Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1986: Dennis Hopper in Hoosiers

Dennis Hopper received his only acting Oscar for portraying Shooter in Hoosiers.

Hoosiers is about a basketball coach (Gene Hackman) with a troubled past trying to help a small town team win the state championship.

Dennis Hopper's Oscar nomination for this film is usually seen a bit of a head scratcher, not due to the quality of his performance in the film but rather because he was nominated for this film instead of his work in Blue Velvet from the same year. The problem with his Blue Velvet performance though is that the character of Frank Booth is not only evil but downright depraved in the most extreme fashion. The academy does not mind brutal villains, they nominated Berenger for this year, but Hopper's Frank was maybe just a little too sick for their tastes.

Perhaps Hopper could have been nominated for Blue Velvet if there was not the rather stupid rule that actors can only be nominated once in a single category but because of that it still gave voters the ability to vote for Hopper, but instead of voting for his portraying of a drug using, murderous sex fiend they could nominate him for the goodhearted town drunk in this film. It is remarkable actually the extreme difference in his two characters although they are both substance abusers one is a good man inside who seems to have the ability to be an even better man inside him.

Disregarding his other performance entirely though Hopper's performance here still does hold merit as the town drunk with a son on the basketball team who finds a second chance through Hackman's character offering him the chance to be his assistant coach. Hopper has plenty of drunk scenes and moments of his character being rather pathetic. Hopper doesn't overdue these scenes. Shooter is disruptive when drunk, and Hopper captures that while not ever making it seem like time for acting which these sorts of scenes commonly let themselves become.

Even though he really is not given much time to develop his character's past other than just a few passing remarks Hopper is effective in actually establishing his character's troubled history. He shows both a pride and a pain in his past over his own success and failures that he had in the past. Hopper's portrayal of this is actually quite remarkable as it is difficult to show both of these feelings without one clearly overwhelming the other or at least failing to convey either well. Hopper though succeeds in showing an honest past of both trouble and accomplishment.

Later as the film when Shooter gets his second chance Hopper is quite effective because he really does not show that Shooter changes but rather through his weaknesses there always was a stronger man inside. Hopper is careful to show that he never completely forgets his problems in his scenes on the basketball court, but rather he is able to pull himself just enough to bring out the best of him. It is a very moving portrait of this man that realizes his character's struggle and strength authentically without a moment of seeming to force Shooter's better moments. Hopper frankly could not be better in the role and does create a moving portrait of this man without ever making his more emotional moments feel in anyway manipulative. Although it might not be his most memorable performance of the year it certainly is a good one and stands as one of the better supporting performances of the year.


RatedRStar said...

I really liked him in both, I'm just happy that Hopper was recognised for something.
What did you make of Kyle Maclachlan and Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet =).

Louis Morgan said...

They were both quite good particularly Rossellini.