Jimmy and Geena, Two of My Favorites

James Stewart

James Stewart

I have an irrational fear of watching my favorite actors’ Oscar winning roles (unless, of course, I watched it before they win!).

I guess it’s not TOTALLY without merit.  Too often the performance they are most decorated for is not the role they were the best in.  Think “Training Day” and “Malcolm X.”  Denzel was good in the former, but spectacular in the latter.  But since Al Pacino hadn’t won his golden boy for his multitude of amazing parts, they gave him a make-good for his underwhelming, almost parody performance in “Scent of a Woman.”  Thus, the make-good with “Training Day” on a year when perhaps Will Smith gave the performance of HIS career.

It can be kind of a let down!!

Today, I finally watched “The Philadelphia Story,” the film for which my absolute favorite actor of all time, Jimmy Stewart, earned his Academy Award.

It’s not my favorite performance from him.  That would be in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Rear Window,” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”  (My least favorite, for those who are curious, is his final role, Wiley Burp in “An American Tale: Feivel Goes West,” which, aside from the final speech, isn’t exactly befitting a last appearance.)

I do, however, see his role in “The Philadelphia Story” as an important one.  It’s a step between the straight forward aw-shucks everyman he was known for in his early career and the psychologically interesting man-who-knew-too-much man of his later career.  And it’s a lot of fun to watch!

I especially like when he’s playing off of Carey Grant, who really yields his scenes to the other actors in a way most gigantic stars would be too vain to do.  The drunk scene, where Jimmy’s got the hiccups, is pure gold.  Especially when you know that the whole hiccuping bit was an adlib from Mr. Stewart.  One which Mr. Grant plays off of without missing a beat.  And then watch them both smile but not lose it.  That’s perfect!!

So today, we toast to Brigadier General James Stewart, the richest man in town!

Geena Davis

Geena Davis

This woman started off her career as a model. She made her debut in the same film that finally gave Bill Murray credibility at the box office, “Tootsie.” She hit it big with “Thelma and Louise” and won an Oscar for “The Accidental Tourist.”

She has a career that I’ve always taken great interest in, but in my opinion, it was all but snubbed out by the mere fact that she was way ahead of her time.

You see, Geena saw a hole in Hollywood and did her best to fill it. There were simply no female action stars. None. And it really didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I mean, in 1991, Linda Hamilton was an incredibly bad@$$ hero in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”

Geena made two films with a goal of breaking the rules and changing the face of movies forever. The first was “Cutthroat Island” in 1995, and it was considered a flop. A major flop, actually. Her director/husband, Renny Harlin, brought a bit of a track record with him, having previously made “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger,” but perhaps this movie was a bit too ambitious.

The second movie was “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” and this time Shane Black had written the script. You’ll know his work, because he’s a pioneer in the action genre. He wrote the first two “Lethal Weapon” flicks, and more recently, he penned the incredible “Iron Man 3” screenplay. I personally feel like the writing in this film is solid, the acting is solid, and Harlin replicated his formula for a 90’s action movie with gusto. But it bombed too.

And then in 2001 and 2002, Geena’s vision for female action heroes was finally realized, with the release of “Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil.” Now, here’s the part that has haunted me. These movies are not very good. Even given the argument that “Cutthroat Island” did not work the way it was meant to (the pirate adventure film took until 2003’s “Pirates of the Carribean” to really click), and even admitting that the visuals of the 1990s were in a state of morphing into the digital empire that the 2000s became – for right or for wrong – I think the real reason those two movies made so much money was due to the licensing tie-ins.

Okay, so whether those movies were any good or not, things finally changed in Hollywood, and now a strong female and a wimpy male sidekick is even its own big thing! And I think it’s time we take a look back at the daring move that Geena took.

So go check out “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” It co-stars Samuel L. Jackson right when his career was at full lift-off, and he’s got a ton of great lines in this. I’m pretty sure you can instant stream it on Netflix.

And then let’s cruise through her library of awesome performances. In addition to “Tootsie,” “Thelma and Louise,” and “The Accidental Tourist,” I recommend watching “The Fly,” “Beetlejuice,” “A League of Their Own,” “Hero,” “Angie,” “Speechless,” and my personal favorite “Quick Change.”

And to answer your question before you ask it, yes, I am too scared to watch “The Accidental Tourist.”

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