Friday, 28 March 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1986: Gene Hackman in Hoosiers

Gene Hackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Norman Dale in Hoosiers.

Gene Hackman in Hoosiers plays the well weathered role of a coach to an underdog sports team. This one is a little different in that Hoosiers is better than a lot of films with this type of plot. The role of Norman Dale is also considerably more flawed than many of these characters often are. It is also helped by the great Gene Hackman being in the role as Hackman is not someone to go for the simple route with a character. Such roles, and perhaps even this one in lesser hands is ripe for some schmaltz and all sorts of cheesiness if one is not careful, but that is not the case for Hackman's work here. The main reason being that Hackman in no way seems to be treating the part like the typical inspirational sports coach character.

Hackman firstly just is very believably in the role as a man who clearly not exactly currently in the best part of his life. Dale's coaching job after all is more of a last ditch chance at redemption more than his ideal choice of work. Hackman wears some of that bitterness in him quite well. It is not something that Hackman let's overwhelm his performance, but he does well to suggest the past without the film really needing to show it. Most of the film is not dwelling on the past instead obviously focusing on Dale's attempt to try to get the small town team in shape to win the championship well carefully dealing with the locals who basically want to replace him as soon as they see him. Again in performing as the coach Hackman again does not act as the usual type of movie coach.

In the coaching duties Hackman delivers with a fervent passion as well as always a certain intelligence in his ways as a mentor. What makes Hackman so effective though is the way he comes off as a particularly realistic coach especially in the game scenes. Hackman portrays Dale as honestly having a pretty bad temper in the game, and does not hold back in that regard. Hackman is always particularly strong in showing that Dale does not take it well when anyone whether it is the game's referee or one of his players, he someone who knows he's right so he's not going to take that from anyone. Hackman does not show that Dale is really a perfect guy who someone you would even want to be around, but because of that he's always particularly believable in this role.

That is not to say that Norman Dale is not an inspiring figure in the film, quite the contrary not only does he pull all the boys together to form an actual team he even gets the local drunkard (Dennis Hopper) to redeem himself slightly by becoming an assistant coach for the team. Hackman again is terrific by not going the standard route by being particularly warm and lovey dovey. Instead in most of these scenes Hackman is very careful to suggest an underlying empathy in Dale as he tries to give his inspirational speeches, but the way Hackman plays it up front is as basically "Do the right thing, or well I just down give a damn". Hackman completely meets the challenge of being the inspiring coach, but he always does it his way which avoids ever falling into the slightest bit of schmaltz.

Gene Hackman being in the lead role helps Hoosiers stand out as sports movies of this kind. He does not hit the usual beats of this type of character instead taking his own path the whole way through. By doing this Hacman not only gives a much more intense and compelling portrayal, but also one far more line with a real coach in Norman Dale's position. He makes him a pretty rough character and one that is not always easy to deal with, but Hackman never fails to perfectly balance those technically less savory qualities with a great deal of genuine heart and passion. Although I would not quite put this up there with Hackman's best performances, it is a great example of Hackman excelling in yet another genre.


Anonymous said...

If Gene Hackman were to (I dream, I dream)come out of retirement, which actor/director would you most like to see him join up with? My choice would be Sam Rockwell and The Coen Brothers. That thought just popped up in my head today, and boy did it look good.

Anonymous said...

Louis, can I have your thoughts and ratings in:
Helen Hunt in As Good As It Gets
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Also, thoughts/ratings for the cast of the Seven Samurai and the Magnificent Seven (sorry!!)

luke higham said...

Louis: ratings & thoughts on the cast in Snowpiercer for 2013.

Matt Mustin said...

What's your favourite Hackman performance?

Mark said...

A review on a performance in one of the most famous basketball movies of all time, and not one reference to the NCAA tournament going on right now? Tsk tsk haha

Louis Morgan said...


To connect the question about Hackman and Luke's question I have to say it would have been perfect for him to have played Ed Harris's role in Snowpiercer. Hackman would have fit the role perfectly, it would only be one scene so maybe he would have done it if asked and it would have been magnificent.

If Hackman came out retirement I'd like to see him and Scorsese team up as surprisingly those two have never worked together. As for an actor I think he and Ben Foster could make for an interesting pair.

Hunt - 3.5(She hits the right points with her performance and is always good enough even if I am not particularly crazy about her particular screen presence)

I have not seen Elizabeth.

Seven Samurai:

Shimura - 4.5(Excellent counterpoint performance to Mifune's as usual. He brings the wisdom of his character so naturally, yet he also is surprisingly imposing here as well and you really believe him in the action scenes)

Kimura - 3(He's likable enough as the wet behind the ears samurai)

Inaba - 3(Brings enough charisma to the part to act as the other wise man of the bunch)

Chiaki - 3(He's properly endearing in the very little screen time at his disposal)

Miyaguchi - 3(Is a good enough at being the stoic badass of the group)

Kato - 2.5(I don't know he definitely could have stood out much more. I only really notice him in his introduction and later at the very end. He's perfectly fine though)

Technically the actors as the villagers are lackluster in both films, but Kurosawa uses them far better than Sturges. Where Sturges treats them in a completely corny fashion, Kurosawa turns the whole group into a powerful representation of desperation.

The Magnificent Seven:

Brynner - 3.5(Brynner fairly likable here and brings enough toughness along with some charm)

McQueen - 4(He gets some of the corniest lines but he basically overwhelms the corny nature of the line with his innate coolness that he makes them work)

Coburn - 4(Like McQueen's he just oozes cool, and he's great at being the stoic badass)

Dexter - 3(Brings some nice enthusiasm and spark to his part. Doesn't make too much of an impact but he is good)

Bronson - 2.5(In the action scenes he is good as usual, but unfortunately he is saddled with some terrible actors around him in the other scenes and is unable to rise enough above them)

Vaughn - 2.5(He's fine at being the quiet one for most of it, but there was far more potential with this part than what Vaughn gives. He should have made his desperation a little more palatable early on to make his breakdown and eventual redemption more meaningful)

Buchholz - 2(Buchholz whole performance is a bit messy. He never makes his character likable, or his personal plight poignant. It is a waste of a role that had potential as he is technically the Mifune's equivalent)

Louis Morgan said...


I should preface by saying I loved the film and it may actually be my picture win now.

Chris Evans - 4(Very solid work giving the right presence and passion to the hero. He also has an emotional monologue near the end which he delivers especially well)

John Hurt - 4(I think it is a requirement for dystopian films to have John Hurt, well at least it should be. Hurt brings such natural gravitas to the part, and he absolutely feels like a living reality in the futuristic setting)

Song Kang-ho- 3.5(I really should stop saying this about Kang-ho, but I will once again man Choi Min-sik would have been awesome in this role. Nevertheless he's very solid as basically the sub-hero, although he gives his part just the right mix of heroic passion and daffiness because of his character's habit)

Jamie Bell - 3.5(A nicely enthusiastic performance making his character properly likable allowing for his exit to really mean something)

Octavia Spencer - 3.5(Offers a nice bit of motherly warmth in the film, but offset with the right amount of hardship through the exasperation she portrays underneath it all)

Alison Pill - 3.5(A very unpleasant performance but in the right way. She is so sunny that it is scary making it rather fitting for what her character eventual does)

Tilda Swinton - 4.5(She might be my supporting actress win actually. She is an absolute riot and pretty much everything she does is hilarious. She brings the right twisted humor to the film and manages to lighten things up although in a rather dark way)

Ed Harris - 4.5(A great one scene wonder. Harris plays the part with an evil delight yet a great deal of charisma fitting for a man in his position. There is a huge buildup to his appearance and Harris does not disappoint)

Matt: The Conversation with Unforgiven as a close second.

RatedRStar said...

=D wow I might have to see Snowpiercer, I had never heard of it until Luke mentioned it just then lol.

luke higham said...

Louis: I would recommend seeing We need to talk about kevin from 2011, for Tilda Swinton's performance, as well as Ezra Miller.

Lastly, some time this year, can you see Short Term 12 & Blue is the Warmest Colour, since they apparently have the two best female performances of 2013 from Brie Larson & Adele Exarchopoulos.

Matt Mustin said...

Did you see the full version of Snowpiercer, Louis, or the one hacked to death by the Weinsteins?

Michael Patison said...

It's not a huge deal, but when you mention South Korean actors such as Choi Min-sik and Song Kang-ho by their last names in a similar vein to Hackman for Gene Hackman, the correct way would be Choi or Song or etc.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I'll try to get to them down the road.

Matt: The full version.

Michael: Yes I know, but I'm not really doing my reviews in Korean.