Sunday, 19 July 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1989: James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams

James Earl Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Terence Mann in Field of Dreams.

Fields of Dreams is a particularly earnest film about Iowa farmer Ray (Kevin Costner) who is convinced by an otherworldly voice to build a baseball field in his corn field, and undergo a mysterious journey. I have to admit this is one of those films where I understand why people love it even though I don't carry quite the same enthusiasm for it.

The first man this journey brings Ray to is a controversial and reclusive writer Terence Mann. The character was obviously based on J.D. Salinger to the point that in the original novel it simply was Salinger. Jones's first appearance in the film comes when Ray tracks him down, and Mann is not convinced by Ray's story. Jones puts the cynic in cynicism in his initial appearance as Mann playing him as a curmudgeon who wants nothing to do with his fan. Jones is actually rather funny in portraying Mann as he openly mocks Ray's optimism about being from the 60's and even threatening to beat him with a crowbar only being stopped after Ray reminds Mann that he's a pacifist. This causes him to comically scoff which Jones does deliver quite well. Jones actually makes this work, even though it may appear slightly at odds with the character just the next set of scenes, in that he manages to make it seem as this is likely Mann's usual standard treatment for his fans who are crazy enough to track him down.

The next scenes, while Mann still needs some convincing, are taken a bit more seriously as Mann states his reasons for his reclusive life as well as why he has problems with people who expect too much of him. Jones manages to bridge this gap quite well as he plays these scenes as though Mann's talking much more from the heart. That heart being also quite filled a general pessimism and anger about the way things have turned out. Jones realizes Mann's current state quite well, but this does not last too long as he soon sees a vision as well. Jones makes the transition fairly natural as he portrays at least at first more of a mystification than a whole understanding of what's going on, and what exactly it means. When the two of them go on their guest to find a local doctor who was very briefly a major league baseball player things seem to change a bit. Unfortunately they find the man is already dead, so Mann goes about researching him, and Jones is rather affecting by showing the way Mann seems to quietly find some encouragement for optimism again through Doc's reputation.

This only seems to continue once Ray finally brings Mann back to the field where all the deceased baseball players have come back to life to play again. Jones is actually does a lot merely in portraying the reaction of Terence to the miraculous event. Jones actually just does well by showing what an average person's reaction would be which is surprise followed by a form of disbelief. Jones effectively also attaches to Mann personally as he seems to slowly lose all cynicism. For a long time in the final scenes of the film Jones is merely silent, but does quite a bit in the way he presents Mann soaking all of it in. He builds up the spirit that seems to be enlivening Mann up until he finally gives his big speech about what baseball means exactly. Jones delivers it with all the passion and invigoration of a man whose found a renewed view of life itself. This is a good performance by James Earl Jones and it fits right into the films tone. Jones work probably does not really get into the real gritty details of what would make a guy like Mann tick, rather it sticks to simpler and broader gestures which is what the film advocates, and Jones thrives within the film.
Burt Lancaster did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham in Field of Dreams.

Field of Dreams ended up being Burt Lancaster's final film and it seems fitting considering how much nostalgia fills the film. The film even includes a short sequence of people gently remembering all these things about Lancaster's character Moonlight Graham. It almost seems to need to be a screen legend playing the part since Moonlight is certainly treated as a local legend while Ray and Terence discover various things about his past. It takes Ray literally traveling back in time while Moonlight still lived for him to be able to run into the old man. When he runs into him it is only fitting that it must be Burt Lancaster who turns around in the moonlight, since who else could fill those shoes? Well while casting Lancaster in the role was certainly an intelligent move on the filmmakers part, what really matters is what does Lancaster bring to the film past his status as an actor. After all technically speaking this was not truly a special appearance by Lancaster in terms of his career, this simply was his final film, since Lancaster never really stopped working after his debut in The Killers.

Lancaster only actually has two scenes, one in which is fairly short, but the first is fairly long when Ray runs into the late doctor in the past. Lancaster matches the description of the character of the Doc completely as he carries such a strong yet quiet dignity about himself. Even when Ray is just asking who he is, Lancaster exudes just a special warmth that suggests the sort of man that would be respected, and loved by those around him. Lancaster does not just leave Doc as such as he brings out a different side of the man when Ray asks about the one inning that he played in the Major Leagues. Lancaster in the moment changes Doc's demeanor slightly as the enthusiasm of a younger man seems to spring out, and he wonderfully suggests the past where he very briefly got to live his dream. Lancaster does not leave it as a moment just joy though as he conveys a bit of longing in the Doc. Not something great to the point that it truly bothers, yet he can't help but feel a bit of sadness in the fact that he got to live his dream, but did it so briefly that he never wholly achieved it.

Lancaster continues to tap into a certain nostalgic feeling as the Doc describes his one wish to Ray, which would be to bat in a major league game just once. Lancaster creates the sense of just how much the idea means to the old man, and in his eyes there is that desire to have perhaps lived a different life. Lancaster does not leave Doc on the note of longing though as he turns down Ray's offer to return with him to the Field of Dreams. Lancaster is very moving as the doc tells Ray that what he was always meant to be was a doctor. Lancaster beautifully shows that in the end doc is wholly satisfied in his life, and in the end seems to have preferred how things turned out. His final smile sums it up, as it is one of a man who has lived a good life with baseball bring a dream that was not necessary for happiness. Lancaster has one appearance late in the film that is basically a shorter version of his earlier scene, as the Doc once more confirms what baseball means to him, but also what it doesn't mean. Lancaster's final exit is probably one of the most memorable and fitting of a final scene of any actor's career. This is a good performance and worthy to be Lancaster's last, although I must admit his performance is not my favorite of the film, and I'm not talking about Jones.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought that Lancaster was going to get a 5 and Jones a 4,5. By the way, was Liotta your favorite of the supporting plays? If so, what are your ratings and thoughts on him? And what did you think of Costner?

Michael McCarthy said...

I have a very strong feeling Louis and I agree on which was the best performance in this film :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, Louis, who would be your choice to direct the Reservoir Dogs in the 60's? And in what year would you have it released?

JamDenTel said...

I hated this film, but I remember liking Jones' performance quite a bit.

mcofra7 said...

Louis: Rating and thoughts on Ronald Lacey in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Calvin Law said...

My Best Picture for 1989 :D

Keith Allison said...

God, I love this film, and especially Jones' performance in it. The moment where he stands in the middle of the road, illuminated by the headlights, is one of my favorites.

RatedRStar said...

Michael McCarthy: Took a while for me to reply to your comment, but keep in mind I did say I like Harold Russell's performance lol, its just the whole final nomination thing that upsets me.

Michael McCarthy said...

Lol I was referring to David O. Russell, but yeah I get you on that one too XP sorry for not being clear.

RatedRStar said...

Michael McCarthy: Oh I am sorry lol haha, gonna say for a second I thought, "Michael is related to Harold Russell, omg " lol

luke higham said...

Louis: Since you mentioned on the previous post, that you don't do ratings for TV Performances at the moment, I guess you're seriously considering covering TV after the bonus rounds.

luke higham said...

Louis: Which would make me very happy. :)

luke higham said...

Louis: And Carlos isn't eligible either, Damn.

luke higham said...

Calvin: I thought Far From The Madding Crowd (2015) was a fairly effective Period Romantic drama with very strong performances from Mulligan and Schoenaerts, a very good one from Sheen and Sturridge was quite dull.

Michael McCarthy said...

I wouldn't say Sturridge was dull, just completely unlikable, although for some reason that did kind of feel like the film's intention. He plays the character as a total without a hint of the charm that Stamp had, which makes it perplexing that Mulligan's character would ever fall for him. He actually shows genuine emotion in all of the scenes involving Juno Temple's character, but they seem completely out of place with the rest of Sturridge's characterization. When he finally tells Mulligan that he never loved her, there's no emotional impact because that was obvious from the very beginning. When Boldwood finally shot him, the audience in the theater I was in applauded. That's not how it's supposed to work.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Your ratings for the cast.
I probably shouldn't have said dull, but his performance just didn't work for me in any way at all.

And I was happy as Larry when Troy got shot by Boldwood.

Robert MacFarlane said...

A friend of mine who saw it was baffled that Mulligan would fall for Sturridge on the basis that she would reject someone as nice as Sheen or as good looking as Schoenaerts for someone who "frankly looks like a goober".

luke higham said...

Anonymous:
Costner - 3.5(A simple role but well done. He gives the right charm to his character's resilience and passion for his unusual cause. The type I imagine why he got some James Stewart comparisons back in the day, I don't think he's that good, but he is good)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Liotta - 4.5(Yes he was indeed my favorite of the cast as he does so much in really just a few short scenes as Shoeless Joe. There's a mystery about the character that Liotta effectively creates with his performance as he shows Joe to have a certain otherworldly detachment and confusion of someone who's essentially been raised from the dead. Within that Liotta captures basically the joy of life through Joe when he plays baseball again)

Anonymous:

Reservoir Dogs 1963 - Sidney Lumet

mcofra7:

Lacey - 3(I'll say his look does about half of the work for him, but he is nicely creepy in portraying his Nazi as slimy lizard of a man)