#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)


#293. Lions

Often described as “the King of the Jungle”, lions have consistently been used as symbols of bravery, strength and power. While they have been abused in many venues, from gladiatorial coliseums to circus tents, they still remain as one of the most dangerous forces of nature (along with tigers and bears . . . oh my). In part due to their danger to humans, they are often hunted to maintain safety as much as they are for notoriety of big game hunters; sometimes to great, public outrage, as was the case with Cecil the lion. And while the lion is used in heraldry, as a constellation, and as a rank for Cub Scouts, very few films use lions as main, or even secondary, characters. It would almost seem they’re as rare in the realm of cinema as they are in the real world. This week’s two films highlight some movies that feature lions.

The Lion KingThe Lion King
Year: 1994
Rating: G
Length: 89 minutes / 1.48 hours

Part of the reason why lions aren’t more prominently featured in movies, aside from the opening credits logo for MGM, is because animals can’t talk. It’s difficult to have a main character who can’t emote through dialogue carry a story. Therefore, one of the options to give lions dialogue is through animation. One of the earliest animated lions was Kimba the White Lion, a Japanese anime that ran from 1965 to 1967. Recently, the series of CGI-animated Madagascar films have featured Ben Stiller as Alex the Lion, an animal kept in captivity in the Central Park Zoo. Most famously, the best animated film featuring lions was none other than The Lion King (1994). Even though there was some controversy around its similarity to Kimba the White Lion, The Lion King has remained popular despite this.

Mufasa (James Earl Jones) leads a pride of lions in the Pride Lands of Africa. His brother, Scar (Jeremy Irons), has been plotting to usurp the throne from him, but once Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) is born, he is now one step lower on the hierarchical ladder to become king. By using a stampede of wildebeest, Scar manages to kill Mufasa and convince Simba it was the young cub’s fault. Running away to exile himself in the jungle, Simba grows up amongst his newfound friends, Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella). Years later, with the Pride Lands in ruin, Simba (Matthew Broderick) returns to confront his uncle. Learning the truth of his father’s demise and accepting his rightful place as king, Simba defeats Scar and starts the “circle of life” over again with a child of his own.

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

An interesting way to play off of stereotypes is to create characters who exhibit the opposite traits. Sure, there are plenty of lions who represent strong ideals, like Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia series. Still, a cowardly lion, like the one found in The Wizard of Oz (1940), is much more entertaining because he doesn’t act like one would expect a lion to act. Similarly, Alex the Lion from Madagascar (2005) was given his meat to him by zoo caretakers, thus depriving him of any hunting skills. Even the rehabilitated lion from Secondhand Lions (2003) became more like a housecat than a dangerous predator. However, just because a lion doesn’t act the way we think it should, we are often initially cautious because of the warnings about lions we have heard time and again over the years.

Brothers Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) McCann were content living out the rest of their remaining days shooting at travelling salesmen and performing risky stunts. Unfortunately, their niece dropped her son, Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment), off at their country home. As the teenage boy and his great uncles get to know each other, they eventually grow close. After Hub orders a retired lion from a circus, he’s disappointed to learn the lioness is tame, since he wanted to hunt the beast and mount its head on his wall. Escaping from her cage, the lioness adapts to the cornfield and makes it her territory. While Walter learns that the rumors of his great uncles’ wealth and adventures are true, his mother arrives to try and claim the fortune. It’s at this point when the old lioness steps in to protect Walter, giving him the ability to separate himself from his lyin’ mother for good.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 likeable lions

#206. Robert Duvall

Certain actors just seem to be in absolutely everything. However, it can be difficult to take center stage for as often as these actors are on the screen (Nicholas Cage of course being the exception). Many times their roles are merely supporting, but they’re still there. It then stands to reason that people who have been in many films would eventually win awards for these performances, even if they are just supporting. On the flip side of this phenomenon, they are also bound to end up in some terrible films as well. Acting for over 50 years, Robert Duvall is just such an actor. His filmography is impressive, not only by its length, but also for the timeless movies in which he has appeared, many of which are Best Pictures. This week’s two films will highlight the bookends of Robert Duvall’s lengthy and illustrious career.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Year: 1962
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours

Actors always have to start out somewhere. While To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film on its own, it also holds the distinction of being Robert Duvall’s first film. In the subsequent years after this breakout performance, he went on to act in such films as Bullitt (1968), True Grit (1969), M*A*S*H (1970), and The Godfather (1972), the latter of which was his first nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Repeating this role in The Godfather: Part II (1974) did not earn him a nomination, but acting in Apocalypse Now! (1979) and The Great Santini (1979) did: each earning him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor, respectively. Not until 1983, with his role in Tender Mercies, did he actually win his solitary Oscar for Best Actor. And to think that this award came a mere 20 years after a bit part in an American classic.

Arthur “Boo” Radley (Robert Duvall) is a shut-in who has not been seen in many years, thereby causing rumors to grow and spread in the small Alabama town of Maycomb. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (Mary Badham) and Jem Finch (Phillip Alford) are two local children who try to get a look at Boo Radley, as their curiosity drives them to figure out why he doesn’t come out of his house. Their father, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), is a lawyer who is defending a black man accused of raping a white, teenage girl. As such, Scout and Jem soon become the targets of the town’s anger toward their father. After Atticus’ defendant is killed, his children are attacked by the drunken father of the wronged teenager. Their sole salvation comes when the attacker is killed by a mysterious stranger. This stranger is not so strange to Scout, who recognizes it to be Boo Radley.

Get LowGet Low
Year: 2009
Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes / 1.71 hours

After his Best Actor win in 1983, Duvall’s career went into a bit of a slump. Sure, he was still acting in movies, but now he was receiving Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Supporting Actor. Rambling Rose (1991) and The Scarlet Letter (1995) marked the low point in his acting, but a few years later he would be back on top again with a Best Actor nod for The Apostle (1997) and Best Supporting Actor nomination for A Civil Action (1998). Soon he was acting in top-notch movies again like Secondhand Lions (2003), Thank You for Smoking (2006), and Get Low (2010). His most recent nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Judge (2014) just shows that he still has what it takes to act and act well. And, although he didn’t win any awards for Get Low, he certainly was nominated for a lot of them: seven in total.

How often do we wish to attend our own funeral? We all want to know what others think of us. Quite often, their true feelings only surface once we are gone. Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) has decided that he wants to pay for a “funeral party” where he will hear what the townspeople think and know of him. Through this process, everyone begins to remember how Felix supposedly killed Mary Lee Troup (Arin Logan) and her husband forty years ago. Part of the reason that Felix wanted to have this funeral was to let everyone know the truth of the matter. While Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), the sister of the late Mary Lee, was Felix’s girlfriend at the time in question, he reveals how Mary Lee was his one and only true love. An attempt to run away together went horribly wrong, resulting in the two deaths, even if Felix tried to save his love.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 delightful Duvall roles

Bacon #: 1 (Jayne Mansfield’s Car / Kevin Bacon)