There are very few Actor/Directors who are polarized by critics. Most have a range of success that they are usually associated with. Directors who consistently make great films are sometimes allowed to create a “rare miss” with a film that flopped. Actors who are nominated and win multiple Oscars for their craft might only occasionally be nominated for and win a Golden Raspberry Award. It stands to reason that the opposite would be true for less-than-exemplary Actors and Directors to sometimes rise up into the realm of success. And while there are plenty of these Actors and Directors who occupy the middle-ground of the film world, being neither critically panned or praised, very few can manage to occupy both spaces nearly simultaneously. Kevin Costner is just one example of an Actor/Director who has done this and this week’s two films focus on his success.
Dances with Wolves
Length: 181 minutes / 3.02 hours
While Kevin Costner broke out as an actor in the 1980’s, he really hit his stride near the beginning of the 1990’s. His first foray into Directing was with Dances with Wolves (1990), a film that garnered him two Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture, as well as a nod for Best Actor. However, just a single year later, he won the Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor with his performance in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1992). He would be nominated again for this unwanted award for his role in Waterworld (1996) before achieving the trifecta of the antithesis of his Dances with Wolves success by winning Worst Director, Worst Picture, and Worst Actor for The Postman (1998). Fortunately and unfortunately, this would be the last time he would be nominated for any awards, be they bad or good.
After his suicidal run at the Confederate army failed to kill him but turned the tide of the battle for the Union, First Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) has his injuries treated and is allowed to choose his next assignment due to his “bravery”. Dunbar decides to head west to see the untamed lands of the United States before they become civilized. Consequently, he finds himself as the sole soldier in charge of Fort Sedgewick, a remote outpost surrounded by hostile Sioux Indians. Gradually, Dunbar and the tribe of natives come to an understanding which eventually leads to Dunbar joining the Sioux, earning the name “Dances With Wolves” in the process. When he returns to Fort Sedgewick, he finds that the Army has reclaimed it and now his new way of life is threatened. In order to protect his new family, he decides to desert the Army for good and live amongst the land.
Field of Dreams
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours
If there are any films that fall into that middle ground of “not good and not bad” for Kevin Costner, they would have to be the ones that are tied to baseball. Along with his penchant for country music and an occasional western, there have been quite a few “American” films in Costner’s career, few coming close to the lovability of his baseball player roles. In the late 1980’s he started with Bull Durham (1988), quickly following up with Field of Dreams (1989), thus cementing his role in the American baseball classic. After his disappointing career slump in the mid-to-late 1990’s, he hit the field again in For the Love of the Game (1999). More recently, The Upside of Anger (2005) has rounded out his “baseball career”, leaving us to wonder if he will return to it any time in the future.
“If you build it, he will come,” is the whispered voice that comes to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) as he saunters through his Iowa cornfield one night. The “it” the whisper references is revealed to Ray in a vision shortly afterward and soon he’s destroying part of his crop to build a baseball field. While this does not bode well for the financially strapped Kinsella family, the field soon becomes populated with famous baseball players from the disgraced 1919 White Sox. More whispers lead Ray to visit Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) and Archibald Graham (Frank Whaley), both of whom are tied to baseball and have unfulfilled wishes met. Of course, all of this is merely setting Ray up to meet his estranged father, the “he” in the original whisper. As Ray plays catch one last time with his dad, the financial troubles of his family appear to be over as a long line of cars forms filled with people who want to see the ghostly players.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Costner classics
Bacon #: 1 (JFK / Kevin Bacon)