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« The Big Day, The Longest Short | Main | "Spotlight" and the last serious conversation I had with a priest »


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Ed Crotty

He hasn’t yet, that I can think of, played a doctor or a teacher.

In Saving Private Ryan, Capt Miller "had been employed at Thomas Alva Edison High School in Addley, Pennsylvania. He then taught English composition since 1933. Miller was married and was also the coach of the local baseball team in the Spring."

So he is a teacher who is currently a soldier???


I'm sure Rylance did a wonderful job, but Sylvester Stallone was robbed. The Academy should have awarded him back in 1977.

Lance Mannion

Ed, I'd forgotten that. So, technically, he has played a teacher. But we haven't seen him at work teaching yet.

Brandon, Rylance is brilliant and I don't feel Stallone was robbed but while Rylance was very good, Stallone was beautiful and I really wanted him to win it.

El Jefe

They should indeed study Hanks sleeping. And Rylance is a revelation in that he does so many things at once (including a physical commentary on both his role and the nature of being an effective spy -- seemingly un-memorable and definitely unflappable, a sort of real-life answer to George Smiley.) Reminds me of the old saw about "Marathon Man" and Dustin Hoffmann (a great actor in part because he's self-aware about his tendency to overact out of sheer nervous energy) trying to psych himself up for the infamous dentist's chair scene. Olivier was sitting there reading something, Hoffmann asked him about how he could manage to prepare for that intense scene without getting himself into that space as much as he could, and Olivier snipped at him, "it's called ACTING, dear boy."

I like to think that a lot of Bridge of Spies' sheer quality (and it has a lot, particularly being anchored around the two characters who "aren't acting", in both the sense of minimal 'method' and the sense that their characters are playing it absolutely straight in their circumstances) has to do with another factor you might cite along with noting both Raiders and Catch... have vibrant (indeed, viable at all) female characters: the writers. Raiders had that master of modern mythos Larry Kasdan, the man who made both Star Wars and Indiana Jones actually human. This, despite not having their name at the top on the script, had the Coens. And not just the Coens, but the Coens already starting on a meta look at Hollywood not long before the setting of this film, with Hail Caesar.

That meta element seems to me not only a Coen gift to Spielberg, but an excellent historical commentary. This was an era where, in every walk and layer of life, people were putting effort into being "larger than life," or at least as large as they thought life was supposed to be. That was driven by a couple of things: cultural cues from the golden age of Code-era epics, and also a sense of needing to measure themselves against the world-historical drama of the Second World War. (The film, again, not wanting to over-egg its pudding with just how larger-than-life the real story is, sort of glosses over Donovan having been one of the OSS's chief lawyers and working at the Nuremburg trials.) In fact they were living in a time that was larger than life anyway: the most democratic wave of prosperity in the history of the modern world, computerization, the jet age, the space race, the Bomb and its terrible immediacy (love the matter-of-fact scene with Donovan's son with Popular Science's guide to the apocalypse), the iron crackdown across Eastern Europe, the coming reckoning with American apartheid, the ship-and-iceberg collision downstream between Cold War hubris and Vietnam, etc. Plenty large. But it also points out how simple and human and often petty the people involved could be, while at the same time some of them found ways to live up to the times, not by being "larger than life" but by being themselves with consistency.

I love how the lights on the bridge (a real thing: you were trying to blind the other side's sharpshooters, and the scuba divers that -- yes, really -- were waiting in thermal suits in the river in case your side's "guy" made a dive for it in a botched swap) make Hanks and Rylance measurably more vast in their ordinary humanity, by making them "normal size" as it were.

That feedback look -- the street where Donovan/Hanks is followed "looks like" a film set because 1950s New York was the archetype of "modern America" film sets and the two flowed in and out of one another in their substance and significance like a zen tumbler -- seems like a very Coen touch. Also one of my favorite moments is when Donovan's daughter is arranging her life around the style of the time, hair done like a young Liz Taylor, blouse and capris like the film stars in the magazines that probably littered her room, trying to lounge exactly like them on the stylishly Fifties couch, watching 77 Sunset Strip ... when the gunshots of classical American intolerance smash into the house and make things real again with a sadly timeless American quality. Not so much a harbinger, as a reminder that this stylish mimicry of something bigger was just a lull, partial at best, in a long stream of reactionary American violence, that the bullets of the Sixties were sadly nothing new at all.

Two quick things at the end: I'll say it again but Hanks was just a perfect time traveler, in his cadence and his facial mannerisms and both the depth and the tucking-away of his emotions he fit perfectly with the period. (It was a little part but Amy Ryan was great too.) And the thing about Rylance/Abel speaking with a northern English/semi-Scottish accent? True story. Abel's parents were leftist Russian refugees, fleeing the Okhrana (the Tsars' secret police, chekist grandsires to the FSB), who then moved back when the Revolution took hold. So, like many a spy before him, his personal straddle of different cultures was a natural cover story.


tom Hanks played a priest?? No indication of that on Which movie?

Lance Mannion

sabretom, I goofed. I thought the character he played in The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons was a priest. I haven't seen either movie. Turns out he's a...symbologist! Which is something every little kid dreams of being someday. I'll have to revise the paragraph.

Ed Crotty, Hanks' character in those movies teaches at Harvard but I don't know if his teaching actively figures in either one. Like I said, I haven't seen them.

One of his characters in Cloud Atlas is a doctor, by the way.


It makes sense to have everything look slightly artificial. That's how everything looked back in those spy movies when they fresh and new. They were morality tales and even the realistic settings were supposed to be slightly surreal.

I doubt I'll be seeing it. I'll always remember the National Lampoon's "This Is Your Life Francis Gary Powers" as the definitive work the incident. Back in 1971, the National Lampoon could actually be crude and incisive a the same time.

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