Friday, June 18, 2010

Tom Hanks, Posterized

Tom Hanks was often likened to a 'new Jimmy Stewart' during his peak years. I never thought the tag quite fit because, though Hanks is a likeable "everyman" lead, he doesn't have the same range. Hanks, unlike Stewart, rarely tests the darkness at the edges and when he did in Road to Perdition it was one of his flattest portraits. In comparison, can anyone watch Vertigo and not come away fully aware of how comfortable Jimmy Stewart was burrowing into the skin of rather squirm-inducing psyches? The following lineup only includes lead or huge supporting roles and no voice work. (I'm not sure how one would categorize The Polar Express. How would one?)

So... sorry, Woody. You'll make it up at the box office this weekend with Toy Story 3 [my review] playing everywhere. Rest assured that you're still one of his most iconic roles.

Because the posters have to be divisable by three for this particular series, I had to choose one non lead role to leave out so I opted for That Thing You Do! (96) instead of A League of Their Own (92) because I love the latter, though That Thing is way more of a Tom Hanks movie since he also directed it. I've also left out his very first movie, the slasher flick He Knows You're Alone (80) --any horror fans know if he gets killed grotesquely in that one? -- which preceded Hanks's breakthrough on TV's Bosom Buddies. After that sitcom, he was an immediate lead player in the cinema with the breakout smash known as Splash.

Splash (84) | Bachelor Party (84) | The Man With One Red Shoe (85)

Volunteers (85) | The Money Pit (86) | Nothing in Common (86)

Every Time We Say Goodbye (86)| Dragnet (87) | Big (88)

Punch Line (88) | The 'Burbs (89) | Turner & Hooch (89)

Joe vs. the Volcano (90) | Bonfire... (90) | A League of Their Own (92)

Volcano and Bonfire were both seen as flops which was not something Hanks had been accustomed to. Thankfully the reception of Volcano didn't turn anyone off to the idea of a Meg Ryan rematch (while it's popular to hate on her now, they really played wonderfully off of each other and unlike most modern screen pairs with terrific chemistry, who throw that rare gift away, they actually made use of it in multiple films.) But first Hanks blazed back while supporting Geena Davis during her brief cinematic reign in a women's baseball flick. It became a big hit. Mega Stardom and back-to-back Oscars followed for Hanks. But for me, this mini comeback (he wasn't really over... just had a slow couple of years) was the peak. A League of Their Own is my favorite of his comic turns. "There's no crying in baseball!"

Sleepless in Seattle (93) | Philadelphia (93) | Forrest Gump (94)

Apollo 13 (95) | That Thing You Do! *not pictured* (96) |
Saving Private Ryan (97) | You've Got Mail (98)

The Green Mile (99) | Cast Away (00) | Road to Perdition (02)

Catch Me If You Can (02) | The Ladykillers (04) | The Terminal (04)

Da Vinci Code (06) | Charlie Wilson's War (07) | Angels & Demons (09)

His three best performances according to me: Big (88), A League of Their Own (92), Cast Away (00). My three favorites from his filmography: Splash (84), A League of Their Own (92) and Sleepless in Seattle (93)... give or take Apollo 13 (95) in both categories.

Speaking of Apollo 13... we often equate Tom Hanks with the Oscars, but he's only appeared in 4 Best Picture nominees. That's nothing to scoff at and very difficult to achieve (or at least it was when there were only 5 nominees) but the record holder is probably someone you've never heard of. I hadn't. Her name is Bess Flowers and she was a bit player. She appeared in 22 Best Picture nominees the last of which was Judgment at Nuremberg (61) where she played "concert attendee". Ha! To put it in context, her record is twice that of Jack Nicholson's (!) the movie star with the best Best Picture track record (11 nominees/ 3 winners). Hmmm, I sense a follow up post coming on. Any takers?

The Hanks filmography has earned 3.5 billion thus far with more to come. He's been tweeting from the set of his next film Larry Crowne (2010) and maybe another hit awaits? His films got more serious over the years to match his mammoth stardom but if you ask me, he lost quite a bit of his sparkle when he ditched comedy for Serious Acting. So, it was egood to see hear him as Woody again.

How many have you seen? Which do you love best?


cal roth said...



you and me both Cal

because of Splash i'll always be disappointed when mermaids don't have crimping irons.

BeRightBack said...

Joe Vs. the Volcano!

AC said...

Of the ones you posted, I've seen 14, and I own 14, but oddly enough they aren't the same 14...

I am in love with Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, A League of Their Own and Big...just to name a few...the Meg Ryan ones are fab too...


i like all of those but Forrest Gump. ewww. I sometimes wish i owned more movies but my cinephilia didn't quite work out that way.

it'd certainly make quick article writing easier.

Scott said...

Is Hanks still an actor anymore?

He seems to lack any actorly ambition, other than to fill the coffers of multi-nationals with billions of dollars. The Da Vinci Code franchise, Toy Story 3....c'mon. His greatest achievement as an actor in recent years was getting scenes stolen from him by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War. I totally agree with the Jimmy Stewart comparasions being way off. Stewart got edgier and darker as an actor as he reached middle aged. Not just with Hitchcock, but in his Westerns as well. Hanks has stayed as soft, pudgy and harmless as ever. He just feels like a corporate pitchman these days.

I once had him as being the actor most likely to win 3 Oscars (after Jack NIcholson), but I think Denzel Washington (newly minted Tony winner), Daniel Day Lewis and Sean Penn have a far greater chance of doing it in the near future. These guys still seem engaged with their craft.

adam k. said...

I used to love Forrest Gump as a kid - it came out when I was 10 and it was BIG f***in deal - and while I've since grown out of that love, I still have a bit of a soft spot for that one. I was also pretty into Apollo 13 when I was younger, but while it's certainly aged better than Gump, I have no special attachment to it now.

Toy Story (the first one) might be my favorite film of his. He's never really done much for me, and it's true that lately he seems utterly uninterested in challenging himself, and gets more and more bland and bland and seemingly purposeless as he gets older.

I don't think any living male actors are likely to score third oscars, actually. DDL, Penn, and/or Washington may get there later on, but no one seems to have the huge # of noms that would seem to indicate a third is on the way. I don't think anyone feels that any of those three are due for anything. And Hanks? No.

Pacino or DeNiro could've done it, but neither has done anything remotely oscar-worthy in some time.

The only person I see getting beyond 2 any time soon is Streep. And who knows when that'll ever happen...

Christine said...

To answer you're question: Sadly, Tom Hanks does not get killed in He Knows You're Alone. He just goes on a date in an amusement park with one of the female lead's friends and then gives this whole Scream-esque speech about how we all like to be scared.

Anonymous said...

The Little Mermaid was the first movie I ever saw (or can remember seeing) and so for a while I was obsessed with mermaids and that obsession lead me to Splash, which will always be one of my favorite movies! But I also love Forrest Gump, I know it's an unpopular opinion these days, but I don't care, I love it wholeheartedly. I also really love Philadelphia, Cast Away and The Green Mile. I've heard great things about Joe vs. the Volcano, but I have yet to see it.

A.R. said...

I agree with everyone who says his become bland and seems not to really challenge himself. Admittedly, I haven't seen *a lot* of his work from the past decade, but Da Vinci Code felt like a lot of coasting to me, and I agree that he failed to be as interesting or as deep as he could have been in Road to Perdition

I miss his old comedies too. Haven't seen The Burbs in ages, but I recall enjoying it. Same with Joe Vs. The Volcano, Big, and Splash (though I would say it's Hannah's performance that wins me over far more than his). And, yeah, he's pretty good in A League of Their Own as well.

When I first saw Forrest Gump I enjoyed it, but as I've gotten older and my tastes have changed, my knowledge of cinema, deepened, I find it cloyingly sentimental and tonally uneven. Hanks's performance in the movie is actually pretty decent.

Scott said...

adamK: I don't think it's anything to do with Day-Lewis, Washington or Penn being "due". It's because they've already got two, and are just very consistent and powerful performers that the academy respects. They bring their A-game to everything (even the mediocre fluff Washington churns out with the likes of Tony Scott). Something Hanks doesn't (nor former reliable stalwarts like Pacino or DeNiro).

Basically, with Penn, Washington, and Day-Lewis capable of reaching top form at will, all it really depend on is the role and the movie, and each of these guys can give a performance that can win. I'm sure Day-Lewis in particular has a point to prove after the Nine fiasco....I think he'll be gunning for an Oscar calibre part more within his comfort zone, for his next role.

If Fences can get Washington and Viola Davis Tonys, how hard would it be for it to translate into Oscars for both of them? And the film version will probably be here next year. Washington has a titanic role, in a Tony winning production, that will be made into a film version that will likely be frontunner for Best Picture.

None of these guys are owed a 3rd, but they are easily capable of giving the most standout performance of a season (in the right role), and could get a 3rd on merit. And the Academy respects all of them enough to hand them another.

Unknown said...

I don't think Hanks got lazy; I think the world just kind of moved on. His persona is so 90s. I don't think anybody with a really creative role would think of him, and his best shot now is probably for a Hitchcock-Stewart style pairing with somebody you'd never think of as directing Tom Hanks.


@Scott -- i must have missed this thing lately where everyone is acting like FENCES was fasttracked into filming with Viola & Denzel reprising their roles. Everyone's talking like it happened. It's possible that i missed a news report somewhere along the line (that happens) i just thought it would have been a bigger story had that happened.

anyone? has this actually happened or just what everyone thinks will ahppen. I'm too lazy to look it up tonight. haha

but of those three i'd say it's most likely that Denzel will be the one to do it. they like to congratulate him and he likes to be congratulated ;)

OTHERWISE -- i think it's really hard to know who i might win a 3rd oscar. They're so so rare. I mean it's basically only 4 actors in 80+ years you know?

Michael said...

I think Saving Private Ryan would easily be the most strikingly beautiful poster up there if they had the confidence to leave it with single silhouetted soldier and not add Tom Hanks' giant face emerging from the clouds like effing Mufasa.

Scott said...

Nathaniel: Fences being made into a movie isn't "official" yet, but it's as close to a sure thing as you'll find. Scott Rudin (the famous movie producer of such Oscarbait as The Hours, The Queen and Iris) orginally brought Fences to Washington as a film project. Washington said he'd rather vdo it as a play first, and that's how the Broadway thing happened. But Rudin always intended it to be a film. No way a producer of Rudin's calibre won't get this made, after the commercial and critical success of the play on Broadway. Washington has also said he won't do any mooted film version with Viola Davis as his wife, and Rudin has already been talking to the press about scouting locations, after the Tony wins (Rudin says they intend to shoot in Pittsburgh and that the film script is ready).

I don't need to wait for the Variet announcement on this one. It's happening, and probably fairly soon.

Scott said...

Sorry. Meant to say Washington said he won't do any mooted film version of Fences, without Viola Davis as his wife.

Glenn said...

I like Hanks, but he makes too many movies that look like duds and I don't bother watching them.

My favourite is Sleepless in Seattle. I've seen it so many times and will continue to watch it for as long as I live. I love it so much. Best performance? Probably Cast Away?

SoSueMe said...

Charm, charisma, and acting skill aside, Tom Hanks is one sexy friggin' adorable! And he was still sexy in Charlie Wilson's War, and that movie was boooring!

Nathaniel, you talked about Nicole Kidman having bad taste in commercial studio projects...she needs to take a cue from Mr. Hanks. The guy has impeccable taste in mainstream fare.

Ryan said...

I detest Forrest Gump. I really, really hate it.

I think Cast Away was his best performance, or at least at the top.

par3182 said...

i loved bosom buddies, splash and big but it's been downhill from there

and as much as i LOVE the toy story films woody's my least favourite character in them

KTibbs617 said...

My love for A League of Their Own extends so far past Tom Hanks that I can't call it "his" favorite movie that I love. Although "I love you in the Wizard of Oz" is one of my favorite lines in the entire movie.

Cast Away, it's gotta be. I do love The Green Mile, but the accent...yikes! Or Big (Dammit Penny, make movies again!!!)

Jude said...

Confession: The end of A League of Their Own makes me cry...

adri said...

I've seen 8. My favorite of those movies is "A League of Their Own", but not because Hanks is in it. My favorite performance of his is in "Apollo 13".

I think that Hanks has managed his career brilliantly, putting together money, awards, critical success, all on the basis of a very moderate talent.

I don't expect him to continue making money as a performer, now that he's older. His business acumen about the profession will keep him active in other areas.

Henry said...

What's with the puffy 'fro until The Burbs?

Jeff said...

I'm not a huge Tom Hanks fan - but I think my favorite Hanks performance is Punchline. I know I'm in the VAST minority on this, but I think this movie is CRIMINALLY underrated. I generally don't like Sally Field either, but I was a huge fan of this movie. I think me and Sheila Benson are the only two people in the world who liked it.

/3rtfu11 said...

Hank’s everyman persona has a nice smartass edge to it. He’s a nice guy but has become softer after the back to back Oscar wins. Now that he’s older he seems less interested in pursuing darker material or bringing his natural smartass-ness back into what he does. I adore him.

Nat don’t confuse an actor relishing the opportunities to play against type as having more range.

MRRIPLEY said...

i had never heard of everytime we say goodbye or volunteers.

i agree tom needs to find the funny again and he does like him some julia.

he left meg for julia wonder why?

jc valencia said...

favorites: a league of their own, big

the only reason why i would never be embarassed of liking forrest gump is robin wright penn.

Neel Mehta said...

If you miss the edginess of the younger Tom Hanks, take a look at his son Colin these days.

By the way, Tom Hanks has been in 4 Best Picture nominees, but Denzel Washington has only been in one. And that one is not obvious to remember.

Meanwhile, Will Smith and Amy Adams each have two individual nominations, but neither have appeared in a Best Picture nominee.

Oh well. Not everyone can be John Cazale.


mrripley -- meg could sure use his helping hand now. I am not crazy abotu him with Julia. we'll see how it works out a second time.

henry -- answer: the 80s

Peggy Sue said...

I also think "A League of Their Own" is lovely. That's huge considering I don't get baseball AT ALL.

"Philadelphia" hurts too much so I don't plan to watch it anytime soon and "Forrest Gump" was way too easy, so I guess my favorite performace is "Big".

I have to mention "Splash" too. It was one of the very first adult/non animated films I saw as a kid in a movie theatre. It had a huge impact on me! The others were "Ladyhawke" and "Romancing the Stone". Pretty good way to start, don't you think?

Andrew R. said...

Damn, I've seen more of his movies than I thought.

Toy Story 3, for the record, was amazing. Best movie of the year thus far. (Well, the only other great movie I've seen this year is Fish Tank...still!)

Laika said...

'Big' and 'Cast Away' are my favourite Hanks performances, comic and dramatic respectively.

I may be in the minority, but 'A League of their Own' just seems like a fluffed opportunity to me - episodic, flat-looking, full of really cheap gags and unevenly performed, particularly by Lori Petty and all those older versions at the end. Hanks and Davis are good in it, but but I'm always left wanting more than it can deliver. And I'm not sure 'Sleepless in Seattle' is much better.

'Joe vs. the Volcano' is massively underrated, though, and I'm glad people seem to be more into it these days. It's an even better film for Meg Ryan than Hanks - she gets to play in a mannered comic style (particularly as her second character) that's kind of in the vein of Jennifer Jason Leigh in 'The Hudsucker Proxy' - and she's really good at it.

If I could have had Hanks teaming up with anyone multiple times over the years, how about Elizabeth Perkins? They were great together in 'Big'.

Volvagia said...

Ha! Nice John Cazale reference. However, considering that they were mostly "auteur" pieces and it was the seventies, when people were receptive to that kind of work, was it just a coincidence that had nothing to do with him?


Laika -- i don't remember Volcano well but i do remember thinking Meg was terrific in her triple (?) role.

Volvagia said...

If it were ten films since 1993, he would have appeared in 1-3 more:

Road to Perdition (definite)
Philadelphia (probable)
Toy Story (mildly possible)


well so would everyone though.

i think it's funny. i keep looking back at this post for comments and every single time i'm instantly bored once we get into 1993 and beyond. it's like all about 1984-1993 with HANKS. 1993-2010 = zzzz

Volvagia said...

Yeah, he hasn't done anything good live since...'92. After that you could sum up his good work with Toy Story, Toy Story 2, The Polar Express and his The Simpsons Movie cameo. And, in 2007, he stole a Globe nomination that belonged to Simon Pegg. (Personal winner, even if everyone and their mum thought it was Daniel Day-Lewis that deserved it.)

ctrout said...

According to, I've seen ninety (90) Bess Flowers films. Six of those films are on my Top 100, and I have no idea what she looks like. I always picture an Edna May Oliver type.