Thursday, September 3, 2015

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Harrison Ford

Welcome back to another edition of You Used to Be Soooo Good, where Justin & I, Dan Moore, discuss things used to be awesome but now, eh, not so much. This week we discuss a true hero of cinema. An icon in every sense of the definition. A great actor who lately has been serving us up a steady diet of shitburgers.

                  Harrison Ford:  You Used to Be Soooo Good

Yes....look at him.
DAN: I think the main problem with Ford is that his early movies, some of the biggest hits of all time, from Star Wars to Indy, were huge, important pop culture films. These are movies that, as silly as it sounds, are very important to people. They have Star Wars-themed weddings; people dress their kids up like Indiana Jones. Those characters are powerful and influential. And that’s how we think of Mr. Ford. This huge, mythical man, playing amongst the stars and foreign countries looking for treasures. To see him in such lackadaisical films now is a letdown. We have him built up as THE movie star, essentially, and he hasn’t had a groundbreaking or pop culture shattering role in some time.
Maybe he doesn’t have to be fighting alien creatures amongst the stars or trading wits back and forth with a gorgeous woman in some ridiculously beautiful lush jungle to be a relevant movie star, but those are the two images I think of when I think of Harrison Ford, Professional Movie Actor Man.

JUSTIN: But it's not so much that he isn't doing life-changing films - no one could be expected to equal a Star Wars or an Indy franchise.  The problem is Ford's resume over the last two decades doesn't even include GOOD films.  For years he was the actor with the biggest total box office of all time.  He was the star of two of the most beloved franchises in cinema history, and therefore could basically have his pick of roles.  Either he's not very good at choosing projects or he has a terrible agent.
Basically the first starring role after he became a truly household name (after Raiders) was Blade Runner, which as we know is a hugely influential film now hailed as a classic.  But at the time it was met with a lackluster response and Ford was never that fond of it.  I've developed a great appreciation for it over the years but it literally took me 20 years to fully embrace it.

Now, his first starring role in a major film that didn't involve George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, or sci-fi was Witness.  Good movie, and in terms of establishing him as a bona fide actor rather than just an action hero, he hit a home run (his first and only Oscar nod).  For the next 9 years or so he had a string of decent films (Mosquito Coast, Frantic, Working Girl, Presumed Innocent, Regarding Henry) and one great one (The Fugitive), plus he established himself in yet another action franchise (as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger - I personally don't like Clancy movies but he was successful in them).
Ford proved his pure acting prowess in Witness (1985)
And then his career more or less drove off a cliff in terms of movie quality (yes a few of them were hits but they weren't good movies).  Sabrina, The Devil's Own, Air Force Once, Six Days Seven Nights, Random Hearts, What Lies Beneath, K-19, Hollywood Homicide, Firewall, and of course the ill-conceived Crystal Skull.  That's 15 years of tripe from a guy who should've probably had better instincts about what projects he chose.  His name doesn't even carry the box office anymore, probably due to all the B and C-level films he's done.

Ford's resume since 1993
DAN: No of course you can’t be expected to fall into a Star Wars or an Indy franchise. Those are special cases. But his films used to be appointment viewing. A Harrison Ford movie had cache, baby, cache up the ying yang. He was what a movie star was supposed to be, producing awesome movies left and right, and being a huge box office draw.
Now, I nary look forward to a film that he is in. It’s a situation where you hear his name in a movie and you basically know it’s going to be garbage. From Sabrina on, there is not a must see in the list. He went from the superstar actor to essentially John Travolta (oddly, their career arcs are somewhat similar, with the exception of Travolta not being in two huge franchises). I haven’t had an inkling to go see a Harrison Ford movie opening weekend in many, many years. I did see Cowboys & Aliens in the movie theater, based more on the concept. I thought the film had great potential as a humorous, action packed summer movie. Instead, they took the concept and went dour and far too serious with it. Ford was so unlikeable & depressing in the movie. I believe that has been part of his downfall as well. He doesn’t play many likeable characters anymore. He has been cast far too often nowadays as the curmudgeonly old complainer. Maybe I’m being na├»ve & pigeonholing the man, but I believe WANTING to see a Han Solo like performance out of him again isn’t so bad. It was when he was most likeable.

JUSTIN: I agree completely, Ford was my favorite actor for many years and I wouldn't miss any of his films.  I stopped going out of my way to see his movies after What Lies Beneath (the one movie where he plays the villain, which was the only good part of the film).  His name used to immediately add credibility and box office appeal to the project.  Now, you're right, he's in the same category as John Travolta (or Nicholas Cage for that matter).
I mean at his age he obviously no longer fits as the action hero, but yes, he should play something other than the miserable old dude who complains all the time.  I actually had high hopes for that movie Paranoia, due to Gary Oldman playing opposite, and the fact that it seemed like a different role for Ford.  Sadly the film was universally panned and flopped hard.

We all wished for this.......and then we wished we hadn't.

I'm not sure what would catapult him back to the A-list at this point in his career, but he needs either a huge hit that is also well-received by the critics (unlike Indy 4), or he needs a show-stealing role in a major Oscar-bait film.  Maybe Quentin Tarantino should cast him in a supporting villain role.  Tarantino has a history of reviving careers.

DAN: But he may be in cruise control in the ride of his career. Is that what happens to older actors when they’ve been in iconic films, and made plenty of money? Like DeNiro & Pacino, is Ford just done with challenging himself, and now accepts any job as long as the cash is flowing?

JUSTIN: That's certainly possible, but if that's the case, he took that path about fifteen years ago.  It'd be nice before he retires (which has to be fairly soon, he's 72 years old), to see him in one last career-worthy performance.

So there you have it. We loved Harrison Ford before 1993, and desperately want to love him all over again. Here’s to hoping he can do something worthy in the cinemas once again.

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