I can’t believe it, but we are almost to the end of this series. It’s been such a joy to take part in this with these awesome bloggers, and I really hope they’ve had fun exploring Oscar’s double dips, and I hope that you have had fun reading what we’ve had to say.
Today we are discussing Tom Hanks. I have to say, these results shocked me. As a panel, we’ve been all over the place, and this is no different. I expected a different result, I’ll be honest.
Well, you’ll see for yourself.
First, our panel!
Alex from And So It Begins
Andrew from The Films the Thing
Drew from A Fistful of Films
Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle
Mario from Two Dollar Cinema
Shane from Film Actually
Tom Hanks’ work as Andrew Beckett is one of my favorite screen performances in all of film. It’s brutal, devastating and authentic. A man motivated by a ticking clock, guided by passion to do the right thing. That scene when Hanks is standing outside of Denzel Washington’s law office is as haunting an image as you’re likely to find. He’s so lost and alone, without a clue what to do. There’s so much beauty in his sadness.
Hanks was up against four incredible performances, including Laurence Fishburne’s terrifying work as Ike Turner, Liam Nesson’s conflicted turn as Oskar Schindler, and Daniel Day-Lewis, fearless as ever as Gerry Conlon. I’d still give it to Hanks, but wow, what a field.
My Grade: A+
The Academy has a soft-spot for “important” movies. But it seems more often than not these films find favor not necessarily because they are actually well-made films but because they tackle weighty issues that need to be addressed. Think Gentlemen’s Agreement with Anti-Semitism or Crash with Racism. Philadelphia, which was released in 1993 at the height of AIDS awareness, was the first major film from the studios with a cast of well-known actors that actually took on homophobia and AIDS. Tom Hanks was justly rewarded for his “brave” performance as Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer that is wrongfully fired from his job when his law firm finds that he is suffering from the illness, but the film seems more concerned with getting its message across than actually creating a fully-formed character for Hanks to play. His character is so non-descript that he almost becomes more of a symbol than an actual human being. For most of the film, he silently sits in a courtroom while Denzel Washington does all the acting. This silence begins to personify him as a saint and martyr, pushing the audience further away but, because of his situation, we’re made to believe that we still care. When he’s finally given an opportunity to grant insight into his character, it becomes almost dreamlike and abstract involving Maria Callas and an aria (did Terrence McNally write this?) further alienating and canonizing. At the time, it must have been surprising to see Hanks, normally known for his skills as a comedic actor, taking on such a dramatic role. But instead of this symbolic win, during a surprisingly strong year, the Academy should have awarded one of the other four men in this category who gave life to actual flesh and blood characters.
My Grade: C
I know that I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t appreciate this performance at all. I’ve said this about Hanks before (and I’ll be saying it again when we get to the next performance), but his Oscar wins reek of gimmick. There is absolutely no substance in these performances, which is a shame because the characters, or at least their situations, had substance.
Hanks just fails to convey this.
Andrew Beckett was a very ripe character. He was a successful gay man dying of AIDS who was unjustly fired by his firm and sought out justice, and got it! This should be an actor’s showcase. Sadly, it was, for all the wrong reasons. What Hanks does with this beautiful character is load him down with clichés and gimmicks and then expects us just to fall in love with the idea of this man, without really building anything substantial. In the end, it never really feels real. I never felt like I even knew who Andrew Beckett really was. I knew his circumstances, and I knew his plight…but I didn’t know him. He had no arc, no real detail. He was a blank canvas with a gimmick and an Oscar moment, but nothing more.
And that Oscar moment was gross. Yup, I’m talking about that excruciating Opera scene where Hanks reaches levels of ridiculous I just couldn’t believe would be emitted in this film. The scene itself should have been stirring and emotionally reaching but Hanks just didn’t get it and it comes off mediocre and uncomfortable to watch.
The fact that Denzel Washington not only had the better character, but also the better arc and performance in the same film is telling.
It’s also a shame that Hanks won in a year where the Best Actor slate was so incredibly solid. Neeson is really good, and Day-Lewis delivers an electric (at times overboard) performance, but really; Laurence Fishburne was sensational, so full of life and energy and sold it all fluidly, and Anthony Hopkins gives, not only the best performance of his career, but one of the ten best performances of all time!
My Grade: F
Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar for playing Andrew Beckett, a gay man who sues a law firm for being fired after he is diagnosed with AIDS. Roles like this tend to go over well with Academy voters (just ask Matthew McConaughey), but Hanks does give an effective performance. The script allows him some moments to shine, especially in the opera scene and in the courtroom ones. Overall, it's a very good performance, but I wouldn't nominate him for it.
Did Hanks deserve to win?
I'd rank Hanks at the bottom of the nominees. Anthony Hopkins should've been rewarded for his magnificent performance in The Remains of the Day, but Liam Neeson's work in Schindler's List was also worthy.
My Grade: A-
Who I was rooting for: The only role I had seen at the time was Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List. And even after seeing Philadelphia, that still might get my vote.
The role: Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, wrongly terminated from a high-powered law firm for having AIDS.
Watch for: The physical transformation Hanks goes through as Andrew’s health rapidly declines.
Yay: The way Hanks leaves Joe Miller’s (Denzel) office after initially asking him for representation. He’s quiet, he understands, but there’s so much hate in his eyes, it’s incredible.
Boo: It gets a little ridiculous there at the end of the trial. I mean, maybe someone could notice that Beckett not looking well. Oh, and that opera scene? Well…
Summary: Seeing this for the first time, it seems as if Hanks was just getting his footing as a master of his craft. Actually, I think it’s less the performance and more the overly-dramatic direction of this film. Hanks plays Beckett a resilient man, fighting for justice to the end with just the right amount of softness. He’s warm, he’s disarming, but he’s also incredibly confident and determined to stand up for himself, in the face of sexual discrimination. Maybe all these years later the drastic physical transformation he undergoes seems ho-hum (he’s done it a few times since), but I found it to be the most memorable part of the performance.
My Grade: A-
When I look back on Tom Hanks’ Oscar win for the Capra-esque ‘Philadelphia’ it seems like a preordained inevitability. The film’s subject matter (AIDS) was highly topical at the time and Hanks’ “aw-shucks” personal was a perfect fit for the role. It’s really a feat of excellent casting, as he immediately gets you on his side. It’s something that a more abrasive performer (Jack Nicholson for example) would struggle to pull off.
The performance does reveal some minor weaknesses in Hanks’ technique though. Specifically, he tends to fade away when he’s not the central focus. Especially when Denzel takes charge, I completely lose all interest in him, which should not be the case. He’s put in the background a lot in ‘Philadelphia’ and unfortunately he doesn't feel as “present” in those scenes.
Yet the fact remains (in my best Denzel voice), when Hanks is given the spotlight, he’s immediately engaging. That warm face and voice just draws you in.
In terms of the Oscar field, this was a super lineup. I would actually place Hanks at #5 and then it's a toss-up in my eyes. Can I call it a 4-way tie?
My Grade: B+
As a whole, I like Forrest Gump well enough. Which is to say: I’m not nearly as much of a fan of it as some, but I do appreciate its sentiment. Now, based solely on its performances, the film is a masterpiece. Forrest Gump is Hanks’ show, but he’s helped considerably by the respective talents of Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field and Mykelti Williamson. Plus, that scene when Forrest finds out he’s a father remains one of Hanks’ finest moments. With one look and a few short words, an entire character is put into perspective.
Not to take anything away from Hanks, but John Travolta in Pulp Fiction would’ve had my vote.
My Grade: A
With his child-like innocence and armed with a series of instantly quotable catchphrases (boxes of chocolates have never been the same since), it’s easy to see how Hanks as Forrest Gump, in the insanely popular film of the same name, could have charmed Academy voters and audiences alike. But popularity isn’t necessary a mark of greatness and Hanks’ Gump, while likable, is little more than a plot device to guide us through decades of American history. He’s the audience’s stand-in for the story being told, a pawn in this epic tale spanning continents, wars, and presidents. His simplicity becomes a blank canvas on which the audience is able to project its own feelings and ideas without having time to realize that the actor himself hasn’t really done that work at all. Aside from some humorous line-deliveries (which are actually funnier because of their placement in the script than in the way Hanks actually delivers them), nothing Hanks does make the performance feel authentic or really all that memorable. Not to say that the film itself doesn’t have its charms, but if you replaced Hanks with any other actor, the film would still have the desired effect. Of the other nominees that year, Hanks seems too big not to have won and I’m not all that impressed with the work of the other men nominated alongside him. Although you could make a case for Morgan Freeman in Shawshank (another crowd-pleaser) or, an actor that was originally offered the part of Forrest Gump (and could have easily won if he had), John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.
My Grade: C
I’m one of those horrible people who doesn’t love Forrest Gump. I know that I am horrible because all of my friends tell me so. Apparently, this movie is the greatest movie of all time, and my distain for it (it isn’t really distain, just pure disinterest) is uncalled for and completely wrong.
I have a very similar issue with this performance that I do with the one he gave in Philadelphia. He just doesn’t do anything. He’s lazy. He rests so comfortably on the gimmick of this character and it’s a shame because an actor with a shred of conviction could have gotten something more out of this. Or could they have? Maybe it’s just the character that is rather damning. I mean, this is about as stereotypical, clichéd, baity, gimmicky nonsense as they come. My issue with Forrest Gump will always be the absolute lack of any restraint or subtlety. It’s like everyone involved in this movie got together and said “what wins Oscars” and someone said “war” and then someone said “mental handicaps” and then someone said “alcoholic mothers” and then someone said “drug addicted floozy’s” and then someone said “let’s throw all of them in the same movie and win everything” and it worked.
But sadly, it really doesn’t. I mean, it’s entertaining because it has practically everything in it…but it’s not good; at all.
Anyways, back to Hanks, who sleeps his way through this entire film only to reach the tail end and realize he has to do some sort of acting and so, when he finds out about his son, he has that moment…that single moment where you can actually feel like this is a performance, a real character…but it’s far too little too late for me.
But that one moment gets him a grade slightly better than an F.
I don’t know, maybe he should have gone full retard…
Of the nominees, Paul Newman should have won in a walk. Freeman was good, but Robbins was better (in the same film) and Travolta is good but in retrospect nothing really special, especially in that ensemble which is so stellar. I found Hawthorne to be a revelation in The Madness of King George and would have loved to see him rewarded.
My Grade: D
Hanks won his second Best Actor Oscar for playing Forrest Gump, a slow but sweet Southerner who lives through many historic events from the 1950s to the 1970s. Like his role in Philadelphia, this screams Oscar, and Hanks makes the most of the Academy-friendly material. Hanks is amusing, endearing, and touching, and he does a solid job of playing a mentally challenged man. That said, he isn't able to do anything very meaningful with the character, apart from the scene where he meets his son.
Did Hanks deserve to win?
Again, I'd put Hanks at the bottom of the nominees. Particularly deserving were Paul Newman's layered naturalism in Nobody's Fool and Nigel Hawthorne's outlandish turn in The Madness of King George.
My Grade: B
Who I was rooting for: Okay, maybe for a minute I was pulling for John Travolta…but between you and me, Gump is one of my favorite characters ever. Hanks for the win, please.
The role: Hanks plays Forrest. Forrest Gump.
Watch for: When Forrest recalls his life’s adventures for Jenny. You were.
Yay: For me choosing a lone moment in this film to cheer for is like choosing which one my kids I like more. Maybe I’ll go with He got a daddy named Forrest, too?
Boo: I basically just chose a favorite kid.
I’m just so biased with this one, I don’t really know what to say. I truly feel there isn’t a misstep here, as Hanks gives Forrest, who could potentially be a laughing-stock, the perfect level of innocence, humanity and believability. Gump isn’t that bright, but he’s a good person, willing to do anything for his friends and family. But through Hanks, Gump isn’t quite the simpleton many take him for. He’s a complicated guy, trying to keep it together and do the right thing when the world around him is a never-ending shit storm. He is routinely taken advantage of, yet he never feels like a sucker. For me, this is a magical performance. Maybe I’m the simpleton?
My Grade: A+
After winning for ‘Philadelphia’, Tom Hanks was back on that Oscar stage a year later for the cultural phenomenon that is ‘Forrest Gump’. Time hasn’t been kind to the film and Hanks’ performance though, as the love seems to have faded among discerning cinephiles. But you know what? I don’t care. Watching Tom Hanks play Forrest Gump remains one of my most enjoyable cinematic experiences. It's not only because the character is so lovable either. It’s also the way he deftly handles the unwitting comedy of the role. Of course I tear up on cue during the sentimental moments but it’s the humour that’s my favourite part.
One could argue that he briefly slips into “Tom Hanks mode” sometimes, but for the most part I completely believed that I was watching Forrest Gump and not the actor. For such a demanding role (body language, speech) that’s a high compliment indeed.
In comparison to the other nominees that year, I think Tom Hanks holds up well. It’s an iconic set of performances though, so I would have a hard time choosing between Hanks, Freeman and Travolta. By default then, I’d be a typical Academy member and just go with the consensus. Hanks gets my vote.
My Grade: A-
There is a number assigned to each letter grade that helps us give a score to each performance. The highest number (and A+) would be 20 points. An F would warrant 0 points (a D gives you 5). So these are the scores for each performance as well as a collective score (which will be used at the end to rank each individual actor).
Tom Hanks received a total of 75 points for his performance in Philadelphia.
Tom Hanks received a total of 80 points for his performance in Forrest Gump.
This is a collective total of 155 points.
As a point of reference, the highest collective score you can attain is 240.
And here is a bit of cool stats, we finally have two performances that garnered the same amount of votes...and they also share a similar trait. Yup, both Hank's Forrest Gump and Hoffman's Rain Man have 80 points. I'll leave you to finding the other similarity.
So this closes our discussion of Tom Hanks. Next week is the end of our series, where we discuss Spencer Tracy, the very first actor to win TWO Lead Acting Oscars, and back to back at that!
Again, as always, a special thanks to the five incredible bloggers who agreed to attack this project with me! It wouldn't be the same without any of you!