#341. Harrison Ford

If you don’t know who Harrison Ford is, then you’ve likely never seen any number of successful and timeless classics. While Ford has been in many thrillers and dramas, including Best Picture nominees American Graffiti (1973), The Conversation (1974), Apocalypse Now! (1979), Witness (1985) (wherein he obtained his one and only Best Actor Oscar nomination), and The Fugitive (1993), he is perhaps best known for his leading roles in such franchises as Star Wars and Indiana Jones (both of which also obtained Best Picture nominations over the years). He’s so recognizable that it’s sometimes shocking to find his appearance altered in movies like 42 (2013), only to eventually recognize that trademark smirk and gravelly voice and know that it’s really Harrison Ford. This week’s two films highlight some of the best roles of Harrison Ford.

Blade RunnerBlade Runner
Year: 1982
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

The sci-fi genre has been kind to Harrison Ford, offering him many memorable roles throughout the years. Not only has Han Solo from Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) been placed as #14 on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 50 heroes, but the role has been repeated by Ford in the sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), and The Force Awakens (2015). While Han Solo is certainly iconic, Ford doesn’t bring him into his other roles, like Colonel Hyrum Graff in Ender’s Game (2013), thus showing he has a certain amount of range when it comes to his sci-fi characters. Of course, some of this is dictated by the movie itself. The cyberpunk-inspired Blade Runner (1982), and its sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), have a darker tone than his other sci-fi roles, and he adapts the character of Rick Deckard to fit the theme.

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is put on task as a Blade Runner to track down four androids who have recently arrived on Earth. Androids aren’t allowed on Earth, having been relegated to the outer worlds of the human empire, so their presence in Los Angeles is illegal. While most androids can be identified via an “emotion test” known as the “Voight-Kampff,” some of these newer models have figured out how to outsmart it. With this added challenge, Rick manages to find these androids as they search for their “maker,” Tyrell Corporation founder Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel). Along the way, Rick learns from the androids’ leader, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), that they want to live longer than the four-year lifespan the androids have been given. As sentience and humanity become increasingly ambiguous, Rick continues to fulfill his duties as a Blade Runner and eliminate the android threats.

Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders of the Lost Ark
Year: 1981
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

George Lucas really liked working with Harrison Ford. Not only was he cast in Star Wars, but he was also included in Lucas’ breakout film, American Graffiti (1973). Obviously, Ford made an impression, because he was eventually given the titular role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). A role he went on to repeat in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). It’s no wonder that Indiana Jones was placed at #2 on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 50 heroes, only bested by Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Time will tell if the fifth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise will recreate the magic of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it hopefully isn’t as bad as Crystal Skull, which almost feels serious next to the camp of Cowboys & Aliens (2011).

After a failed expedition in Peru, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) returns to his academic job at Marshall College where he teaches archaeology. Following one of his lectures, two men from Army Intelligence approach Dr. Jones and inform him of a plot by the Nazis to obtain the fabled Ark of the Covenant. They want him to go to Egypt to try and find this artifact before the enemy does. After a short stop in Nepal to recover a piece of the Staff of Ra, Jones makes his way to Egypt and uses his archeological knowledge to find the Ark amongst a Nazi excavation site. Unfortunately, the Nazis intercept Jones and take the Ark away, leaving him in a pit of snakes. Using some ingenuity, Jones escapes and intercepts the Nazis again, but fails to stop them from testing the artifact. Fortunately, the power of the Ark is too much for the Nazis to handle and Jones manages to safely return it to the United States.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Harrison Ford roles

Bacon #: 2 (Apocalypse Now! / Robert Duvall -> Jayne Mansfield’s Car / Kevin Bacon)

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#201. Max von Sydow

Not all actors come from North America. Hollywood has an irresistible pull that brings in many actors from all parts of the globe, thus Americanizing them and bringing them to American audiences. While some actors will spend some time working on their craft in their home countries, if they are successful in doing so, it is likely that they won’t stay there long. Everyone desires to be famous, so when Hollywood comes knocking, most will answer that call as fast as they can. However, there are a select few who resist the pull of Hollywood and instead make a mark on their native film landscape. This sort of national pride is somewhat rare, but one of the actors who has epitomized this trait is Max von Sydow. While he did eventually come to America, he made sure to leave a lasting impression on his native land. This week’s two films look at Sydow’s work in the U.S. and Sweden.

                                      Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours

1965 marked the arrival of Max von Sydow in American films with The Greatest Story Ever Told, wherein he portrayed Jesus Christ. Because he didn’t have quite the partnership with directors like he did in Sweden, his work has been quite diverse. From the protagonist of The Exorcist (1973), to a Bond villain in Never Say Never Again (1983), to Liet-Kynes in Dune (1984), to PreCrime’s Director in Minority Report (2002), Sydow has managed to age gracefully through his numerous roles. His latest role in this winter’s Star Wars: Episode VII (2015) will expose him to a fandom who idolizes many of its key actors. Of course, his acting skill has been nominated for an Oscar twice: first for his performance in Pelle the Conqueror (1987), and second, 24 years later, for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

A year after losing his father in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) finds that an old man (Max von Sydow) has moved in with his grandmother (Zoe Caldwell). The man does not speak, but instead has the words “Yes” and “No” tattooed on his palms (a la The Night of the Hunter). Oskar starts bringing the old man along on the scavenger hunt his late father gave him, conquering several fears along the way. When he realizes the old man is probably his grandfather, Oskar plays the answering machine messages of his dead father, which causes the man to become emotional. This incident causes the old man to move out and tell Oskar to quit the scavenger hunt. Once it is revealed that the search was set up by Oskar’s mother, Linda Schell (Sandra Bullock), the grandfather eventually returns to live with Oskar’s grandmother.

The Seventh SealThe Seventh Seal
Year: 1957
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

Sydow’s early career started in 1949, but it wasn’t until 1957 that his acting really flourished. This was due to his partnership with director Ingmar Bergman. In total, Bergman directed eleven films with Max in the cast. Films like Wild Strawberries (1957), The Brink of Life (1958), The Virgin Spring (1960), and Through a Glass Darkly (1961) gave Sydow the chance to show Scandinavian audiences his acting skills. It’s no doubt that Hollywood took notice, but he managed to resist its pull, taking full advantage of the partnership with Bergman. Of course, most of these films pale in comparison to the first collaboration these two masterminds created: The Seventh Seal. The scenes of Death playing chess are some of the most recognized scenes in all of European cinema, if not in the entire world.

Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) is a knight who just returned to Sweden following his service in the Crusades. Finding that his home country is now plague-ridden, Block encounters Death (Bengt Ekerot) and challenges him to a chess match in order to delay his inevitable demise. As the knight heads back to his castle, he and his squire, Jöns (Gunnar Björnstrand), run across some actors. Heading into a church, Block gives his confession that he wants to perform “one meaningful deed” to a priest who turns out to be Death. After enjoying a picnic lunch with the actors he met earlier, Block invites them to his castle. Along the way, Block encounters Death in a few more forms, eventually finishing their chess game. In a last-ditch effort, Block swipes the pieces off the board, which gives the actors just enough time to escape Death’s grasp, the final checkmate sealing the knight’s fate.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 spectacular Sydow performances

Bacon #: 2 (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close / Tom Hanks -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)