ll win you an Oscar: Cliff Robertson in Charly

The disappointing flipside to this, however, is that the current Uncle Ben, Martin Sheen, has never won an Oscar. Mull on that for a moment, and then let’s move on.

2. This guy

I know that guy from something...

I know that guy from something…

More like THAT guy! That guy is Fisher Stevens. A character actor known for his snide antagonists and sidekicks, he will be most familiar to viewers of the 1990s magic newspaper TV series Early Edition, and more surprisingly familiar to fans of the Short Circuit movies, in which he donned brown-face to play Steve Guttenberg’s Indian business partner Ben, taking the lead role in the sequel.

Well that's just unfortunate

Well that’s just unfortunate

He also played an obnoxious boyfriend of Monica in an early episode of Friends, and played the villain in the ridiculous 1995 computer caper Hackers.

But when he’s not acting, Stevens is a director and producer, who notably (and not widely known-ly) produced the 2009 documentary The Cove, the film which people claimed they were seeing out of support for dolphins, but actually just wanted to catch a glimpse of Hayden Panettiere in a wetsuit. The Cove won Best Documentary, and Stevens was there to pick up the statue.

Lucky for some

Lucky for some

3. Walton Goggins

Walton Goggins in TV's Justified

Walton Goggins in TV’s Justified

Like Fisher Stevens’s Early Edition co-star Kyle Chandler (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo), The Shield actor Walton Goggins can be proud to have appeared in two Best Picture-nominated films this year – Django Unchained and Lincoln. In Django he played Billy Crash, all too comfortable with a burning-hot poker. In Lincoln he played nervous Democratic Congressman Clay Hawkins, whose backing-and-forthing on the subject of abolition much of the plot rests on. That’s some range right there.

But before any of this Goggins starred in and co-produced a short film called The Accountant, way back in 2001. That took home the Best Live Action Short Oscar, which he shared with director Ray McKinnon and producer Lisa Blount. Yet another person on the set of Django to have more Oscars than Leonardo DiCaprio.

4. Malcolm Tucker

Peter Capaldi in The Thick of It

Peter Capaldi in The Thick of It

Peter Capaldi is best known for playing Malcolm Tucker, the terror-striking Director of Communications for the British Government in satirical BBC comedy The Thick of It, and its spin-off movie In the Loop. Malcolm is one of TV’s greatest monsters, whose abuse-filled tirades make symphonies with profanities. On the flipside of that, some film fans will recognise him as the timid Danny Oldsen in the wonderful 1983 dramedy Local Hero, in which he falls in love with a girl with webbed-toes, believing she’s a mermaid.

But back in 1993 he directed the gloriously titled short film Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, which tied for Best Live Action Short with the film Trevor in 1995. You can watch the whole demented film here.

5. Keith Carradine

Keith Carradine, back in the day

Keith Carradine, back in the day

The Carradine name has been tainted in recent years by rambling speeches about Superman, and autoerotic asphyxiation. But David’s half-brother Keith has kept up the good work begun in The Duellists and Southern Comfort with roles in TV’s Deadwood and Dexter. If any Carradine was going to have an Oscar under his belt, it was going to be him. And he does!

But what’s strangest about this is that he won his gong for Best Song. ‘I’m Easy’, from Robert Altman’s dramedic masterpiece Nashville, was not just performed by Carradine, but written by him as well. It’s a pretty damn good tune too, I’ll have you know.

6. Dean Pelton

Jim Rash has yet to win an Oscar for playing Dean Pelton

Jim Rash has yet to win an Oscar for playing Dean Pelton

While audience’s expect to see Community’s Jim Rash dressed as Carmen Miranda before they’d imagine him in a tuxedo, Rash has a lot more to him than the gloriously flamboyantly clown he appears as on TV. Last year Rash took home a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his work on Alexander Payne’s The Descendants.

While Payne gave the speech, Rash unwisely spent his time on stage impersonating a meme-worthy pose of Angelina Jolie, ensuring the speech would forever be incomprehensible to future generations.

7. Christine Lahti

Christine Lahti

Christine Lahti

Nowadays more famous for not actually being Allison Janney, Christine Lahti was one of the biggest stars of ’90s hospital drama Chicago Hope, and was a Best Supporting Actress nominee at the Oscars for Swing Shift back in 1984. But like so many on this list, her biggest achievement came as a Best Live Action Short Film award, which she won for directing 1995’s Lieberman in Love (in which she also co-starred with Danny Aiello). That tops Allison Janney’s two Emmys any day!

Not Christine Lahti

Not Christine Lahti

8. Homer Simpson

Wooo-hooo!

Wooo-hooo!

No, Homer Simpson has never actually won an Oscar. In fact 2007’s The Simpsons Movie wasn’t even nominated for Best Animated Feature. There is no Academy Award for best voice-acting (there should be), so Dan Castellaneta has never won an Oscar either. In fact, if any member of the Simpson family is likely to win an Oscar, it’s little Maggie Simpson, whose short adventure The Longest Daycare is nominated for Best Animated Short this Sunday.

But while Homer has never won an Oscar, he does have an Oscar, as revealed in the season 7 episode of The Simpsons ‘Team Homer’. Displaying his trophy collection, Homer is shown to have come into possession of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar won by Dr. Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields in 1985.

Haing S. Ngor

Haing S. Ngor

Which is a nice way of segueing into Ngor’s win. The physician was a first-time actor when he took the pivotal role of Dith Pran in The Killing Fields. He starred in a dozen lesser-known films before he was murdered by a street gang outside his Los Angeles home in 1996, only a month after ‘Team Homer’ aired. Out of sensitivity, for subsequent syndication and DVD release Homer’s Oscar was shown to be that of Don Ameche, won for 1985’s Cocoon.

9. Lionel Richie

The epitome of ’80s cool

Here’s a strange one. Not content with having No.1 songs with ‘Hello’ and ‘All Night Long (All Night)’, the ’80s R&B icon also has an Oscar to go with his Grammys. He won the little gold man for ‘Say You, Say Me’, which he composed for the now much-forgotten Cold War ballet drama White Nights (1985). More troubling is that the music video for ‘Hello’ wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. That thing is amazing.

10. This goat

She-Goat

She-Goat

Well no, obviously this bronze goat sculpture has never won an Oscar, but, and bear with me here, it does share a home with one. Pablo Picasso’s ‘She-Goat’, cast in 1952, is one of the most recognisable works in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. MoMA has one of the oldest film departments of any museum in the world, and in 1978 had an Honorary Award bestowed upon it by the Academy, “for the contribution it has made to the public’s perception of movies as an art form”.

MoMA’s Oscar has an interesting history of its own, being the subject of a theft some years back. When it was recovered, a small patch of the figure’s crown had been scratched away by crooks eager to see just how much gold the statue contains (note: not very much, it’s a very thin coating). After the recovered Oscar returned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fully restored, it was locked away in a drawer for its own protection for several years. However, in happy news, MoMA’s Oscar was only this month returned to the Museum, where he now greets visitors at the film entrance on 53rd Street. Hooray!

Home is where you hang your Oscar

Home is where you hang your Oscar

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Killer Joe – A Southern-Fried Thriller

A deal with the devil

Man those Texans have it hard. If they’re not being chased by maniacs wielding chainsaws or cattle guns, they’re being sent to Scotland to buy small towns for oil tycoons. What’s clear from the movies is that Texas takes many different forms; from the barren deserts of Paris, Texas to the grassy keg parties of Dazed & Confused. Only Texans themselves will ever understand the real Texas, so if you’re going to set your movie there, don’t opt for reality – just tell a yarn as big as the state itself.

And this here Killer Joe is one hell of a yarn. Director William Friedkin’s career dipped on and off the radar after massive success in the early ‘70s with The French Connection and The Exorcist, but this is by far his greatest success since those lofty days four decades ago. Friedkin made a hardly noticed return to high-quality drama back in 2007 with the film Bug, which critics championed but audiences eschewed viewing, unimpressed with this demonless psychological horror “from the director of The Exorcist”. But considering that film an artistic success, Friedkin has wisely chosen to work once more with its crafty writer, the playwright Tracy Letts, and the results are a fiendish delight.

The film opens in a rain-sodden trailer park, as trailer trash Chris Smith looks to his trailer trash dad for some money. Soon he lets his dad, Ansel, in on a plan for the whole family to make some quick easy cash; they kill his mother, Ansel’s ex-wife, and give everyone a share of the insurance payout. Ansel’s current wife bullies her way in for a cut. Chris’s sister Dottie, who is meek, disturbed and perhaps simple-minded, is surprisingly eager for the plan to go ahead.

The family was falling apart like a cheap suit

Enter Killer Joe, an assassin for hire with a gift for making deaths look like accidents, who, as a detective in local law enforcement, has a knack for sidetracking investigations into his own handiwork – investigations he is often in charge of. Unable to pay the man upfront, the Smiths have no choice but to offer Joe a retainer before he can get the job done, in this case exclusive access to the beautiful, fragile Dottie. But pimping out his sister doesn’t sit well with Chris, and delays in the plan don’t sit well with his creditors. Soon there’s enough double crossing going on to fill a bucket of fried chicken.

Adapted from Letts’s play, Killer Joe never feels confined or stagey. It uses superbly framed shots of urban landscapes and clever close-ups to create a whole world for its characters, moving scenes that could have been performed on a bare stage to dirty pool halls and abandoned amusement parks. And while almost no character outside of the Smiths and Joe gets much in the way of any lines, this helps add to the film’s sub-realism, enclosing these characters within the seedy world they have created (even the mother, around whose life much of the film pivots, never gets a word in – it’s not her life we care need to care about).

The theatrical dialogue, bursting with Southern slang, is delivered with relish by the ensemble cast. As Chris, Emile Hirsch puts up a strong backbone for the film, playing the feckless dreamer out of depth and out of ideas. Thomas Haden Church gives his best performance since Sideways as his cuckolded father, an emasculated antithesis of the traditional Texan male. Gina Gershon plies her dime store sex appeal in the role of the manipulatrix second wife Sharla. And as Dottie, Juno Temple brings an easily shed innocence and curiosity while also successfully switching her sweet London lilt into a suitable Southern drawl.

He’s so dreamy…

But it is Matthew McConaughey who steals the show as the indecipherable Killer Joe. Part charmer, part animal, McConaughey channels all his romcom handsome into this wolf in poster-boy’s clothing. The result is a career-defining (and likely -mutating) performance, which brings this unscrupulous, despicable but fascinating and somehow extremely likeable character to life.

Fully of clever quirks and details (entering a restaurant Ansel is swift to pick up a half-drunk beer and start swigging), Killer Joe zips along at a strange speed for a film in which altogether little happens. The diabolically black humour that underpins the film will not be to everyone’s taste, culminating as it does in one of the most appalling scenes in recent – and yet it dares you to laugh at the horror. It’s hard to resist. Much like the charms of Killer Joe himself.

4/5

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Going Home: Back to the Furor

It’s good to be back.

I would simply love to tell you that my absence can be explained away by vacations, lottery wins and exotic hours spent with countless beautiful women, but it would be far more honest to say that I’ve done next to nothing but watch The West Wing for the entirety of the last month. That said, I am getting through it at a rather impressive speed that should allow me to reach my previously announced (and might I add ambitious) declaration.

It is odd firing through a show this fast, seeing as I really should have been watching it when it initially aired (I haven’t watched this much TV since I sat through the entirety of Day 1 of 24 in one day). Television has very much held a distant second place in my life over the last several years due to my excessive (slash obsessive) film watching, and other shows (most obviously The Sopranos and The Wire, amongst others) have taken back seats with the boot wide open and no seatbelts.

It is no doubt ironic then that my West Wing bingeing has consequently resulted in my film watching batting average plummeting. I have managed to squeeze in maybe a dozen films in the past month, an undoubted, though explainable, embarrassment for me.

Here are some interesting things I have learned in the last month:

  • Das Boot is too long, but the ending is just about worth it
  • Three viewings is enough for Capturing the Friedmans
  • Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 BC is literally a paint by numbers how-to-make-a-basic-Hollywood-blockbuster, but there is almost fun to be found in its utter continent-shifting nonsense
  • On a fourth (fifth?) viewing, Potemkin is still as brilliant as it always was, even the fifth part didn’t cause the usual fit of yawning
  • Superbad hit a little too close to home a little too often
  • Ten deserved a second shot
  • Administering heroin to policemen will improve their crime-fighting capabilities – it’s easy to see now why Chaplin got blacklisted
  • Watching Local Hero and the Season 2 finale of The West WingTwo Cathedrals’ in close proximity will cause a Mark Knopfler overload that will make it literally impossible to get his music out of your head and remind you why teenaged you used to freaking love Dire Straits

More thoughts on The West Wing will follow. For the record I should be finishing Season 4 tomorrow night, and am currently averaging four episodes a night.

When this is all over, I may need some help moving on.

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