#294. Haley Joel Osment

Have you ever noticed how some actors come in and out of relevance? Sometimes these actors use their success in one medium, like Television, to jump the gap to another medium, like movies. While I can’t say I’ve ever seen any Game of Thrones, I’ve seen plenty of the actors from it in a variety of different films. Even within the realm of cinema, an actor seems to be in almost everything for a couple of years, then fades into obscurity. Often, this is linked to receiving an Academy Award for acting, as they have now proven their merits as an actor, thus making them desirable for marketing purposes for other films. Sometimes this is due to a certain “look” an actor can provide, and once they change it (or grow out of it) they have trouble regaining their former glory. This week’s two films examine the former relevance of Haley Joel Osment.

Secondhand LionsSecondhand Lions
Year: 2003
Rating: PG
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

From 1994 to 2003, Haley Joel Osment was relevant in the realm of cinema. His first appearance on film as Forrest Gump Jr. in Forrest Gump (1994) gave him the springboard he needed to eventually star in other films. While his success as an actor came with The Sixth Sense (1999), he also had many notable performances, including the society-changing Trevor McKinney in Pay it Forward (2000). While Osment took two 3-year hiatuses, none of his recent films have captured that youthful charm that people recognized from his first decade of acting. Of course, perhaps his voice acting work, which he performed while in relevance as well as afterward, was merely his next medium. In fact, most people who have played any of the Kingdom Hearts video games will recognize his voice as that of the main character, Sora.

Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) finds himself abandoned by his mother when he arrives at the home of his great uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine). These brothers are leery of Walter, as they suspect he has been dumped on them to gain access to their rumored fortune. The crotchety old men eventually warm up to the teenager as he helps them acquire items to make their life a little more interesting. Due to their developing relationship, Walt learns the truth of his great uncles’ adventures might not be so far from the rumors’ claims. When his mother appears again, with a scoundrel boyfriend in tow, she tries to use Walter to gain access to the brothers’ fortune. However, an old lioness that Hub bought and was accidentally released into the cornfield comes to Walt’s rescue, thus solidifying Hub and Garth’s relationship with the boy as his guardians.

The Sixth SenseThe Sixth Sense
Year: 1999
Rating: PG-13
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

By now, we all know Haley Joel Osment’s most famous line from The Sixth Sense (1999), “I see dead people.” This line, along with his performance in the film, cemented him as one of the premier child actors of his time. In fact, his nomination for Best Supporting Actor only helped him to secure future film roles with big directors like Steven Spielberg, eventually appearing in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Of course, as is the fate of most child actors, puberty set in and his relevance changed. It’s a little weird to see an actor who used to be that baby-faced, token child in a film now with a beard and a couple extra pounds on their frame. Still, Osment has continued to work in cinema, even if the films he’s appearing in now aren’t nearly as notable or critically acclaimed as they once used to be.

The eponymous “Sixth Sense” of this film is held by none other than Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). He admits to be able to see the ghosts of dead people walking around as if they were alive. This admission is to Dr. Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis), a child psychologist who failed a former patient and was shot as a result. Cole uses his ability to help the ghosts attain a sense of closure with the world they left behind. With Dr. Crowe’s help, Cole reveals the true cause of the death of a young girl, thus saving the girl’s younger sister in the process. Despite the constant presence of ghosts in his life, Cole accepts the responsibility and begins to enjoy his life. After telling his mother of his ability, she is initially skeptical, but is convinced when he reveals details of her life and interactions with his dead grandmother. Meanwhile, Dr. Crowe comes to a shocking revelation of his own.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 heyday roles for Haley Joel Osment

Bacon #: 2 (Forrest Gump / Tom Hanks -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#080. Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg is perhaps the most prolific director of our time. In the last 45 years, he has directed over thirty films and produced and written many more. As such, it is difficult to pick out two films that could represent the whole of his work. However, the simple fact is that Spielberg directs in two distinct categories: war and science fiction. Films like Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, and Lincoln have shown his talents in capturing the brutality of the battlefield, as well as the efforts of those to save as many people as they can. And yet, he also excels in the representation of aliens on screen, including E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and War of the Worlds. Even though it is simple to try and put Spielberg inside genre boxes, he has done numerous other successful movies as well, including the Indiana Jones series and Jurassic Park. This week’s two films highlight some representative works of a vast and varied career.

Schindler’s ListSchindler's List
Year: 1993
Rating: R
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

It is somewhat obvious by his name, but Steven Speilberg was born to Jewish parents in 1946. Never backing away from his heritage, he has directed a few films that examine tragic events against the Jews. In 2005, he released a film about the murder of Jewish athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, which highlighted the antisemitic sentiments still prevalent in Germany decades after the end of World War II. Of course, before this film, he directed Schindler’s List, an examination of the exemplary efforts of an Austrian industrialist to save countless Jewish lives during the Nazi-run Holocaust. The film is a fitting memorial for the tragedy that befell the Jewish people and should be used to remind us where we have been as a global community, and “lest we forget . . .”

As a shrewd businessman, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) didn’t give much thought about his workforce. However, when he finds out that the Polish Jews that are working in his factories are being persecuted by the Nazis, he decides to do something about it. He figures that the Nazis won’t look into the manufacturing plants that are giving them the supplies to continue their war, so he starts hiring Jews to work in his factories in order to protect them. As an added bonus, his factories are in fact producing some of these supplies needed by the Germans, so in order to quicken their demise, he allows the quality control of these goods to temporarily go by the wayside. And yet, rich as he is, he can’t save everyone. By the end of the war, Schindler had saved over one thousand Jews from the concentration camps at Auschwitz, but he wished he could have saved more.

Year: 1975
Rating: PG-13
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

Up until 1975, Steven Spielberg was essentially an unknown name in Hollywood. That was until he made Jaws. Based on a book of the same name, it has been said that the film didn’t go quite as planned (due to some mechanical problems with the shark), but the longer the antagonist goes unseen, the more terrifying it became. Spielberg made a name for himself with this film, and he’s been creating thrillers like this ever since (like Jurassic Park, for instance). His presentation has been unique and has been the influence on many directors since. There is so much that is iconic about this film: the music, the quotes (“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”), and (of course) the shark itself. The American Film Institute has placed Jaws mid-way through their top 100 lists in recognition of its influence on American cinema.

What’s the best way to beat the heat in the summer? Go swimming, of course. And if you live in the New England area, the best spot for swimming is the Atlantic Ocean. However, the chewed up remains of a swimmer wash ashore on a small island and soon every fisherman is out trying to bag the shark that did it. Unfortunately, only one fisherman understands what kind of beast they’re dealing with, and he’s the only one equipped to capture this shark. As the body-count rises, it becomes imperative that the monster is brought to justice. As such, the fisherman, Quint (Robert Shaw), Marine Biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) go out to sea in attempt to find this shark before it kills again. And yet, are they truly prepared for what they will eventually find out there?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Spielberg sensations

Bacon #: 2 (Minority Report (directed) / Tom Cruise -> A Few Good Men / Kevin Bacon)